A post mortem report has revealed that Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in February, had traces of marijuana in his blood and urine. This information, part of nearly 200 pages of unreleased documents revealed on Thursday, forces us to again reflect on the poor handling of the Zimmerman trial by both the public and the media.
In an earlier piece on PolicyMic, I wrote about the negative effects of a “mob mentality” that seemed to surround the entire Zimmerman incident. Almost immediately after Trayvon’s murder, race relations flared up and Zimmerman was vilified through “Hoodie Marches,” sensationalist race commentators like Jesse Jackson, and media coverage that preferred to use images like this one to cast him in a negative light.
Now, previously undisclosed documents are forcing us to reconsider our previous conceptions about the case. On Trayvon’s side, the presence of drugs in his system and the numerous injuries sustained by Zimmerman certainly put his conduct in the “questionable” territory. Further, identification of Zimmerman’s voice – not Trayvon – repeatedly yelling for “help” in official recordings make us reconsider the amount of restraint exercised on Zimmerman’s behalf before the actual shooting occurred.
On the other side, reports seem to acknowledge that the entire incident between Trayvon and Zimmerman may have been avoided if only Zimmerman had either awaited law enforcement or identify himself as a “concerned citizen.” There was, at the time, no evidence that Trayvon had been involved in any sort of criminal activity. In addition, we have at least one interview from a co-worker of Zimmerman’s saying that he had been bullied and “mocked with a Middle Eastern accent.” While this is far from establishing credibility for the earlier accusations of racism, it again pushes us back into the realm of uncertainty.
Which, really, is what the entire Zimmerman-Trayvon incident has been: questionable, uncertain, and, ultimately, unclear. While the “court of democratic opinion” is often ready to throw the judges out, the newly released evidence encourages us all to relax and let the trial play out in a fair way. For a country that takes pride in the belief of “innocent until proven guilty,” both the media and the public’s handling of the situation should be deeply disappointing.