Written by YUUKI REAL, age 13, and edited by THEO FRYE-YANOS, age 10
On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American. The killing happened on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. The jury of six women, five of whom were white, found George Zimmerman not guilty after concluding that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove that he killed Trayvon with malicious or racist intentions.
Zimmerman’s acquittal led thousands of people across the nation to protest, believing that the verdict demonstrated a persistent unfair treatment toward African Americans in this country. Commentators believed that if Trayvon Martin had been white and Zimmerman black, the jury would have sent Zimmerman to jail. They also felt that Zimmerman, a 28-year-old Peruvian-American man, was frustrated by recent break-ins in his neighborhood and jumped to conclusions upon seeing Trayvon, because he was an unfamiliar black teenager in a hooded sweatshirt.
Those who believe in Zimmerman’s innocence say that he acted in self-defense and that Trayvon attacked him first. Several people who know Zimmerman said that he was not the type of person to kill someone out of malice. However, many people question Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, which removes a person’s obligation to retreat from a physical threat and allows them to use lethal force against that threat if they feel that their life is in danger. While Zimmerman’s lawyer did not use this law in his defense, the jury received an explanation of the law and how it applied to the case.
In the end, the trial raises important conversations about ongoing issues around race in our country. President Barack Obama, in his speech after the verdict was announced, said, “I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”