None of this is to say Zimmerman didn’t commit a crime. I still really have no idea. But what’s happened in the last couple weeks doesn’t feel like justice. It feels like a railroading...
The anger and outrage about how black people are treated in the criminal justice system is well-founded, well-supported, and consistent with my own experience reporting on these issues (although I think the common denominator is increasingly more poor than black). And there appears to be some of that history in Sanford as well, particularly in the way police investigate crimes—including this one. I’ve read in several places the proposition that if the races had been reversed that night in Sanford, Trayvon Martin would have spent the last month awaiting his murder trial from a jail cell. I think there’s plenty of history to support that sentiment. But we can’t hang all of the inequities of the criminal justice system on George Zimmerman. He deserves to be tried only on the facts specific to his case. Even gung-ho, wannabe cops deserve due process, and a fair crack at justice.
He is, of course, completely right that this case should be about whether Mr. Zimmermn is criminally culpable for the death of Mr. Martin, and not anything else. Second degree murder does seem like overkill at this point, at least based on publicly available facts. The possibility of some type of criminal negligence on Zimmerman's part still seems likely to me, but I do not support prosecutors overcharging in hopes of forcing a plea to what they actually think happened. I hope that isn't what is happening, here, but it sounds like it could be, and that is troubling.
Ta-Nahisi Coates chimes in:
We began outraged at the investigation, and deeply troubled by Stand Your Ground. Now we're off on these meta-outrages. I never thought the point wast [sic] to "Make Zimmerman Pay." Is that where we're going?
I hope not. As I've said from the very beginning, I've been more bothered by the possible complicity of the local police in covering something up than by all the other noise. When there's a dead, unarmed kid, and a guy claiming self-defense for having killed him, you do not just take his word on that.
Still, I am loathe to ascribe purely political motives to the prosecutor, if for no other reason that this case seems like an absolute no-win situation for the prosecution. You're either compounding racial injustice if you pursue the case, or abetting it if you do not. Take your pick.