Days after a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of teen Trayvon Martin, the case and reaction to the verdict still resonate around the water cooler, in coffee shops and especially online.
The verdict has drawn protests nationwide, including one scheduled for Galveston on Friday and one that closed down a Houston freeway Monday.
Even President Barack Obama weighed in before and after the trial.
It is not often a fatal shooting in a small town captures the nation’s attention as the Zimmerman/Martin case did. Whether it was media driven is one of the issues debated all along.
Thanks in large part to social media, however, the case drew notice that rivaled the nation’s attention during the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1994.
In Galveston County, the reactions are just as passionate as those played out outside the Stanford, Fla., courthouse and on talk shows on cable networks.
Passionate on both sides
“Without a shadow of a doubt, I truly believe George Zimmerman’s overzealous actions as neighborhood watch captain and his thirst to be a hero resulted in the death of a teenager who by everyone’s account did absolutely nothing illegal, and thereby nothing wrong,” said Dedrick Johnson, a Texas City Commissioner and longtime community activist who has for years work with African-American teens.
“It’s a touchy situation simply because it wreaks of more injustice for the African-American male, something that has perpetuated itself throughout our history.”
Johnson thinks that Zimmerman has yet to be held accountable by the justice system and that race does play a role.
“There are holes in the law,” he said. “Nothing is perfect, but minorities seem to be falling through these gaps at a disproportionate rate. We can argue it all day, but cases don’t lie. Numbers don’t lie.”
Rusty Carnes of Galveston sees things differently.
“The jury did its job and whether we agree or not, it is the American Way,” Carnes said. “As for whether I agree with their decision, I have no choice but to agree as I was not even there to hear every bit of information that they did.”
He does think there is blame to go around and that race does play a role.
“As for George Zimmerman, I believe he is a want-to-be cop,” Carnes said. “As for Trayvon Martin, he was a want-to-be tough guy that charged a nut with a gun and lost. Neither was totally right in their actions, and it resulted in a real tragedy. This case has reignited the real issues of racism that plague our society, and for that I hate that it ever happened.”
Moved in part by her brother’s murder at the hand of gang members in 1991, Jazzalynn McMurrin is organizing a protest to be held in front of Galveston City Hall at 3 p.m. Friday.
Her brother Larry Brown was killed in a drive-by shooting, and his killers were never brought to justice, she said.
“He was just 15 (years old) and an innocent bystander,” McMurrin said. “To lose someone and not get justice, I understand what that is like.”
For La Marque resident Tonia Sherwood, the case stirred up too much hatred, especially in a case that involved the death of a teen. She wonders whether people would defend Zimmerman if it were their child who was killed.
“To all who say George Zimmerman had the right to use deadly (force), what if you woke in morning and was told you had to bury your son?” she asked. “How would you feel? And all over some candy and a soda?”
Texas City resident Patti Abschneider believes the media hype over the case was overblown.
“The jury had the facts and we didn’t,” she said. “The media has hyped this up and it needs to be let go.
“People are killing each other every day and it doesn’t get this type of play. Let the judicial system decide this and quit making this a black/white issue. Move on, people.”
Make a change
For Hitchcock resident and community activist Sam Collins, people who are feeling passionate about the issue one way or another need to not argue or debate the case but take action.
“Whatever you are feeling, I pray that you will use those emotions to drive you to make a positive impact in your immediate circle of influence,” he said. “You will either work to make things better, or your apathy will allow things to get worse. If you are not focused on solutions that solve problems, you are part of the problem.”
La Marque native Stephen House finds fault all around.
“Trayvon wasn’t a Boy Scout, but Zimmerman wasn’t the perfect neighborhood watchman,” he said. “Two imperfect humans met one dark night, and it turned out horribly.”