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Sanford, Fla., police quickly accepted Zimmerman’s explanation that he pulled his gun because he felt his life was in danger. They weren’t duly troubled by his remarks that Martin was a “punk” who “looks like he’s up to no good.” They didn’t sufficiently question his account or his motives. They shrugged it off.
An angry public demanded to know whether police and prosecutors would have scrutinized the evidence more closely if Martin were white. It was, and is, a fair question.
More than a million people signed an online petition demanding Zimmerman’s arrest. The U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation into Martin’s death. The Sanford police chief stepped down, and a special prosecutor was named to handle the case. Six weeks after the shooting, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.
The fact that Zimmerman was eventually acquitted of the charge — and the lesser charge of manslaughter, which the jury also rejected — doesn’t validate the cursory dismissal by law enforcement back in February 2012. This case deserved to be examined thoroughly and adjudicated.
As the case moved to trial, many of those who led the campaign stressed that what they demanded was not an outcome, but a trial. But many now are bitterly disappointed at the result.
The trial was fair. The evidence came up short. The outrage was that there almost wasn’t a trial at all.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.