EDITORIAL: Standing up to the mob

The Zimmerman morality tale didn’t stick to the media’s script

From the time George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in a scuffle on a cool, rainy night in Florida, the search began for a white villain. When the media mob couldn’t find one they invented one.

The jurors did not find Mr. Zimmerman innocent. He certainly was no choirboy. Only God and George Zimmerman know what was in his heart in the moment, with his head being pounded into concrete as he reached for his (legal) gun. The jury found him not guilty of murder beyond a reasonable doubt, as the law required them to do.

The particulars were ready-made for twisting into a fraudulent morality tale: A volunteer neighborhood watchman follows a 17-year-old boy through a dark neighborhood, there’s a fight of uncertain origin, then a shot, and the boy dies. All that was missing was the white defendant who could “give the story legs.”

The Associated Press first identified Mr. Zimmerman as white 10 days after the altercation. The Rev. Al Sharpton, sometime preacher and television talk-show host, emphasized the description at a rally five days later. So did ABC News, followed by CBS News. Then the New York Times coined a racial subspecies called “white Hispanic,” and applied it to Mr. Zimmerman.

The race to the bottom began. CNN played the tape of a conversation in which he was said to refer to Trayvon Martin as a “… coon.” Mr. Zimmerman insisted that the phrase muttered under his breath was “… cold.” Finally CNN retracted the story with an apology days later after further analysis of the audiotape. But the slur was frozen in concrete.

President Obama chipped in with his assurance that “if I had a son he would look like Trayvon.” No one could remember a president ever having tried to manipulate a criminal investigation with such blundering tread. NBC News thought it had sealed Mr. Zimmerman’s guilt with a falsified recording of him saying: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

But it was not he who introduced race. After he gave the police dispatcher a general description of the man he was following on the fatal night, the dispatcher asked: “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?”

Mr. Zimmerman answered: “He looks black.”

The mob tried from the beginning to make the trial an ordeal by race. When the actual facts reached a jury only the brave could endure such relentless media intimidation.

The only grace note in this sordid opera is that six good women and true stood up to the mob to deliver the only verdict available to reasonable jurors, as unsatisfactory as it is. The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy of a young life taken in the bloom of youth; George Zimmerman will endure the remorse of taking a life for the rest of his days. This was a tragedy, but it was not a tragedy that ended in a travesty of the law.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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