AFRICANGLOBE – “I believe that’s Trayvon Martin, that’s my baby’s voice. Every mother knows their child, and that’s his voice.” – Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin
On Monday of last week, the trial of George Zimmerman, charged in the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, finally got underway. The surface facts of the case are not in dispute.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman, in his role as a neighborhood watch volunteer, followed, shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old Martin who was walking back to a home in a Sanford, Florida gated community after buying a bag of skittles and a bottle of ice tea from a nearby convenience store.
Everything else about this case is complicated by the issues of race, the unsuccessful attempt by Zimmerman’s defense to put Trayvon Martin’s background on trial and Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense that is rooted in Florida’s questionable Stand-Your-Ground law. Widespread public attention generated by the case will also likely complicate and prolong the selection of an impartial jury.
Judge Debra Nelson has recently ruled that the testimony from voice analysis experts can not be used to argue whose voice – Trayvon Martin’s or Zimmerman’s – is heard screaming for help just before the sound of a gunshot on a taped 911 call.
Mom is Reliable Expert
This is a crucial point that could buttress Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense or the prosecution’s contention that Zimmerman was the aggressor. It should be noted that Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, has heard the tape and has no doubt that the screaming voice is that of her son. As a lawyer, I appreciate the role of experts in trials, but as a parent, I agree with Sybrina Fulton that in this case there is no more reliable expert than the mother of the victim.
Prior to the start of the trial, Judge Nelson ruled against the defense’s attempt to introduce as evidence, Trayvon’s school records, alleged past history of fighting or photos and text messages on his cell phone. The judge rightfully decided that none of this has anything to do with why Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin.
Up to the Jury
We will leave it up to a jury to decide whether George Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin. But, as champions of civil rights and equal justice under the law, we believe this case will shed needed light on the issues of racial profiling and the stereotyping of young Black men and boys.
We also join Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, in calling for a repeal of Florida’s troubling Stand Your Ground law which states that anyone in fear of his or her life could be justified in using lethal force against a potential or perceived attacker. We will be closely following the case and will keep you abreast of developments.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League.