Trayvon Martin’s parents address acquittal of George Zimmerman on television

Speaking on television this morning, the parents of Trayvon Martin addressed the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed their son last year and claimed that he had done so in self-defense:

On NBC’s “Today” show, Sybrina Fulton questioned whether jurors looked at the shooting from her son’s point of view.

“He was a teenager. He was scared. He did run,” Fulton said, who added that she believes the justice system failed her son.

“We didn’t get the verdict we wanted because we wanted him to be (held) accountable.”

Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, expressed disbelief in the verdict handed down Saturday by a six-woman jury following a three-week trial in central Florida.

“We felt in our hearts that we were going to get a conviction,” Martin said. “We felt that the killer of our unarmed child was going to be convicted of the crime he committed.”

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Tracy Martin said he felt the jury did not get a chance to get to know the teen. “They didn’t know him as a human being,” he said.

Martin’s parents said they still believe Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, racially profiled their son.

“Obviously, any time you have a person that makes an assumption that a person is up to no good, that’s some kind of profiling,” Martin said. “Was he racially profiled? I think if Trayvon had been white, this never would have happened.”

Associated Press

For the first time since George Zimmerman was found not guilty, Trayvon Martin's parents are speaking publicly.

The trial was an expensive one, and the Seminole County sheriff’s Office spent about $33,000 to sequester the jury:

During their three weeks of sequestration, jurors took an excursion to St. Augustine, Fla.; watched the movies “The Lone Ranger” and “World War Z;” went on bowling excursions; and saw Fourth of July fireworks.

All television, Internet use, mail and phone calls were screened and logged by deputies who provided security for them at all times. Jurors were allowed to use their cellphones once a day to check for voice mails and make calls in front of a deputy, according to the sheriff’s office.

Jurors ate most of their breakfast and dinner meals at the Marriott hotel where they stayed during sequestration. They dined out twice.

They received visits on weekends from family and friends, who had to sign an agreement promising not to discuss anything related to the case.

Associated Press

The outrage following the verdict has presented President Obama with an unusual challenge, given his own past efforts against racial profiling:

In 1999, a fresh-faced state senator on Chicago’s South Side heard constituents complain that police were free to pull over drivers because they were black. So Barack Obama proposed a bill to tackle racial profiling. When it failed, he revised it and proposed it again and again.

“Race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity,” Obama said when his bill finally passed the Senate four years later. He said targeting individuals based on race was humiliating and fostered contempt in black communities.

More than a decade later, Obama’s efforts to pass groundbreaking racial profiling legislation in Illinois offer some of the clearest clues as to how America’s first black president feels about an issue that’s polarizing a nation roiled by the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Obama has spoken only rarely about his own experience with incidents he perceived to be race-related. In his 2006 book “The Audacity of Hope,” he described his struggles with the injustices of “driving while black” and the vigilance he felt was still necessary for him and his family.

“I can recite the usual litany of petty slights that during my 45 years have been directed my way: security guards tailing me as I shop in department stores, white couples who toss me their car keys as I stand outside a restaurant waiting for the valet, police cars pulling me over for no apparent reason,” Obama wrote.

Obama’s administration has treated gingerly the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot Martin. Burned in the past by injecting himself into racial flare-ups, Obama is wary of taking sides this time after, in his words, “a jury has spoken.”

Associated Press

Obama issued a statement a day after the verdict that reflected the precariousness of his position politically:

Obama’s handling of the verdict’s aftermath reflects some of the hard-learned lessons of the past four years. Rather than criticism, he has chosen a tone of consolation, avoiding the issue of race directly to help cool the country down.

On Sunday afternoon, Obama issued a short statement asking “every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son,” a 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin.

“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our communities,” he continued, citing gun violence rather than racial mistrust as a specific issue to be considered.

Obama chose to issue the written statement rather than address the nation on camera — an option White House officials say was never discussed. It is highly unusual for a president to comment on a specific court case, and even more rare to do so on camera.

But senior administration officials said the fact that he had done so previously in the Martin case — and that the verdict had prompted strong emotions — influenced the decision to say something in writing. Obama helped draft the statement, they said.

“It wasn’t assumed inside the White House that he would obviously do this,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the decision. “But this was something he had spoken to personally, in a very personal way, last year. And it’s a story that the country was really following.”

Of all the “firsts” Obama has achieved, his role as the country’s first black president has never been one in which he has been entirely comfortable.

His political near-death experience in the 2008 Democratic primaries caused by his relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a Chicago pastor whose angry sermons were tinged with racial grievance, haunted Obama as he entered office.

His message from the start was that he would be a president for all Americans, not just black Americans. He was unsentimental about his achievement.

“At the inauguration, I think there was justifiable pride on the part of the country that we had taken a step that had moved us beyond some of the searing legacies of racial discrimination in this country,” Obama said during a news conference a little more than two months after his swearing-in. “And that lasted about a day.”

Scott Wilson

For past coverage of the verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial, continue reading here.

Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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