Another Perspective

The Forgotten Scandal

True remorse should start with George Zimmerman.

By 6.4.13

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Our Attorney General and his boss in the Oval Office have started a combined remorse and charm offensive, which is certainly welcome in light of their numerous scandalous transgressions in recent months. Actually of course those transgressions go back for years. Messrs. Obama and Holder have recently declared that they want to rethink how they can improve their approach to dealing with investigations of reporters who are seeking information from officials. That might help resolve only one of the scandals in which this villainous administration is now involved. Still in the forefront of the public mind are the Benghazi horrors and the IRS depredations.

However, in my mind, the remorse and charm of our leaders ought to be focused on the horrors that they have purposely visited upon one of our decent minority citizens, George Zimmerman. Dealing with his tragic situation will take not only charm and remorse but also guts and courage.

Unlike the other scandals, wherein many of the facts are still unclear, most of the important facts concerning the Zimmerman-Martin tragedy are well known already.

There is no doubt that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. There is no doubt that Zimmerman claimed he acted out of fear for his life and in self-defense, an issue at the heart of the legal case.

There is no doubt that Zimmerman has persisted in that claim of self-defense. There is also no doubt that the reports of the front-line police officers who responded to the scene of the incident tended to support Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. There is no doubt that Bill Lee, then the Police Chief of Sanford, reviewed all of the evidence and on the basis of that evidence and extensive experience, concluded that there was insufficient evidence to hold Zimmerman. The same was true of the conclusions of the experienced and competent State Attorney, Norman Wolfinger. Part of the evidence they reviewed included the lie detector test that Zimmerman willingly took while in police custody. He passed that objective test. In other words, these experienced police and prosecutorial officials concluded that the suspect was innocent of any criminal behavior.

At this point allow me to interject my opinion on the matter of guilt or innocence. As a federal civil rights official many years ago I investigated numerous cases of police and mob brutality imposed upon black citizens. Often I found clear evidence of such illegal actions and so reported it. Nothing in the Zimmerman case appears to me like those old cases I investigated. Especially important is the fact that Zimmerman was not a racial bigot, quite the contrary. Accordingly, I have concluded that George Zimmerman is innocent of all the charges against him. That is the same conclusion that the Chief of Police and the chief legal officer of the area had reached.

There is one other important fact about which there is no doubt. There has been no evidence that either of the top police and prosecutorial officials was racially prejudiced. In multitudes of legal cases every year in America, when the responsible local police and prosecutorial officials conclude that a suspect is innocent, the matter is dropped and the suspect is released. It is a very rare event when some higher official overrides the honest judgments of the local officials closest to a given case. Our legal system could not continue to operate if the judgments of those local officials were not usually accorded proper respect.

Yet, it happened in this case.

Why?

There are many reasons for this sad situation but the main cause is that the perverse equivalent of a national lynch mob took form in which President Obama and Attorney General Holder played shamefully prominent roles. So did racial entrepreneurs such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Spike Lee, as well as the Black Panthers. President Obama let the world know that he sympathized with Trayvon Martin, who would have looked like his son if he had one, and in the process encouraged his Attorney General to treat Martin as an innocent victim and the hapless Zimmerman as a murderous racial bigot. Even though local officials had released Zimmerman in accordance with centuries of tradition revolving around the presumption of innocence and also reliance on the objective evidence, soon the Florida Governor appointed a special local prosecutor, Angela Corey, who bought into the dominant racial prejudice flooding the country and proceeded to accuse Zimmerman of second-degree murder. No action was taken against the Black Panthers who have openly said they wanted Zimmerman brought to justice dead or alive.

Zimmerman was rearrested, spent time in jail, and eventually made bail. In this racially poisoned atmosphere, led by our president and our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, George Zimmerman and most of his family must live in fear for their lives and for their livelihoods.

Their lives may never be the same and to repeat the sad overriding fact, they are all innocent of any wrongdoing. That big trial, which will take place soon in Sanford, Florida, should never have been scheduled. It is a scandalous blot on the reputation of America, forever.

If Barack Obama and Eric Holder had any sense of true remorse, and any old-fashioned American guts, they would take the lead in intervening in this local matter and do so in a quite different way than they have already done. They would admit they have been terribly wrong. They would ask that the trial be aborted. They would provide federal protection to George Zimmerman and to most of his family members. They would arrest and prosecute those who have threatened harm to the Zimmermans. They would ask forgiveness from the Zimmermans and from the entire nation.

I fear that none of these positive steps will be taken by our national leaders and that this tragedy will continue, even if a jury finds George Zimmerman not guilty.

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About the Author
Arnold S. Trebach, J.D., Ph.D., the author of several books, is professor emeritus of public affairs, American University. He was involved as a front line protester in the original civil rights movement and has been a federal civil rights official.