From the moment the death of Trayvon Marin was seized on by the media, race was reported as central to the tragedy. Trayvon Martin was described as the 17-year-old "black male" and George Zimmerman as the 29-year-old "white hispanic."
There were no witnesses to the murder, but Zimmerman said, in somewhat contradictory accounts, that he was attacked by Martin. According to Florida's "stand your ground law," if he felt as if he were in serious danger of bodily harm, he could act in self-defense. This lack of hard evidence or eyewitness accounts gave pundits plenty of leeway to politicize the issue. The outcome of this particular trial was frequently reported as representative of the general state of race relations in the U.S.
The National Review's John Fund criticized how the prosecutor's actions were inappropriate and played into the hands of the media:
If a criminal-justice system can be hijacked for political purposes, it can also be misused in other cases and at other times. Of course, it was important to thoroughly review Trayvon Martin’s death. But allowing politically correct prosecutors to cross bright lines limiting their behavior only politicizes our system and helps no one except demagogues and cable-TV talking heads in search of ratings.
MSNBC's Al Sharpton, though, continued to press the race issue:
What this jury has done is establish a precedent that when you are young and fit a certain profile, you can be committing no crime ... and be killed and someone can claim self-defense ... We had to march to even get a trial and even at trial, when he's exposed over and over again as a liar, he is acquitted.
U.S. New's Peter Roff argued in his column today that the acquittal was, in fact, the result of proper colorblind proceedings in the courtroom. Furthermore, he criticized President Obama for aggravating public opinion from the start:
It was Obama who, in the earliest moments of the case, said if he had a son he would look like Trayvon. It's not clear what that means unless it was a thinly-disguised attempt to upend the 2012 presidential campaign in Florida on the issue of race. Unfortunately, the president neglected to add whether if he had a son he would have behaved like Trayvon Martin
After nearly 450,000 people signed an online NCAA petition, the Justice Department said it is considering opening a civil rights case against Zimmerman.
What do you think? Should race have been so prominent in the coverage of the Zimmerman trial? Take the poll and comment below.