Does wearing a hoodie mean you’re looking for trouble?
Apparently to some the answer is “yes.” To those who equivocate, it’s “maybe” or “it depends.” To a growing number of people, the answer is “absolutely not.” This is reminiscent of the aftermath of Columbine in 1999 when schools across the country banned the wearing of trenchcoats. Or the over reaction put upon kids wearing red or blue bandannas that surely meant they belonged to the Crips or Bloods.
You have undoubtedly heard about Trayvon Martin – the 17 year-old, unarmed high school student in Florida who was shot and killed while walking home in the early evening of February 26, 2012. He was wearing a dark gray hoodie due to the rain and carried some Skittles and an iced tea. Trayvon was talking on his cellphone to his girlfriend when he noticed someone following him in a car. He told his girlfriend who advised him to run. Trayvon said he wasn’t going to run but kept moving away from the approaching car. Their conversation ended abruptly.
It was later discovered that the man following Trayvon was 28 year-old George Zimmerman. A member of the gated community’s Neighborhood Watch, Zimmerman had an extensive history of calls to the police. On this night, he called again reporting that this guy “is up to no good.” When asked by the 911 operator if he was following Trayvon, he said he was and was told “OK, we don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman didn’t listen.
Trayvon was found face down on the ground – lifeless from a single gun shot wound. Zimmerman was taken into custody, questioned and released. He contends that he shot Trayvon in self-defense. Zimmerman reportedly suffered a broken nose, an injury to the back of his head and had grass stains on the back of his shirt. He remains free pending further investigation. State, local and federal agencies are now involved in the case.
There are many unanswered questions about this incident that has captured the attention of America and the White House. On March 23, 2012, President Obama commented that ”If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon. . . . every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and everybody pulls together, federal, state and local, to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.”
The investigation into Trayvon’s death has been anything but transparent. The chief of police stepped aside in the interest of speeding up the process and a prosecutor initially on the case recused himself after a few weeks. In the meantime, a grand jury is scheduled for April 10, 2012. Vigils, demonstrations and media coverage is ongoing round the clock seeking details of Trayvon’s death and ultimately, justice for his family.
We would normally ask you for your thoughts about this case. But there are too many unknowns to form a knowledgeable opinion as to guilt or innocence. It’s easy to target Zimmerman as a trigger-happy wannabe cop or at the worst, a racist, but until the facts come out, it’s best to reserve one’s judgment. This case will be in the news for a long time and we’ll keep you posted.
Update: On April 11, 2012, the prosecutor filed second-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman. The maximum penalty upon conviction is life in prison without parole. Mr. Zimmerman turned himself in and remains in custody pending further proceedings.
On April 20, 2012 Zimmerman was granted bail which was set at $150,000. His release terms include a GPS tracking system, surrendering his passport, a curfew and contact from a probation officer every three days. During his bail hearing he took the witness stand and apologized to the Martin family for their loss.
On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury in Sanford, Florida. He was immediately released, the judge telling him he no longer has any business with the court.