The last thing that I want to do is to sound like that ex Green Bay Packers quarterback who kept saying that he was retired, only to come back and give it one more shot again and again. Or like Michael Corleone in The Godfather 3 who said, “Just when I thought I was out….they pull me back in”. The truth is I haven’t gone anywhere, nor have I thrown in the towel. But, I have been encouraged by some of my readers to continue to throw my two cents into the black hole of blogs. This seemed like an appropriate topic to return with.
How or where do I even begin to write about the terrible tragedy that befell 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and his family? I think about my own son who is only two years older than Trayvon, and all of the other mothers and fathers with teenage sons – especially those who are labeled as suspicious by individuals like George Zimmerman simply because of the color of their skin. It’s so saddening for me to think how I am thankful that my son didn’t inherit my complexion, particularly if we were living in one of those states that have adopted what I refer to as “if they’re brown, prone them out” legislation (I’m looking at you, Arizona).
Cops, like most sports fans, are guilty of ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’. We read or hear about crimes and we are quick to form an opinion on the ‘alleged’ perpetrators guilt or innocence. We are also quick to criticize the actions of police officers and their departments as well as to how investigations are handled. With that in mind, I will refer to my holy tenet of criminal investigations – the one about things looking or smelling like shit. That tenet certainly applies in this case. I, along with many outraged citizens, just have a few questions for the Sanford Police Department on how this investigation was handled.
For example: why did Trayvon’s body sit in the morgue unidentified when his cell phone was found on him? That’s like finding a victim’s wallet in his pocket, but not opening it up to see if there’s ID inside. They couldn’t have called back the last number? There wasn’t a “Mom” or “Dad” in the contacts list? Did they fail to identify him because they were too incompetent to think of using his phone to figure out his identity, or because they just didn’t really care who he was or who might be missing him? And if it was that they were too incompetent, how can we have confidence in the quality of the investigation that they conducted?
I am often forced to watch old episodes of Law and Order (I really do like the show, it’s just that my wife enjoys it more). This avoidable tragedy got me to thinking about the words that the narrator opens with, “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders.”
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that I ask: who represented Trayvon Martin? Was it the Sanford Police Department who, in my opinion, were more interested in the vindication of George Zimmerman than they were in obtaining justice for the kid that he shot dead? George Zimmerman the obvious aggressor and instigator in this incident, in who’s eyes Trayvon Martin was acting suspiciously simply because of the fact that he was black and wearing a hoodie. The same police department who didn’t – or wouldn’t – use Trayvon’s cell phone to assist in identifying him or notifying his parents? Or was it the prosecutor’s office who didn’t think that his murder justified a response to crime scene and instead adjudicated the matter over the phone?
The above cause me to reflect on a multiple homicide that I assisted with in Jackson Heights, Queens, many years ago. Two groups of rival Hispanic drug dealers got into an altercation while at a restaurant/club. Words were exchanged, guns were drawn, and shots were fired. When the shooting ended, 12 men and women had been shot, 7 of them fatally. Several of those who had been shot were innocent victims who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. At the conclusion of a debriefing on the case for the brass, a Detective/Sgt. stood up and nonchalantly said, “So what we have is a bunch of dead spics, who cares?” It seemed to me then that not much had changed in the context of racial prejudice and racism. And it seems to me today that much is still the same.