Participants holds up signs and wear name tags during a march organized by the National Christian League of Councils for slain teen Trayvon Martin in Tallahassee, Florida on Wednesday.
By Ron Allen, NBC News correspondent
SANFORD, Fla. – For the past few weeks, while everyone has been listening to 911 tapes, watching
police surveillance video, and hearing both sides in the Trayvon Martin case turn up the intensity of their arguments, there’s been a lot of speculation about how all of this might end.
Some will never be satisfied unless George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, is arrested, charged, convicted and jailed for a long time.
Others insist fairness demands an innocent man, wrongly accused in the court of public opinion, be allowed to get on with his life.
The outcome, of course, will more likely land somewhere in the middle.
Next legal steps
Angela Corey, the special prosecutor who was appointed by Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott to investigate the case, has many options.
Corey can decide whether to file charges in the case herself or send the case to a grand jury. She has the latitude to convene that closed-door process here in Seminole County or someplace else. And, of course, she can decide that the Sanford police decision not to arrest Zimmerman, based on his claim of self-defense, is justified.
Trayvon Martin’s family and their advocates are demanding an arrest – nothing less.
Their lawyer, Ben Crump, also would prefer that the state attorney issue a warrant for Zimmerman’s arrest herself. Crump has expressed skepticism about the grand jury process, saying he believes they’re put in place, “when the police and the government really don’t want to charge and arrest somebody.” He added, that “private proceedings have never boded well for people from Trayvon’s community.”
Zimmerman’s camp now includes two lawyers. Craig Sooner, Zimmerman’s original lawyer, has been joined by Hal Uhrig of Maitland, Fla., who has extensive experience with police matters, according to the bio on his website.
Sonner has said repeatedly that Zimmerman has been cooperating with authorities, and will surrender himself if charged with a crime. Sonner also said Zimmerman “has not been judged fairly” in the court of public opinion.
And if the case ever goes to court, Sonner said, “It’s going to be tough to find a neutral and detached jury to hear the facts. Because ultimately in a court case, you have a judge that rules on the law, but in the end it’s the jury that determines the facts.”
Facts vs. perception
With the video and audio out there in the public square, along with media interviews of “witnesses,” and so much other reporting, so many people are sure about what they think happened. And many have their own understanding of what they think the law is, or how it should be applied.
From the start, for many people, all of this has been a reminder of the Rodney King case in Los Angeles back in the early 1990s. Even that familiar chant, “No justice, No peace,” echoes here in Sanford. I covered that incident and most of what followed.
Yes, there are huge differences. King was being arrested by several police officers. The Martin-Zimmerman incident is between two private citizens.
But the common denominator is that the public has seen and heard what many believe to be crucial moments in the confrontation. King and the officers were videotaped by a passerby, secretly. Remember, in the King case in state court, a jury found three officers not guilty, and did not reach a verdict on the fourth officer charged. Later, two officers were found guilty of civil rights charges in federal court, and two were acquitted.
Sanford is certainly not Los Angeles. The anger and outrage there exploded into days of violence and destruction. Here, activists are threatening to escalate their marches and rallies to acts of civil disobedience like sit-ins and “pray-ins.” Another possibility they are discussing is an economic boycott of businesses or organizations that support Florida’s so-called “Stand Your Ground Law,” which Zimmerman’s lawyers argue is the basis of his claim of self-defense.
Either way, a ‘tough road ahead’
The protesters face the challenge of keeping up the momentum. Two recent rallies in Miami and here in Sanford fell well short of the tens of thousands organizers had predicted.
Sonner, Zimmerman’s lawyer, also has said he finds it hard to see how Zimmerman will ever get past all of this unless there’s an open public resolution.
“No matter how things turn out in this case, he’s got a tough road ahead,” Sonner said in a recent interview. That’s certainly not to say he thinks there should be a trial. He said he does not.
As the days pass, the case gets more complicated. It’s unlikely to end without more outrage, and without more pain for the two families at the center of this.