Zimmerman verdict brings back bad memories in California: ‘No winners’

african kings

Editor’s Note: This is the third piece in a series of on-the-ground reports on reactions to the not guilty verdict reached by the jury in the George Zimmerman trial.

The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin on Saturday opened up old wounds for some on the West Coast.

For others, it represented a harsh reality on the state of race and fairness in America.

“America has travelled a long way on the road to justice, equality and getting past prejudice, but it is still alive and well,” Adante Pointer, a defense attorney in the Bay Area who litigated Oscar Grant’s case, tells theGrio. “We have not made it to our hoped-for destination, which is where race is not an issue. Race is very much an issue. You saw it play out in this case. You saw it play out in the way people responded to this case.”

While Pointer admits he wasn’t surprised by the verdict, he says he was still “hurt” by its announcement, noting it left a “bad taste in my mouth.”

He describes the prosecution’s case as “tough,” and one that was lost in the way the evidence was presented.

“There are no winners in this,” Pointer observes. “You can’t get a life back. Whether it’s an acquittal, Zimmerman will never have his life back in terms of the way it was before the events that night. Or whether it was second-degree murder or manslaughter, none of those outcomes would have brought back Trayvon Martin to his family. Both sides were essentially fated to lose, the only question was how deep was the loss really going to be.”

At the heart of the matter, Pointer suggests the Zimmerman trial functioned like a political drama, and the focus became more about labeling and presupposing circumstances.

“What gets lost in the storyline, in those broad strokes if you will, is there’s a family, there’s a mother that doesn’t have her son,” says Pointer. “A father that will never see his son graduate high school. And then there’s George Zimmerman’s family…He’ll always be looking over his shoulder wondering, ‘Do those people know me as who I presented myself as, or based upon who the media and the public has judged me to be?’ He may have been acquitted in the court of public law, but in the court of public opinion, there was not such an acquittal.”

Some predicted rioting would break out in California, or even hoped for it. In San Francisco, hundreds marched down Mission Street where an anti-racism, anti-war activist group launched an “emergency” demonstration.

Oakland comedian Karinda Dobbins commented, “It’s funny how America wants a peaceful protest as a reaction to an injustice involving violence and death.”

M. Sullivan, a 48-year-old filmmaker who requested her first name be withheld, felt a rally was likely and necessary, and remembered the incendiary reaction to the Rodney King verdict.

“George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager, it’s a no brainier really,” she remarks. “Because George Zimmerman was armed with a deadly weapon and Trayvon Martin was unarmed. His voice and hands [were] his only weapons. This leads me to believe we either have a dumb jury, a racist jury or both…or is it a corrupt jury? This case is cut and dry for those with simple common sense. Where was it? Is this a jury of peers or a jury bought and sold for an upcoming election in a notoriously racist State?”

Aldo Davalos, a 30-year-old music executive in Los Angeles, originally from Florida, expressed similar dissatisfaction. “It sucks to be from Florida today. Shame on us. Shame on [America’s] f***ked up judicial system. I’m ashamed. But mostly, I’m devastated.”

Follow Courtney Garcia on Twitter at @courtgarcia