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Travon Martin: "Guilty of Walking While Black"

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Walking While Black:

Bill Honer

 From Bill Honer is the former host of the California Cable television program .Social Issues.
Bill Honer is the former host of the California Cable television program .Social Issues. by Bill Honer

Juror B37 convicted Travon Martin of "walking while Black". Her comments were unwittingly racist. She found Zimmerman quite credible, but not Rachel Jontel who was on the phone with the victim shortly before the murder. This Juror made derogatory comments about the young African-American teenager, including poor education and poor communication skills. I listened to Rachel's testimony during the trial; she speaks appropriately for the people from her neighborhood and as a teenager.

As for Travon cutting through the back way on the property, B 37 had no problem finding him suspicious, making reference to the number of prior crimes in the neighborhood. The fact that on prior calls Zimmerman had identified the suspicious individuals as African-American did not enter her thinking, nor was she concerned about Zimmerman telling the police that he exited his car to look at the street sign when he lived on the property and where there are only three street names. She revealed a strong defense bias.

Juror B37 said she had sympathy for both George Zimmerman and Travon Martin, as though they suffered equally. No one knows precisely what happened at the moment that the confrontation occurred. For all we know, Zimmerman could have grabbed Travon who could have reacted out of fear for his life with a stranger following him on a dark rainy night. We have witnessed "driving while Black" in New Jersey with State Troopers and elsewhere. Now we have "walking while Black" in Florida.

President Obama has said "the jury has spoken.'. It would be more correct to state that the jury has spoken with prejudice against Travon Martin and with clear bias in favor of George.Zimmerman. Despite Zimmerman's statement that these "f---ing punks always get away", Juror B-37 concluded that "his heart was in the right place" and that he was concerned about crime in his neighborhood .She went out of her way to favorably describe the defendant's actions while casting suspicion on the victim.

Observers in the courtroom noted that at least two jurors refused to look at Rachel during her testimony. They clearly did not want to hear from her. Who could seriously suggest that race was not a factor in their attitude. Commentators have praised the jury for their hard work and diligence. How responsible is it for jury members to avoid looking at the principal witness of the prosecution?

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During election day in November, 2000 the police in Volusia County, where Sanford is located, allegedly set up roadblocks to reduce the number of African-American voters.

Rachel was considered "not credible" by the juror. Was race a factor in that assessment?

How often does one see the police offering positive comments on the truthfulness of criminal defendants as it happened in this case?

Prejudice is an attitude, belief, or opinion that is unassailable by rational argument. The sociological literature is replete with evidence of African-Americans discriminated against in medical care, the criminal justice system and other areas. Americans with prejudicial attitudes towards African-Americans are not persuaded by such inequities. It is worth recalling that less than sixty years ago, African-Americans found themselves segregated in schools and housing; they were subjected to codified behavior that constituted a caste system. The popular view was that they were uneducated and possessed many negative qualities. Southern society then proceeded to ensure

This self-fulfilling prophecy was realized. Approximately twenty years ago, the Harvard School of Criminal Justice concluded that race was a factor at every stage of the criminal justice system. Is that finding any less true today?

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Let each one of us take a moment to imagine the pain felt by felt by Travon Martin's parents in hearing Juror B 37 accept as credible George Zimmerman's assertion that

Travon was a suspicious person, "a punk" How did they feel hearing her contend

that rather than criminally profiling their son, Mr. Zimmerman's "heart was in the right place." as he confronted him with a loaded gun.  

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Bill Honer has served as a Consultant to the California State Department of Education and the Office of the Hawaii Attorney General, along with non-profit agencies in Hawaii, California, and Costa Rica. In addition to writing comprehensive business (more...)

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