Why did the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case become a national obsession?
After all, about 14,000 murders take place every year in America. In Chicago alone, murders are on pace to reach around 400, down 27 percent from last year but on par with 2011. In 2012, only 26 percent of homicides were "cleared," meaning the case was closed, with or without the killer being arrested or charged.
That Martin, a black person, was killed by Zimmerman, described as a white Hispanic, is rare. Most homicides are same-race crimes. Most black killers kill other blacks. Most white killers kill other whites.
So why this case?
For many, Martin's death illustrates how young black men are unfairly "profiled" by cops, security officers and society in general. The unfair criminal stereotype of black men, they say, results in false arrests.
But in the end, the Zimmerman trial is a he-said/he's-dead case. The only person who was there tells a far different story. Zimmerman had a swollen, if not broken, nose, cuts on the back of his head and black eyes. The defense argues that this shows Zimmerman, in fear for his life or serious bodily injury, defended himself by shooting and killing Martin.
Defense witnesses, who came across as credible, have refuted every witness for the prosecution.
Was it Trayvon Martin's voice on the 911 tape, screaming for help, relevant in trying to determine who started the fight? Or was the voice that of Zimmerman, a man in reasonable fear of death or serious injury? Audio experts came to different conclusions, so the judge disallowed any audio expert testimony.
Martin's mother said the voice was her son's. Zimmerman's mother said the voice was her son's. Martin's father said the voice was his son's, but admitted that at first he did not recognize the voice as belonging to Trayvon. Testimony was given by Zimmerman's friends, including one who saw combat in Vietnam. The vet said he'd heard men screaming on the battlefield. Knowing Zimmerman's voice and having heard how people sound under extreme stress, he could confidently say the voice belonged to Zimmerman.
The most important witness was Trayvon's friend, the young lady he was speaking to on his cellphone shortly before he was shot. The prosecution needed her to establish that Zimmerman was the aggressor, and that Trayvon felt stalked and threatened.
Rachel Jeantel, a 19-year-old high school senior, said Trayvon told her that a "creepy-ass cracker" was following him. She said he also referred to Zimmerman as a "n--ger."