By now, thanks to media saturation coverage, millions of Americans think they know what happened when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin crossed paths on a street in Sanford, Florida, a month ago -- and millions of Americans have already formed an opinion regarding the case.
That's a shame, because the arc of this story is still unfolding, and the way the story has developed over the past week suggests that there may be a lot more we have to learn about the facts before anyone can render a worthwhile, fact-based opinion on the case. Unfortunately, the vast amount of coverage Martin's death has received hasn't resulted in much real information being uncovered.
When the story first burst into the national media, it appeared as if the facts were simple: clean-cut black kid shot by an out-of-control white guy, whom the cops chose to let get away with it.
And although Zimmerman is actually Hispanic, the photos of the two that were most used by the media underscored the racially-tinged narrative -- a cherubic-looking Trayvon, a sullen, dangerous-looking Zimmerman.
Trayvon Martin, it turns out, had been suspended from school for several days. Possibly due to marijuana possession. At least one witness told police they saw Martin beating Zimmerman. Evidence emerged from social media of a rather less-then-angelic Trayvon Martin.
After two weeks of saturation of intense coverage by the national media, what is clear about the Martin-Zimmerman case is that what really happened on that Florida street is not exactly clear at all. Will it turn into another Duke lacrosse case--where despite a lot of smoke generated by people whose financial interests are enriched by inflaming racial passions--there was nothing there? Or will Zimmerman be convicted of a serious offense like manslaughter or murder? No one knows for sure at this point.
What is clear is that the mob justice mentality is a dangerous thing. George Zimmerman may have acted stupidly, or even criminally. Or he may have acted in self-defense. People who care about the case should be calling for the media and the investigators to find the truth, not to find Zimmerman and railroad him.
Certainly the bounty on Zimmerman--a private citizen with no outstanding warrants--is outrageous, flagrant vigilantism of the very sort that the get-Zimmerman crowd supposedly condemns.
The death of Trayvon Martin is a tragedy no matter what the facts are of the case. If he was the angelic young man as depicted by his family and friends, certainly his shooting was a tragedy. But even if he was a more sinister figure, perhaps connected to violence and drugs, his death would still a tragic ending to a young life gone off the rails.