Trayvon Martin Case: ‘Trial of the Century’?

As the trial starts, experts talk about its potential effect on how we see race and justice in America.

Trayvon Martin (family photo); George Zimmerman at a bond hearing (AFP/Getty Images)

It’s likely that Zimmerman’s team will continue to be aggressive during the trial, Ogletree told The Root. “Trayvon is not here to speak for himself, so it makes the case incredibly difficult,” he said. “But his parents hope that the evidence presented by the prosecution shows beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman needs to be punished for his actions.”

Judith Browne Dianis — co-director of the Advancement Project — suggested to The Root that the defense might try to paint Zimmerman as a nonracist, open-minded person just to put to rest the idea that the fatal incident was racially motivated. “I don’t know what the prosecution’s case is, but I would image that the defense may say that some of Zimmerman’s closest friends are black people,” Dianis said, “and that they will have a parade of black witnesses for their client.”

In his phone call to the police the night of the shooting, Zimmerman said that Trayvon “looked suspicious.” Zimmerman also decided to approach the teen after the 911 operator told him not to. But there’s no way to prove what he actually meant by “suspicious.”

“In a case of racial profiling by the police, we would have data, statistics and other evidence to prove that race was a motive,” Dianis said. “But this is a case against one person, and we may never know what he meant by that comment because he could actually never take the stand.”

 If Dianis is right and Zimmerman never testifies, will all the hoodie marches and congressional support be in vain?

Not if the community channels that same passion that was prominent during the formative stages of this case and applies it to a bigger movement, she said.

“Wherever people are across this country, they should be doing something like finding and rooting out racial profiling in their own hometown,” Dianis said. “We have to take the outcome of this case and turn it into something productive for us. We can’t turn it into anger — we have to keep it moving and honor Trayvon.”

Aja Johnson is an editorial fellow at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.