Nearly one year ago an all-female, nearly all-white jury returned a “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial. Zimmerman had been charged in the February 2012 shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
Here’s an update on some of the people and correlating events that were part of the critical conversations inspired by the 17-year-old Trayvon and Zimmerman’s exoneration in a Florida courtroom on July 13, 2013.
Rachel Jeantel graduated from high school in May. She was the last person—besides George Zimmerman—to speak to Trayvon, and emerged as the prosecution’s key witness. Jeantel, who has a deep voice and a bit of a lisp, seemed to struggle with communicating her version of the events while on the witness stand. She was heavily ridiculed and some people even questioned her intellect. During an interview with CNN, Tom Joyner appeared with Jeantel in a segment and encouraged her to think critically about what she wanted to do with her own life. He vowed to help her graduate from high school and go to college if those were her aspirations.
Jeantel, with the help of after-school tutors and a team of dedicated mentors, got her high school diploma. “I did it,” she told Yahoo! News after graduating. Even more special: Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, attended her graduation.
“The witness who didn’t know how to speak English knows how to speak English through the 12th grade now. I never quit,” Jeantel said.
Trayvon Martin’s Hoodie
Trayvon’s hoodie resonated with supporters because it came to represent the stereotypes inflicted upon young black men by certain communities. People around the nation put on their hoodies and attended their cities’ rallies to protest the circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s death.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture, still under construction in Washington, D.C., expressed interest in acquiring Trayvon’s hoodie for its display in an exhibit. If it succeeds, the item will appear alongside remnants from other high-profile cases involving influential African Americans, including the handcuffs used on The Root’s editor-in-chief, Henry Louis Gates Jr., during his controversial arrest in 2009 and a hoodie that Marian Wright Edelman wore during a protest.
Michael Dunn’s Conviction
The circumstances surrounding the killing of unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis were eerily familiar when news reports of the case emerged in November 2012, nine months after Trayvon’s shooting.
On Feb. 15 Dunn, Jordan’s shooter, was found guilty of four of five charges—including attempted second-degree murder. But the jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge levied again Dunn for actually killing Jordan. Dunn will be sentenced after he is retried on the first-degree murder charge in September. He faces at least 60 years for the four charges of which he was convicted.
Marissa Alexander’s Retrial
In 2012 Alexander was charged with aggravated assault for shooting at her husband during a dispute. She claimed that she fired a warning shot into the air to ward him off. She tried to evoke Florida’s infamous “Stand your ground” law—the same tactic used by Zimmerman—but was unsuccessful.
In September an appeals court overturned Alexander’s conviction and ordered a new trial. The appeals court judge ruled that the lower court had mistakenly shifted the burden of proof of self-defense from the prosecution to Alexander and her defense team.
Alexander’s new trial is scheduled for late July, and since she rejected an initial plea deal offered to her by the state, her sentencing could triple if she loses her retrial.
George Zimmerman’s Antics
This roundup by The Root’s Stephen A. Crockett Jr. details all of George Zimmerman’s uncouth antics since he became a free man.
In summary, he seems to be awfully insensitive about his claim to fame: he has attended gun shows; agreed to be in a celebrity boxing match and—surprise, surprise—he seems to have issues with violence. He’s had the cops called on him—twice—by his wife (who filed for divorce) and then by a girlfriend. He also allegedly punched his wife’s dad.
Zimmerman is living up to be the man that Trayvon Martin’s supporters imagined him to be: violent, arrogant and confrontational.
The Trayvon Martin Foundation
Trayvon will certainly live on in the hearts and minds of the thousands of Americans who were touched by his death. Thanks to the hard work of his mother and father, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and other family members, his legacy will be remembered by future generations.
The foundation has already hit the ground running: It has a Peace Walk and Peace Talk event scheduled for next week.
Rest in peace, Trayvon Benjamin Martin.