Town hall meeting opens public discourse on Trayvon Martin case
By Andrew Steadman (2L)
On Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Levin College of Law hosted a discussion of the Trayvon Martin case and its aftermath.
Professor Kenneth Nunn moderated the town hall-style forum, where audience members were invited to offer their opinions on the case, its handling and the social ramifications of defendant George Zimmerman’s acquittal.
“Looking Back, Moving Forward” was co-sponsored by the college’s Center on Children and Families and Center for the Study of Race & Race Relations.
The forum offered audience members a public opportunity to voice their thoughts on the case, kept fresh in their minds by similar cases like the death of Jacksonville teenager Jordan Davis.
“What I would like to propose we do is have a discussion,” Nunn said. “We’re going to talk about whatever you guys want to talk about.”
Nunn presented a list of possible conversation-starting topics, ranging from public safety to Florida’s polarizing “stand your ground” law.
“Do we think the trial turned out the way we thought the trial should turn out, in a way that makes us proud of the way the criminal justice system operated here in the state of Florida?” Nunn said.
When Nunn asked how many of the audience members were surprised when no arrest was initially made after the shooting, many students raised their hands.
A second informal poll revealed that a majority of the audience members believed the police had sufficient probable cause to make the arrest at the time of the shooting.
“From my observation, it seemed that the whole case was upside down,” Nunn said. “Zimmerman was always treated as if he was part, and the Zimmerman lawyers, as if they were part of the prosecution.”
“The prosecution seemed to be struggling with the same kind of hardships and the same kind of difficulties that defense attorneys would have. It was very interesting to see that juxtaposition.”
Later on, the conversation turned to the concern that the events that transpired in the case could happen again. Some students said they had personally experienced some of the same treatment as Trayvon Martin. Monique Wilson (2L) spoke about the dangers black Americans face.
“I remember distinctly being about 5 or 6 and my parents being like, these are the rules and you always have to follow them,” Wilson said.
“One of the things my parents always said is, ‘Bring a book with you,’” Wilson said. “’Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, bring a book with you. Because no kid is up to no good if they have a book in their hand.’”