COMMENTARY | The shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., a few weeks ago is a simple homicide.
Nonetheless, the Sanford police are in a fix and haven't arrested shooter George Zimmerman. They say they have no clear evidence disputing Zimmerman's claim of self-defense.
Because Trayvon was a black youth, civil rights advocacy groups are claiming that his death was a racially motivated attack, and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is investigating whether there was a racial component to the shooting.
ABC News reports a snippet of audio on a 911 call which they seem certain is evidence of racial bias. The audio is by no means definitive, and authorities should not be too quick, in the wake of political pressure, to charge Zimmerman with a federal hate crime.
It is true that many white people sometimes fear black kids roaming streets in hoodies at night but they are not alone in those fears. In fact, there are black kids, Hispanic kids, and white kids in hoodies walking our streets in fear of other black kids, Hispanic kids, and white kids in hoodies.
They sometimes shoot each other, also. Is it all racism?
Trayvon had gone to a store to buy some Skittles and an ice tea. Neighborhood watch captain Zimmerman judged Martin to be a thug, but made an even bigger mistake in judgment in believing he had police authority.
Even if Martin had robbed a house on his way to the store, it would have been no justification for Zimmerman to pursue and shoot him.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Zimmerman had bleeding wounds when they arrived to handcuff and interrogate him.
Zimmerman's bloody nose is not evidence of justifiable homicide. If Trayvon turned on his adult pursuer and physically dominated Zimmerman, he was within his rights to do so.
There is an aphorism that many people familiar with gun culture have heard:
"I would rather be judged by twelve than carried by six."
Zimmerman made that judgment for himself. Now it is a matter for law to decide. A grand jury will convene to determine whether charges should be brought, and if they are, Zimmerman will then be "judged by twelve."
Regardless of that outcome, neither the pain nor the controversy will soon subside.