Zimmerman trial: It’s about race

Updated 6:40 AM EDT, Wed July 10, 2013

Story highlights

Roxanne Jones: We have all been duped in the Trayvon Martin case

Jones: This case was never "open and shut" as the Martin family attorney said earlier

She says race still matters deeply in our courtrooms, just as it does in our nation

Jones: In Zimmerman trial, the prosecution appears to be lying low and taking punches

Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones is a founding editor of ESPN The Magazine and former vice president at ESPN. She is the CEO of The Push Marketing Group. Jones is an award-winning editor, reporter, writer and producer who has also worked at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer across news and sports. She is co-author of “Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete” (Random House).

(CNN) —  

We have all been duped in the Trayvon Martin case. Bamboozled.

This case was never “open and shut” as Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump insisted in a news conference at the start of the trial. I doubted it was that easy from Day One.

Said Crump then: “The jury will have to hear all of the evidence. We think this is a simple case. No. 1: Zimmerman was a grown man with a gun. No. 2: Trayvon was a child with no blood on his hands. Literally.”

Roxanne Jones
Courtesy of Roxanne Jones
Roxanne Jones

When I heard Crump’s words, I was immediately suspicious. Could it really be that simple? Or was the attorney just trying to placate a grieving family and spin an angle for the media? Did Crump really believe that “Justice for All” had finally arrived in our nation? And that the damning stereotypes associated with race and class would have no room in a Florida courtroom where George Zimmerman is being charged with second-degree murder in the death of Martin?

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I’m no cynic but I am a realist. A realist who’s covered enough criminal trials to know for certain that the trial that plays out in the public over pep rally vigils and celebrity protests is never the trial that unfolds in the courtroom. I understand that race still matters deeply in our courtrooms, just as it does in our nation. And there’s no getting away from that fact.

As the trial of Zimmerman continues, nothing is as simple as it seems.

“This case is a perfect storm,” says Xavier Donaldson, a defense attorney and former prosecutor in New York. “You have to look at the nature of the case and the racial, political and social economics of the defendant and accused. You have a young black kid, walking with a sweatshirt on and some guy, who wants to be a cop, assumes he’s a criminal and shoots him dead.” Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Trayvon Martin Shooting: Fast Facts

“Zimmerman had an image in his community as a good guy, who wanted to protect people. So he – and not Martin, the victim – has gotten the benefit of presumption of innocence. Normally, in murder cases that doesn’t happen. People generally believe that if you’ve been arrested and charged that you must have done something wrong, but those lines are blurred here,” says Donaldson.