What effect will Florida’s “Sunshine Law” – which allows cameras in courtrooms – have on the trial of George Zimmerman?
Zimmerman, whose bail has been set at $150,000 after this morning’s bond hearing, is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida on February 26, in an incident that many consider racial profiling. Zimmerman claims he acted in self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, and that Martin was the aggressor. The Sanford Police Department initially cleared Zimmerman of any wrong-doing, but on April 11, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder and had turned himself in.
A photo of what is supposedly Zimmerman’s bloodied head was posted by ABC news this morning and his family testified at his bond hearing that he is not a violent man; Martin’s parents have made similar statements about their own son, who was unarmed at the time. Statistics show that belief in Zimmerman’s innocence splits along racial lines and protests erupted across the country in the days between Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s arrest. Zimmerman’s public apology to Martin’s parents was met with disbelief and accusations of pandering.
With such a volatile environment, will having Zimmerman’s entire trial available to the public stir up more tensions? Will the trial be able to stay focused on the issue of Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence? Will hearing the facts as they are presented allow the public to feel like part of the process?
Eric Deggans, media critic at the Tampa Bay Times
Charles Rose, professor of law, Stetson University College of Law