Act I may be over. George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. And Trayvon Martin's parents thanked prosecutors for holding him accountable for their son's death.
But we're still a long way from the final scene of this tragedy. There are legal arguments to be made and evidence to be presented. And the conversations about race, Florida's "stand your ground" law and the media's coverage of it all will continue.
But now's a good time to take stock of the lessons learned so far. Here are the Top 10 do's and don'ts, in no particular order, taught to us by the Trayvon Martin case.
Be humble. Al Sharpton is about as far from humble as Sanford is from Selma, but he actually showed a smidge of humility after the charge against Zimmerman was announced. "We don't want anyone high-fiving tonight," he said. "There was no winner tonight. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice." He acknowledged that there is no victory to be had for anyone in this sad case. Perhaps he would earn more respect if he kept up the modesty.
Speak up. Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton began speaking up for themselves before the first camera rolled or the first protester marched. They never could have known the amount of attention Trayvon's death would attract. They've kept their composure and haven't wavered from their mission to find out what happened to their son.
Be responsive. Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett quickly jumped on a plane to Washington for talks on Capitol Hill. He worked to release the 911 tapes from the night of the shooting. He even stayed calm — and stuck around — after he was booed off the stage at the largest rally in Sanford. His genuine concern, willingness to answer questions and calls for healing set the right tone and a good example.
Be transparent. An exclusive group of conservative legislators and businesses operated without much scrutiny for years. Lately, though, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is getting a lot more scrutiny for pushing "stand your ground" laws in dozens of states. Some people are troubled, including ALEC's own sponsors. Coke and McDonald's already have cut ties with the group.
Stick to the facts. Jesse Jackson said Trayvon was shot in the back of the head. Wrong. He was shot in the chest. The amount of misinformation circulating around this case is staggering. Whether unintentional or an orchestrated effort to sway public opinion, we all know that when the truth is muddled credibility disappears faster than ALEC's corporate sponsors.
Don't shrug off communication. Sanford police Chief Bill Lee didn't get this from Day 1. He came off as dismissive of questions about the investigation. Instead of focusing on how police were trying (if that's the case) to gather more evidence, he focused on how there was nothing to refute Zimmerman's claim of self-defense. Bad communication might end up costing Lee his job.
Respect the First Amendment. Sanford police sure got it right on Monday when a group of college students demonstrated outside the department. Police played it cool. They didn't make arrests or even call for the protesters blocking their front entrance to leave. The students made their point and the department earned some badly needed points for treating them respectfully.
Don't mislead. Speaking of the First Amendment, NBC didn't do it justice by editing Zimmerman's 911 call to make it sound like he brought up Trayvon's race. Zimmerman actually was responding to a dispatcher's question. Not only did this mistake mislead "Today" show viewers, it added to the already inflammatory language surrounding this case.
Know when to go. Just like Lee stepped aside so he wouldn't be a "distraction" in the case, Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Norm Wolfinger ultimately let go of the case as well. He signed a letter asking Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor. Not that he had much choice. There were already questions building about his office's handling of the case.
Grandstanding is unbecoming. There's been no shortage of it in this case so far. Angela Corey, the state attorney from Jacksonville who was appointed special prosecutor, teetered on the edge with her press conference this week. She talked for five minutes, introducing people and thanking them like it was the Oscars, before finally revealing the charges against Zimmerman.
But it's still early in this case and Corey is just getting started. The second act has only begun.
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