When it comes to racism in the South, the Washington Post is content to presume guilt until innocence is proven.
In his July 16 20-paragraph Style section front-pager "Echoes of the past," Washington Post writer Wil Haygood effectively compared the not-guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial to previous instances where juries in Southern states failed to convict racists accused of murdering black Americans like Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. "A Southern jury -- when it comes to race and the perception that a black person has been wrongly accused or harmed -- operates under the wide whispering shadow of history," Haygood insisted, adding, "[T]here exists a roster of names and cases that has exploded onto the national scene and claimed headlines against the backdrop of race and geography: the Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, Isaac Woodward, Medgar Evers, the four girls killed in the Alabama bombing."
"The [Zimmerman] case, fairly or not, has reignited passions about the South and Southern juries when it comes to justice for blacks. It is a story line so often mentioned that it is now wedded to popular culture" in literature and classic films like To Kill a Mockingbird and Mississippi Burning, Haygood added.
Of course, the national media has a huge role in play in the "reignited passions," including when a national newspaper of repute such as the Washington Post all but compares the Zimmerman verdict to real miscarriages of justice in the Till and Evers cases. There are doubtless many problems which need addressing in the criminal justice system, but the individual facts of the Zimmerman case were examined at length by a jury and this after months of media hype which skewed more often than not in favor of the state's case while downplaying if failing to report evidence that came to light that seemed exculpatory in nature.
In fairness, Haygood noted that former Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley -- who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombers -- "believes that the South has made appreciable advances when it comes to courtroom justice and must be viewed in terms of history." That said, in running the piece as the Post is doing, the paper is guilty of reading if not strongly implying racial animus into a jury's acquittal, rather than giving benefit of the doubt to the six women who heard all the facts and evidence and acquitted George Zimmerman of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges.
The State of Florida pulled out all the stops for the Zimmerman prosecution, with the governor tasking a special prosecutor, Angela Corey, to head up the case. Corey hired veteran prosecutors from her office to present the state's side of the case, including Assistant State's Attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who has been practicing law for three decades and received an award from the FBI in 2010.
There's little doubt that Zimmerman did not get a fair trial. He was prosecuted vigorously by the state's attorneys and defended vigorously, to ultimate success, by his defense team. Why is the Post so eager to impugn the average Janes who put their everyday lives on hold to serve on a sequestered jury, weigh the facts and evidence, and come back with what they believed to be a fair and just verdict?
The Post's readers deserve better and so do the people of Seminole County, Florida, who are unfairly indicted as racist by the smears being leveled by the news media on their representatives, the Zimmerman jury.