Zimmerman trial gives us all a chance to reflect on society

Published June 14 2013
Updated June 15 2013

So our latest Trial of the Moment begins, one that will say something about where we are in the world at the moment.

The neighborhood watch volunteer who thought a black teenager in a hoodie looked suspicious stands charged with second-degree murder in the case that has taken the Florida town of Sanford worldwide. And as anyone who has been watching knows — who hasn't? — this is a case complicated by George Zimmerman's claim that even if he followed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin that night, what happened in those last moments between them was self-defense.

Essentially, that he is the victim here.

But it's complicated more by questions of race and how race may be the reason this happened at all.

This has become an American tradition, trials that become larger than the people in the sad tragedy within them. O.J. Simpson wasn't just about an enraged ex-husband and two murdered victims — it was also about race and the justice system. Back then, a whole lot of people were shocked at how far apart we were in our reactions to his acquittal. Maybe it made us think.

In Tampa, a 28-year-old man is looking at life in prison in a most unusual federal murder case.

John Andrew Welden stands accused of tricking his pregnant ex-girlfriend into taking abortion pills by telling her they were antibiotics and faking the label, causing her to lose the 6-week-old baby.

Already, we're learning about the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which says if he was committing a federal crime — in this case, product tampering — he can also be charged with murder.

While the fetus would not have been considered viable under state law, the federal law says "a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb" is a "child in utero," an unborn child.

That debate sound familiar?

Because besides the question of whether a man should go to prison, this case for some will also be about abortion and abortion rights — when life begins, or why it's legal to get an abortion but a crime if someone else does it, as the argument will undoubtedly go.

Already, they are talking about a state Remee Lee Law to be named for the woman at the center of this case. Already, she has been questioned in a court proceeding about whether she had ever had an abortion.

Me, I'd say this is definitely a case about choice — if the allegations prove true, how hers was taken away from her.

In the trial playing out in Sanford, I keep thinking about the infamous hoodie Martin wore walking home from the store with his Skittles and his fruit drink, talking to a girl on the phone.

Zimmerman would tell a police dispatcher about a guy looking "like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something." He would lament how "they always get away." Thug wear, the hoodie was later pronounced, except a pretty good portion of the population owns one, like me and maybe you too.

But get ready, because probably the only uncontested fact in this trial will be that it was raining that night.

Was Zimmerman a victim or a vigilante? A jury will decide.

And then we get to figure out what it says about the rest of us