The trial of George Zimmerman, now in its fourth week, seems to be picking up a growing number of viewers around the nation, with the courtroom activity in the case against the man who shot Trayvon Martin attracting viewers who take time from work and other activities to tune in.
For many African-Americans in particular, the killing of Martin remains an incident that sparks great interest and emotion. And the courtroom maneuverings have been eagerly followed as shedding a light on the state of race in the United States.
They contend that they look at the trial as a benchmark of where the country stands in race relations and understanding. Many say they are disappointed that the prosecution has been laboring at great pains to make a case that they find so easy to see: That Zimmerman had profiled the 17-year-old, unarmed Martin.
“The trial resonates with me because it deals with so many of the relevant topics of today such as how gun laws are viewed,” said Lance Conley, a hospital administrator in Kansas City, in an interview with BET.com.
“Also, it has a racial component and it deals with class. I'm amazed that what I see as a clear injustice, can, by some, be viewed as self-defense.”
Like many, Conley takes breaks from work to either watch the trial on television or on his computer at one of the sites where it is streamed live.
“A lot of people I know are watching it because, like me, they want to know more of the details of what actually took place,” said Conley, who is married and has three young sons. “I feel like I need to see justice served. Also, the racial profiling aspect is worrisome to me being the father of three young boys.”
The trial is also doing well in ratings, with cable stations saying that their coverage and special programs on the Zimmerman courtroom activities have led to increased viewership.
For example, CNN’s evening special on the trial, “Self Defense or Murder?” had an audience in the first week of the courtroom testimony that was 41 percent higher than what the cable network averaged in the previous month in the same time period.
The testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin moments before he was shot and killed, drew a large number of viewers and sparked a torrent of reaction on the internet.
“A lot of people I know are following the trial and were especially interested in her testimony,” said Cameron Miller, a recent graduate of Hampton University, speaking with BET.com.
“I think it showed how easily people judge others in social media, how people are ready to ridicule her when she is only trying to get justice for her friend,” said Miller, who earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing from Hampton.
“I believe it’s important to follow the trial,” he added. “It says a lot about race in this country, about how race is still an important factor in how this society works.”
As the trial continued Wednesday, the prosecution came close to completing its presentation. Prosecutors called to the stand a DNA expert who testified that none of the swabs of Zimmerman’s gun revealed any DNA that matched Trayvon Martin’s.
The expert, Anthony Gorgone of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, testified that there was none of Zimmerman’s DNA in scrapings of the teenager’s fingernails or in the hooded sweatshirt worn by Trayvon.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)