Yahoo News: Jason Johnson on George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin

Hiram College professor Jason Johnson was quoted extensively in the Yahoo News story “Court of public opinion looms large in George Zimmerman murder trial.”

On paper, Seminole County, Fla., criminal case No. 2012-001083-CFA is a second-degree murder trial, one that could send George Zimmerman to prison for life.

But in the court of public opinion, the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin has roused a national conversation about racial profiling, self-defense, gun control, vigilantism, civil rights and more.

A trial that speaks to something more than just the individuals involved is good for civic discourse, says Jason Johnson, a political science and communications professor at Hiram College in Ohio.

“That is a very good result of this case,” Johnson told Yahoo News. “Depending on your demographics and your experience, there are different parts of this case that pop out to you.”

Johnson, the professor, says the president’s remarks proved to be pivotal.

“That’s when we knew that this case was going to be about more than this particular kid getting killed,” Johnson says. “It was going to be about notions of violence, and respect, and profiling in America in general.”

According to public documents, an FBI investigation didn’t uncover any evidence that Martin’s death was motivated by race. However, Johnson said the case still has racial components that can’t be overlooked.

“Race is a lot more nuanced than we often report and discuss in public discourse,” he said. “This is one of those cases that’s going to demonstrate how nuanced it really is.”

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