I have long maintained that the final verdict from the Zimmerman Trial changes absolutely nothing and the value of the trial is in what it highlights our flawed but functional legal system.
If George Zimmerman is found not guilty, who can really be shocked that a bunch of Southern white women felt it was okay to kill a black boy under mysterious circumstances. If Zimmerman is found guilty then it took Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, national protests and the president of the United States just to get the Florida legal system to do their due diligence.
No matter the ruling nothing has radically changed. However, the most critical part of this case for the viewer is not the final jury verdict but the behavior of the local police in this case, which is horribly and shamefully exemplified by the testimony and behavior of lead Detective Chris Serino.
To much of the nation’s African American community skepticism about the legal system and apprehension about institutions is not based on some abstract fear or ignorance. It is based on day-to-day interactions or anecdotal stories about police officers.
As I watched the Zimmerman Trial I was struck not by the occasional flaccid nature of the prosecution, or the smarmy dog-whistling and race-baiting by the defense attorneys. What struck me most was the horrible, petulant and insubordinate behavior of lead Detective Chris Serino, who has done all he can to torpedo the State’s case.
Serino, a 15 year veteran on the force, interviewed Zimmerman three days after the murder of Martin and seemed less than convinced of the neighborhood watchman’s story. He pointed out that it was hard to believe Zimmerman was beaten so viciously by Trayvon Martin if he was able to go to work the next day and not even visit a hospital.
He and another officer pointed out that Zimmerman was obviously following Trayvon and that his failure to identify himself as Neighborhood Watch might’ve scared the kid. Lastly and perhaps most importantly he pushed back on Zimmerman’s characterization of Trayvon as a “Punk,” chastising Zimmerman and pointing out that he’d shot an unarmed kid with candy and iced tea in his pocket.
All of this interview, which was put into evidence last week, is pretty damning and certainly looks like effective police work. That’s when things get sticky.
Despite these obvious inconsistencies and questions, mere days after the shooting, Serino felt there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest, let alone file charges against, Zimmerman. There are hundreds of thousands of cases with much less evidence on the table where people get arrested even if they are released later. Yet somehow Serino didn’t feel like filing charges against Zimmerman.
Serino claims he was ‘pressured’ to file charges by fellow officers and higher ups in the state of Florida, and he was demoted in his job. Consequently during this trial Serino has made it a point to throw a temper tantrum during testimony, editorializing on George Zimmerman’s behalf, answering questions in ways that help the defense.
The problem with this entire case can be boiled down to the saga of this cop who is either incredibly noble and willing to risk everything for what he thinks is right or he’s a disgruntled, petulant civil servant who puts his own ego ahead of the life of a dead 17 year old boy.
Serino is the reason why so many African Americans don’t trust the police. And when we see law enforcement take the lives of black children to be political footballs rather than lives to be spared or victims to be avenged, it reminds us that no matter what the ruling in the Zimmerman trial as long as there are cops like Serino nothing has truly changed.
This article originally appeared online at Atlanta Daily World.