I haven't spoken with Al Sharpton in a few months. But if we were still speaking and he were to ask me what to do with the mother of Trayvon Martin, my answer would be very simple: Get her off the stage right now.
Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, appeared on The Today Show last week and actually said that she thinks that George Zimmerman shot her son by accident.
"One of the things that I still believe in, a person should apologize when they are actually remorseful for what they've done. I believe it was an accident. I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn't turn the clock back. I would ask him, did he know that that was a minor, that that was a teenager, and that he did not have a weapon?"
When I heard these words, I froze in my tracks. I couldn't believe that Trayvon's mother would make a statement that was in such stark contradiction to the charges being brought forth by the prosecutor. In fact, there's a big part of me that wonders why she was on the show at all.
According to Findlaw.com, second-degree manslaughter is defined as:
1) an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, nor committed in a reasonable "heat of passion" or 2) a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life
There is nothing about the word "accident" that implies intent, which is why it's called an "accident." Although Sybrina's attorneys have worked hard to clean up after her mistake, the truth is that she can't argue that Zimmerman "accidentally" thought that Trayvon looked suspicious or that he "accidentally" chased him down. The only part of this interaction where the word "accident" readily applies is in the actual shooting itself. If I were George Zimmerman's brother, I would send Syrbrina's attorney a thank you card.
God bless Sybrina for being honest (if that is what she meant to say), but there are some things better left unsaid. For the mother of the victim to make a statement in national media that directly contradicts the efforts of the prosecution is nothing short of disastrous.
"George Zimmerman stalked my son and murdered him in cold blood," Sybrina later said to MSNBC in another interview, retracting her earlier statement.
My question at this point is this: Why was there another interview in the first place? I am not a lawyer myself, but I presume that there's a reason that attorneys tell their clients to be quiet. All of the cleansing in the world will never take away the fact that Sybrina's comments have had a remarkably negative impact on the ability of the special prosecutor to do her work.
Sybrina's words have opened the door for millions of people to understand when George Zimmerman is let off the hook with either an acquittal or a plea bargain for a lesser charge. This remark also undermines her credibility as she seeks to have Zimmerman convicted of second degree murder. Why would I tell someone to punish you for deliberately doing something that I believe to be accidental?
Trayvon's parents have done their work and they've done it well. They've achieved the first steps toward justice for their son, and now it's time for them to try to rebuild their lives in private. Rev. Sharpton has done a wonderful job of highlighting the racial dimensions of this highly unfortunate incident. At this point, the conversation about black men in the justice system must grow beyond Trayvon Martin, and the prosecution should be allowed to do its work. The family, as well all associated racial advocates, need to strategize in private, listen to the evidence and just stop talking.