The troubling case of the young man shot to death in Florida during a confrontation with a neighborhood watch volunteer has ignited a heated national debate, on several fronts.
The case of Trayvon Martin has raised questions about so-called "stand your ground" laws. It has triggered a discussion about vigilantism and generated a national dialogue on the subject of racial profiling.
And, it has cast a floodlight on the local law enforcement agents investigating the case.
Based on the facts that are currently known, it is tempting to jump to conclusions as to what happened, and whether police have pursued a proper investigation. But to take such a leap would be wrong.
Most especially in cases like this, where emotions are aflame, it is critical that our system of justice be allowed to function as it is designed — to inexorably uncover the facts and circumstances and proceed to a finding that will allow justice to be served, one way or another.
Public pressure has already resulted in the ranking law enforcement officer in the jurisdiction stepping away from the investigation, and it has led to the appointment of a special prosecutor to ensure the matter is elevated as a priority for timely resolution.
That prosecutor has publicly asked for patience and restraint. Angela B. Corey said investigators are sympathetic to the demand for answers, but she pleaded for time. "We stepped into this case Thursday night," she said. "We're asking — we're begging people — just give us a chance."
Her plea must be granted. Our judicial system is not designed to be swift, but it is intended to be certain. At this early juncture, all of the facts are not known, and some critical facts may never be. But police and prosecutors must undertake a painstaking assembly of evidence, and that will require time and latitude not restricted by pressures to reach certain conclusions, or appease certain interests.
Police and prosecutors must also be keen to the fact their investigation, as much as possible, must be transparent to a public greatly concerned with how a teenage boy walking alone in a quiet neighborhood came to be felled by a citizen's bullet.
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