The controversy surrounding the Trayvon Martin case bears a curious resemblance to the case of Martin Lee Anderson--another tragic Florida death whose potential racial implications were exploited by the left, and which brought Barack Obama together in common cause with Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Hollywood.
In 2006, Anderson, a 14-year-old African-American boy, died at a state boot camp facility for juvenile offenders. Public outrage, whipped up by activists and politicians, fueled accusations that Anderson had been murdered because of his race. The detention center guards--a multi-racial group--were eventually acquitted.
There were protests, led by Sharpton and Jackson; then-Senator Barack Obama was expected to join demonstrations and did not--but became involved peripherally when the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, anticipating Obama's arrival, compared him to Osama bin Laden (and resigned soon afterward).
Florida newspapers picked up on the similarity in the Anderson and Martin cases, and the AP followed a week later. In addition to the return of Sharpton and Jackson, the key repeat player is Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented the Anderson family in 2006. According to the AP, via the Grio:
Crump was first contacted by a cousin of Trayvon Martin's father. The cousin, a Miami attorney, was familiar with Crump's civil rights work in Florida. Before Martin's death, Crump was best known for representing the parents of a teenage boy who died after an encounter with guards at a Florida boot camp in 2006. The videotaped beating of Martin Lee Anderson attracted national attention and led to the closure of the state's boot camps for juvenile offenders.
While it should have no bearing on anyone's guilt or innocence in either case, it's also worth noting that an image widely circulated at the time of Anderson differed significantly from how he actually looked at the time. Similar controversies over depictions of the victim have arisen in the Trayvon Martin case.
The Miami Herald notes that Crump and his firm are using the Anderson media playbook in the Martin case, with some improvements:
They learned their lesson six years ago in the boot-camp case.
In Trayvon’s case, they alerted the news media more quickly. They phoned the Rev. Al Sharpton almost instantly, and organized marches with local civil-rights activists. They also started pressing for federal involvement and alleging a cover-up from the get-go.
The results: The Sanford police chief received a no-confidence vote and stepped down temporarily. The prosecutor stepped aside to make way for a special prosecutor. The Justice Department and the FBI have joined the investigation. Celebrities from Cher to Donald Trump have gotten behind Trayvon’s case. And thousands have marched and protested across the nation.
Even President Obama weighed in Friday on what he called a “tragedy.”
The Herald failed to note one other similarity: the controversy over the victim's death has little to do with the actual guilt or motives of the accused killer.
There is also one important difference: this time, Barack Obama has inserted himself fully into the debate.