I didn’t start seriously watching Law & Order until the show (and the police procedural in general) were pretty much played out, so it was a revelation when Netflix enabled me to start watching from the beginning. As cliché as the show’s promise of ripped-from-the-headlines stories would get, it really did a terrific job of capturing the cultural mood of its era.
One very early episode, “Subterranean Homeboy Blues,” presents the case of a white woman who shoots two black men on the subway, and gets through her trial essentially on the argument that the shooting was justified because black men are scary. It was apparently based on the case of Bernhard Goetz, and I got to thinking about it over the weekend as the George Zimmerman trial was wrapping up. And I think there’s more than the obvious parallels worth considering here.
I deliberately didn’t pay much attention to the actual Zimmerman trial, because I think turning one particular case into a cultural event does a disservice to basically everyone involved.