(Buffalo, N.Y) – “The Trial of Trayvon Martin,” a new play written by Buffalo playwright and author Gary Earl Ross, explores what might have happened if the roles of Martin and George Zimmerman had been reversed.
In 2013, Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman, was found not guilty of second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Zimmerman was also acquitted of manslaughter, which is a lesser charge.
The case sparked a national dialogue about racial profiling, civil rights and Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law.
“I decided to flip the script. I kill George Zimmerman and put Trayvon Martin on trial,” said Ross. “I wondered if the situation had been different and nothing had contradicted Trayvon Martin’s story, would he have been released that night? Or would they have kept him there until they found something that contradicted his story.”
Ross appeared on the Buffalo Review April 17 to discuss his play, which he said illustrates how the justice system would have been much harder on Martin.
The play is based on a short story Ross wrote immediately after Zimmerman’s acquittal, which he said surprised and upset him.
“I thought, based on the evidence I read of the case, the idea that George Zimmerman was stalking this teenager, I thought he would be convicted,” he said. “My son, who is a Florida police officer in an adjacent county said ‘he’s going to get off’ and I said ‘no, he caused the whole thing’ and he said ‘he’s going to get off, trust me this is Florida.'”
Ross researched transcripts from the trial, including the 911 call from the night of the shooting, news stories about the case and other similar incidents, which inspired his telling of the story.
“If you’re a person of color, you spark fear in somebody else,” Ross said, which is a notion the play attempts to address.
“The detective in the play has a line that I particularly like; stand your ground isn’t only for scared white people,” he said.
He said he hopes that people will learn to get pass their judgments of the case after seeing the play, which is produced by the Subversive Theatre Collective.
“The Trial of Trayvon Martin” premiered April 6 and will run until May 6 at the Manny Fried Playhouse, located at 255 Great Arrow Ave.
Ross is a professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo and he has written numerous books, plays, short stories and poems.
In 2006, he won the Edgar Award for best play for “Matter of Intent.” His latest work, “Nickel City Blues: A Gideon Rimes Mystery,” was published in March and is available on Amazon.
* Jenny Annas and Joseph Kasko contributed to this report.