Editorial: Who won the Michael Rosfeld homicide trial?
No one won.
On Friday, when a jury concluded the four-day homicide trial of Michael Rosfeld with three and a half hours of deliberation and an acquittal, there was no real victory.
Rosfeld didn’t win the case. He just won’t go to jail. He can walk away from the courthouse, but he can’t walk away from what happened when he pulled his gun and fired three bullets. The former East Pittsburgh police officer will be irrevocably linked to the late 17-year-old Antwon Rose II for the rest of his life.
The East Pittsburgh police department didn’t win. The department doesn’t even exist anymore. It was shuttered in November. State police patrol the municipality now.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala didn’t win. His prosecutors took the case to court, but protesters who took to the streets after the not-guilty verdict was rendered put part of the blame on him, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, Steve Zappala’s got to go!”
The Pittsburgh area didn’t win. The pain and anger that stalked the streets with the protesters Friday night and Saturday show that tensions are still high and wounds are still open.
Rose’s family didn’t win. Their wound will never close because it will bleed anew every time they turn to talk to the child who isn’t there. Every time another black boy or black man dies in dealings with police, the scab will be ripped off. They will learn to live haunted by Rose’s absence and the tragedy that took his place.
And Rose himself didn’t win.
Read the comments on the news stories and talk to people who followed the case, and you hear skepticism. While Rosfeld had his day in court, Rose was convicted by a large part of the population without evidence or cross-examination or deliberation. For some, the drive-by shooting guilty plea of Zaijuan Hester, 18 — the other young man who fled the fateful, fatal traffic stop — was the final nail in Rose’s coffin.
No one wins when someone’s child is still dead. No one wins when part of the population feels vindicated by the verdict and part feels victimized. No one wins when another Rose-Rosfeld could happen again in a stopped heartbeat.
No one wins until we stop seeing the other side as enemies and commit to finding solutions.
Until then, there are only people who survive and people who don’t.