More than six weeks after he admittedly shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman made his first appearance Thursday in a Sanford, Fla., court, where he faced charges of second-degree murder. With that appearance, what is sure to be one of the most controversial and closely watched trials in recent memory essentially got underway. Many are already comparing it to the trial of O.J. Simpson, a racially divisive media-circus that left many questioning whether justice had been served. Is history doomed to repeat itself?

The racial divisions are just as stark: A full 80 percent of blacks think "Martin's death was racially motivated," while only 35 percent of whites agree, says Gary Younge at Britain's The Guardian. "In the caffeinated, disaggregated world of cable news and blogs, where people feel entitled to their own facts, the details that will emerge will only deepen those fissures." However, that doesn't mean the case will necessarily become a "show trial," a la Simpson. If Angela Corey, the special prosecutor, performs well, we might yet see justice served and the truth emerge.
"George Zimmerman's trial could be as divisive as O.J. Simpson's"

And like the O.J. trial, many people have prejudged the case: The Simpson trial saw a "rush to judgment among many American blacks in favor of O.J. Simpson," says Armstrong Williams at The Hill. "Despite all the evidence that supported the fact that Simpson" killed his wife Nicole and Ron Goldman, many blacks "desperately wanted him to be found not guilty." Similarly, "many blacks are unwilling to even entertain the thought" of Zimmerman being declared not guilty. Let's hope that this time around, we can keep an open mind at Zimmerman's trial, and avoid an "incredible double standard and hypocrisy." 
"What are the similarities between George Zimmerman and O.J. Simpson?"

Actually, the cases are quite different: Simpson was married to Nicole, and his was a crime "of intimacy," says Amy Davidson at The New Yorker. Zimmerman and Martin were total strangers, and yet, Zimmerman allegedly hunted this black teenager down because he supposedly posed a threat. That scenario "forces us to confront the ways race can still be used to conjure up a character, and a whole frightening narrative, out of nothing." These types of questions "need to be asked" — and weren't in the O.J. case.
"O.J., George Zimmerman, and their lawyers"