JSU social work expert interviewed about Zimmerman verdict


Dr. Leon Chestang, Executive Director, JSU School of Social Work

Jackson State University’s Executive Director of the School of Social Work, Dr. Leon Chestang, was recently interviewed by WLBT concerning the psychological impact of the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial.

Chestang is an expert  in the fields of child welfare, race & culture, marriage & family, and social work education.

Click here to view the video. The story can be read below:





JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

All eyes were on the Florida courtroom when the “not guilty” verdict was read for George Zimmerman. If you were you one of those people emotionally impacted by those words, you weren’t alone.

Forensic and clinical psychologist Dr. Gerald O’Brien explains,

“They focus so intensely on this, as to shut everything else out and that’s one of the reasons why they may have a more severe reaction than just any other criminal case,” explained clinical psychologist Dr. Gerald O’Brien.

The nation’s focus landed on the George Zimmerman trial last week. The emotions, from tears, to screams, to protests, didn’t stop at the Florida state line. Dr. O’Brien says that’s not uncommon in cases that gain national attention.

“It forces you to make a choice of is this really important to me or am I just following this because it’s popular right now,” said Dr. O’Brien. “And a lot of people just are not used to making those kinds of distinctions.”

So what serves as the connector for the public? Jackson State University’s School of Social Work Director, Dr. Leon Chestang, says it’s about finding a common denominator; whether that be a young black male being racially profiled or a man who claims he was in fear for his life.

“Even though you don’t know them, you can feel with them again because I knew something like that that happened once, someone might say,” said Dr. Chestang.

And it’s that sense of ”I can relate” that causes people to latch on to a trial filled with otherwise strangers.

“They identify with Trayvon because his experience mirrors a lot of their own experiences,” added Chestang.

Family also comes into play on the defense side.

“No family wants one of its members to be in this kind of trouble or jeopardy if you are on the Zimmerman side,” said Chestang.

Dr. O’Brien says the emotional reaction, whether it’s a feeling of depression or elation, will most likely fade quickly.

“They can understand, it’s not going to last very long, simply going back to their normal routine,” said Dr. O’Brien. “Be it the internet or reading a book or going to school, could simply help bring them back to their normal routine,” said O’Brien.

The doctors say social media serves as another factor that heightens public emotions. They suggest unplugging for awhile if you’re feeling overwhelmed with all the opinions.

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