At the very least, police should have arrested Zimmerman.
ABC News Radio reports that the lead prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case, State Attorney Angela Corey, is looking into accusations that the Sanford Police Department bungled its investigation. Possible police missteps include failing to administer a toxicology exam on Zimmerman, not impounding his vehicle, and failing to contact key witnesses.
The State Attorney’s office also said that a voice analysis would be conducted on 911 calls from the night of the shooting to determine who was yelling for help. Update: As of March 31, the Orlando Sentinel reports that not one but two forensic experts have determined that the person heard screaming for help on the 911 calls was definitely not George Zimmerman. The experts cannot as yet say with certainty that the person screaming was Trayvon Martin, and won’t be able to do so until/unless they obtain a recording of Martin’s voice.
The Florida “Stand Your Ground” Law
The Florida Stand Your Ground Law says: “a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if: (1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another”. (My emphasis).
George Zimmerman claimed to police that he had halted his pursuit of Trayvon Martin when requested, and that he had later stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on. As he was walking back to his vehicle, Zimmerman says that Trayvon approached him from behind. In Zimmerman’s account, the two exchanged words before the teenager punched Zimmerman in the nose, knocking him to the ground. Zimmerman goes on to claim that Trayvon climbed on top of him and slammed the Neighborhood Watchman’s head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered. Zimmerman also claimed the youth had tried to take Zimmerman’s gun. This is the narrative on which Zimmerman is basing his claims of self-defense.
George Zimmerman’s father, the 64-year-old Robert Zimmerman, has given yet another version of the attack, a version which also does not match the evidence:
“[George Zimmerman] called the non-emergency number first, and they asked him where he was, because he was at the rear of the town houses and there was no street sign. He lost sight of the individual, he continued to walk down the same sidewalk to the next street, so he could get an address for the police.
He went to the next street, realized where he was and was walking to his vehicle. It’s my understanding, that at that point, Trayvon Martin walked up to him and asked him, ‘Do you have a [expletive] problem?’ George said, ‘No, I don’t have a problem,’ and started to reach for his cell phone. At that point, he was punched in the nose, his nose was broken and he was knocked to the concrete.
Trayvon Martin got on top of him and just started beating him, in the face, in his nose, hitting his head on the concrete. After nearly a minute of being beaten, George was trying to get his head off the concrete, trying to move with Trayvon on him into the grass. In doing so, his firearm was shown.
Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of, ‘You’re going to die now’ or ‘You’re going to die tonight’, something to that effect. He continued to beat George, and at some point, George pulled his pistol and did what he did.”
Neither Zimmerman’s account explains why the dead youth was found in a backyard area and not on the street near George Zimmerman’s truck, or why the 911 callers were reporting an altercation taking place in their backyards. Further, examining a map of the neighborhood (see below), The Retreat at Twin Lakes has a grand total of three streets: Retreat View Circle, Twin Trees Lane, and Long Oak Way. Why is it, exactly, that an experienced long-time community watch volunteer had to exit his vehicle to figure out what street he was on?
The elder Zimmerman’s tale sounds like exactly what a lawyer or a person experienced in the law would say in trying to construct a self-defense narrative. I’d actually guess that 95% of American teenagers making a death threat during a fight would say, “Imma gonnna kill you, you [expletive]!” or “You’re dead, [expletive]!” This “You’re going to die tonight” fairytale comes right out of the overwrought dramatics of the 1950s B-movie, a Vincent Price line, perhaps. It certainly does not represent the speech of the modern teenager.
The Zimmermans’ stories also do not fit the statement given by Martin’s girlfriend in Miami, who, according to phone company records, was on the phone with Trayvon as the assault took place until the call dropped at 7:16 p.m. ET. In an affidavit, the girlfriend stated that she was talking on the phone with Trayvon as he was walking home from the store and had temporarily taken refuge from the rain. He then began walking again, when he told her, “I think this dude is following me.” She told Martin, “Baby, be careful, just run home,” and says that Trayvon thought he had lost his pursuer. However, moments later, Trayvon told her, “He is right behind me again. I’m not going to run, I’m going to walk fast.” Then the young woman heard another voice demanding, “What are you doing around here?” Trayvon responded, “Why are you following me?” At that point, according to the girl, Trayvon was pushed and the phone apparently hit the ground.ABC News has obtained phone records from T-Mobile that confirm Trayvon was, indeed, on the phone to the girlfriend as she states.
As Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic said, “You can’t ‘reasonably’ be trying to avoid serious injury or death, you can’t be doing something absolutely necessary to spare your own life, if you are at the same time chasing down the very person you claim to be deathly fearful of.”
“Welcome to the Sunshine State,” says Florida criminal defense attorney Eric Schwartzreich. “The heat we’re packing here, it’s not sunshine, it’s firearms. We call this the ‘Shoot First and Ask Questions Later’ law. Someone has a right to defend themselves and stand their ground.”
Former Washington D.C. Police Department homicide investigator Rod Wheeler stated that the Florida “Stand Your Ground” law was really the “Make My Day” law. “What that law is saying in the state of Florida — and look at the case law — you can actually shoot a dog. It happens all the time. You can shoot a kill a dog and get arrested and put in jail, but if you kill a kid — and especially a black kid in Florida — you can walk away. That’s what that law means.”
The Miami Herald reports the Republican lawmakers who authored Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, former Sen. Durell Peaden and current state Rep. Dennis Baxley, say they believe the law has been misapplied in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and that the killer, George Zimmerman probably doesn’t deserve immunity under the statute.
Former Senator Durell Peaden said, “They got the goods on him. They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid. He has no protection under my law.” Based on the 911 call from Zimmerman on the night of the shooting, Peadon’s opinion is that “The guy lost his defense right then. When he said ‘I’m following him,’ he lost his defense.” Peaden said it sounded to him as if Zimmerman went looking for trouble. And he found it. But he doesn’t deserve a claim of self-defense. “He’s kind of stretching a whole bunch of things. And if he has a gun, that’s premeditated,” Peaden said. There’s nothing in the Florida law that allows him to follow someone with a damn gun.”
Rep. Dennis Baxley repeatedly made the point that “there’s nothing in this [Stand Your Ground] statute that authorizes people to pursue and confront people.” Baxley also said, “If [Zimmerman] provoked it by pursing [Trayvon], I think he’s on thin ice.”
“Great Bodily Harm”
Florida courts equate “great bodily harm” to “serious bodily injury”. The word “serious,” when used to define the degree of bodily injury, means dangerous, grave, grievous, or great, as distinguished from slight. It is a bodily injury which has important or dangerous possible consequences. Serious bodily injury may include, but does not require, serious permanent disfigurement or a protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ. The determination of whether a bodily injury constitutes serious bodily injury is solely a question of fact for the jury. (My emphasis).
Great bodily harm in the context of aggravated battery means “great [harm] as distinguished from slight, trivial, minor or moderate harm and as such, does not include mere bruises as are likely to be inflicted in a simple assault and battery.”
Craig Sonner, attorney for George Zimmerman, although he says he has spoken to his client only by phone, commented on Zimmerman’s injuries in a CNN interview:
“I believe that — his nose was broken. He sustained injury to his nose. And on the back of his head, he sustained a cut that was serious enough that probably should have had stitches. There was a delay him getting to the emergency room so they — by the time they got there, got to the doctor, there was an option not to stitch it up because it already started healing is my understanding. …it was an injury done by Trayvon Martin. …I have not discussed the incidents of that night other than the injuries he sustained were from Trayvon Martin, I assume hit [Zimmerman] in the face and caused him to fall back on his head. I don’t know all the incidents all came down. That’s not something I discussed.””
George Zimmerman did not seek medical treatment until the next day, even after he allegedly had his nose broken and his head “slammed” into the sidewalk several times (or, as his lawyer claims, simply fell down and hit the back of his head).
A broken nose is not “great bodily harm”. I’ve had my nose broken playing sports, and aside from the gusher of a nose-bleed, the injury causes redness, a lot of swelling, sometimes an obvious displacement of the nose, and even if not at the time of injury, a person with a broken nose usually develops two spectacular black eyes over the next three days. Boxers get broken noses regularly, and kids get them from baseballs, a misplaced elbow on the basketball court, falling off bikes. If, in fact, Zimmerman’s nose was broken, I expect that there will be medical documentation and probably pictures showing this injury in all its black-and-blue glory.The other injury mentioned is a cut to the back of Zimmerman’s head, which his attorney described as “needing stitches”. They also claim that no stitches were used, because Zimmerman waited a day before seeking medical attention. This implies medical records that would document both the injuries and the fact that the wound could not be stitched.
But let’s think a little about a cut to the scalp. Scalp wounds are notorious for bleeding profusely, because the scalp has a rich blood supply and the blood vessels in the scalp don’t constrict. Between that cut to the scalp and the busted nose, there should have been a lot of blood on Zimmerman, and with a cut that needed 11-12 stitches it would likely be difficult to stop the bleeding without medical attention.
On March 28, ABC aired surveillance film from Sanford P.D. showing George Zimmerman on the night of the killing. There is no blood on Zimmerman’s clothing, his nose is not swollen, red, or mashed sideways, and there’s no blood on the back of his head. If Trayvon Martin had been on top of Zimmerman when the gun was fired, Trayvon’s blood should be on Zimmerman, but there’s no evidence of any blood in these video shots.
The initial police report states that an officer on the scene observed that “[Zimmerman’s] back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass, as if he had been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.” No grass, wet, or blood appears in the videos from the police station.
Afterwards, ABC enhanced the police station video, and now believes that there do appear to be welts or cuts on Zimmerman’s head.
Dr. Vidor Friedman, president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, has examined the enhanced video and says, “If somebody had been beating [Zimmerman’s] head against concrete I’d think we’d see more obvious scrapes.” Friedman also said he would expect to see bandages on Zimmerman’s head.
More significant to Dr. Friedman was the condition of Zimmerman’s nose: “All of the ridges in his nose are clearly defined. You would expect significant swelling in the hour or two after a break. There appears to be none. It doesn’t look like his nose was broken or badly broken.”
The New York Daily News obtained EMS records on March 30:
Female Voice: “Law enforcement en route for a possible shooting, someone laying in the grass.”
Male Voice: “Do we have a second patient?”
Female Voice: “That’s affirmative. There is a second patient.”
Male Voice: “You can cancel second rescue. Patient is not gunshot. Second patient is not a gunshot.”
EMS documents show that the second ambulance was cancelled because whatever injuries Zimmerman did sustain were insufficient to merit emergency medical response.
Apparently the next line of defense for Zimmerman will be insanity or a pity plea. George Zimmerman’s friend Joe Oliver claimed on March 27 that “[Zimmerman’s] life will never be the same. He’s living in seclusion. I don’t know where he’s at. I do know how to get in touch with him now, but I have no idea where he’s at. He’s being treated for post traumatic stress syndrome, depression, insomnia, he can’t eat. He cried for days after the shooting. He’s extremely remorseful. And now he’s living in hiding because he has become the scapegoat for what ails this country as far as racial relations go.”
When “Stand Your Ground” Does Not Apply
“Stand Your Ground” is not a free pass to shoot. Florida Statutes, Title XLVI, Crimes Section 776.041 — Use of force by aggressor: “The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who… (2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless: (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant…” (My emphasis).
George Zimmerman initially provoked any altercation that occurred: Trayvon Martin was minding his own business, walking home, having committed no offense other than “walking while black”. Zimmerman ABSOLUTELY did not exhaust “every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant”. Au contraire, Zimmerman chased Trayvon Martin down.
On March 28, Nancy Grace interviewed Richard Kurtz, the funeral director who handled Trayvon Martin’s body. Kurtz stated that the teenager’s body showed no evidence that he was fighting before he was shot, and that the boy’s only injury was a gunshot wound in the upper chest. There was no bruising or cuts on Trayvon’s hands or knuckles. There is no way that Trayvon could have been “beating” George Zimmerman, hitting him in the head, without leaving marks on the boy’s hands.
ABC News reported that George Zimmerman also blatantly violated major principles of the National Neighborhood Watch Program, whose manual states:
“It should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles. They should also be cautioned to alert police or deputies when encountering strange activity. Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous.”
Chris Tutko, director of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s neighborhood-watch program, said the NSA discourages the carrying of weapons “to the point of saying you just can’t do it.”
Miami Police Major Delrish Moss tells city-organized citizen’s patrols to leave the police aspirations and guns at home and focus on simply observing and reporting potential crime. Moss said, “In law enforcement, you always run into people who speak to you in cop jargon, in a way that you can tell they are some kind of frustrated cop. For the most part, they are harmless and just love police officers, but sometimes, these conversations can be alarming.”
The Miami Herald quotes Dr. Laurence Miller, a Palm Beach County clinical psychologist who works with local police agencies. Dr. Miller said that he believes Zimmerman likely was acting out the “whole TV cop role in his head” when he confronted Trayvon. “A lot of people like the power and control that law enforcement officers have but with that comes a tremendous amount of responsibility,” Miller said, pointing out that a police officer is the only profession that can use “coercive physical force” or lethal force to subdue a suspected criminal. “People act like cowboys and like the power, but not the responsibility.”
Despite all guidelines to the contrary, Zimmerman elected to chase down a terrified teenager, even after the 911 emergency dispatcher instructed Zimmerman not to do so. And the result? Zimmerman took Trayvon Martin’s life.
The 911 Calls from the Sanford FL Police Website
Call transcripts are also available.
- 7:09 to 7:13 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘George Zimmerman call to police’. Note ‘fucking coons’ at 2:22.
- 7:16 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 call: Screaming and gunshots audible.’
- 7:16 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 call: "There was screaming. I just heard a gunshot!"’
- 7:17 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 call: "Why would this man just shoot him?"’
- 7:17 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 Call: I think someone’s been shot. Oh my God!’
- 7:17 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 call: "The guy’s dead out here. Holy shit…Oh my God."’
- 7:18 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 Call: Someone’s yelling, two doors down from me, screaming, "Help! Help Help!"’
- 7:19 p.m. ET: Listen to ‘911 Call: I saw a man laying on the ground screaming who needed help.’
Officers arrived on the scene at 7:17 p.m. ET, according to the police report.
Multiple Wrongs Never Make A Right
Perhaps the most unsettling development in the weeks after the shooting of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, are overt threats of vigilante justice against George Zimmerman. Spike Lee posted Zimmerman’s alleged address in a Tweet, which falls but a hairs’ breadth from encouraging his followers to seek out and harm the man. Encouraging this kind of retributive violence is wrong, no matter what the circumstances. It’s critically important that we, as a community, do what George Zimmerman did not: we cannot be vigilantes, flouting the laws that make our society possible.
Worse has been the response of the New Black Panthers (a group with no relationship to the original Black Panthers), who have issued a $10,000 bounty for George Zimmerman. To me, this rises to the level of a hate crime on its own. The Southern Poverty Law Center says the New Black Panther Party, a black-separatist group founded in 1989, is “a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers.” The killing of Trayvon Martin must be answered with justice, not by a lynch mob mentality that escalates into greater violence.
Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger referred the case to the Seminole County Grand Jury, which will be called to session on Tuesday, April 10, 2012.
The FBI, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida have also announced that they will be investigating the shooting of Trayvon Martin as a possible hate crime. Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa said:
“The department will conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence and take appropriate action at the conclusion of the investigation. The department also is providing assistance to and cooperating with the state officials in their investigation into the incident. With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids – the highest level of intent in criminal law. Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.”
Internet sources are reporting that on March 27, several ABC affiliates aired video footage of an ABC7 news report claiming that the FBI has an audio of a 911 call made by Trayvon Martin himself just before he was killed. Daily KOS also published an article, “Trayvon Martin Called 911 Moments Before Being Shot”. Both the video footage and the Daily KOS post have been removed. There is an audio report from an ABC affiliate stating that the audio of the 911 call was being enhanced by the FBI to determine what Zimmerman is saying to Trayvon in the background. There are other reports suggesting that the ABC affiliate reporter misspoke, and that the 911 call in question was one of the many calls phoned in by neighbors that night.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/40866189″ iframe=”true” /]
The autopsy performed on Trayvon Martin by the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office is expected to provide some key evidence. The autopsy report, however, remains under seal and will not be released to the public while the investigation is pending, which could be weeks, if not months.
Racial Bias and Police Incompetence
Racial bias/profiling and a racial slur appear in the 911 call made by George Zimmerman. At 1:36 in the recording above, Zimmerman complains, “These assholes, they always get away.” At 2:22, Zimmerman mutters under his breath, “fucking coons”. Zimmerman’s concern is that “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.” In other words, the only activity in which Trayvon Martin was engaged was walking in the rain, minding his own business, on his way home from a 7-11.
Joe Oliver, a friend of George Zimmerman, has tried to gloss over the racial slurs in Zimmerman’s 911 call with the completely unbelievable assertion that “fucking coon” is meant as a term of endearment:
““To me, it’s a matter of interpretation of whether he saying ‘coon’ or ‘goon,’. There are a lot of parts of this country where people proudly call themselves coonasses. In Louisiana, in particular. On the other hand, you know, I’m a 53-year-old man and I don’t know too many people younger than 40 who use that term as a racial slur. As far as the other word, ‘goon,’ I’ve been informed by my 17-year-old daughter that that among her peers is a term of endearment.”
Frank Taaffe, another Zimmerman friend, tried to claim to Nancy Grace that what Zimmerman said was, “it’s fucking cold”. In a heated exchange, Grace nailed that lie to the floor: it was 62° that night, which can’t be construed as “fucking cold” no matter how you slice it.
Another indicator of racial bias is the history of George Zimmerman’s calls to police. Starting in 2011, Zimmerman’s calls increasingly focused on what he considered “suspicious” characters walking around the neighborhood—almost all of whom were young black males.
A recording of one of Zimmerman’s most recent racially-tinged calls is available, and is interesting because there he says he’s afraid of the black male he is reporting, and that he’s not going to get out and confront him; this suggests Zimmerman’s pursuit of Trayvon Martin was made because he explicitly did not fear a teenager.
- On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about “7-9” years old, four feet tall, with a “skinny build” and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.
- On Aug. 3 of last year, Zimmerman reported a black male who he believed was “involved in recent” burglaries in the neighborhood.
- And on Oct. 1 he reported two black male suspects “20-30” years old, in a white Chevrolet Impala. He told police he did “not recognize” the men or their vehicle and that he was concerned because of the recent burglaries.
Zimmerman is not the only person in this case being blamed for racial bias. As James Fellows of The Atlantic writes, “The Trayvon Martin case involves the shooting of a young black man by a young white man, and the failure of the white-run Southern police department to take any action against the killer. The more evidence comes out, the less defensible and more bigoted the police department’s attitude seems.”
The Sanford Police Department has a past history of racial bias and also of making “special allowances” for friends and family of the police. In 2005, two white security guards — one of whom was the son of a Sanford police veteran, the other the son of a volunteer with the department — shot a black teen to death and then claimed self defense. In 2011, a white police lieutenant’s son sucker-punched a homeless black man with no provocation, and the Sanford Police ignored the incident until footage from the scene was uploaded to YouTube, resulting in the attacker’s arrest and the police chief being forced out of office. Patrol Sergeant Anthony Raimondo, the officer in charge of the 2011 case, was also in charge of the Trayvon Martin shooting scene.
Other black residents complain that Sanford police regularly pull over black teenaged males as gang members simply because of their clothing. One 75-year old black woman calls Sanford police “crooked as a barrel of fishhooks.”
Turner Clayton Jr., president of the Seminole County NAACP, points out, “People are outraged because they never recovered from the last shooting, or recovered from the beating a year or so ago with the policeman’s son. All of these things are escalating and simmering, and it’s going to reach a point where it’s going to explode.”
From the beginning of the investigation, there have been complaints that the Sanford police did a shoddy job of investigating because George Zimmerman was not black, but his victim was. Zimmerman was not arrested, nor was he checked for alcohol or drugs in his system, although these tests were performed on Trayvon’s corpse.
ABC News learned from multiple sources that Sanford’s Lead Homicide Investigator, Chris Serino, recommended that neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter the night of the shooting. The state attorney’s office, however, instructed Investigator Serino not to press charges against Zimmerman because the state attorney felt that there wasn’t enough evidence to lead to a conviction. Serino filed an affidavit on February 26, the night that Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, that stated he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.
An unidentified source inside the Sanford Police Department said that a narcotics detective — not a homicide detective — first questioned George Zimmerman, using a barrage of leading questions, rather than allowing Zimmerman to tell his story.
Mary Cutcher, one of the witnesses from the preliminary police report, says police only took a two or three sentence statement from her and never questioned her in detail even though she repeatedly reached out to them. Cutcher said police “Blew us off, and I called him back again and I said, ‘I know this was not self-defense. There was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling. There was a little boy whining and crying and the gun went off.’ I am 100% — okay 99.9% — sure it was the little boy.” Cutcher believes that whatever confrontation there was, it ended before they got to her backyard. “The fight that started, happened all the way down the sidewalk and right around the corner. And that person called the police when the fight started. So, he ended up shot in my backyard, which is three, four houses down.”
Another officer corrected a witness after she told him that she heard the teen cry for help. The officer told the witness, a long-time teacher, it was Zimmerman who cried for help, said the witness. ABC News has spoken to the teacher and she confirmed that the officer corrected her when she said she heard the teenager shout for help.
Cheryl Brown, mother of 13 year old witness Austin McLendon, said that police waited five days before seeking to question her son and then told her they didn’t believe the shooting was self-defense. Brown says police tried to lead her son to agree to answers they apparently wanted to hear, such as the race of the person on the ground and what he was wearing. But the boy stuck to his insistence that he couldn’t make out either because it was too dark. Austin has released a video statement explaining what he saw, and the heart-wrenching statement, “I think about, ‘What if I would have went over there? Would the person still have gotten shot?’ I think that sometimes people get stereotyped, and I fit into this [same] stereotype as the person who got shot.”
According to the Virginia Supreme Court, George Zimmerman’s father, Robert J. Zimmerman, served as a full-time magistrate (not a judge with trial jurisdiction) from 2000-2006. The elder Zimmerman is described as a retired military man and Vietnam veteran. George Zimmerman’s mother Gladys was an interpreter at a county courthouse. The legal connections of Zimmerman’s parents has led to speculations that Robert Zimmerman’s influence led to the dismissal of George Zimmerman’s 2005 felony and, perhaps, may have influenced his treatment by the Sanford Police after the shooting of Treyvon Martin.
Putting the Victim on Trial
In March, an active smear campaign has begun attempting to paint Trayvon Martin as “a guy who needed killin’”, demonizing the teenager as a thug, a drug dealer, a thief. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, has said: “They killed my son, and now they’re trying to kill his reputation.”
“I believe that George Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch captain, should be investigated to the fullest extent of the law and if he is criminally liable, he should be prosecuted. But I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.
…when you see a kid walking down the street, particularly a dark skinned kid like my son Cruz, who I constantly yelled at when he was going out wearing a damn hoodie or those pants around his ankles. Take that hood off, people look at you and they — what do they think? What’s the instant identification, what’s the instant association? It’s those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone sticking up a 7-11, the kid is wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it’s a kid wearing a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta, you’re gonna be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace.
…When you see a black or Latino youngster, particularly on the street, you walk to the other side of the street. You try to avoid that confrontation. Trayvon Martin’s you know, God bless him, he’s an innocent kid, a wonderful kid, a box of Skittles in his hand. He didn’t deserve to die. But I’ll bet you money, if he didn’t have that hoodie on, that — that nutty neighborhood watch guy wouldn’t have responded in that violent and aggressive way.
Free Wood Post: News That’s Almost Reliable published a satire piece, FOX NEWS: “Did Trayvon Steal the Candy and Tea?”. Like The Onion, Free Wood often takes current events and exaggerates a theme to explicitly mock it. Here, the mockery is directed at the people waging the smear campaigns against Trayvon Martin. Unfortunately, racist and right-wing organizations including Stormfront have picked up Free Wood’s piece and treated it as fact. This piece is SATIRE.
Fox News anchors and hosts are beginning to ask fair and balanced questions about the Trayvon Martin tragedy, and today the nation’s most popular news source is reporting, “no receipt was found by investigators for the candy or the tea Martin was menacing at George Zimmerman when the neighborhood watchman was forced to defend himself.”
The revelation came this morning on Fox and Friends during an interview with Bill “Bull” Lee, who has temporarily stepped-down as Sanford Chief of Police in order to act as Zimmerman’s official spokesman. Lee told the cast of the popular morning show, “After we stripped the dead suspect and tested him for drug and alcohol use and then dug under his finger and toe nails for any incriminating DNA, we checked his blood-soaked clothes for any kind of evidence of wrong doing. All we found was 34 cents and a couple of baseball cards.”
“That’s it?” Gretchen Carlson asked dismayed. “Seems to me that something was obviously missing: why wasn’t there a receipt for the pop [sic] and candy?”
“We at the Sanford Police Department asked the exact same question, Gretchen,” Lee explained. “We concluded that the suspect must have stolen the candy and tea, and in my mind that bolstered Mr. Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. A criminal brandishing his stolen goods can be quite threatening when you’re following him in your SUV with a nine-millimeter, semi-auto handgun loaded with a full clip of hollow-point ammo.”
Carlson, in her classic journalistic style, stayed on the scent: “So were the baseball cards found on Martin of any value?” she asked. “Do we know if the family has produced a receipt for those?”
“To this point,” Lee answered, “the Martin family has refused to cooperate on that matter. However, I do know that Mr. Zimmerman believes that baseball cards were once stolen from him.”
This new line of investigation has echoed throughout the Fox News line-up. Bill O’Reilly stated, “Candy and tea and baseball cards, but no receipts? Liberals can’t explain that. New twists to this case are bound to continue to turn-up as Fox News investigates the real reality of what happened in Sanford.”
On March 25, Michelle Malkin’s right-wing website Twitchy ran a picture of George Zimmerman in a suit and tie next to what they claimed was a picture of Trayvon Martin. The picture of Zimmerman was real, but the picture of Martin was not. The website published the following correction:
Recognize these two people? If you don’t, we’ll help you out.The man on the left is George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering the boy on the right,Trayvon Martin. The mainstream media won’t show you these two photos because they convey a message that no one else wants to take into consideration.
Correction, 8:56 pm ET March 25, 2012: We made a mistake. The photo on the right is not of the Trayvon Martin who was shot by Zimmerman. We apologize to our readers and to the Martin family.
The photo on the right above is of a black youngster also named Trayvon Martin, taken from the teenager's Facebook page, but this Trayvon Martin is still breathing, and he's a student at Myers Middle School in New York. The dead Trayvon Martin's home was Miami, where he attended Miami Carol City High School. Other photos from the living New York teenager’s page have been spread across the Internet as “proof” that somehow the dead Trayvon Martin was a thug, and that the photos in some way justify the murder.
On March 26, right-wing crazy man Glenn Beck’s website, The Blaze, ran an article on the killing, which ends by making a huge conspiracy theory over why Martin was suspended for 10 days from school:
We’re also learning more about Trayvon Martin. According to reporters he had been suspended from school. The International Business Times says Martin’s suspension was due to last for 10 days. But what exactly was he suspended for in the first place? Sources sympathetic to Martin say he was suspended for “excessive tardiness.” However, a quick review of both the local policies for Martin’s school, the Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, and of the Miami-Dade school district’s district-wide policies, raise some doubts.
This is followed by a list of nearly 50 possible offenses that “might” have caused Trayvon Martin’s suspension, ranging from cheating and cursing to assault and battery, armed robbery, and arson. This is extremely disingenuous, as following The Blaze article’s back-links leads the reader to find quotes from Michelle Kypriss, Trayvon’s English teacher, describing Martin as an A and B student who “majored in cheerfulness”, and saying that Trayvon had incurred a five day suspension. Kypriss said “Trayvon was not a violent or dangerous child. He was not known for misbehaving. He was suspended because he was late too many times.”
The Blaze made some effort to use a source reporting on the Orlando Sentinel article mentioning the suspension that doesn’t mention the actual reasons, and then The Blaze lies and says the suspension was ten days, not five as their source states, probably because that ten-day fib gave them the chance to mischaracterize the Miami-Dade school district’s district-wide policies by listing much more serious offenses. The same policy manual states that the dangerous crimes listed by The Blaze must be reported to the Miami-Dade Schools Police (p. 17) and to local police (p. 49), which would mean a criminal record. Had such a record existed, the smear brigades would definitely have paraded it with trumpets.
The Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, confirmed on March 27 that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school. Crump has charged that the Sanford police had leaked damaging information about Martin into order to muddy the case, calling it a conspiracy. Crump correctly noted that the school disciplinary problems are irrelevant to the killing. Martin had never been arrested, and wa sdoing nothing illegal when George Zimmerman decided to stalk the boy.
In order to dispel the various lies and untruths that have been spread regarding Trayvon Martin’s school suspensions, let’s briefly review the actual facts. In all, the teenager was suspended three times. The first, as noted above, was for excessive tardiness.
The second suspension, in October, resulted when a Miami-Dade Schools Police officer saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area marking a door with graffiti. The next day, the officer stopped Trayvon and searched Martin’s backpack looking for the graffiti marker, but instead found 12 items of women’s jewelry and a flathead screw driver that the guard believed to be a “burglary implement.” Martin was never charged or disciplined regarding the jewelry. Miami-Dade Police confirmed that it had been asked by school police to help identify the property taken from Martin’s backpack, however, the jewelry did not match any that had been reported stolen.
The final suspension was the one that resulted in Trayvon being in Sanford, Florida. The Miami teenager received a 10-day school suspension after a bag with traces of marijuana and what was believed to be a marijuana pipe were found in the boy’s backpack. On March 26, anonymous sources from the Sanford Police Department selectively leaked information about Trayvon Martin to the Orlando Sentinel, claiming that Martin’s suspension resulted from Martin possessing an empty baggie that contained marijuana residue. What is more interesting here is why Sanford Police would report such a detail: no matter what offenses or behavior Trayvon had engaged in while in Miami, in Sanford he was an unarmed teenager with some ice tea and candy being pursued by an older man with a gun.
At the end of March, the smear campaign against Trayvon Martin had intensified. Some Zimmerman apologists are trying to say “tea and skittles” is drug slang for marijuana and ecstasy. Elsewhere we have a bigot stating — with not a shred of evidence — that Trayvon actually had “crack and a 40 oz” and not Skittles and ice tea. Once again, unless Zimmerman had some super-powers we don’t know about, there was no way for him to know what Trayvon may have had or done before Zimmerman started following the kid, and it’s completely irrelevant to the question of whether Zimmerman murdered Martin in cold blood.
Furthermore, police have stated that yes, Trayvon Martin had Skittles and ice tea. Former Sanford police Chief Bill Lee said publicly, “The conclusions that are drawn from the basic information is that George Zimmerman shoots a 17-year-old kid with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea can. And you know, those are facts: George Zimmerman did shoot Trayvon Martin, and Trayvon Martin did have a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea. The fact that he had a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea does not have anything to do with the facts of why George Zimmerman thought he needed to use deadly force.”
Rev. Al Sharpton pointed out that George Zimmerman had no way of knowing about Trayvon’s school record — “because he didn’t interview him before he shot him.” Sharpton added, “The only thing that’s relevant is what Zimmerman knew. Let’s not play this double standard of trying to damage who is dead and sanitize who is the cause of the death.”
George Zimmerman’s History
Since there has been such an effort to smear Trayvon Martin and paint him as a frightful thug, it’s only fair to examine the background of George Zimmerman.
Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, says that he was told by police that “they respected [Zimmerman’s] background, that he studied criminal justice for four years and that he was squeaky clean.” He continued: “My question to them was, did they run my child’s background check? They said yes. I asked them what they came up with, and they said nothing. So I asked if Zimmerman had a clean record, did that give him the right to shoot and kill an unarmed kid?”
Zimmerman did not have a “squeaky clean” record. Zimmerman had a felony arrest in 2005 for “resisting officer with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer.” The charge was reduced to “resisting officer without violence” and then waived when Zimmerman entered an alcohol education program.
Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. published a notice saying that during an early meeting with Trayvon’s father, a Sanford police investigator told the elder Martin that Zimmerman described himself as being “squeaky clean” and that Trayvon’s father “may have misconstrued” this information.
More information is emerging about George Zimmerman’s past history of violence. From 2001-2005, Zimmerman worked as an under-the-table security guard for two different agencies providing security to illegal house parties, until he was fired for “being too aggressive.” A former co-worker said:
“Usually he was just a cool guy. He liked to drink and hang with the women like the rest of us. But it was like Jekyll and Hyde. When the dude snapped, he snapped. He had a temper and he became a liability. One time this woman was acting a little out of control. She was drunk. George lost his cool and totally overreacted. It was weird, because he was such a cool guy, but he got all nuts. He picked her up and threw her. It was pure rage. She twisted her ankle. Everyone was flipping out.”
There has been such an incredible outpouring of news stories, blog posts, and discussion about the killing of Treyvon Martin that it’s become hard to figure out who did what when. ABC News has a helpful timeline showing dates with brief descriptions of the ongoing revelations in the case.
The entire encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Marton took less than 20 minutes from the time Zimmerman made his call to Sanford Police until the time at which Trayvon Martin was pronounced dead:
|7:09:34 PM E.T.||George Zimmerman calls Sanford Police non-emergency number from 1111 Retreat View Circle, at the mailboxes and clubhouse.|
|7:11:41 PM E.T.||George Zimmerman: “He’s running”.|
|712:00 PM E.T.||Trayvon Martin tells girlfriend on the phone: “This dude is following me”.|
|7:12:02 PM E.T.||After Zimmerman admits he is chasing Trayvon, the police operator says, “We don’t need you to do that.”|
|Trayvon Martin: “Don’t want to run. I’ll walk fast.”|
|Trayvon Martin decides to run.|
|Trayvon Martin: “I lost the guy”|
|7:13:09 PM E.T.||George Zimmerman: “I don’t know where this kid is.”|
|7:13:27 PM E.T.||Officer Timothy Smith dispatched.|
|7:13:41 PM E.T.||George Zimmerman’s call with police ends.|
|Trayvon Martin: “I see him again.”|
|Trayvon Martin: “What are you following me for?”|
|George Zimmerman:”What are you doing here?”|
|7:16:00 PM E.T.||Trayvon Martin’s call with girlfriend ends.|
|7:16:25 PM E.T.||Screaming for help audible on 911 calls.|
|7:17:10 PM E.T.||Shot fired.|
|7:17:11 PM E.T.||Officer Smith arrives at complex.|
|7:18:10 PM E.T.||Smith arrives at crime scene.|
|Smith takes George Zimmerman into custody.|
|Officers perform CPR, then are joined by paramedics.|
|7:30:00 PM E.T.||Paramedic Brady pronounces Trayvon Martin dead at the scene.|