Monday, July 15, 2013

Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman

I'm back!  And with a controversy in hand.

I've written about race relations / racism here before.  Now that there is this nationwide outcry against the verdict in the Zimmerman trial, I find it interesting to revisit the topic.

I have not followed the whole situation REAL closely, so if anybody has opposing FACTS, please supply them.  Of course, you are welcome to supply your OPINION as well, we just want to differentiate between the two.

What struck me most strongly, both when the event occurred and when the verdict came out, was the visceral reaction of the public - at least the part of the public that was portrayed on TV.  I read one news story where a man was so upset about the verdict he was literally 'shaking' in anger over the court's acquittal.  When the story first broke, these reactions called to my mind scenes from Western movies, or even the not-so-distant past of public lynching, where the mob decided and enacted justice without the nuisance of an actual trial.  Even before there was any trial, and any examination of the facts, people were calling for Zimmerman's head - revenge.

On one hand, the prosecution says Zimmerman was a vigilante.  He was tracking Martin.  He instigated the conflict.  On the other hand, the defense says Zimmerman was attacked and was defending himself.  Apparently, there had been some recent crimes committed in the neighborhood by some blacks.  Was he profiling?  Is profiling wrong?  Zimmerman is some kind of neighborhood watch person, but he's not a cop.  He was, however, legally carrying a gun.

I wondered about the racial makeup of the jury.  I heard it wasn't released but was thought to be 7 women - 6 of whom are white and 1 Hispanic.  That sounds a little stacked in favor of Zimmerman, but my understanding of jury selection is that the prosecutor and defense attorney both have the equal power to submit and reject any of the potential jurors when the jury is being selected.  So the prosecutor must have been as satisfied with the outcome as the defense.  Is this another OJ situation, where the local law was overwhelmed by high profile defenders?  I haven't heard that mentioned and I don't think Zimmerman was wealthy.

In order to be fair, maybe I should ask myself if I'd feel outraged if it was a black citizen shooting and killing an Hispanic youth, or a white youth.

It's a tragedy any way you look at it.  A kid is dead, a family is traumatized, a man will be demonized - rightly or wrongly.  But what's the bigger picture here?  Racism, just like sexism, ageism, and other disparities and hatreds, certainly exists.  Are we part of the problem if we don't protest the decision, or are we part of the problem if we do?  What do you think about the media's involvement?  When I searched for images to place in this post, these were the two most popular.

One final picture that illustrates my last comment.


  1. Here's a link to what CNN is calling the 'fast facts' of the case:

  2. (CNN) -- Here's a look at what you need to know about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Former neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman has been charged in the shooting.

    Trayvon Benjamin Martin, born February 5, 1995, was a 17-year-old African-American high school student who lived in Miami Gardens, Florida with his mother Sybrina Fulton. In February 2012, Martin was visting his father Tracy Martin in Sanford, Florida after receiving a ten-day suspension from Krop Senior High School. The suspension stemmed from the discovery of drug residue in Martin's book bag.

    George Michael Zimmerman, born October 5, 1983, was a part-time student at Seminole State College and a neighborhood watch captain at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community in Sanford at the time of the shooting. He is married to Shellie (Dean) Zimmerman and is the son of Robert and Gladys Zimmerman.

    February 26, 2012 - George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida, calls 911 to report "a suspicious person" in the neighborhood. He is instructed not to get out of his SUV or approach the person. Zimmerman disregards the instructions. Moments later, neighbors report hearing gunfire. Zimmerman acknowledges that he shot Martin, claiming it was in self-defense. In a police report, Officer Timothy Smith writes that Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and back of the head.

    February 27, 2012 - Martin's father, Tracy Martin, files a missing persons report. Officers with the Sanford Police Department visit Tracy Martin. He is able to identify Trayvon Martin's body using a photo.

    March 8, 2102 - Investigators receive a fax from the Altamonte Family Practice containing the medical records identifying the injuries sustained by Zimmerman on the night of the shooting: Open wound of scalp, without mention of complication; nasal bones, closed fracture; assault by other specified means.

    March 12, 2012 - Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee says that Zimmerman has not been charged because there are no grounds to disprove his story of the events.

    March 13, 2012 - Sanford Police Department's homicide detective Christopher Serino recommends Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter.
    Zimmerman "failed to identify himself" as a concerned citizen or neighborhood watch member on two occasions that night. Serino reports that he thought Zimmerman's head injuries were "marginally consistent with a life-threatening episode, as described by him, during which neither a deadly weapon nor deadly force were deployed by Trayvon Martin."

    March 14, 2012 - The case is turned over to the Florida State Attorney Norm Wolfinger.

    March 15, 2012 - In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, Robert Zimmerman, George Zimmerman's father, writes that George has been unfairly portrayed as a racist, and that George is Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family.

    March 16, 2012 - Authorities release seven 911 calls from the night of the shooting. In one of the 911 recordings, Zimmerman, against the advice of the 911 dispatcher, follows Martin. In one of the recordings, a voice screams "Help, help!" in the background, followed by the sound of a gunshot.

    March 19, 2012 - The Justice Department and the FBI announce that they have launched an investigation into Martin's death.

    March 20, 2012 - A lawyer for the Martin family, Benjamin Crump, holds a news conference, telling reporters that Trayvon was on the phone with his 16-year-old girlfriend at the time of the shooting. The girl, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she heard someone ask Martin what he was doing and heard Martin ask why the person was following him, according to Crump. The girl then got the impression that there was an altercation in which the earpiece fell out of Martin's ear and the connection went dead.

  3. March 21, 2012 - CNN analyzes one of the tapes of Zimmerman's call to dispatch, in which he is purported to have used a racial slur against blacks. The results are inconclusive.

    March 22, 2012 - A petition on calling for the arrest of Zimmerman, created by the parents of Trayvon Martin, surpasses 1.3 million people.

    March 22, 2012 - Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announces he is stepping down "temporarily" as head of the department, which has been criticized for its handling of the fatal shooting.

    March 22, 2012 - Florida Gov. Rick Scott announces he is appointing Angela B. Corey of the 4th Judicial Circuit as state attorney in the investigation, replacing Norman Wolfinger, state attorney for Florida's 18th District, which includes Sanford.

    March 23, 2012 - President Barack Obama speaks out publicly for the first time on the growing controversy over the shooting of Trayvon Martin, saying that the incident requires national "soul-searching."

    March 24, 2012 - A handful of members from the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) offer a $10,000 reward for the "capture" of George Zimmerman.

    March 26, 2012 - Exactly one month after Trayvon Martin's death, rallies take place in cities across the country, including Sanford, where the City Commission holds a town hall meeting on the incident and its aftermath. Martin's parents speak at the meeting.

    March 28, 2012 - Zimmerman's father, Robert, appears on television and says that Martin threatened to kill Zimmerman and then beat him so badly Zimmerman was forced to shoot.

    March 29, 2012 - Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., appears on CNN and says medical records will prove that his brother was attacked and his nose was broken by Trayvon Martin before he fatally shot the teen.

    April 2, 2012 - FBI agents interview Martin's girlfriend, the 16-year-old girl who, phone records show, was on the cell phone with him shortly before the fatal confrontation.

    April 3, 2012 - Zimmerman's legal adviser, Craig Sonner, says that criminal defense lawyer Hal Uhrig will represent Zimmerman and that Sonner will serve as co-counsel if the case proceeds.

    April 7-8, 2012 - George Zimmerman launches a website warning supporters about groups falsely claiming to be raising funds for his defense. The site includes a link through which donations can be made to pay for Zimmerman's lawyers and living expenses.

    April 9, 2012 - Prosecutor Angela Corey announces that she will not present the case to a grand jury.

    April 10, 2012 - Attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner announce that they have lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.

    April 11, 2012 - Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. His new lawyer, Mark O'Mara, tells CNN that Zimmerman has turned himself in.

    April 18, 2012 - Seminole Circuit Court Judge Jessica Recksiedler, who was assigned to Zimmerman's case, approves a motion to disqualify herself from the criminal case because her husband works as a CNN legal analyst.

  4. April 18, 2012 - It is announced that Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. will take over George Zimmerman's case.

    April 20, 2012 - Zimmerman's bond hearing is held. Judge Lester sets Zimmerman's bond at $150,000. During the hearing, Zimmerman apologizes to the family of Trayvon Martin for the loss of their son.

    April 23, 2012 - Zimmerman is released on bail at 12:05 AM. Later in the day, Zimmerman enters a written not guilty plea and waves his right to appear at his arraignment.

    May 8, 2012 - Judge Kenneth Lester accepts Zimmerman's written plea of not guilty.

    May 15, 2012 - A medical report by George Zimmerman's family doctor, taken a day after the February 26 shooting, shows Zimmerman was diagnosed with a fractured nose, two black eyes and two lacerations on the back of his head.

    June 1, 2012 - Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. revokes Zimmerman's bond and orders him to surrender within 48 hours after the prosecution argues that Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, misrepresented their finances when Zimmerman's bond was originally set in April.

    June 3, 2012 - At 1:45 PM, Zimmerman surrenders to authorities and is taken into custody at the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County.

    June 12, 2012 - George Zimmerman's wife Shellie is arrested and charged with perjury.

    June 18, 2012 - Audio of six phone calls between Zimmerman and his wife Shellie are released, along with bank statements.

    June 20, 2012 - Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee is officially fired.

    June 25, 2012 - Zimmerman's attorney files a motion requesting a "reasonable bond" be set for Zimmerman's release from jail.

    July 5, 2012 - The judge sets Zimmerman's bond at $1 million.

    July 6, 2012 - Zimmerman is released from jail after posting the required 10% of the $1 million bond ($100,000).

    July 13, 2012 - Zimmerman's legal team files a motion requesting Judge Lester step down from the case. The motion claims Zimmerman cannot get a fair trial because Lester used "gratuitous, disparaging" language in the previous week's bail order.

    July 18, 2012 - Zimmerman, appearing on Fox News "Hannity" show, does his first television interview since the shooting. He says he would not do anything differently.

    August 9, 2012 - A photo of Trayvon Martin's body and George Zimmerman's school records are mistakenly released by prosecutors. Special Prosecutor Angela Corey's office issues a statement asking reporters to "please disregard and do not use the information contained in the initial e-mail. It was inadvertently attached."

  5. August 13, 2012 - George Zimmerman appeals Judge Lester's refusal to recuse himself with the Fifth District Court of Appeals.

    August 29, 2012 - A Florida appeals court grants Zimmerman's request for a new judge, saying Judge Kenneth Lester's remarks in a bail order put Zimmerman in reasonable fear of a fair trial.

    August 30, 2012 - Judge Debra Nelson is assigned to replace Judge Kenneth Lester in the case of George Zimmerman.

    December 7, 2012 - Zimmerman sues NBC Universal for allegedly editing the 911 call he placed on the night of the tragic event. He states in the lawsuit that NBC unfairly made it appear that "Zimmerman was a racist, and that he was racially profiling Trayvon Martin".

    February 9, 2013 - The Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation hosts a "Day of Remembrance Community Peace Walk and Forum" in Miami. It takes place four days after what would have been Martin's 18th birthday.

    March 5, 2013 - Trayvon Martin's girlfriend, known as Civilian Witness 8, who was on the phone with Martin the night of his death, admits that she lied under oath when she told court prosecutors that she was in the hospital on the day of Martin's funeral.

    March 5, 2013 - Lawyer Mark O'Mara decides against seeking a pretrial Stand your Ground immunity hearing for George Zimmerman citing lack of preparation time.

    April 5, 2013 - Martin's parents settle a wrongful-death claim against the homeowners association of the Florida subdivision where their son was killed.

    April 30, 2013 - George Zimmerman waives his right to a "stand your ground" pretrial immunity hearing. Zimmerman's attorneys decide they will instead try this as a self-defense case. If Zimmerman had had a pretrial immunity hearing, a judge would have ruled whether his actions were protected under the "stand your ground" law. If the judge had ruled in favor of Zimmerman, it would have meant that no criminal or civil trial could proceed.

    May 28, 2013 - Judge Debra Nelson rules on several motions brought by the defense. Nelson rules that Trayvon Martin's familiarity with guns, his marijuana use, and fights he may have been in cannot be brought up in Zimmerman's trial. She also denies a request to take the jury to the crime scene. Nelson, however, rules that jurors will remain anonymous and will be referred to by numbers only.

    June 20, 2013 - An all-female jury is selected.

    June 24, 2013 - The trial begins with opening statements.

  6. I've learned more about this case from reading what you just posted than I have from the past year. That’s largely because I intentionally avoid news programs and sites. I feel like I already have a pretty good handle on how messed up this city/state/country/world is…I don’t need further convincing. I can better use that time doing something else.

    I’ll keep my hastily-formed thoughts on this particular case to myself, but I’d like to address a bigger parallel issue that has become as predictable to me as the summer getting hot.

    DISCLAIMER: I’m about to make some big sweeping statements here. Read these as generalizations. They are not statements of absolute fact, but they are reflective of what I have seen time and time again within my sphere of experience. If these statements don’t apply to you, then don’t take offense, but realize that you are the exception and not the rule.

    It seems to me, based on nothing more than years of my own personal observation, that the black community in this country will ALWAYS and OVERWHELMINGLY rally around the black participant in any given controversy, facts be damned. I see it on Facebook and I’ve seen it long before Facebook. I have black friends for whom I hold a great deal of respect who are likewise affected by this….well, I’m struggling to come up with a name for this thing. It’s like anti-color-blindness. If you are color-blind, then you don’t see color. As such, color is irrelevant to you…a complete non-factor. But what I’m talking about is the exact opposite of that. Time and again it seems to me that color of skin is ONLY factor that plays a role in the response of the black community at large.

    Black man shot by police/Zimmerman/whoever = By gosh the shooter should hang! (It doesn’t matter if the victim was a choir boy or had already been in jail 4 times, the response is always the same.)
    Black man on trial for (X crime) = By gosh the man should be acquitted! (Again, it doesn’t matter how much evidence there is to the contrary….it’s always a conspiracy)
    Black man on the ballot = By gosh the man should be elected! (No matter what he stands for)

    I think this phenomenon is real, and I think it’s a sad reality. I think it perpetuates racial tension and it will prevent race relations in this country from ever becoming what they SHOULD be. When the black community always, ALWAYS rallies around the black man irregardless of guilt or innocence, it erodes the fabric of this nation. When the black community bellows in outrage whenever the black man doesn’t come out on top, then what they are saying is “black man winning” is more important than “justice being served”.

    Admittedly, I have never walked a mile in the shoes of a black man. I understand that there are many factors – some intentional and some unintentional - that have been layered into the psyches of the black community that have shaped these views. But I know that not all black men who are on trial are innocent. And not all black men who were shot by police were minding their own business, either.

    Race relations will never begin to be “right” in this country until ALL of us (red or yellow, black or white) can be united in objectively viewing situations without giving any weight to skin color.

    1. I do think there's this 'psyche', and also a 'cultural/learned' aspect to the response you're referring to - and it reminds me of the argument used against affirmative action: it's basing decisions on color, which idea is based on previous wrongs committed against the race. In other words, it's supposed to 'repair' past wrongs. Black were unfairly treated bad, so now blacks need to unfairly be treated well.

      I recall, a couple of years ago, some college students at a well-known university selling cookies on campus. They priced the cookies based on who bought them. If you were white, you paid more. If asian, black or hispanic - varying degrees of lower prices. The school and public was outraged over this. It was so racist to price cookies differently based on the race of the person wanting to buy the cookie. Yet, the point was that this is exactly what the school does when awarding scholarships or grants to students based on race.

      There's no doubt that some level of racism still exists. Though not nearly to the same level it was a generation ago, and hopefully the next generation will see the same kind of improvement. It seems reasonable that Zimmerman should have gotten some kind of punishment. He was told by 911 to stay in his vehicle, but he got out to follow and possibly confront Martin. Was deadly force necessary? It seems unlikely. Was it legal? It seems that it was, at least in Florida. But to protest in the streets, vandalizing cars and shops, beating up people on the sidewalk who happened to be passing by because you're unhappy with the verdict?! That sets back the very cause you are supposedly fighting for. And when these talking heads - from Sharpton and Jackson to the media - who benefit from stoking the flames of racism get involved, it only makes the problem worse.

  7. I'll go ahead and chime in my thoughts on this particular issue.
    It seems to me that the mistake that the DA made was trying Zimmerman for murder. Murder, as defined by US law, is "the killing of another human being with malice aforethought, characterized by deliberation or premeditation or occurring during the commission of another serious crime".
    I don't think the state could ever prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman killed Martin in premeditated cold blood. I'm not inclined to think that he did, anyway. If his goal was to assassinate this man, then he did it in just about the most bungled way possible.
    That being said, a man is dead, and I DO feel like Zimmerman carries a measure of responsibility for that man's death. You can't rule this "an accident". Zimmerman disregarded the instructions of the police and approached Martin. Now you have to put yourself in Martin's shoes. Who is this guy approaching you? What does he want? Martin may have himself felt threatened and tried to protect himself. I can easily envision such a scenario. Things escalated and Zimmerman had a gun.
    I think the state could have gotten a conviction for manslaughter. I think he is probably guilty of manslaughter as I type this. But not murder.

  8. I think that's why the prosecution had the manslaughter option on the table for the jury - in case they wouldn't go for murder. But they determined there wasn't enough evidence to convict of manslaughter either. I don't know whether that decision is right or wrong. I do believe the jury had a lot more evidence to look at than the public, so why should their decision be questioned? However, consider the OJ trial. NOBODY believed that (criminal) case was decided correctly. EVERYBODY, including me, was sure he had done it. Is that fair to compare the two cases? One big difference between the two is that I don't recall rioting in the streets as a result of his exoneration. I certainly wouldn't march in a parade to protest it, much less destroy property and beat up random citizens.