Up until now I have deliberately refrained from saying anything about the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. While I have believed almost from the beginning that George Zimmerman was indeed acting in self defense, I did not feel it served any purpose to get all emotionally worked up over the matter before both the prosecution and defense had the opportunity to organize all of the available facts of the case, and the jury had opportunity to deliberate the matter. While I could not get involved in the “support Trayvon Martin” efforts, since I believed that the evidence I had heard indicated that he was the aggressor and George Zimmerman was really in danger of serious injury or death, nevertheless I realized that it was certainly possible that further evidence would turn up which would show “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Trayvon Martin was in fact the innocent victim of a bigoted racist attack.
Now the trial is finished, and the jury has found George not guilty. I agree with their judgment since none of the original evidence has been altered or disproved, and further evidence has been produced showing he is not a racist and acted in self defense. Certainly none of the evidence produced by the prosecution could prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that he was criminally guilty.
I have heard it implied that the jury was rigged to produce a not guilty verdict, because the Sanford, Florida police did not even want to arrest and try Mr. Zimmerman to begin with. It is obviously not true that the jury was rigged because they were initially divided about what the verdict should be; only after deliberation and discussion did they reach a unanimous decision.
It is quite true that the police did not originally want to arrest and try George; but that was because they were quite aware that there was no evidence available to indicate anything other than self defense on his part. They eventually buckled to – dare I say it? – racially motivated pressure to arrest him! A “white” guy (partially white, partially Hispanic – with even black roots through a great-grandfather, I have read) killed a black guy, so it was obviously racially motivated murder no matter what the evidence says! How could it be otherwise?
What is the evidence, though? George Zimmerman called the police to report a suspicious looking character in his neighborhood. Here is a portion of the conversation with the police dispatcher:
ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.
DISPATCHER: Okay, is this guy, is he white, black, or Hispanic?
ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.
Here’s how MSNBC reported the conversation, though: ‘“This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black,” Zimmerman told a police dispatcher from his car.’ (See MSNBC’S CONVENIENT ELLIPSES MAKE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN LOOK RACIST)
You can see how MSNBC deliberately altered the conversation to make it seem like the phrase “he looks black” was volunteered by George as his explanation for why the suspect (Trayvon) looked suspicious. Of course it was not; it was an answer to a direct question by the police dispatcher. Apparently George could not see Trayvon well enough to tell his skin pigmentation for sure at that time, and it formed no part of what he considered to be suspicious. It was only later in the conversation, when George told the dispatcher that Trayvon was approaching his car, that he was able to confirm that the suspect was a black male teenager.
Then George reported that Trayvon was running away, and he (George) got out of the car to try to follow Trayvon and keep an eye on him. It was at this point that the dispatcher told George that “we don’t need you to do that” (that is, follow Trayvon). A lot has been made of this comment by the dispatcher, making it seem that this was an authoritative command; and that when Zimmerman didn’t ‘obey’ the ‘command’, he somehow became criminally culpable. This comment by the dispatcher, though, is simply a standard statement made in order to cover the authorities; if the person decides to act otherwise,it is his/her own decision and the authorities bear no responsibility if the person gets hurt. In this case, Zimmerman decided to try to keep an eye on Trayvon so he wouldn’t get away before the police arrived.
Sometime around this point in the conversation, George made a whispered comment which is difficult to decipher. Some believe it was “f***in’ coon”, which would obviously be a racial slur. Others, listening to an enhanced version of the recording, believe it was “f***in’ cold”, a comment on the outside temperature since he had just acknowledged that he was out of his car – and the temperature was indeed unseasonably cold. Still others believe he said “f***in’ punks” which would be a comment on his opinion of the thieves and ‘druggies’ who were plaguing the neighborhood – but there would be no racial slur involved. In other words, you can pretty much make the whispered comment to be anything you want it to be. (CNN has supported all 3 versions at various times. I believe their most recent conclusion was “punks”). George himself says the word was “punks”. I tend to accept that it was either “punks” or “cold”, because (as I’ll show later) George is certainly no bigoted racist and such a comment as “coon” would almost certainly not be spoken by him.
After trying to keep sight of Trayvon, whom George had reported to be running away, George lost sight of him; so he decided to check the road sign to be certain of the street name, and then return to his car. According to George’s testimony, when he was returning to his car, Trayvon decided to turn back and confront him.
In the confrontation, Trayvon is reported to have said: “What the f*** is your problem, homie?” (He is also said to have referred to George as a “crazy-assed cracker”. So who was spouting racially charged language?) George responded that he didn’t have a problem. Trayvon then said, “Now you have a problem”, and proceeded to punch Zimmerman in the nose. This broke his nose and knocked him to the ground. According to George and a witness (or witnesses), Trayvon got on top of Zimmerman and started pounding away, including pounding the back of George’s head on the pavement. George, in fear of being knocked unconscious, tried to scoot and squirm into a position where his head would be striking the grassy ground rather than pavement. In the process, his gun became exposed.
Trayvon saw the gun, exclaimed “You’re gonna die tonight, m****f****” and made a grab for the gun. George, who definitely by this time had good reason to believe that he was in imminent danger of severe bodily harm or death, managed to grab the gun and fire, resulting in Trayvon’s death. That is George Zimmerman’s testimony.
Is there anything in the ‘hard’ evidence to either support or disprove George’s account? George’s and Trayvon’s parents each say that it was their own son who could be heard screaming for help. Who is correct? Well, the only injury Trayvon had apart from the fatal bullet wound was bruised knuckles. But George had a broken nose, two black eyes, and abrasions on the back of his head – as well as grass stains on the back of his jacket. In other words, everything supports George’s account, and nothing supports any claim that Trayvon’s life or physical well being was ever threatened until George felt compelled to shoot in defense of his own life. There was some witness testimony to support George’s account that it was Trayvon who attacked him, knocked him to the ground, and was intent on beating him to death.
The only thing George had done was be suspicious of Trayvon’s appearance and actions, call it in to the police, and then make an attempt to keep his eye on Trayvon. There is nothing illegal and criminal in such activity. No one has any “right to privacy” on a public street. If I see you and think you’re acting “suspiciously”, I have every right to keep observing – and even to approach you and say something like “I don’t believe I’ve seen you around before. Could you tell me what you’re doing here?” There’s simply nothing illegal about that. Of course, it would not be illegal for you to reply “It’s none of your business. Go fly a kite and leave me alone.” The first criminal action in the Martin/Zimmerman confrontation was when Trayvon punched George. It seems to me that the racial motivation was on Trayvon’s part; he simply was infuriated that a “crazy-assed cracker” “homie” was watching him. And his anger led to aggravated assault and battery on his part.
Some people say, as an accusation against George, that he had called in to the police over 50 times in the previous year or so. I reply: So what?! Does that somehow indicate that he’s a violent bigot, liable to kill someone?? Perhaps it means that he’s a bit too suspicious of innocuous things; or perhaps it simply means that he is very diligent in doing what we’re told to do: “If you see something, say something”. As a member of Neighborhood Watch, he has a particular responsibility to do so. The question to be asked is: how many of those previous fifty something reports resulted in a violent confrontation? To the best of my knowledge, not one! George did not have a history of violent aggression against ‘suspects’. What was different this time? Obviously, the difference was in who George was observing and reporting, not in George Zimmerman.
Just a few weeks previously, George had reported another suspicious person; but he told the police dispatcher that he didn’t want to personally confront the ‘suspect’. Therefore, he waited in his car for the police, and as a result the ‘suspect’ was gone by the time the police arrived. A few days later, there was another robbery in the area.
Finally, what about the idea that George is racially bigoted? Does he have any history of this? No; quite the contrary.
(1) Earlier in his career, he started a business with a black man.
(2) He mentored minority youth, including blacks, for free.
(3) When a black neighbor had her house burglarized a couple of times, he threw open his own house to her, even giving her a key and offering to assist her in any way he could.
(4) Very importantly, just over a year prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, George Zimmerman had been a very active leader in seeking an investigation on behalf of a black homeless man (Sherman Ware) who was beaten unconscious by the son of a white police lieutenant in the Sanford, FL police department. George believed the Sanford police dept. was giving preferential treatment to the white man because he is the son of a police officer, and that in pursuance of this preferential treatment they were covering up some of the facts. He distributed letters and leaflets in black neighborhoods, and waited outside black churches in order to talk to the members seeking their help in calling for an investigation on behalf of Sherman Ware. He also spoke out in a Sanford City Hall meeting (which he helped organize). The police chief wound up retiring early as a result of this activism.
No, it’s simply slander to accuse George Zimmerman of being a “black hating” bigot. And it’s only emotional preconceptions, leading to an unwillingness to face the facts, which could result in believing that George Zimmerman acted in anything other than legitimate self defense.
I was actually surprised, though, at the not guilty verdict rendered by the jury. From what I could see in the public media, blogs I read, and activist e-mails I receive, I rather thought that his case was already so pre-judged that he couldn’t possibly get a fair trial. I’m glad that I was mistaken about that. 🙂
It’s time to let go of prejudiced opinions, and let George Zimmerman live in as much peace as is possible with the memory of having killed someone (even though in self defense) constantly, no doubt, in his mind. Certainly the protests and looting need to stop. A jury’s decision of “not guilty” cannot be overturned by media propaganda, public opinion, or mob action.