George Zimmerman’s “Defense” for Killing Trayvon Martin - updated 3/29/12

George Zimmerman’s “Defense” for Killing Trayvon Martin

by Sheila Musaji

This case has become the focus of national attention, and there have been massive protests and vigils across the country by those who see this as an example of racial profiling, racism, civil rights violation, and police corruption. There are demands for a full investigation of Trayvon Martin’s death, of the local police departments handling of the case, for a review of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, and for Zimmermans arrest.

In the past week those who are defending George Zimmerman have begun a campaign to attempt to smear Trayvon Martin’s reputation.  Judd Legum on Think Progress reports that:— Prominent conservative websites published fake photos of Martin. — The Sanford Police selectively leaked irrelevant, negative information about Martin. — Without any evidence, prominent right-wing bloggers suggested that Martin was a drug dealer.  — Without any evidence, a right-wing columnist alleged that Martin assaulted a bus driver. — Zimmerman’s friend says Martin was to blame because he was disrespectful to Zimmerman.

The only negative information they came up with after all of this is that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school twice.  Once for excessive tardiness, and once for having a plastic baggie with traces of marijuana in it.  And, this “negative” information has absolutely nothing to do with the circumstances surrounding his death. 

As Legum says in his article on this smear campaign Ultimately, whether Martin was a perfect person is irrelevant to whether Zimmerman’s conduct that night was justified. Clearly, there are two different versions of the events that transpired on February 26, the night Trayvon was killed. There are conflicting statements by witnesses and conflicting evidence as to who was the aggressor. Zimmerman has the right to tell his side of the story. But his opportunity to do this will come in a court of law after he is charged and arrested. In the meantime, Zimmerman’s supporters should stop trying to smear the reputation of a dead, 17-year-old boy.

First, here is what we actually know about the incident

George Zimmerman was a member of a Neighborhood Watch Group.  He saw a young black teenager, Trayvon Martin, walking down the street and thought he “looked suspicious”.  He followed him in his car, and he called 911 to report seeing this “suspicious” person.  The 911 operator told Zimmerman not to follow him.

Zimmerman did not follow these instructions, and instead, he continued to follow Trayvon Martin, and got out of his car to follow him on foot.

Martin was on his way back to his friends home (where he was visiting) from a local store where he had purchased a bag of skittles and an iced tea.  Those two items were all he had on him.  He had no weapon of any kind.

Zimmerman has a concealed weapon permit and was carrying a gun.  He is also attending college to earn a degree in criminal justice.  He should therefore know the law, and know that as a private citizen, and a member of neighborhood watch, he had now reported what he thought of as suspicious behavior to the authorities, and it was now up to those authorities to investigate. 

Martin noticed that he was being followed and spoke to a friend on his cell phone and told her that someone was following him and he was concerned.

At this point something happened which led to a confrontation and to George Zimmerman shooting and killing Trayvon Martin.  Someone shouting for help and then gunshots can be heard on the 911 tape.

The police arrived, and did not tape off the scene.  They spoke to Zimmerman, but did not take his gun or clothing, or anything else as evidence.  They made a determination that they had no grounds to hold him and let him leave with the gun.

Florida has a controversial “Stand Your Ground” law which says that anybody who is attacked in a public place “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force.”

A local Florida news program had this information about Zimmerman:

In 2005, he was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing justice. While he was fighting that case, his ex-fiancé accused him of domestic violence.]reported on Zimmerman’s background that:[/url]

— In 2005, he was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing justice. While he was fighting that case, his ex-fiancé accused him of domestic violence.
— Zimmerman was a self-appointed neighborhood watchman for several years, making 46 calls to police since last January.

The local police chief has “temporarily” stepped down until there has been an investigation.  The case has been turned over to a Grand Jury.

Zimmerman’s attorney is now claiming that when Zimmerman was following Trayvon Martin on foot, Martin turned and accosted him and punched him and knocked him to the ground and began beating his head against the ground, at which point the “Stand Your Ground Law” allowed him to defend himself by shooting his “attacker” as he was afraid for his life.

Based simply on the facts that we have, it would seem that this law would apply much more directly to Trayvon Martin.  He was on his way home from the store, being followed by a man that he did not know.

None of this would have happened if George Zimmerman had not been following Trayvon Martin, and if he had followed the 911 dispatchers directions.  None of this would have happened if Zimmerman had not gotten out of his car and followed Trayvon Martin on foot.

Even if Trayvon Martin did punch Zimmerman, Zimmerman was the one who was following him.  And, Zimmerman must have been very obvious about his “surveillance” since the teenager noticed him and expressed concern to his friend about what was happening.  It sounds as if Trayvon Martin was afraid.

Today there was an unusual twist to this story.  Zimmerman’s attorney was scheduled to appear on MSNBC’S Lawrence O’Donnel program, and as the Huffington Post reports “In a bizarre turn of events, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed an empty chair on his program Monday night, after scheduled guest Craig Sonner reportedly fled from an MSNBC studio in Orlando just moments before the show began.”

UPDATE 3/29/2012

A video has been released which shows George Zimmerman getting out of a police car at the police station shortly after the shooting.  In that video there is no sign of any sort of injury to his nose, face, or the back of his head. 

The funeral director who prepared Trayvon Williams’ body for burial also says that there were no signs of a fight present on Trayvon’s hands.

The author of the Florida Stand Your Ground Law, Representative Dennis Baxley says that this case is not covered by that law

“There is nothing . . . in Florida statutes that authenticates or provides for the opportunity to pursue and confront individuals, it simply protects those who would be potential victims by allowing for force to be used in self-defense.

...  Quite simply, the castle doctrine is a good law which now protects individuals in a majority of states,” added Baxley, a funeral director. “However, the castle doctrine does not provide protection to individuals who seek to pursue and confront others, as is allegedly the case in the Trayvon Martin tragedy in Sanford.”

Baxley said that he supports moves to have a grand jury determine whether Zimmerman should be charged. “Mr. Zimmerman’s unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.”