Redux

I haven’t weighed in yet on the biggest trial of the year because I wanted to get my response together.

I believe the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was the legally correct one.

The prosecution lost that case; it had no story stitched together based upon neither evidence nor witnesses who were credible nor experts who didn’t end up biting the prosecution backside (and some witnesses actually ending up helping the defense). None of its case was “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

I became a trial junkie on this case. When it was first presented in the media, the narrative presented was: “Neighborhood watch captain shoots and kills unarmed teenager.” My first thought was, “That’s terrible.” – and I put it out of my mind.

You see, the evening news is glutted with horrific stories – babies being left to roast in parked cars; children falling out of 4th floor windows; women being held hostages, beaten and raped; old men being kept prisoners for their government aid checks. And, yes, gang violence, drugs, guns, murders, guns and more guns.

And the horror, the horrors, suffered by billions of persons in the rest of the world cannot be comprehended, nor can it be spoken of.

But when this trial resurfaced, I became fascinated by it. My husband would say “obsessed” – but, we quibble. Always.

The best and most fair summary online of all evidence presented at trial is at Wikipedia. This crowd-sourced site is more reliable than anything you’ll find on personal blogs because every statement submitted has to be documented. Also pro-con forces call out errors and balance each other.

So go here and read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Trayvon_Martin

Here’s one excerpt that might explain “why” Zimmerman stopped that night when he was on his way to get his lunches for the week:

“From January 1, 2011 through February 26, 2012, police were called to The Retreat at Twin Lakes 402 times.[47] During the 6 months preceding the February 26 shooting, Zimmerman called the non-emergency police line seven times. On five of those calls, Zimmerman reported suspicious looking men in the area, but never offered the men’s race without first being asked by the dispatcher.[62][63][64] Crimes committed at The Retreat in the year prior to Martin’s death included eight burglaries, nine thefts, and one shooting.[65] Twin Lakes residents said there were dozens of reports of attempted break-ins, which had created an atmosphere of fear in their neighborhood.[32]

“In September 2011, the Twin Lakes residents held an organizational meeting to create a neighborhood watch program. Zimmerman was selected by neighbors as the program’s coordinator, according to Wendy Dorival, Neighborhood Watch organizer for the Sanford Police Department.[4][4][66]

“Three weeks prior to the shooting, on February 2, 2012, Zimmerman called police to report a young man peering into the windows of an empty Twin Lakes home. Zimmerman was told a police car was on the way and he waited for their arrival. By the time police arrived, the suspect had fled. On February 6, workers witnessed two young black men lingering in the yard of a Twin Lakes resident around the same time her home was burgled. A new laptop and some gold jewelry were stolen. The next day police discovered the stolen laptop in the backpack of a young black man, which led to his arrest. Zimmerman identified this young man as the same person he had spotted peering into windows on February 2.”

On the night Martin would die, here’s the transcript of Zimmerman’s original call to the Sanford Police.

http://www.motherjones.com/documents/326700-full-transcript-zimmerman

He does not say, “There’s a young black punk wearing a hoodie that doesn’t belong in my neighborhood.” Instead, the operator asks for a description: “Is he white, black or Hispanic?” Zimmerman answers, “He looks black.”

It was dark out and raining. Frankly, I think each guy was startled and/or scared of the other guy.

We know that Martin approached Zimmerman who was in his truck because there’s audio of the dinging of an alarm when Zimmerman opens his truck door. That’s also what he reports to the 411 dispatcher. We’ll never know why Martin walked around Zimmerman’s truck. Maybe Zimmerman flashed his flashlight in Martin’s face – an aggressive enough move, certainly.

We’ll never know who said what to whom. MARTIN: “What are you looking at?” is just as likely as ZIMMERMAN saying: “What are you up to?” In his walk-through the following day with police (which he consistently stuck to and his neighbors’ descriptions on 911 seem to back up the vast majority of the time), Zimmerman says Martin was wandering slowly through the rain, sort of looking into the windows of houses. It’s just as possible Martin was looking for his father’s place in this huge development of hundreds of identical-looking homes.

Then, Zimmerman says, Martin disappeared. “He’s running.”

I believe that’s when Zimmerman gets so frustrated with “these assholes” and “fucking [unintelligible].” Read the 411 non-emergency transcript again. I do not believe “these assholes always get away” refers to any race; it applies to the burglars who have been breaking and entering in his neighborhood and threatening the sanctuaries of families’ homes.

The telephone responder does say: “Are you following him? (Yes) OK we don’t need you to do that. (OK)” But later on the same responder is trying to get an address out of Zimmerman that Zimmerman can’t find.

Another point about this call to police is that Zimmerman identifies himself by name, address and phone. He also, and this is important, takes great care to try to ensure the responding officers will find him. He even wants them to call him so he can escort their car into the correct area of the development. Would someone will evil intent do that?

Again, we don’t know who threw the first punch. Zimmerman ended up with documented head injuries consistent with his skull being pounded on concrete; he also had a dislocated and bloodied nose.

Martin ended up dead.

Of course there is no comparison to be made there.

A 17-year-old walking home from a store with Skittles and Arizona Tea should not have died that night. And Zimmerman should not have shot him that night.

But, and here’s my opinion, I believe it is George Zimmerman’s voice one hears repeatedly screaming for help on the 911 calls (neighbors’ recordings). I believe him when he says Martin ended up on top of him and was hitting him, pounding Zimmerman’s head.

The tragedy would strike soon when Martin began putting his hand over Zimmerman’s nose and mouth. He was in pain. He couldn’t breathe. And then – then he THOUGHT he felt Martin’s hand reaching toward his gun. Zimmerman took it out of his holster.

Boom.

Zimmerman says (and a neighbor confirms he said) that he did not even realize Martin was dead.

One other point: Zimmerman did not have a rap sheet a mile long. According to msnbc.com:

“Court documents obtained by msnbc.com on Tuesday evening show that George Zimmerman, who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, went to court in 2005 and 2006 for accusations of domestic violence, tussling with a police officer and speeding.

The three incidents took place in Orange County, Fla.

In 2005, Zimmerman, then 20, was arrested and charged with “resisting officer with violence” and “battery of law enforcement officer,” both which are third-degree felonies. The charge was reduced to “resisting officer without violence” and then waived when he entered an alcohol education program. Contemporaneous accounts indicate he shoved an officer who was questioning a friend for alleged underage drinking at an Orange County bar.

In August 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancee, Veronica Zuazo, filed a civil motion for a restraining order alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman counterfiled for a restraining order against Zuazo. The competing claims were resolved with both restraining orders being granted.”

Sounds to me that Zimmerman was a stupid 20-year-old who got caught drinking and probably driving, resisted arrest and shoved a different officer at a bar during another act of stupidity. The domestic violence case sounds to me as if its two immature (probably drinking) 20-year-olds who should have had restraining orders granted against them.

But that’s the extent of Zimmerman’s rap sheet. It begins and ends in 2005. No domestic disturbances have been filed by his wife or neighbors.

Zimmerman will have to live with the knowledge that he took the life of someone who’ll never be able even to reach 20 years old. That’s no victory. Nor could a “guilty” verdict have given the Martin family any lasting comfort. They will never see their son again and that’s an unimaginable for any parent.

So, do I think you can draw a direct line from the NRA’s relentless campaign to arm Americans to the shooting of Trayvon Martin? Yes. But let’s also include many other factors: Conceal and Carry Laws, Stand Your Ground Laws (which, by the way, always have been the way of the Wild, Wild West), crime, longstanding racial suspicions, Americans’ alienation from selves and neighbors, media hype, political opportunism, fear, the effects of divorce, of dreams unrealized, and the pressure we put on young boys so they end up believing they must grow up and fight – to the death, if necessary – to be like real men.

It’s an American tragedy.

31 thoughts on “Redux

  1. Ellen Mrja says:

    Thanks, Dennis. Life has put me on sabbatical. (Poor excuse.)

    It’s difficult to voice support for the Zimmerman verdict without having even those close to you suspect your motives. My daughter could. not. believe. that I supported the jury’s verdict.

    I wonder if I’ll be kicked out of the Crowd.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Heck, is this the same daughter who is a journalist or still aspiring in that direction–dedicated to the preservation of the “San Francisco Chronical”?

      If so, you’ve written a paradigm of logical, objective, deeply researched and referenced analyisis that ought to be any journalist’s aspiration.

      I hope we hear from the Crowd in response. Sadly, most have remained quiet for some time. Maybe, like me, they miss the spirited eclectism (sp?) and multiple voices of the earlier days.

      Good to hear your voice again!

    2. PM says:

      Do we get to vote on that?

      😉

      Seriously, the thing I found most disturbing in your piece is how you became obsessed with this trial. And it isn’t that you (only) became obsessed, but that so many people did–that so many news organizations gave such extensive gavel to gavel coverage of this trial.

      What is this obsession with trials like that of casey anthony or jody arias–or Zimmerman? What we get seems to me to be anecdotal analysis–commentators drawing huge “moral” lessons for the country based off of one incident. Of course, because they are arguing from anecdotes, they can all draw support for their pre-existing pet peeves from any one case.

      It seem like sloppy journalism to me. I would rather have people build a case based on data and rational argumentation, not anecdotes.

      Regardless of the merits of this case, there are too many young black men being killed in this country. Nothing at all about this case, no matter what happened between trayvon and george, there are too many young black men dying every day.

      This focus (on individual and idiosyncratic trials) makes it too easy for too many people in this country to ignore the real problem.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        PM–I don’t think you intend to conflate interest in dramas played out in our legal system with someone’s fascination with a royal birth or the Kardashians. Bradley Manning, Snowden, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant and a great many cases warrant our deep interest, focus our attention and speaking personally often reflect far greater moral issues. (Nancy Grace notwithstanding.)

      2. Ellen Mrja says:

        PM – You are absolutely correct in what you say about too many young black men being killed in this country daily.

        It was very hard to write my commentary without sounding like a racist. At the end of Brian Lambert’s piece on Zimmerman, I referred to a group of Harvard tests that you can take at home and reportedly will give you a reading on how racist you are, or sexist, etc. I recommend trying this test on racism and see if you agree with what it “reveals” about you.

        1. Ellen Mrja says:

          One of the saddest commentaries I heard regarding this trial came from a black mother who was interviewed by a non-foaming-at-the-mouth Anderson Cooper. When asked about her feelings that prejudice might be driving the reaction those around her were having, she said: “I always tell my son ‘You already have two strikes against you. You’re male and you’re black. Don’t ever do anything to let them call you out on a third strike.'”

          I already commented on how disgusted I was with the cable TV coverage on the Trayon Martin case. The absolute worst “reporting” was done by the stars on HLN-TV — Jane Valez Mitchell and the worst of the worst Nancy Grace. Calling them out on all of their errors in fact, judgment and ethical standards would be worthy of a book, not a blog comment. So I won’t.

          But they, indeed, contributed to the race baiting in this case. And all for the mighting ratings and advertising dollars.

          I did not follow the cable channels after a while for this very reason, PM. I found the trial online and watched it there.

  2. Erik Petersen says:

    Couple more things…

    • Good, bad, or indifferent, I’m quite sure its true that there is a line from NRA > carry permits > Trayvon Martin. But there’s also a line from McGruff the Crime dog to Trayvon Martin. The government has been asking for citizen participation in policing for several generations now, and that’s what ‘neighborhood watch’ is. It’s disturbing to see this de-legitimized for sake of a racial / profiling argument that is not very well demonstrated by the Zimmerman / Martin incident.

    • To the extent Trayvon Martin was profiled, it was about social norms, not race.

    • The infantilization of Trayvon Martin has been over the top. WHICH FYI IS NOT TO SAY that even if he was no saint that this isn’t a real loss (Because most of the time rowdy 17 year olds are quite likable and grow up to be fine adults…). But enough already with this notion that he was some fawn being stalked. Physically he was a man, and fully capable of participating or initiating a street fracas like the one alluded by the defense.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      Erik: Thanks for jumping in. Can you explain what you mean by “To the extent Trayvon Martin was profiled, it was about social norms, not race.” What social norms are you referring to?

      1. Erik Petersen says:

        Martin was ostensibly loitering. Loitering is aberrant behavior, its socially frowned on. People see it is suspicious; it’s codified as a minor civil infraction; it substantiates probable cause.

        If you are hustling down the street purposefully to get where you are going, you probably do not get profiled to the extent a call is made for a patrol to swing by or get followed by the neighborhood guy.

        Also, it’s socially acceptable for the neighborhood guy to ask loiterers what their business is. This is a perfectly good social norm.

        If you are a loiterer, you are obliged to put up with this. You have no right to punch someone in the face over it. Getting profiled for loitering is not a racial dis.

        1. Ellen Mrja says:

          I dislike vague legal terms such as “loitering.” They tend to cause legal mischief. You’ve read Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I’m sure. The key line that Atticus tells his daughter Scout about any type of suspicion/profiling is this: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” When will we ever learn this lesson?

          1. Dennis Lang says:

            Yeah, I have a distaste for personal anecdotes that too often lead to meaningless generalities. So, here’s one anyway. Several years ago my house was broken into in broad daylight. Afterward, my neighbor across the street stopped me while i was jogging. She had seen the police car in front of my house. “I saw a man just walking up and down the street,” she said. “I thought about asking him if he needed directions. Then I thought about phoning the police. Then I thought I would be profiling. What would this suspicion make me?” she said. Of course the man happened to be black. I understood my neighbor’s reservation and still do.

            1. Ellen Mrja says:

              The answer, of course, becomes – Was he the culprit?

              It seems heartless to speak of an “intellectual argument” when a young person is dead. But I can see other perspectives on this case quite easily.

              Pretend I’m Trayvon Martin. I’ve been staying with my dad and his fiance in their condominium all summer. It’s so hot outside – man, this Florida weather sucks – that I don’t even go outside. Most of the time, I stay in with my dad’s fiance’s little kid and play video games.

              I don’t know anyone else in this town and I’m pretty bored. But watching the kid helps.

              So one night I walked to the store to get a treat for the kid – Skittles is what he wanted – and an Arizona drink for me. It was raining all night so I put the hoodie up on my jacket; I like it best that way, anyway.

              When I was walking back home, it was so dark. Hardly any of the condos had lights on and that place is huge. Maybe it was kind of stupid, but I really took my time walking home. I mean, the rain felt good – it was cool. And I like walking in the rain.

              I was a little nervous so I called my friend Rachael on my cell and we just talked about nothing to pass the time.

              Suddenly I saw a truck just stopped and the driver was just staring at me. He was a flashing a flashlight in my face and I thought “WTF!” So I walked around to his truck – you know, just to let him know I was checking him out too.

              And then he got out of the truck.

              I took off running in the rain, dodging in between some houses. I told Rachel I was being followed by a “creepy ass cracker” and she told me I’d better get out of there – that he might be a perv or something.

              I tried ditching him but somehow we ended up running into each other at the T. He dropped his flashlights and grabbed me. He ended up on top of me screaming like a real asshole. I had to get out of there so I flipped him over and started hitting him.

              God, this guy just wouldn’t let me go so I even pounded his head on the sidewalk a couple of times. He kept yelling “Help! Help!” so I just covered his mouth to keep him quiet. But he wouldn’t stop yelling.

              I had to figure out a way to get away from him.

              So I lowered my hands down toward his waist so I could push myself off of him and

            2. Dennis Lang says:

              Ah, excellent narrative. Misconceptions, predispositions, driver confronts innocent pedestrian, to pedestrian harassment, in his mind maybe racially motivated, driver from outset overly aggressive-certainly in mind of the pedestrian already wary he is–“you better get out of there,” warned Rachel–starts to run, obviously guilty of something thinks the driver, one thing leads to another, escalates, tragedy….

              In the moment just before this scene, both parties entirely innocent. They each pushed the wrong buttons.

              I believe my neighbor, if the stranger were white might have notified the police of something looking slightly suspicious and out of the ordinary.. For all anyone knew the neighborhood might have victimized by recent robberies.

          2. Erik Petersen says:

            There’s that, for sure. It certainly does cause legal mischief. Particularly when arrested / overcharged as ‘disorderly conduct’, which is the favorite of just about every patrolman when they arbitrarily want to start cuffing teenagers and throwing them in the paddy wagon.

            But as a social norm ‘loitering’ is supposed to be about not standing around having the vibe of someone looking for a theft of opportunity, not standing around having the vibe of someone wanting to deal drugs, not standing around having the vibe of someone evaluating marks for muggings. Insofar as GZ profiled, it was because he sized TM as someone out of place, having the look of someone perhaps checking for unlocked doors, whatever. It is socially acceptable for the neighborhood watch guy to call that in, maybe even ask the loiterer what he’s up to. That’s not malevolent profiling, racial or otherwise.

            As to the perspective question, ie, ‘standing in their shoes’. Yes, righteous indignation is kind of a natural response when you get hassled by the man and you are really not doing anything. But it should be obvious you can’t assault the guy.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      bertram jr. – I’ll disappoint you soon on something else. But thanks.

      It’s frightening that jurors and witnesses in the recent “high profile” cases PM is referring to are themselves stalked, harassed and receive death threats for performing their civic duty.

  3. bertram jr. says:

    Yes, it is, and it demonstrates again that the “party of acceptance, inclusion and toleraance” is really just the opposite.

    C’mon over to the winning side, Mrja.

    We can use a gal like you!

  4. bertram jr. says:

    Bertram, who chooses to reject the “silent majority” thing, appreciates that some folks are getting wise to the beat down (tm Lambert) that liberals use to assault those that would oppose their nefarious POVs.

    Along those lines, Bertram finds the Star Tribune’s recent fawnings over “gay marriages” and their participants as “being validated” as the epitome of preposterous.

    It’s wrong, the majority knows it, and calling it “marriage” does not make it “OK”.

    Just sayin’.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      bertram jr.- Whoa, pardner. You have totally lost any chance for a conversion with your views on gay marriage. I support them 100%.

      See? I told you I was going to disappoint you soon. It only took 3 hours.

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      This was news to me, DNT. Thanks for pointing it out. I remember watching Bao and thinking what a horrible witness he was for the prosecution, especially as he was an expert witness. He equivocated, sparred with the defense and – really strange — refused to turn over his notes.

      If, indeed, Bao was waiting for the “right” question from the prosecution, that further shows how weak the prosecution was, doesn’t it? You should know where you’re going every step of the way with every one of your witnesses, right? How could the prosecution have “miscommunicated” this badly with Dr. Bao?

      All of Zimmerman’s run-ins with the law and in-laws and taking that ill-advised photo at the manufacturing plant where his “Trayvon” gun (sorry to call it that) was made truly make me think GZ is a wrecked man now. I don’t know if that’s sad or if it’s karma.

      But I still say the legal decision of the jury was the proper one. He was found “not guilty” because the prosecution failed to prove its case. But that sure ain’t the same as “innocent.”

      Thanks for writing in.

      1. Dennis Lang says:

        Sometimes you can’t help but wonder how often our justice system is not about finding the truth but about which legal team outplays or is better financed than the other.

          1. Dennis Lang says:

            I would imagine Florida’s resources weren’t limited. The prosecutors were overmatched. I’ve been learning the obvious from personal experience. There can be a vast range of legal expertise in any particular action, very often gaining that expertise is dependent simply on how much the client can afford to pay–and has nothing to do with justice. I’m thinking particularly the average Joe on the street hurled into the court system to defend himself, civil or criminal.

  5. Ellen Mrja says:

    O.J. Simpson’s criminal trial is the most famous case in support of what you (and I) believe, Dennis. Best book by far I’ve read about how messed up the prosecution was in that trial is OUTRAGE: THE FIVE REASONS O.J. SIMPSON GOT AWAY WITH MURDER by Vincent Bugliosi (of HELTER SKELTER fame).

    1. Ellen Mrja says:

      By the way, dear Readers, these ads (such as the Amazon one above) are automatically being popped in by WordPress.com.

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