Why I Called George Zimmerman a Murderer, and Why I Was Wrong
I won't get fooled by media again.
April 11, 2012 - 12:00 am
The revised narrative is that George Zimmerman wasn’t even actively volunteering as a neighborhood watchman, but was in the process of going to the store when he happened to see a hoodie-covered figure acting oddly in the rain, in a way that Zimmerman apparently interpreted as a burglar “casing” the gated community. He called 911 and kept the dispatcher apprised of his current position as best he could, in order to try to bring the police to the scene so that they could talk with the suspicious figure. It wasn’t until partway through the call that Zimmerman was able to tell the dispatcher that he thought the suspect may be black, in a direct answer to the dispatcher’s question about the suspect’s race.
During the course of the 911 call, the dispatcher asks several times for an exact street address, which an apparently frustrated Zimmerman is unable to provide. At one point, Martin notices Zimmerman shadowing him, and disappears between buildings.
Zimmerman chooses to leave his vehicle, either to track Martin or get a street address of Martin’s current location for the responding officers. At this point, Zimmerman is no longer on the phone with the 911 operator. Trayvon Martin is allegedly on the phone with his girlfriend, right up until when the physical confrontation apparently takes place.
By piecing together the 911 call and the series of events as alleged by Martin’s still anonymous girlfriend, we can see that a man is following a teenager, and the teenager notices he is being followed. We see Zimmerman’s apparent frustration at being unable to get the police guided to the suspect — his frustrated cry of “these assholes always get away” — and see two reasons Zimmerman would have left the car after first telling the dispatcher he didn’t want to because he didn’t know where Martin was at the time.
It is at this point that the confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman takes place. We have no living witnesses to the start of the confrontation, other than Mr. Zimmerman. He claims Trayvon Martin assaulted him by punching him in the face (breaking his nose), and then jumped on top of him and started pounding his head into the the pavement.
At this point, apparently two witnesses responded to cries for help. One witness, named “John,” identified the man on the bottom wearing red (George Zimmerman) as the person crying for help in 911 calls as the other person (Trayvon Martin) was on top of him. “John” moved to get a better view out another window when he heard the gunshot and then saw Martin on the ground.
A second eyewitness also identified George Zimmerman as the man on the ground crying for help.
Not one witness had a start-to-finish view of the confrontation, and even if they did, eyewitness accounts are notoriously inaccurate. But when the various aspects of the case are weaved together from what is publicly known, a more plausible and tighter narrative seems to coalesce.
Shortly after getting off the phone with the 911 dispatcher, George Zimmerman left his vehicle. He and Trayvon Martin engaged in some sort of a conversation, which is agreed upon (in a larger context) by both Martin’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him at the time, and Zimmerman’s account.
At that point, the call between Martin and his girlfriend terminated, and her testimony is of no further value.
Zimmerman alleges that Martin punched him in the face, breaking his nose and knocking him down with one punch. Basic forensic details, such as the grass stains on Zimmerman’s back and the injuries to his face reported by police and the resulting swelling and bruising reported by the neighbor the next day, make this at least plausible.
Zimmerman claims that Martin then jumped on top of him and began bashing his head against the sidewalk, and he began crying for help. Again, this part of Zimmerman’s story is at least partially corroborated by the eyewitness testimony, police reports, the enhanced police department video that shows two substantial lacerations on the back of Zimmerman’s head, and the reported bandages and swelling the neighbor confirmed the next day.
Zimmerman claims that Martin then saw and went for his gun. There were no eyewitnesses to this portion of the confrontation, and the next eyewitness view (from “John”) tells us what we already know: George Zimmerman fired a single shot from a 9mm pistol that hit Trayvon Martin, killing him. The rest of the actions from this point on are contained in police reports, but the confrontation was over, and Trayvon Martin lay dead or dying.
The Sanford police are being heavily condemned for mismanaging the investigation, but they did manage to do two things that may shed light on the whole story. They managed to get Zimmerman to the police station, where video surveillance confirmed his head injuries, and Zimmerman passed the voice stress analyzer they administered, which suggests he believes the story he gave to police.
When all these publicly known bits of evidence are combined, it suggests that a series of miscalculations and escalations by both men led to Trayvon Martin’s death.
George Zimmerman used questionable judgment in leaving his vehicle. But if the evidence and testimony publicly known are to be believed, it was an angry young Trayvon Martin who committed the first crime of the evening when he threw a punch that knocked George Zimmerman down. At this point, Trayvon Martin became the aggressor.
Eyewitnesses and forensics suggest that Martin continued his assault, escalating it to assault with a deadly weapon when he began trying to smash Zimmerman’s skull on the pavement. If this is accurate, and Zimmerman was on his back crying for help while Martin pressed his attack, then Zimmerman had reason to believe he was under the threat of serious injury, maiming, or death at the hands of Trayvon Martin.
At that moment, in reasonable fear for his life, and apparently after a struggle for his gun if Zimmerman’s lie detector-cleared testimony can be believed, he fired a single shot at Trayvon Martin.
Ultimately, the forensics the public has not seen may be the ultimate arbiter of truth. If the ballistic trajectory is consistent with Zimmerman’s story, then Trayvon Martin was killed in a textbook case of self-defense. Florida’s “stand your ground” law is utterly immaterial and Zimmerman committed no crime whatsoever.
Ultimately, the special prosecutor will have to weigh the evidence in this case and make her own determination, but she would have to find some very compelling evidence countermanding the testimony and forensics shows thus far, which seem to support Zimmerman’s claim of legal self-defense.
I took the media’s claims at face value and erroneously labeled George Zimmerman a murderer based upon false information that was designed to arrange a lynching.
I won’t get fooled again, and I hope that prosecutor Angela Corey, who dismissed the grand jury this week, won’t fall into the same trap of trying to pursue a narrative instead of true justice.