“The AP-GfK poll finds few people approve of the way the president is handling most major issues and most people say he’s not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable or inspiring.”
Gallup: 60% of Americans say third party needed
NBC/WSJ Poll: 60 Percent Say Fire Every Member Of Congress
AP-GfK Poll: GOP Gets the Blame in Shutdown
Chuck Todd: NBC News Poll Shows GOP’s Shutdown Made Obamacare ‘Less Unpopular’
In U.S., Perceived Need for Third Party Reaches New High
Twenty-six percent believe Democratic and Republican parties do adequate job
by Jeffrey M. Jones
This article is part of an ongoing series analyzing how the government shutdown and the debate over raising the debt ceiling are affecting Americans’ views of government, government leaders, political parties, the economy, and the country in general.
PRINCETON, NJ — Amid the government shutdown, 60% of Americans say the Democratic and Republicans parties do such a poor job of representing the American people that a third major party is needed. That is the highest Gallup has measured in the 10-year history of this question. A new low of 26% believe the two major parties adequately represent Americans.
The results are consistent with Gallup’s finding of more negative opinions of both parties since the shutdown began, including a new low favorable rating for the Republican Party, and Americans’ widespread dissatisfaction with the way the nation is being governed.
The prior highs in perceived need for a third party came in August 2010, shortly before that year’s midterm elections, when Americans were dissatisfied with government and the Tea Party movement was emerging as a political force; and in 2007, when the newly elected Democratic congressional majority was clashing with then-President George W. Bush.
A majority of Americans have typically favored a third party in response to this question. Notably, support has dropped below the majority level in the last two presidential election years in which Gallup asked the question,2012 and 2008. Support for a third party was lowest in 2003, the first year Gallup asked the question. That year, 40% thought the U.S. needed a third party, while 56% believed the Republicans and Democrats were doing an adequate job.
Republicans, Democrats Equally Likely to See Need for Third Party
Republicans (52%) and Democrats (49%) are similar in their perceptions that a third party is needed. In fact, this marks the first time that a majority of either party’s supporters have said a third party is needed.
As would be expected, a majority of independents — those who profess no initial allegiance to either party — have always said the U.S. needs a third party. Seventy-one percent currently hold that view, which has been exceeded twice before, in 2007 and 2010.
Given the inability of the Republican and Democratic parties to agree on the most basic of government functions — passing an annual budget to pay for federal programs — it is perhaps not surprising that the percentage of Americans who believe a third party is needed has never been higher.
However, the desire for a third party is not sufficient to ensure there will be one. Structural factors in the U.S. election system and the parties’ own abilities to adapt to changing public preferences have helped the Republican and Democratic parties to remain the dominant parties in U.S. government for more than 150 years. Third parties that have emerged to challenge their dominance have not been able to sustain any degree of electoral success.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 3-6, 2013, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Poll: Americans find little to like in Washington
By NEDRA PICKLER and JENNIFER AGIESTA
Americans are finding little they like about President Barack Obama or either political party, according to a new poll that suggests the possibility of a “throw the bums out” mentality in next year’s midterm elections.
The AP-GfK poll finds few people approve of the way the president is handling most major issues and most people say he’s not decisive, strong, honest, reasonable or inspiring.
In the midst of the government shutdown and Washington gridlock, the president is faring much better than his party, with large majorities of those surveyed finding little positive to say about Democrats. The negatives are even higher for the Republicans across the board, with 4 out of 5 people describing the GOP as unlikeable and dishonest and not compassionate, refreshing, inspiring or innovative.
Negativity historically hurts the party in power – particularly when it occurs in the second term of a presidency – but this round seems to be hitting everyone. More people now say they see bigger differences between the two parties than before Obama was elected, yet few like what either side is offering. A big unknown: possible fallout from the unresolved budget battle in Washington.
The numbers offer warning signs for every incumbent lawmaker, and if these angry sentiments stretch into next year, the 2014 elections could feel much like the 2006 and 2010 midterms when being affiliated with Washington was considered toxic by many voters. In 2006, voters booted Republicans from power in the House and Senate, and in 2010, they fired Democrats who had been controlling the House.
“There needs to be a major change,” said Pam Morrison, 56, of Lincoln, Neb., among those who were surveyed. “I’m anxious for the next election to see what kind of new blood we can get.”
Morrison describes herself as a conservative Republican and said she is very concerned about how her adult children are going to afford insurance under Obama’s health care law. She places most of the blame for the shutdown on the president, but she also disapproves of the job Congress is doing. “I don’t think they’re working together,” Morrison said.
“Congress needs to take a look at their salaries, they need to take a cut to their salaries and they need to feel some of the pain the American people are feeling,” said Morrison, who is married to a government worker who she said has been deemed essential and is still on the job.
People across the political spectrum voiced disappointment.
Suzanne Orme, a 74-year-old retiree and self-described liberal who lives in California’s Silicon Valley, says the shutdown is more the Republican Party’s fault. “The Republicans seem to be a bunch of morons who aren’t going to give in for anything. I just don’t get it with them. They are just crazy,” she said.
But she also said she strongly disapproves of the way Obama is handling his job, and doesn’t find him likable, decisive, strong, honest, compassionate, refreshing, ethical, inspiring or reasonable. The only positive attribute she gave him was innovative.
“It sounds like he’s kind of weak. He says one thing and does another,” Orme said after taking the survey. For example, she said Obama hasn’t made good on his promise to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and changed his position on whether people should be penalized for failing to get health insurance.
“I voted for him, and he’s turned out to be a big disappointment,” she said. “I mean, what’s the alternative?” Orme said it just seems to her that Washington is run by lobbyists and consumed by financial greed.
A bad sign for Democrats is that Obama has bled support among independents – 60 percent disapprove of the way Obama is handling his job, while only 16 percent approve. As he began his second term in January, independents tilted positive, 48 percent approved and 39 percent disapproved.
Neither party can win without the support of independents, with only about a third of the poll’s respondents identifying themselves as Democrats and about a quarter as Republicans.
Obama has held onto support from Carol Cox, a 59-year-old independent from Hartville, Ohio, who says she feels the president helps people in need. She is happy to see his health care law that offers coverage to the uninsured and to people with pre-existing conditions, although she thinks the rollout could have been better. “I think he’s doing an OK job,” she said of the president.
But she is not happy with either party in Congress. She said the shutdown is affecting her family’s investments and she’s concerned about the future of Social Security. “I’m really angry and frustrated. I can’t believe how mad I am about this.”
As for next year’s congressional election, she said, “I would love to see just a total turnover.”
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Oct. 3-7, 2013, using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,227 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents.
The survey was designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Respondents to the survey were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. Those who didn’t otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to get online at no cost.
News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
NBC/WSJ poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress
By Domenico Montanaro, Deputy Political Editor, NBC News
Throw the bums out.
That’s the message 60 percent of Americans are sending to Washington in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, saying if they had the chance to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would. Just 35 percent say they would not.
The 60 percent figure is the highest-ever in that question recorded in the poll, registered in the wake of the government shutdown and threat of the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time in history. If the nation’s debt limit is not increased one week from now, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns that the entire global economy could be in peril.
“We continue to use this number as a way to sort of understand how much revulsion there is,” said Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted the poll with Republican Bill McInturff. “We now have a new high-water mark.”
Read the full poll here (.pdf)
The numbers reflect a broader trend over the last few years. Americans have traditionally said that while they might not like Congress, they usually like their own representatives. But that sentiment appears to have shifted.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks in the White House driveway following a meeting Thursday with President Barack Obama.
The throw-them-all-out attitude has slowly taken hold over the last three years, coinciding with two things – the rise of the Tea Party caucus in the House and the debt ceiling fight of 2011.
In October 2010, a majority of Americans – 50 percent to 47 percent – said they would not fire all congressional members. But by August 2011, 54 percent said they would toss every lawmaker from office; in January 2012, 56 percent said that; and just three months ago, in July, it was 57 percent.
Frustration was evident among poll respondents across the ideological spectrum.
“You look at 800,000 people being out of work merely because Congress can’t come to an agreement to do their job, which we sent them there to do,” said a respondent from Mississippi, a strong Democrat. “I am prayerful for a revolution.”
The sentiment isn’t limited to Democrats. One Ohio woman, who considers herself a strong Republican, said her husband is a federal worker and they are worried about paying the bills.
“We will not get a paycheck,” she said. “It is federal pay and mortgage is due. Who is going to pay that — Obama or Congress who is still getting paid?”
Hart points out that the seeds are there to give rise to independent or third-party candidates.
According to Hart, “Somewhere, someone’s going to pick up and run with the ‘throw them all out’” banner.
The number of Americans who say they want to fire everyone is fairly consistent among most groups – at around 60 percent – but it spikes among rural voters (70 percent), white independents (70 percent) and those in Republican-held congressional districts (67 percent). Just 52 percent of respondents in Democratic-held districts would vote to fire every lawmaker on Capitol Hill.
In another sign of dissatisfaction with the state of politics, 47 percent of Americans said they do not strongly identify with either party.
The numbers in this poll also reflect a broader anger and pessimism among Americans, especially when it comes to the economy.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sat down with Tina Brown at The Daily Beat Annual Hero Summit to talk debt ceiling, shut down, and what’s going on in Washington D.C.
A record-low 14 percent think the country is headed in the right direction, down from 30 percent last month. That’s the biggest single-month drop in the poll since the shutdown of 1990. And a whopping 78 percent think the country is on the wrong track. Just 17 percent think the economy will improve in the next year, while 42 percent think it will worsen.
Americans’ confidence in the economy has nose-dived, they say, because of President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans’ negotiations – or lack thereof – on the budget. Almost two in three – 63 percent – say it makes them less confident that the economy will get better.
“What these numbers tell us is that the already-shaken public – this kicked the stool out from under them,” Bill McInturff said. “We’re seeing numbers that are associated with historic lows in public confidence.”
Almost two-thirds – 65 percent – also say the government shutdown is having quite a bit or a great deal of harm on the U.S. economy.
“That linkage between these actions in Washington and economic confidence and what that means for trying to stabilize our economy, I think at a big-picture level [shows] how destabilizing” the standoff has been for the economy.
Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who helped conduct the poll with Hart, added that Americans are paying attention to this fight and want it resolved before the debt ceiling deadline of Oct. 17.
“This isn’t the calm before the storm,” Yang said. “This is the storm before the storm.”
Republicans Should Fight or Give Up
There is nothing in the middle.
By Jay Cost Staff Writer
The findings of the newly released NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll are simply brutal for congressional Republicans. Not only are they getting the lion’s share of the blame for the government shutdown, but President Obama’s numbers have actually improved. Worse, Obamacare’s numbers are improving, as well.
That poll caused quite a sensation on Twitter last night, and while it is worse for Republicans than recent readings from the Associated Press’s poll, NBC News/Wall Street Journal has a long track record of solid readings. This is not a result to be taken lightly.
Moreover, it makes empirical sense considering the message coming from congressional Republicans in the last week—or perhaps better put the lack of a message. Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post aptly labeled this the “Seinfeld Shutdown,” a shutdown about nothing. That is not how it was supposed to be, of course. It was supposed to be a shutdown about Obamacare, but Republican leaders were quickly sidetracked by low-hanging fruit like the closure of the National Mall, Harry Reid’s gaffes, and Obama’s refusal to negotiate. Tactically, this might have made sense, but strategically it was a terrible move. If the shutdown was supposed to be about Obamacare, then that should have been the only topic Republicans discussed.
Moreover, insofar as Republican leaders have discussed Obamacare, they have done so ineptly, and have repeated Mitt Romney’s grievous mistakes from 2012. Looking at the topline numbers on Obamacare, we can see it is very unpopular, but dig a little deeper and only about 30 to 40 percent of people believe that the law will make them worse off. This is a significant failure in political communication by the Republican party. Government agencies like the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have warned since 2010—in their dry, technocratic rhetoric—that Obamacare was going to harm middle class families. For weeks now stories have been trickling out about people receiving letters from their insurers notifying them that their rates are being doubled. For over a year we have similarly heard stories about hiring freezes or hours being cut because of Obamacare. And yet despite all this hard data, the public still has not connected the dots.
The blame belongs not to the Tea Party, not to the Republican grassroots, not to the back-benchers in the House, but to the party’s leaders, the ones who have the microphones stuck in their faces every day. They, and only they, have the power to make the case to the American people that Obamacare is such a danger to them that it needs to be gotten rid of as soon as possible. Mitt Romney should have, but did not, get on the television in late October 2012 to warn people that a vote for Obama was a vote to double their premiums, make it harder for grandma to get hospital care, and make it harder for you to make your ends meet because of job cutbacks. Similarly, Republicans should have, but did not, acknowledge that while the shutdown was harming certain sectors of the country, it was far less damaging then the havoc Obamacare is set to wreak on the people.
And so it is that people would rather have the government reopened (largely a symbolic gesture as this shutdown has left vast swaths of the country unaffected) than have Obamacare dismantled (something that will prevent material harm done to millions of middle class people).
Obamacare is not going to defeat itself. If it is going to be taken down, it is up to the Republican party to formulate a coalition of people who have been or will be made worse off because of it. Those people are out there, but Republicans have failed to unite and mobilize them under the party’s banner. So long as they continue to fail on this front, Obamacare will remain on the books. It has the benefit of our system’s status quo bias, and Democrats have an 80-year track record of capturing interests through the distribution of benefits, transforming them into party clients, and delivering them at the ballot box.
Republican leaders tend to come from one of two camps. The first is the go-along-to-get-along camp that is happy merely to manage the never-ending growth of government. The second wants to cut back on the size of government, but couches their rhetoric in the hazy, forgotten past of the country’s founding; their arguments against the growth of government are always framed in terms of the Constitution, the rights of man, or other abstract concepts that have little impact on the lives of average American.
Ronald Reagan was the only political leader since the New Deal to argue effectively that government should be reduced because it is bad for people in a concrete sense. Yes, he talked about the Founding, and yes he was willing to compromise where it counted. But in his Inaugural Address he said, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” For the next quarter century, American liberalism was on the run, so effective was Reagan’s framing of the debate.
Republicans who wonder why they have generally failed to win national electoral victories since Reagan should ponder his statement, and how they have failed to expand upon it. Poll after poll indicates that today it is a popular position. People think government is harming them. If Republicans want to win, not just electoral victories, but policy victories, they need to follow the Gipper and explain in real terms how government is harming average Americans and how they will fix those harms. They have failed to do that in general over the last decade, and they have failed to do that in particular with Obamacare. It is a big reason why they only control the House and why Obamacare is still on the books.
And if congressional Republicans are not prepared to begin making that case loud and clear right now, the sooner they capitulate the better. Their only hope of victory in this fight is to convince the public that keeping Obamacare is worse than shutting down the government. If they are not prepared to make that case, then they have no hope of winning.
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Listen To Pronk Pops Podcast or Download Shows 113 -116
Segment 2: The Great Divider Obama (GDO), “White African-American”, Incites Eric Holder and Department of Justice (DOJ) Community Relations Service (CRS) Racist Attack Against George Zimmerman To Rally Black Voters In 2012 Presidential Campaign — Holder Should Be Impeached — Racist Racketeering And Outside Agitators and Media Show Trial and Electronic Lynching — Videos
F.B.I and U.S. Justice department Black vs White Crime statistics.
Double Standard: Black Men Named Trayvon Get Killed all the Time, But The Left Doesn’t Care
PJTV: Chicago Murder Rate Proves That Liberals Do Not Care About Gun Deaths
Trayvon Tragedy: Manufactured Racism? How NBC Edited Racism Into the George Zimmerman 911 Call
Trayvon Tragedy: Did NBC Edit the Zimmerman 911 Tape to Serve a Political Agenda?
GLENN BECK,Trial by Media – Will Zimmerman lose because of bogus media reporting?
Prosecution Witness Describes Trayvon Martin As Attacking George Zimmerman On Night Of Murder
CHICAGO HAD 500 MURDERS IN 2012
90% of the murders in Chicago are black on black gangs killing each other where’s the outrage from our so called black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson they say nothing when blacks kill other blacks this is the biggest problem
Defense Rests Case in George Zimmerman Trial
Zimmerman Trial Indicates KKK Style Racist Injustice in Courts is Still with Us, Media is Culprit
Judge Napolitano To Megyn Kelly: Zimmerman Prosecution Brought Case To Court Out Of Public Pressure
The George Zimmerman murder trial has been given wall-to-wall coverage on every cable network, but one Fox News contributor today wondered why it went to court in the first place. Megyn Kelly noted today that a lot of what the prosecution had brought out to discredit Zimmerman’s story actually ended up helping the defense, which led Judge Andrew Napolitano to say that the prosecution should have probably charged Zimmerman with a lesser crime and that the only reason they allowed the case to get this far was due to “public pressure.”
Kelly found it unbelievable that the prosecution would play Zimmerman’s interview last year with Sean Hannity, especially considering that plus other evidence they’ve brought out means they’ve gotten to show Zimmerman’s side of the story without direct cross-examination. Napolitano said this is all about trying to “demonize” Zimmerman are only showing all of Zimmerman’s interviews and comments about the night of Trayvon Martin’s death to exploit tiny changes in detail.
Kelly and Judge Alex Ferrer were both mystified at how defensive of Zimmerman the prosecution’s evidence and witnesses appear to be, especially with the Hannity interview. Ferrer called the prosecution “desperate” because they’re willing to let the jury view Zimmerman as sympathetic if it means they can catch a misstatement. He did say it might have looked bad for Zimmerman when he said to Hannity that “it all happened so fast” that he couldn’t say for sure how much danger he was in.
Napolitano argued that the whole case is very bad for the prosecution, and they never should have let it get this far to begin with.
“The prosecution has a weak case here. This is a dangerous intersection of racial politics and the law, where the racial politics [are] not animating this prosecution. The prosecutor should be free to say, ‘You know what? This is not a second-degree murder case, our witnesses are weak, they’re going to help the defense as well as they’re going to help us. We should charge him with a much lesser crime, and we have a better chance of convicting, or we should not charge him with anything.’ They’re not stupid. They know they have a weak case and they’re putting it out anyway because of the public pressure to prosecute this guy.”
Do defense witnesses help Zimmerman’s case?
George Zimmerman Trial is Over case dismissed!
George Zimmerman Is Not Racist: “Cut Him Loose”
Trayvon Martin Case – President Obama Weighs In: ‘If I Had a Son, He’d Look Like Trayvon’
Trayvon Tragedy: Race Hustling Left Using Death to Inflate Hate
The mainstream media is determined to use the Trayvon Martin tragedy to push its agenda of racial division. Political insider Matthew Dowd even went so far as to implicate Christianity in the death of Trayvon. Some are even referring to the shooter George Zimmerman as a “white hispanic.” Is the left determined to pit the entire nation against itself? Find out.
‘Gold Teeth’: Zimmerman Defense Releases Photos To ‘Create Doubt’ About Trayvon Martin
Fox News Mocks Media’s ‘Overkill’ Coverage Of Zimmerman Trial: ‘So Clearly Sad He Might Get Off
Behind the photos of the Trayvon Martin case
Trayvon Martin 7-Eleven Surveillance Video (FULL)
They are Going to Lynch George Zimmerman
Trayvon Martin: Son of Satan’s Son
Attorney General Eric Holder comments on Trayvon Martin Investigation
Mark Levin justifiably implies Judge Debra Nelson looks like a man
FBI Report: George Zimmerman NOT Racially Motivated in Trayvon Martin Shooting – 7-13-12
Michael Savage – Attorney General Praises Street Agitator Al Sharpton, As His Friend, Ally
George Zimmerman is 100% innocent and I have the key: Trayvon Martin attacked Him
Ex-Sanford Police Chief Tells CNN He Was Fired For Not Arresting Zimmerman
Trayvon Martin rally draws thousands in call for arrest
Bill Lee: Disgraced, Fired, Former Sanford Police Chief Testifies in Zimmerman Trial
‘Gold Teeth’: Zimmerman Defense Releases Photos To ‘Create Doubt’ About Trayvon Martin
Zimmerman Trial Trayvon Martin Greta Van Susteren The Five
Fox Guests: Zimmerman Witness ‘Devastating For Prosecution,’ ‘Dealt MASSIVE Blow To State’s Case
Rush Limbaugh Calls The Five: Praises Fox News, Argues with Bob Beckel, Slams Media Over Zimmerman
Glenn Beck: The George Zimmerman Trial
Judge Confronts Zimmerman
GLENN BECK,Struggles continue for prosecution in George Zimmerman trial
White Hispanic viciously beaten by gang of African Americans
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Jurors Start Deliberating George Zimmerman Case
A jury began deliberating George Zimmerman’s fate Friday after hearing dueling portraits of the neighborhood watch captain: a wannabe cop who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin because he feared for his life.
Before the jury got the case, Zimmerman’s lawyers put a concrete slab and two life-size cardboard cutouts in front of the jury box in one last attempt to convince the panel Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.
Attorney Mark O’Mara used the slab to make the point that it could be used as a weapon. He showed cutouts of Zimmerman and Martin to demonstrate that the teenager was considerably taller and he displayed a computer-animated depiction of the fight based on Zimmerman’s account.
He said prosecutors hadn’t met their burden of proving Zimmerman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, he said, the murder case was built on “could’ve beens” and “maybes.”
“If it hasn’t been proven, it’s just not there,” O’Mara said. “You can’t fill in the gaps. You can’t connect the dots. You’re not allowed to.”
In a rebuttal, prosecutor John Guy accused Zimmerman of telling “so many lies.” He said Martin’s last emotion was one of fear as Zimmerman followed him in a neighborhood of townhomes on a rainy night Feb. 26, 2012.
“Isn’t that every child’s worst nightmare, to be followed on the way home in the dark by a stranger?” Guy said. “Isn’t that every child’s worst fear?”
One juror, a young woman, appeared to wipe away a tear as Guy said nothing would ever bring back Martin.
The sequestered jury of six women will have to sort through a lot conflicting testimony from police, neighbors, friends and family members. Witnesses gave differing accounts of who was on top during the struggle, and Martin’s parents and Zimmerman’s parents both claimed that the voice heard screaming for help in the background of a 911 call was their son’s.
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder, but the jury will also be allowed to consider manslaughter. Under Florida’s laws involving gun crimes, manslaughter could end up carrying a penalty as heavy as the one for second-degree murder: life in prison.
Allowing the jurors to consider manslaughter could give those who aren’t convinced the shooting amounted to murder a way to hold Zimmerman responsible for the death of the unarmed teen.
To get a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.
O’Mara dismissed the prosecution’s contention that Zimmerman was a “crazy guy” patrolling his townhouse complex and “looking for people to harass” when he saw Martin. O’Mara also disputed prosecutors’ claim that Zimmerman snapped when he saw Martin because there had been a rash of break-ins in the neighborhood, mostly by young black men.
The defense attorney said Zimmerman at no point showed ill will, hate or spite during his confrontation with Martin _ which is what prosecutors must prove for second-degree murder.
“That presumption isn’t based on any fact whatsoever,” O’Mara said.
In contrast, prosecutors argued Zimmerman showed ill will when he whispered profanities to a police dispatcher over his cellphone while following Martin through the neighborhood. They said Zimmerman “profiled” the teenager as a criminal.
Guy said Zimmerman violated the cornerstone of neighborhood watch volunteer programs, which is to observe and report, not follow a suspect.
Zimmerman’s account of how he grabbed his gun from his holster at his waist as Martin straddled him is physically impossible, Guy said.
“The defendant didn’t shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to, he shot him because he wanted to,” Guy said. “That’s the bottom line.”
But to invoke self-defense, Zimmerman only had to believe he was facing great bodily harm, his attorney said. He asked jurors not to let their sympathies for Martin’s parents interfere with their decision.
“It is a tragedy, truly,” O’Mara said. “But you can’t allow sympathy.”
With the verdict drawing near, police and city leaders in Sanford and other parts of Florida said they have taken precautions for the possibility of mass protests or even civil unrest if Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, is acquitted.
There were big protests in Sanford and other cities across the country last year when authorities waited 44 days before arresting Zimmerman.
Guy told the jury the case wasn’t about race.
“It’s about right and wrong,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
Judge In Zimmerman Case Pressured by Obama Administration?
Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones
Speculation is raging that the judge in the George Zimmerman case could have been put under pressure by the Obama administration after she staged a bizarre outburst during which she interrogated Zimmerman while repeatedly silencing his lawyers.
The hostile exchange began when Judge Debra Nelson asked Zimmerman if he planned to testify.
Essentially, Judge Nelson told Zimmerman he had the “absolute right to remain silent” but then proceeded to demand he answer her questions interrogation-style while silencing his lawyers.
Defense attorney Don West twice objected to Nelson’s interrogation, prompting the judge to raised her voice and exclaim, “Your objection is overruled!” in a manner more befitting of an angry parent lecturing a child than a legal professional.
Both of Zimmerman’s lawyers appeared shocked as attorney Mark O’Mara asked under his breath, “what is going on?”
Several legal experts and observers said the outburst was unprecedented.
“I have never seen that in more than 30 years of court reporting,” tweeted journalist Kathi Belich.
Former Senatorial candidate Richard Rivette also expressed his shock at the judge’s behavior.
“This judge is an idiot. I spent five years investigating high profile capital cases defending people from the death penalty, and worked for the Federal judiciary as an independent investigator on other cases. No judge ever inquires as to whether a defendant will testify until the entire defense case is presented. If the defense rests and does not call the defendant then the judge knows there will be no testimony. If the defense calls the defendant then that’s when the judge finds out. They have to get through the entire case first. To see if it is valid after prosecution cross-examines their witnesses and experts as to whether a defendant SHOULD testify, which is decided in private not in public, and NOT on the record. By doing this, the judge has undermined a portion of Zimmerman’s credibility. He looks like he is waffling and this is normal judge/defendant questioning, which it is NOT,” said Rivette.
Respondents to the story at the National Review Online also expressed their view that Zimmerman was being railroaded.
“A fix is in from the administration to find Zimmerman guilty regardless of what it takes,” commented one.
“By demanding that Zimmerman respond to a question, after she has assured him that he has the right to remain silent, she is undermining his right to remain silent and making it appear as though he and his attorneys are not firm in their convictions. This judge is shameless,” added another.
Judge Nelson also ruled this week that Trayvon Martin’s text messages, which showed that Martin had been involved in fights before and was trying to buy or sell a gun, cannot be shown to the jury, which some suggested was another indication of an anti-Zimmerman bias.
Nelson also granted a request by prosecutors to block the defense’s attempt to show the jury a computer-animated depiction of the fight between Martin and Zimmerman.
She is also likely to allow the jury to consider lesser charges against Zimmerman in light of the prosecution’s probable failure to prove its case for second-degree murder, another indication that the state is desperate to avoid him walking free.
Judge Nelson has been very careful at every stage of the trial to dismiss evidence or testimony that could convince the jury in favor of acquitting Zimmerman.
Now some are asking the question – did Nelson’s aggressive outburst represent an attempt to prejudice the jury against Zimmerman?
Given the likelihood that Zimmerman will be acquitted, has Judge Nelson been put under pressure by the federal government to aggressively advocate for the prosecution, just as Supreme Court Justice John Roberts was apparently pressured to vote to uphold Obamacare?
Ever since President Barack Obama personally inserted himself into the controversy by declaring Trayvon Martin to be akin to the son he never had, higher-ups have constantly meddled in the case in an effort to secure a murder charge for a scenario that Zimmerman would not normally have even been arrested for under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
Indeed, ex-Sanford police chief Bill Lee told CNN yesterday that “he felt pressure from city officials to arrest Zimmerman to placate the public rather than as a matter of justice,” and that his investigation “provided no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman at the scene.”
It also emerged this week that the federal government encouraged and funded last year’s protests demanding the arrest of Zimmerman via the Community Relations Service, a division of the Department of Justice. Documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that the CRS was “deployed to Sanford, FL, following the Trayvon Martin shooting to help organize and manage rallies and protests against George Zimmerman,” spending millions of dollars in the process.
Given the plethora of threats by Trayvon supporters to stage violent riots if Zimmerman is acquitted, could Nelson be under pressure to secure a charge of at least manslaughter in order to avoid nationwide civil disorder?
If that’s the case, her apparent effort to prejudice the jury clearly suggests that a mistrial has taken place.
Judge Rules Jury Can Consider Manslaughter Charge In Zimmerman Trial
A judge said Thursday that jurors in the George Zimmerman case can consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, but she denied a request for the jury also to consider third-degree murder after a defense attorney called the proposal “outrageous.”
Prosecutor Richard Mantei argued that instructions for third-degree murder should be included on the premise that Zimmerman committed child abuse when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin because Martin was underage.
But defense attorney Don West called the proposed instruction “a trick,” and he accused the prosecutor of springing it on the defense at the last minute.
“Just when I didn’t think this case could get any more bizarre, the state is alleging child abuse?” West said. “This is outrageous. It’s outrageous the state would seek to do this at this time.”
West questioned how Zimmerman could be charged with child abuse while Martin was on top of Zimmerman “pummeling him.”
Judge Debra Nelson denied the third-degree murder instruction, saying she was exercising caution since she was unsure if prosecutors could prove intent.
“I just don’t think the evidence supports that,” Nelson said.
The judge, however, agreed with the prosecution that jurors could consider manslaughter as a lesser charge.
West said he wanted the six jurors to only consider the second-degree murder charge or not guilty.
“The state has charged him with second degree murder. They should be required to prove it,” West said. “If they had wanted to charge him with manslaughter … they could do that.”
Jurors could begin deliberating as early as Friday. Prosecutors were expected to give closing arguments Thursday afternoon, followed by the defense closing on Friday morning.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. On the night of the fatal scuffle in February 2012, Martin was visiting his father and his father’s fiancee at the same townhome complex whereZimmerman lived.
Zimmerman observed Martin while driving in his neighborhood, called police and the fight ensued after the neighborhood watch volunteer got out of his vehicle. Zimmerman claims Martin was slamming his head into the concrete pavement when he fired his gun.
Some civil rights activists argued that a delay in charging Zimmerman was influenced by Martin’s race, and protests were held around the nation in the 44 days between the fatal fight and Zimmerman’s arrest. Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
DOJ sends secret “peacekeepers” where Trayvon Martin was killed
Last Updated: July 10, 2013
Judicial Watch, Inc. on April 24, 2012 launched an investigation into the Trayvon Martin case based on reports that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) had sent a secret team of “peacekeepers” to Sanflord, Florida, where Martin was shot on February 26, 2012 after wandering in a gated community after dark. George Zimmerman, a resident of the community and its neighborhood watch captain, is currently on trial for Martin’s death though he maintains he acted in self-defense.
Records obtained by Judicial Watch in response to local, state and federal public records requests show that the so-called peacekeepers are part of a large and growing division within DOJ called the Community Relations Service (CRS). Though CRS purports to spot and quell racial tensions nationwide before they arise, the documents obtained by Judicial Watch show the group actively worked to foment unrest, spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on travel and hotel rooms to train protestors throughout Florida. The peacekeepers also met with officials of the Republican National Convention, scheduled for several months later in Tampa, to warn them to expect protests in connection with Martin’s death.
- CRS employee spent $1,142.84 to travel to Sanford, Florida from March 25-28, 2012 “to work marches, demonstrations, and rallies”;
- CRS employee spent $751.60 to travel to Sanford, Florida from March 30-April 1, 2012 “to provide technical assistance to the City of Sanford, event organizers, and law enforcement agencies for the march and rally on March 31”;
- CRS employee spent $1,307.40 to travel to Sanford, Florida from April 3-12, 2012 “to provide technical assistance, conciliation, and onsite mediation during demonstrations planned in Sanford”;
- CRS employee spent $672.24 to travel to Tampa, Florida from April 18-20, 2012 “to meet with RNC official related to possible protests and demonstrations during the RNC”
In response to a Florida Sunshine Law request to the City of Sanford, Judicial Watch also obtained an audio recording of a “community meeting” held at Second Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford on April 19, 2012. The meeting, which opens with a gospel hymn and organ music, is reported to have led to the official ouster of Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee. A week earlier, a group calling themselves the “Dream Defenders” had barricaded the entrance to the police department demanding he be fired for failing to file murder charges against Zimmerman. The church meeting produced a nine-point plan, the main demand being the firing of Chief Lee.
Ex-Sanford police chief: Zimmerman probe ‘taken away from us’
By Eliott C. McLaughlin
The George Zimmerman investigation was hijacked “in a number of ways” by outside forces, said the former police chief of Sanford, Florida.
Bill Lee, who testified Monday in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial, told CNN’s George Howell in an exclusive interview that he felt pressure from city officials to arrest Zimmerman to placate the public rather than as a matter of justice.
“It was (relayed) to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn’t care if it got dismissed later,” he said. “You don’t do that.”
When Sanford police arrived on the scene on February 26, 2012, after Zimmerman fatally shot unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, they conducted a “sound” investigation, and the evidence provided no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman at the scene, he said.
It had nothing to do with Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, he said; from an investigative standpoint, it was purely a matter of self-defense.
Zimmerman told police he killed Martin after the teen attacked him. While the evidence at the time corroborated that claim, the ex-chief said, Lee’s lead investigator made a recommendation that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter.
Justice Dept. ‘peacekeepers’ worked ‘Trayvon’ rallies, group claims
It was a matter of protocol, Lee said. Arresting Zimmerman based on the evidence at hand would have been a violation of Zimmerman’s Fourth Amendment rights, he said. Thus, the Sanford police presented a “capias request” to the state’s attorney, asking that the prosecutor determine whether it was a “justifiable homicide,” issue a warrant for arrest or present the case to a grand jury.
“The police department needed to do a job, and there was some influence — outside influence and inside influence — that forced a change in the course of the normal criminal justice process,” Lee said. “With all the influence and the protests and petitions for an arrest, you still have to uphold your oath.”
“That investigation was taken away from us. We weren’t able to complete it,” he said.
One example involved the 911 tapes, in which neighbors implored dispatchers to send police as a voice in the background screamed for help.
The Sanford police intended to release the tapes once the probe was over, Lee said, because you can’t publicize evidence amid an investigation.
Instead, the mayor told him on March 16 the tapes had been released to Martin’s family and the public. The family was asked to help identify voices, Lee said, but if police were in charge of the investigation, they wouldn’t have presented evidence to a group.
“It should be done individually so there’s no influence on the other people in the room,” he said. “Then, there’s no questions that can be brought up about how (an identification) was obtained or whether it was influenced.”
I’m happy that at the end of the day I can walk away with my integrity.
Ex-Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee
Releasing the evidence to the public was problematic, as well, because it created the potential for someone to concoct a “story about what they observed when they really didn’t observe it,” he said.
Martin family attorney Jasmine Rand said she doesn’t believe playing the tapes to a room full of people “makes any difference to the outcome of the case.”
“We have to remember that that was played for the family in a private room because they were hearing the last moments of their son’s life as he cried for help,” Rand told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Wednesday night. “And I think Sybrina Fulton (Martin’s mother) got up and walked out of that room. She didn’t sit in there and talk to everybody, because she had a visceral reaction when she heard her son yell for help and she couldn’t help him because she knew he was dead.”
Lee was placed on paid leave March 22, 2012, after the Sanford City Commission expressed a lack of confidence in him. The same commission rejected his resignation in a 3-2 vote a month later, with dissenting commissioners questioning the fairness of Lee’s losing his job.
Two months later, Lee was sacked. City Manager Norton Bonaparte said in a news release, “The police chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community.”
Lee believes lack of confidence did play a role in his dismissal, he told CNN, but he also believes Bonaparte faced political pressure and terminated him “without cause,” which was permitted under his employment contract.
“I upheld my oath,” Lee said. “I’m happy that at the end of the day I can walk away with my integrity.”
Asked whether he would do things differently given the opportunity, the 30-year veteran of law enforcement said there always are things he could change in hindsight, but he stands by the investigation.
At every turn in the 40-minute interview with CNN’s Howell, Lee doggedly defended his investigators, saying race never played a role in any decision and that his officers “conducted an unbiased review.”
Investigators knew letting Zimmerman walk free for 46 days was an unpopular decision — and they took abuse for it — “but they performed professionally. That’s the mark of a strong police department.”
Lee took issue with the media casting his department as apathetic or lackadaisical in the case.
“A lot of the information that was given out as fact was misinformation,” he said. “It was reported in some media that we didn’t conduct an investigation for two weeks, but yet in that same media they would show a photograph of a crime scene with crime scene tape, with patrol cars and blue lights and investigators on the scene.”
Lee shrugged off the notion that he was hired to clean up racism and other problems in the department. His goal upon becoming chief was to improve professionalism and trust, and he set several goals, all of which were met during his 10-month tenure, he said.
One of his greatest regrets, he said, is that the Zimmerman investigation ultimately shattered his childhood dream to be police chief of the community where he was raised.
“It’s a dream of a vision that is going to be unrealized,” he said. “I’m at peace with it on most days. I’m a man of faith. But it stings.
Shooting of Trayvon Martin
The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman took place on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, United States. Zimmerman is currently on trial for second-degree murder in the case.
Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old African American high school student. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old multi-racial Hispanic American,[Note 1] was the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily staying and where the shooting took place.
Statements given by Zimmerman have indicated that on the night of the shooting Zimmerman was in his vehicle on a personal errand when he noticed Martin walking beyond the gated fence inside the community. Statements then read that Zimmerman then called the Sanford Police Department to report Martin’s behavior as suspicious, stating “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” and “looking at all the houses”, although according to a police report, there was “no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter”. While still on the phone with the police dispatcher, Zimmerman exited his vehicle, and after concluding his telephone call with police was involved in a violent encounter with Martin. The encounter ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin once in the heart at close range.
When police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman stated that Martin had attacked him and that he had shot Martin in self-defense using a weapon Zimmerman had on him, loaded with a hollow-point bullet already in the gun’s chamber. Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and from two vertical lacerations on the back of his head. EMTs treated Zimmerman at the scene, after which he was taken to the Sanford Police Department. Zimmerman was detained and questioned for approximately five hours. He was then released without being charged. At the time, police said they found no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.
The circumstances of Martin’s death, including the fact that he was unarmed, and the initial decision not to charge Zimmerman received national and international attention and scrutiny. Allegations of racist motivation for both the shooting and police conduct, along with intense media reporting that was sometimes inaccurate, contributed to public demands for Zimmerman’s arrest. Questions were also raised about Florida’s stand-your-ground law. On March 22, 2012, a Special Prosecutor, Angela Corey, was appointed to take over the investigation. On April 11, 2012, the Special Prosecutor filed a charge of murder in the second degree against Zimmerman, who then turned himself in and was placed in custody. The prosecution’s account of what they allege happened on the night of the shooting is largely contained in the Affidavit of Probable Cause. Zimmerman pleaded not guilty to the charge and is out on a $1 million bond while awaiting the results of the trial.
Zimmerman’s trial began on June 10 in Sanford, Florida. He had requested a “stand your ground” hearing, but in March 2013, his defense elected to bypass the hearing so that his case would be tried before a jury.
arties involved in the case
|Trayvon Benjamin Martin
Trayvon Martin in an undated photo
BornFebruary 5, 1995
Florida, U.S.DiedFebruary 26, 2012 (aged 17)
Sanford, Florida, U.S.Cause of deathSingle gunshot fired at intermediate range (1-18 inches)EthnicityAfrican AmericanHeight5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)[Note 2]Weight158 pounds (72 kg)[Note 2]
Trayvon Benjamin Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012) was the son of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, who were divorced in 1999. He was a junior at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School and lived with his mother and older brother in Miami Gardens, Florida.
On the day Martin was fatally shot, he and his father were visiting his father’s fiancée and her son at her townhome in The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, a multi-ethnic gated community, where the shooting occurred. Martin had visited his father’s fiancée at Twin Lakes several times.
Martin had been suspended from school at the time of his death, his third disciplinary suspension of the year. One suspension was for tardiness. Another suspension was for graffiti, when Martin was observed by a security camera in a restricted area of the school marking up a door with “W.T.F.” When he was later searched by a Miami-Dade School Police Department officer, looking for the graffiti marker, the officer found several pieces of women’s jewelry in his backpack, which Martin said were not his, stating a friend had given them to him. A screwdriver was also found, which was described by the school police investigator as a burglary tool. The jewelry was impounded and given to the police, but no evidence ever surfaced to indicate that the jewelry was stolen. Martin’s third suspension involved a marijuana pipe, and an empty bag containing marijuana residue. Martin was not charged with any crime related to these incidents and did not have a juvenile record. Judge Nelson ruled that the defense may have access to Martin’s records, including the details of these suspensions, as well as access to Martin’s social media sites, but ruled they will not be admissible as evidence during the trial unless they can be shown to be relevant.
Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said the parents had never heard about the bag of jewelry and that it was completely irrelevant to what happened on February 26. Martin’s parents and their attorneys also said the defense’s request for school records and social media was a “fishing expedition” aimed at attacking their son and an attempt to assassinate his character.
|George Michael Zimmerman
George Zimmerman mugshot
BornOctober 5, 1983 (age 29)
Manassas, VirginiaEthnicityLatino/CaucasianHeight5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)Weight185 pounds (84 kg)[Note 3]Criminal chargeSecond-degree murderCriminal statusOn trial
George Michael Zimmerman was born on October 5, 1983, in Manassas, Virginia, and is the son of Gladys (née Mesa) Zimmerman, who was born in Peru, and Robert Zimmerman, Sr., a retired Virginia magistrate. He was raised Catholic, in a family that his father has described as “multiracial;” his father is a white American of German descent and his mother is Peruvian with some black ancestry through her Afro-Peruvian maternal grandfather.[Note 1] Zimmerman’s voter registration record lists him as Hispanic and a registered Democrat.
Zimmerman’s height is reportedly 5′7″ (1.70 m); and his weight is recorded as being 185 lb (84 kg) on his Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Booking Information dated April 11, 2012, the date of his arrest. Zimmerman’s height is shown as 5′8″ (1.73 m); and his weight at 200 lb (91 kg) on the Sanford Police Department Offense Report for February 26, 2012, the night of the shooting.
In 2009, Zimmerman had moved with his wife to The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida, a multi-ethnic gated community, where the shooting occurred. At the time of the shooting, he was employed as an insurance underwriter and was in his final semester at Seminole State College for an associate degree in Criminal Justice. In one of his interviews with police he stated his goal was to become a judge.
In 2005, Zimmerman was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, after shoving an officer while a friend of Zimmerman’s was being questioned about underage drinking. The charges were reduced, then dropped when Zimmerman entered a pre-trial diversion program. Also in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiance filed a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman requested a reciprocal restraining order. Both orders were granted. The incidents were raised by prosecutors at Zimmerman’s initial bond hearing. The judge described the incidents as “run of the mill” and “somewhat mild” and rejected the prosecution’s claim that the incidents demonstrated that Zimmerman was violent or a threat to the community.
Sanford Police Department
Bill Lee had been chief of the Sanford Police Department for ten months when the shooting occurred. Prior to Lee becoming chief, the department had been accused of protecting relatives of police officers involved in violent incidents with blacks, and the Martin case increased distrust between the police and Sanford’s black community.
On March 22, Chief Lee temporarily stepped down from his position due to public criticism over his handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting. In April, the Sanford City Commission refused to accept Lee’s resignation and stated that “Lee’s spotless record showed there needed to be further review to determine if he failed in his duties.” Lee was fired on June 20, 2012 by Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte. Lee responded by saying “I continue to stand by the work performed by the Sanford Police Department in this tragic shooting, which has been plagued by misrepresentations and false statements for interests other than justice.”
On June 26, 2012, the lead investigator of the case, Christopher Serino, was transferred out of the Sanford Police Department’s investigative unit and reassigned to the patrol division at his own request. Serino said he felt pressured by several of his fellow police officers to press charges on Zimmerman when he believed there was not enough evidence to do so, and that one of the officers pressuring him was friendly with Martin’s father.
In September 2012, Orlando TV station WFTV released a memo from the interim police chief Richard Myers blaming the police department spokesman, Sgt. David Morgenstern, for mishandling the Travyon Martin case and removed him from his spokesperson position.
Martin family attorneys
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing the interests of the Martin family, operates a law firm in Tallahassee, Florida, with his partner Daryl Parks. The firm has eight lawyers who focus on wrongful death, malpractice, personal injury and civil rights. In 2006, Crump sued to have the video released in the case of Martin Anderson, a teenager who died at a boot camp run by the Bay County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office. The Martin family is also represented by Natalie Jackson, an Orlando civil rights attorney.
Background of the shooting
The Retreat at Twin Lakes, north entrance
The Retreat at Twin Lakes is a 260-unit gated townhome community in Sanford, Florida. The population in the development at the time of the shooting, was about 49% non-Hispanic white, 23% Hispanic(of any race), 20% black, and 5% Asian, according to Census figures. Both George Zimmerman and Tracy Martin’s fiancee were renting homes in the development when the shooting occurred. At the time of the shooting, Martin had been staying with his father’s fiancee at The Retreat.
From January 1, 2011 through February 26, 2012, police were called to The Retreat at Twin Lakes 402 times. During the 18 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. Crimes committed at The Retreat in the year prior to Martin’s death included eight burglaries, nine thefts, and one shooting. Twin Lakes residents said there were dozens of reports of attempted break-ins, which had created an atmosphere of fear in their neighborhood.
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.
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 burglarized. 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.
Zimmerman had been licensed to carry a firearm since November 2009. In response to Zimmerman’s multiple reports regarding a loose pit bull in the Twin Lakes neighborhood, a Seminole County Animal Services officer advised Zimmerman to “get a gun”, according to a friend, rather than rely on pepper spray to fend off the pit bull, which on one occasion had cornered his wife. Although neighborhood watch volunteers are not encouraged to carry weapons, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee acknowledged that Zimmerman had a legal right to carry his firearm on the night of the shooting.
Shooting and investigation
Main article: Timeline of the shooting of Trayvon Martin
On the evening of February 26, 2012, Zimmerman observed Martin as he returned to the Twin Lakes housing community after having walked to a nearby convenience store. At the time, Zimmerman was driving through the neighborhood on a personal errand.
Zimmerman call to police
7:09:34 PM, February 26, 2012
|Problems playing this file? See media help.
At approximately 7:09 PM,[Note 4] Zimmerman called the Sanford police non-emergency number to report what he considered a suspicious person in the Twin Lakes community. Zimmerman stated, “We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy.” He described an unknown male “just walking around looking about” in the rain and said, “This guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something.” Zimmerman reported that the person had his hand in his waistband and was walking around looking at homes. On the recording, Zimmerman is heard saying, “these assholes, they always get away.”
About two minutes into the call, Zimmerman said, “he’s running.” The dispatcher asked, “He’s running? Which way is he running?” The sound of a car door chime is heard, indicating Zimmerman opened his car door. Zimmerman followed Martin, eventually losing sight of him. The dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following him. When Zimmerman answered, “yeah,” the dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman responded, “Okay.” Zimmerman asked that police call him upon their arrival so he could provide his location. Zimmerman ended the call at 7:15 p.m.
After Zimmerman ended his call with police, a violent encounter took place between Martin and Zimmerman, which ended when Zimmerman fatally shot Martin 70 yards (64 m) from the rear door of the townhouse where Martin was staying.[Note 5]
|[show]Full transcript of Zimmerman’s call to SPD non-emergency number
Sanford Police Investigation
Police officer Timothy Smith arrived at the scene at approximately 7:17 PM. He reported finding Zimmerman standing near Martin, who was lying face down in the grass and unresponsive. At that time, Zimmerman stated to Smith that he had shot Martin and was still armed. Smith handcuffed Zimmerman and removed his weapon from him. Smith observed that Zimmerman’s back was wet and covered with grass and he was bleeding from the nose and the back of his head.
Ricardo Ayala, the second officer to arrive that night, noticed Officer Smith had Zimmerman in custody, then observed Martin lying face down in the grass and attempted to get a response from him. At this time, Sgt. Anthony Raimondo arrived and together with Ayala began CPR. Paramedics from Sanford Fire and Rescue arrived and continued CPR, finally declaring Martin dead at 7:30 PM.
Other officers who had arrived by this time secured the area and made contact with neighbors in the area and obtained statements from witnesses at the scene. They did not realize Zimmerman had been in a vehicle, however, so it was moved before they could seize it. Zimmerman was treated and released by paramedics while still at the scene of the incident. After placing Zimmerman in his police vehicle, Officer Smith heard Zimmerman say, “I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.” Zimmerman was then transported to the Sanford Police Department where he was questioned by investigators for approximately five hours. The police determined that Zimmerman yelled for help at least 14 times in a 38 second span. The question of who was calling for help has been disputed since then by others and remains inconclusive. (See Background sounds of yelling for help in 9-1-1 calls)
Martin’s body was taken to the morgue, where he was tagged as a John Doe as he was not carrying any identification. Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, called to file a Missing Persons report early on February 27 and police officers arrived at his fiancée’s condo with photographs of his dead son about 9:20 am.
George Zimmerman with a bloody, swollen nose in the back seat of a police car on the night of the shooting.
The back of Zimmerman’s head at the police station.
Zimmerman was handcuffed at the scene of the shooting and taken to the Sanford police station for questioning, arriving there at 7:52 p.m. according to a police video. His gun, a black Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm semi-automatic pistol, taken from him by Officer Smith at the scene, was placed into evidence.
Zimmerman was interviewed by Investigator D. Singleton and by Detective Chris Serino on the night of the shooting. He also underwent voice stress analysis, a type of lie detector test, on the night of the shooting. Crime Scene Tech D. Smith photographed his injuries and hands and collected gun shot residue. Zimmerman’s clothes were taken as evidence after his wife arrived with a change of clothes. The day after the shooting, Zimmerman performed a videotaped reenactment of the incident for police.
Zimmerman was not given a drug or alcohol test. Peter Bella, a retired Chicago Police forensic investigator, told The Washington Times, “Except for DUIs, police cannot test suspects for drugs or alcohol, unless the accused demands or consents to it, or they get a warrant”. The police did not suspect that Zimmerman was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and he was never asked to take such a test.
The Martin family alleged that Seminole County Attorney Wolfinger met personally with Sanford Chief Lee on the night of the shooting and instructed Lee not to make an arrest. Based on their accusation, the Martin family requested that the Justice Department investigate the State prosecutor’s office. Wolfinger responded that the accusations were “outright lies” and denied that any such meeting or communication took place. Wolfinger’s office reported that the Sanford police consulted with Kelly Jo Hines, the prosecutor on call the night of the shooting, but it has not been disclosed what was talked about.
On March 12, 2012, Police Chief Lee turned the investigation over to the State Attorney’s office for review. Lee said there was not enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman. “In this case Mr. Zimmerman has made the statement of self-defense,” Lee said. “Until we can establish probable cause to dispute that, we don’t have the grounds to arrest him.” In response to criticisms of the investigation, Lee responded that “We are taking a beating over this” and defended the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, February 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”
On March 13, 2012, Chris Serino sent a capias request to the state’s attorney recommending charges of negligent manslaughter against Zimmerman, though Serino maintains he did not believe they had the evidence to support those charges and that manslaughter was only included in the capias in order for the prosecutor’s office to continue with their own investigation. The capias states, “the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and waited the arrival of law enforcement or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party’s concern”. “There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter.” The State Attorney’s office initially determined there was insufficient evidence to charge Zimmerman and did not file charges based on the capias request.
On March 16, Serino told the Orlando Sentinel that his investigation had turned up no reliable evidence that cast doubt on Zimmerman’s account, that he had acted in self-defense. “The best evidence we have is the testimony of George Zimmerman, and he says the decedent was the primary aggressor in the whole event, everything I have is adding up to what he says.”
On March 20, 2012, State attorney Norm Wolfinger announced that a Seminole County grand jury would be convened on April 10 to investigate the death of Martin. However, after State Attorney Angela Corey was assigned to the case by Florida Governor Rick Scott on March 22, she decided that her office would decide whether to press charges. “I always lean towards moving forward without needing the grand jury in a case like this, I foresee us being able to make a decision, and move on it on our own.”
Governor Scott asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate the shooting and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi confirmed that the FDLE was involved and stated “no stone will be left unturned in this investigation.”
On March 20, 2012, the Justice Department announced that it was opening investigations into the incident. The FBI opened a parallel investigation into whether Martin’s civil rights were violated, interviewed witnesses, and looked into Zimmerman’s background.
On July 12, interviews conducted by the FBI were publicly released. The Sanford Police Department’s lead investigator, Chris Serino, told FBI agents that he believed Zimmerman’s actions were not based on Martin’s race, but instead on Martin’s attire, the circumstances of the encounter, and previous burglaries in the neighborhood. Zimmerman’s neighbors and co-workers were interviewed as well. Neighbors who knew Zimmerman had nothing derogatory to say about him and his co-workers were complimentary of him.
Serino also told the FBI that he had felt pressure from three officers within the department to charge Zimmerman although he “did not believe he had enough evidence at the time to file charges”, and accused one of these officers of being friendly with Martin’s father. He also expressed concern to the FBI about possible leaks of evidence to the media from within the department.
Martin’s autopsy report
The Volusia County medical examiner found that Martin was killed by an injury resulting from a single gunshot to the chest, fired at “intermediate range,” between 1 and 18 inches according to a forensic expert.[Note 6] An FDLE analysis of Martin’s body and clothes described the distance as “a contact shot”. The autopsy also found that Martin had one small abrasion on his left ring finger below the knuckle. No other injuries were found on Martin’s body at the time of his death. Physicians who reviewed the official autopsy report for the Orlando Sentinel, stated in their opinion that Martin lived from 20 seconds to several minutes after he was shot, and that Martin likely remained conscious “for a time anyway.”
The autopsy report stated that Martin had trace levels of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, in his blood and urine. The toxicology report found the levels to be 1.5 nanograms/ml of THC and 7.3 nanograms/ml of THC-COOH, a metabolite of THC that can stay in the system for weeks after cannabis has been smoked. Larry Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic science, stated that the THC amount was so low that it may have been ingested days earlier and played no role in Martin’s behavior.
Recordings of eight calls to the police made on the night of the shooting were released by the Sanford police on March 17, 2012.
A witness to the confrontation just prior to the shooting stated that Martin was on top of Zimmerman and punching him, while Zimmerman was yelling for help. This witness, who identified himself as “John”, stated that “the guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help! Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911″. He went on to say that when he got upstairs and looked down, “the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point.”.
A 13-year-old boy walking his dog saw a man on the ground shortly before the shooting and identified him as wearing red. His mother later disputed the testimony and claimed that the police pressured him into choosing the color that the man was wearing and that her son could not see any details in the dark. She also stated that the police waited five days before requesting to even question her son and said that the lead homicide investigator told her that he did not believe the shooting was self-defense.
Mary Cutcher and her roommate, Selma Mora Lamilla, appeared on AC 360, and Cutcher stated that she believes that “there was no punching, no hitting going on at the time, no wrestling” just prior to the shooting but admitted that she neither saw the shooting nor the preceding altercation. Cutcher and her roommate heard the pair in their backyard and a “very young voice” whining, with no sounds of a fight. They heard a gunshot; the crying stopped immediately, and they saw Zimmerman on his knees straddling Martin on the ground. Mary Cutcher phoned police after the fatal shooting and said the black man was standing over another man, although Trayvon Martin was already dead. According to the Orlando Sentinel article, “Police spokesman Sgt. Dave Morgenstern [on March 15] issued a statement disputing Cutcher’s version of events, calling her statements to WFTV “inconsistent with her sworn testimony to police.” However, Cutcher and her roommate maintain that their account of the incident to the police did not agree with Zimmerman’s, and they demanded the police issue a retraction.
On March 29, 2012, an eyewitness referred to as a male said that he saw two men on the ground scuffling, then heard the shooting, and saw Zimmerman walk away with no blood on him. The witness later appeared on CNN AC360 referred to as a female, giving more details on her account. She pointed out that she heard an argument between a younger and an older voice. During the time that she witnessed the incident, the scuffling happened on the grass. She said that the larger man, who walked away after the gunshot, was on top and that it was too dark to see blood on his face.
A witness who arrived shortly after the shooting revealed photos that he took that night that showed “blood trickling down the back of Zimmerman’s head from two cuts. It also shows a possible contusion forming on the crown of his head”. In revealing the photo to ABC News in mid-April, he noted that he had heard but had not seen the scuffle, had been the first to arrive, and had been the first to talk to Zimmerman after the shooting.
One eye-witness statement given the night of the shooting describes “a black male, wearing a dark colored ‘hoodie’ on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help.” The witness said that the black male was throwing punches “MMA [mixed martial arts] style.” After hearing a “pop,” he saw the black male “laid out on the grass.” When the witness was subsequently interviewed weeks later by a different agency, the witness said he thought that the black male was either punching or pinning the lighter skinned male underneath him. He was no longer certain who was calling for help, having not seen their mouths in the dark. He was still certain that the black male had been on top of the lighter-skinned male.
On March 20, Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump revealed that Martin had been on the phone with a friend moments before he was shot. During an ABC News exclusive report, Crump allowed portions of his recorded interview with Martin’s friend to be aired. She said that Martin told her that a man was watching him from his vehicle while talking on the phone before the man started following Martin. Martin told his friend at one point that he had lost the man but the man suddenly appeared again. The friend said that she told Martin to run to the townhouse where he was staying with his father and the father’s girlfriend. She then heard Martin say, “What are you following me for?” followed by a man’s voice responding, “What are you doing around here?” She said that she heard the sound of pushing before the phone went dead. She immediately attempted to call him back, but was unable to reach him. Crump stated that he would turn the information over to the Justice Department because “the family does not trust the Sanford Police Department to have anything to do with the investigation.” Martin’s friend was subsequently interviewed by state prosecutors on April 2, 2012. During her interview with the prosecutor, Martin’s friend recounted her last phone call with Martin and added that Martin had described the man as “crazy and creepy,” watching him from a vehicle while the man was talking on the phone. Martin’s friend told prosecutors that she heard words like “get off, get off,” right before she lost contact with Martin.
On March 6, 2013, prosecutors admitted that witness 8 had lied under oath, when she falsely testified that she had been in the hospital on the day of Martin’s funeral.
Crump had refused to disclose the identity of Witness 8, stating that she was only 16, a minor at the time of the shooting, and asked the media to respect her privacy. It was subsequently revealed that she was actually 18 at the time when she said she was on the phone with Martin. According to the defense, her actual age had been edited out of previously released disclosures. Crump has denied intentionally giving any misleading statements about her age.
George Zimmerman’s account of events
On the advice of his legal counsel, Zimmerman did not speak to the media after the shooting. The statements he gave to police investigators were publicly released on June 21, 2012, when Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, published his written and recorded statements on Zimmerman’s legal defense web site. Prior to the release of the statements, the only publicly available information about Zimmerman’s version of the incident came from interviews with some of his family members and friends and from leaks to the news media by sources inside the investigation, and his recorded phone call to 9-1-1. Zimmerman maintained his public silence until he was interviewed by Sean Hannity of Fox News on July 18, 2012. According to early news reports on the incident, on the night of the shooting, and afterwards, Zimmerman described in detail for investigators what took place.
Zimmerman said he was driving to the grocery store when he spotted Trayvon Martin walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman’s father said that, while his son was not on duty that night as Neighborhood Watch captain, there had been many break-ins and he thought it suspicious that someone he didn’t recognize was walking behind the town homes instead of on the street or the sidewalk. Zimmerman therefore called a non-emergency police line to report Martin’s behavior and summon police. During the call, Zimmerman told the dispatcher that Martin was “coming to check me out.” A source to the Orlando Sentinel said in May that Zimmerman told investigators that at one point Martin circled his vehicle,[Note 7] and he rolled up his window to avoid a confrontation.
After telling the police dispatcher that Martin “ran,” Zimmerman left his vehicle to determine his location and ascertain in which direction Martin had fled. The dispatcher asked if Zimmerman was following Martin, and Zimmerman replied “Yeah.” Then the dispatcher said, “OK, we don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman replied with “OK” and stated that Martin got away. After a discussion about where Zimmerman would meet police, the call ended, and Zimmerman told investigators he was returning to his vehicle when Martin approached him from his left rear and confronted him. According to Zimmerman, Martin then punched him in the face, knocking him down, and began beating his head against the sidewalk. Zimmerman said he called out for help while being beaten, and at one point Martin covered his mouth to muffle the screams. According to Zimmerman’s father, during the struggle while Martin was on top of Zimmerman, Martin saw the gun his son was carrying and said something to the effect of “You’re gonna die now” or “You’re gonna die tonight” and continued to beat Zimmerman. Zimmerman and Martin struggled over the gun, and Zimmerman shot Martin once in the chest at close range, in self-defense.[Note 8]
On June 21, 2012, Zimmerman’s attorneys released audiotapes of several interviews he had with police shortly after the shooting. Also included were Zimmerman’s written statement of February 26, 2012, and video recordings of his reenactment of the incident and a voice stress test that he passed.
In the interviews, Zimmerman says he took note of Martin because he was near a home that he had previously called police about. He also said “he was just walking casually, not like he was trying to get out of the rain,” and he felt “something was off” about Martin.
Zimmerman said he left his truck to find a street sign so he would be able to tell the police dispatcher where he was. He told investigators that he was not following Martin but was “just going in the same direction he was” to find an address, but admitted that he had also left his truck to try to see in which direction Martin had gone. The altercation began, he said, when Martin suddenly appeared while Zimmerman was walking back to his vehicle. He described Martin at different points in the interviews as appearing “out of nowhere,” “from the darkness,” and as “jump[ing] out of the bushes.” Zimmerman said that Martin asked, “You got a fucking problem, homie?” Zimmerman replied no, and then Martin said that he did now, and punched him. As they struggled on the ground, Zimmerman on his back with Martin on top of him, Zimmerman yelled for help “probably 50 times.” (See Background sounds of yelling for help in 9-1-1 calls) Martin told him to “Shut the fuck up,” as he hit him in the face and pounded his head on a concrete sidewalk. When Zimmerman tried to move off the concrete, Martin saw his gun and said “You’re going to die tonight motherfucker!” Martin grabbed for the gun, but Zimmerman grabbed it first. He said after firing his weapon at Martin, he wasn’t sure at first that he had hit him, so he got on top of him in order to subdue him.[dead link] Bystanders and police arrived shortly after Martin was shot.
Police reports state Zimmerman “appeared to have a broken and a bloody nose and swelling of his face.” Zimmerman was offered three chances to be taken to the hospital, but Zimmerman declined each time, according to police reports released by the prosecution. ABC News reported that a medical report compiled by the family physician of George Zimmerman showed that, following the altercation with Martin, Zimmerman was diagnosed with a closed fracture of his nose, two black eyes, lacerations to the back of his head, a minor back injury, and bruising in his upper lip and cheek.
In the course of Zimmerman’s recorded interviews, Detective Chris Serino questioned aspects of Zimmerman’s account, such as Zimmerman’s statement that he didn’t know the name of a street in the Twin Lakes community where he had lived for three years. Zimmerman said in response that he had a bad memory and takes medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Investigators also questioned the extent of his injuries and why he didn’t identify himself to Martin as a Neighborhood Watch coordinator. Zimmerman said he didn’t want to confront Martin.
On June 26, 2012, the prosecution released the results of a voice stress test performed on George Zimmerman the day after the shooting. A voice stress test is a type of test used to measure deceptive or psychological stress in the human voice in response to questions. Zimmerman was asked, “Did you confront the guy you shot?”, to which Zimmerman answered, “No.” Zimmerman was asked, “Were you in fear for your life, when you shot the guy?”, to which Zimmerman answered, “Yes.” The examiner concluded that Zimmerman “told substantially the complete truth” in the examination, and Zimmerman was classified as “No Deception Indicated (NDI)” according to the report.
During a bond hearing on April 20, 2012, Investigator Dale Gilbreath testified under oath that he did not know whether Zimmerman or Martin started the fight and that there is no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s claim that he was walking back to his vehicle when Martin confronted him. Gilbreath, however, questioned Zimmerman’s statement that Martin was slamming his head against the sidewalk just before he shot the teenager, saying it was “not consistent with the evidence we found.” Gilbreath was one of two investigators who attested to the facts stated in the probable cause affidavit.
Legal analysts have stated that Zimmerman’s credibility could become an issue at trial and that Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense rests on whether the jury can trust him “as a reporter of the facts”. Douglas Keene, a trial consultant and forensic psychologist, stated that in a self-defense case, a jury has to decide “whether or not someone can be trusted to have used good judgment. Credibility is always a paramount issue in any trial,” he said.
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has criticized Special Prosecutor Angela Corey’s handling of the case, said he believes that the video reenactment of the incident would help Zimmerman during a trial if it were submitted as evidence and shown to a jury, but he wasn’t sure that it would be. Without going into detail, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump referred to several alleged inconsistencies between Zimmerman’s written statement and his recorded call to the police dispatcher.
Zimmerman’s first media interview
On July 18, 2012, Zimmerman, accompanied by his attorney Mark O’Mara, gave his first long media interview to Sean Hannity. Part of the interview appeared on Hannity that evening. During the interview he said that he did not regret his actions on the night of the shooting, but he also said, “I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn’t have put me in the position where I had to take his life. I want to tell everyone, my wife, my family, my parents, grandmother, the Martins, the city of Sanford and America: I’m sorry that this happened. I’m truly sorry.”
When Hannity asked Zimmerman why his suspicions were aroused when he noticed Martin, Zimmerman replied in part:
- “I felt he was suspicious because it was raining. He was in-between houses, cutting in-between houses, and he was walking very leisurely for the weather. … It didn’t look like he was a resident that went to check their mail and got caught in the rain and was hurrying back home. He didn’t look like a fitness fanatic that would train in the rain.”
Following the interview with Hannity, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey filed formal notice that she intends to use the interview as evidence against Zimmerman. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman’s story differed in at least two details from previous versions of what he said happened the night he shot Martin. Florida defense lawyers said it was a mistake for Zimmerman to do a TV interview and discuss what happened that night. One of them said, “It’s really baffling what he thought he’d gain from it. I question who’s in charge of the defense strategy, Zimmerman or O’Mara”.
Martin’s parents said they don’t accept Zimmerman’s apology for killing their son. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she doubted that Zimmerman’s apology was sincere. “I have a hard time accepting it because he also said that he doesn’t regret anything that he did that night…” Fulton stated.
Prosecution’s account of events
The prosecution’s account is largely contained in the affidavit of probable cause filed on April 11, 2012, in support of second-degree murder charges against Zimmerman. A conviction of second-degree murder could result in Zimmerman receiving a prison term of 25 years to life. The affidavit states that it does not contain a complete recitation of facts, but presents only the facts to support probable cause for second-degree murder charges. Judge Mark Herr ruled that the affidavit was legally sufficient to establish probable cause. The affidavit describes what investigators allege took place between Zimmerman and Martin on the night of the shooting.
The affidavit states that Martin was walking back from a nearby 7-Eleven store to the townhouse where he was temporarily living when Zimmerman profiled Martin, who was unarmed and not committing a crime. Prosecutors stated that Zimmerman was driving in his vehicle when he observed Martin and assumed he was a criminal. Feeling that Martin did not belong in the gated community where Zimmerman lived, he called the police to request for an officer to respond, because he perceived Martin was acting suspiciously. Investigators said the dispatcher told Zimmerman an officer was on the way and to wait for him. In the call, Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had gotten away with break-ins in the neighborhood, and while talking about Martin, stated “these assholes, they always get away” and also said “these fucking punks”.
According to investigators, while Zimmerman was speaking with police, Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening. She said that Martin was scared because he was being followed by an unknown male and didn’t know why. Investigators said that Martin attempted to run home, but Zimmerman followed him, because he didn’t want Martin whom he falsely assumed was going to commit a crime, to get away before the police arrived. When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and told him an officer would meet him. Prosecutors stated that Zimmerman ignored the dispatcher’s instruction and continued pursuing Martin on foot. Investigators said Zimmerman then confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.
The affidavit describes witness accounts of hearing people arguing, what sounded like a struggle, and yells for help that were recorded in the 9-1-1 calls to police. According to prosecutors, Martin’s mother reviewed the 9-1-1 calls to police and identified the voice crying for help as her son. (See Background sounds of yelling for help in 9-1-1 calls) When police arrived at the scene, Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin in the chest. An assistant medical examiner conducted an autopsy and determined that Martin had died from the gunshot.
Legal analysts have criticized the prosecution for over-charging Zimmerman, claiming that the probable cause affidavit does not support a charge of second-degree murder. Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz claims that the probable cause affidavit may be perjurious if Special Prosecutor Angela Corey knowingly omitted facts favorable to Zimmerman’s self-defense claims.
Richard Kuritz, a former prosecutor who worked with Angela Corey, said the state attorney had no obligation to include exculpatory evidence in the affidavit. He stated that Dershowitz could face civil action for making accusations that Corey committed a crime. “To suggest that she’s committing any crime, Dershowitz is way off on that”, Kuritz said.
Background sounds of yelling for help in 9-1-1 calls
In recordings of the 9-1-1 calls, yells for help are audible in the background. Zimmerman’s family says it was Zimmerman yelling for help, Martin’s family says it was Martin yelling for help, and independent audio analysts offer differing opinions as to who was yelling for help.
In an interview with prosecutors on March 19, Zimmerman’s father identified the yells as George Zimmerman’s, stating, “There is no doubt who is yelling for help. It is absolutely my son.” Other relatives of Zimmerman, including his brother, concur and are equally adamant. During a bond hearing on June 29, the 9-1-1 recording was played in court, and Zimmerman’s father testified that “it was definitely George’s” voice heard yelling for help in the recorded 9-1-1 call.
According to police reports, after listening to audio recordings of the 9-1-1 calls, Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, told police investigators that it was not Trayvon Martin’s voice yelling for help. Martin has since told reporters he was uncertain at that time, but that when he heard an enhanced recording on March 16 he was convinced it was his son yelling for help. Investigators interviewed Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who reviewed the 9-1-1 calls to police and identified the voice crying for help as her son. Investigators also interviewed Martin’s cousin who stated that without a doubt “on a stack of bibles” it was Martin yelling for help on the 9-1-1 tape.
During the FBI investigation, Witness 45, a neighbor of Zimmerman’s, stated he was 110% sure the voice calling for help was Zimmerman’s.
Independent audio experts vary in their interpretations of the low-quality audio of the phone recordings, which one expert compared to analyzing low-resolution video from a security camera. The FBI was not able to determine whether it was Zimmerman or Martin who could be heard yelling out for help in 9-1-1 calls, citing both poor audio quality and “the extreme emotional state of the person screaming.” Two expert audio technicians, listed as possible witnesses for the prosecution, analyzed the emergency calls made during the altercation. One analyst reported that he believed some of the cries came from Martin. The other analyst said the quality of the recordings was insufficient for good analysis, but said some cries were likely from Martin and some likely from Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s attorneys had requested a Frye hearing regarding the admissibility of the testimony of the audio analysts, to determine if the methods used by them are generally accepted by the scientific community. At the time of the hearing, Florida used the Frye standard, but during the course of the case, Florida switched to the Daubert standard, effective July 1, 2013. The Daubert standard is generally considered more stringent, and requires more scrutiny before admission of expert testimony.
On June 22, Judge Nelson ruled that the prosecution’s audio experts won’t be allowed to testify at Zimmerman’s trial. The judge said in her ruling that, “There is no evidence to establish that their scientific techniques have been tested and found reliable.” Her ruling didn’t prevent the 9-1-1 calls from being played at trial.
Martin family response
Supporters of Trayvon Martin rally in Union Square during a “Million Hoodie March” in Manhattan on March 21. Martin’s parents addressed the crowd.
Tracy Martin was skeptical of the account of his son’s death told to him by Sanford police investigators and believed Zimmerman didn’t act in self-defense. Two days after the shooting, he was referred to civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who was retained to pursue legal action and to persuade the news media to cover the case. Attorney Natalie Jackson and publicist Ryan Julison, both of Orlando, also joined the Martin team. Due to their efforts, the case started to receive national attention on March 7. On March 9, Crump announced he was suing to have 911 calls from the night of the shooting made public. They were released by the Sanford mayor on March 16. As attention to the case grew, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton gave media interviews and appeared at some of the protests being held which called for Zimmerman’s arrest. On June 28, 2013, Alicia Stanley, Trayvon Martin’s step-mother, stated that she did not believe Zimmerman targeted Trayvon because he was black.
Zimmerman and family
While the shooting was being investigated, Zimmerman, his wife, and his parents went into hiding due to threats they were receiving as the case gained more attention. Zimmerman left his job and his school expelled him, citing safety concerns. Due to security concerns, Zimmerman’s first lawyers had not been able to meet with him in person.
On April 9, Zimmerman placed a self-created web site on the internet, which included some brief statements, but no information about the shooting, since he had been advised by legal counsel not to discuss it. He also solicited donations for living expenses and legal defense costs.
After taking over as Zimmerman’s defense counsel on April 11, Mark O’Mara took down Zimmerman’s self-created web site and replaced it with a professional information site. He arranged for a second web site to be set up to collect donations overseen by an independent third party. Following Zimmerman’s April 20 bond hearing, he and his wife were accused by prosecutors of not disclosing the funds raised through the original web site; as a result of these allegations, Zimmerman’s original bail was revoked. He was subsequently released again with a higher bail amount. Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie Zimmerman, was charged with perjury in June 2012; the charge still stands.
George Zimmerman’s defense team had set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a website with a defense fund registered with the Florida Division of Consumer Services. After three months, the Facebook page was shut down by O’Mara, because he said it was leading to unhelpful discussions.
In July 2012, Zimmerman returned his original web site to the internet, and his parents also created their own web site. Both sites discuss how the case has changed the Zimmermans’ lives and seek donations for living expenses.
On January 30, 2013, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, asked on Zimmerman’s defense fund website for the public to donate more money. O’Mara stated that Zimmerman’s legal defense could cost up to $1 million.
Main article: State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman
On April 11, 2012, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in Martin’s death. In Florida, a conviction for second degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If a firearm was used then the mandatory minimum is 25 years in state prison. Zimmerman’s attorney waived Zimmerman’s right to appear at an arraignment and entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. Zimmerman is currently out on a $1 million bond with several conditions – that he be electronically monitored, reside in Seminole County, have no bank accounts or passport and observe a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The judge said he granted bond “because Zimmerman posed no threat to the community”.
A jury of six women was chosen on June 20, to hear the case. Five of the six are white. In addition, four alternates, two women and two men, all white, were also chosen. The jury will be anonymous, where the identity of the jury will be revealed to the prosecution and defense, but not released to the public or media. During jury selection, the judge announced that the jury would be sequestered during the trial.
The trial began on June 24, 2013.
An undated personal photo of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie was displayed by protesters and sold by merchants on hoodies, T-shirts and keychains, prompting the family to trademark slogans using his name.
After the shooting, Zimmerman was criticized by the Martin family and in the media for following Martin and for carrying a weapon. Sanford police chief Bill Lee stated that neighborhood watch volunteers are not encouraged to carry a gun but have a Constitutional right to do so. Lee further stated, “Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred.” Sanford Police volunteer program coordinator Wendy Dorival, told The Miami Herald that she met Zimmerman in September 2011, at a community neighborhood watch presentation. “I said, ‘If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out,’ ‘Observe from a safe location.’ Dorival said.”
Protests were staged around the U.S. prior to Zimmerman’s April 11 indictment on murder charges. Over 2.2 million signatures were collected on a Change.org petition, created by Martin’s mother, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. It was the website’s largest petition ever.
Since Martin was killed while wearing a hoodie, hoodies were used as a sign of protest, and many cities staged “million hoodie marches” or “hundred hoodie marches”. Additionally, some professional athletes, including Carmelo Anthony and the entire Miami Heat roster, tweeted photos of themselves wearing hoodies.
Bags of Skittles candy and cans of Arizona Iced Tea were also used as protest symbols. Martin was reported to be returning from a 7-Eleven convenience store with these items when he was shot, although the beverage he purchased was actually an Arizona brand fruit drink.
Walkouts were staged by students at over a dozen Florida high schools, and thousands of people attended rallies around the country to demand Zimmerman’s arrest. Members of the Occupy movement marched in solidarity during the “Million Hoodie March”.
A number of high-profile citizens made public comments or released statements calling for a full investigation, including Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and President Barack Obama.
Speaking on the day of Zimmerman’s arrest, Al Sharpton said, “Forty-five days ago, Trayvon Martin was murdered. No arrest was made. The Chief of Police in Sanford announced after his review of the evidence there would be no arrest. An outcry from all over this country came because his parents refused to leave it there.” Jesse Jackson also referred to Martin as “murdered and martyred”. And U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (Dem.), who represents Martin’s hometown of Miami, used the word “murdered” when she referred to Martin’s fatal shooting.
Herman Cain objected to what he called “swirling rhetoric” and “a war of words”, and former NAACP leader C.L. Bryant singled out Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for being “race hustlers” who were exploiting Martin’s death “to inflame racial passions”. Bryant also criticized President Barack Obama for his “nebulous” comment, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”  Former education secretary William Bennett criticized what he called a “mob mentality,” saying that “…the tendency in the first days by some, including Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and an angry chorus of followers, was to rush to judgment with little regard for fairness, due process, or respect for the terrible death of a young man.”
Senior Fellow Shelby Steele at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution said that the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death was being exploited by a generation of “ambulance-chasing” black leaders who have promoted “our historical victimization as the central theme of our group identity”.
President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters on March 23 after federal investigators were deployed to Sanford, said, “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this… If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
According to Zimmerman’s father, George Zimmerman received death threats after the shooting and was forced to move out of his home. The New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 reward for the “capture” of George Zimmerman; this was condemned by the city of Sanford.
In parts of the U.S., various acts of vandalism, assaults, and crimes have been connected in part to alleged revenge for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
Film director Spike Lee retweeted to his 200,000 Twitter followers an erroneous Sanford, Florida, address, purported to be Zimmerman’s, which forced a family out of their home to avoid harassment after they received hate mail and unwanted visits from reporters. Lee was criticized for his retweet and he later issued an apology for having tweeted the wrong address.
Professor Alan Dershowitz criticized the probable cause affidavit against Zimmerman as “so thin that it won’t make it past the judge,” calling it “irresponsible and unethical,” and opined that the charges were motivated by prosecutor Corey’s desire to be re-elected. The deadline for qualifying to run against Corey was 9 days after she filed charges, and no one stepped forward to challenge her, so she won re-election. In June, Dershowitz said that Corey had contacted the dean of Harvard Law School about his remarks, threatening to sue Dershowitz for libel and slander, and the school too, and saying she wanted him to be disciplined by the American Bar Association. Dershowitz said the dean defended his remarks under academic freedom, and he commented that “[e]ven if Angela Corey’s actions were debatable, which I believe they were not, I certainly have the right, as a professor who has taught and practiced criminal law nearly 50 years, to express a contrary view.” CNN legal analyst Mark NeJame expressed concern over Corey’s threats and questioned if the prosecution of Zimmerman was for political reasons.
Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote “…what’s often overlooked in all the heated conversations about this tragedy is the actual timeline based on police documents.” and “[The timeline] indicates that the victim as well as the accused made some terrible choices that night…and it tells us to keep our minds open and our tempers in check, at least until some of [the] gaps get filled at Zimmerman’s trial.”
Fox News Channel host Geraldo Rivera claimed that Martin’s “gangsta style clothing” was “as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was”. Rivera was quoted saying, “I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies.”  Faced with outrage over his statements, Rivera apologized, saying that he had “obscured the main point that someone shot and killed an unarmed teenager”. When a 7-Eleven surveillance video showing Martin making a purchase on the night of the shooting was released two months later, however, Rivera referred to the clothes he had been wearing as “thug wear”. His comments were criticized by the Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, who compared them to people blaming rape victims for wearing short skirts.
Bill O’Reilly of Fox News called for restraint and urged other pundits to stop trying the case in the media. He said that the case is a “tragedy” but should not be tried in the media.
After Zimmerman’s bond was revoked for misrepresenting how much money he had when his bond was set, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said he expected the prosecution to bring Zimmerman’s credibility “front and center in this entire case”. Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara stated that it was a “mistake” that had “undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair”.
Alleged race issues
Allegations against Zimmerman
Chicago protestors on March 28.
Zimmerman was accused of being motivated by racism and of having racially profiled Martin. During early media coverage of the incident, Zimmerman’s call to the police dispatcher was edited by NBC, shortened such that it appeared that Zimmerman had volunteered Martin’s race. The unedited audio recording proved that the police dispatcher specifically asked about Martin’s race, and only then did Zimmerman reveal that Martin was black. NBC apologized for the misleading edit and disciplined those involved.
Defense of Zimmerman’s character
In an open letter on March 15, 2012, Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, defended his son against allegations that his actions were racially motivated, stating that Zimmerman was Hispanic, was raised in a multiracial family, and “would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever,” saying that the portrayal of his son as a racist “could not be further from the truth.” According to his family, some of Zimmerman’s relatives are black. Zimmerman’s former lawyer Craig Sonner stated that Zimmerman is not a racist, and that he had mentored black youths in the past. Joe Oliver, a former television news reporter who is acquainted with Zimmerman, noted “I’m a black male and all that I know is that George has never given me any reason whatsoever to believe he has anything against people of color.”
In early April, an anonymous letter to the NAACP, which was signed “A Concerned Zimmerman Family Member,” said Zimmerman had been one of the few to take any action to protest the 2010 beating of Sherman Ware, a black homeless man, by the son of a Sanford police officer. Zimmerman reportedly distributed fliers in the black community trying to get others involved too, and helped organize a January 8, 2011, Sanford City Hall community forum to protest the incident. Zimmerman’s father confirmed his son’s efforts on Ware’s behalf.
In May, the Miami Herald secured an audiotape of the January 8, 2011, Sanford City Hall community forum. On the audiotape, Zimmerman was heard criticizing the conduct of the Sanford Police Department in the Ware case. Zimmerman criticized former chief, Brian Tooley, and said Tooley had engaged in a “cover-up” and that he should lose his pension. He also said he’d been on ride-alongs with Sanford police where he found them to be lazy. The Herald also reported that it had contacted five out of six black churches where Zimmerman was reported to have distributed fliers on the Ware beating, however no one recalled receiving them.
On July 12, interviews conducted by the FBI were publicly released. The Sanford Police Department’s lead investigator, Chris Serino, told FBI agents that he believed Zimmerman’s actions were not based on Martin’s race, but instead on Martin’s attire, the circumstances of the encounter, and previous burglaries in the neighborhood. Zimmerman’s neighbors and co-workers were interviewed as well. Neighbors who knew Zimmerman had nothing derogatory to say about him, and his co-workers were complimentary of him.
Allegations against Martin
During the trial of Zimmerman, state’s witness #8, Rachel Jeantel, testified that Martin had described Zimmerman as a “creepy ass cracker” just prior to the shooting. 
Jeantel further testified that she thought race was an issue because Martin told her he was being followed by a white man. Jeantel stated her belief that “creepy ass cracker” was neither racial nor offensive. She testified that people in “her culture” call white people crackers, though she couldn’t recall if Martin would call white people crackers 
Allegations against the Sanford police
For not arresting Zimmerman, the Sanford police faced heavy criticism, protests, and allegations of racial bias. The NAACP wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder expressing “no confidence that, absent federal oversight, the Sanford Police Department will devote the necessary degree of care to its investigation” and requesting that personnel be detailed to Sanford to review the case without bias. Lee repeatedly defended the investigation, stating that the Sanford police did not feel they had conducted a racially biased investigation and welcomed a review of their efforts.
Allegations were also made that the Sanford police were protecting Zimmerman. Lee told reporters that they could not arrest Zimmerman because no evidence contradicted his story, and that to do so would leave the police open to litigation. In regards to the 9-1-1 dispatcher telling Zimmerman that “We don’t need you to [follow him],” Lee said “That is a call taker making a recommendation to him. He’s not under a legal obligation to do that, so that is not something we can charge him with.”
On March 21, 2012, three out of the five members of the Sanford City Commission, including the mayor, passed a motion of no confidence in regards to the Police Chief Bill Lee, and his handling of the case; however, the vote was advisory only. The following day, Lee announced that he had temporarily stepped down from his position as chief of police, stating “my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process.” Lee further stated, “I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to a city which has been in turmoil for several weeks.” On April 23, 2012, the city of Sanford announced that Police Chief Bill Lee would resign but city commissioners voted to reject the resignation. Some commissioners had concerns about the fairness of Lee losing his job and the mayor stated he preferred to wait for the results of an investigation. Lee was to remain on paid leave.
In an interview with CNN, following his testimony at Zimmerman’s trial, Bill Lee said that he felt pressure from city officials to arrest Zimmerman to placate the public rather than as a matter of justice.Lee said, “It was relayed to me that they just wanted an arrest. They didn’t care if it got dismissed later.” Lee further stated in the interview that the Sanford Police conducted a “sound” investigation, and the evidence provided no probable cause to arrest Zimmerman at the scene.Lee said that the police needed to do a job, and there was some outside, and inside influence, that “forced a change in the course of the normal criminal justice process.” The former police chief said the investigation was taken away from us and “we weren’t able to complete it.” Lee also said that his lead investigator made a recommendation that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter, as a matter of protocol. The Sanford police presented a “capias request” to the state’s attorney, asking that they determine whether it was a “justifiable homicide.”
“Stand your ground” laws
Self-defense laws in the United States, particularly regarding justifiable homicide, vary by state. Florida law, as of 2005, includes a “stand your ground” provision, under which a person, who reasonably fears death or great bodily harm (the ordinary deadly self-defense requirement) is relieved of the common-law requirement that one first attempt to retreat, if one can safely do so, before using deadly force. In almost all states, such laws exempt people in their own homes; Florida’s version extends the no-retreat doctrine to vehicles and public places. In at least 17 states, including Florida, there is no duty to retreat before using force. After the shooting, media reports had indicated that Zimmerman would most likely use the “Stand Your Ground” provision in Florida’s self-defense law. According to Durell Peaden, one of the sponsors of the Florida law, the law does not say that a person has a right to confront another. “When [Zimmerman] said ‘I’m following him’, he lost his defense.” However, the same Mar 20, 2012, article goes on to state, “Peaden and Baxley said they didn’t know all the facts of the case, so their interpretations of what happened could change if new information arises during the investigation.”
According to David Kopel, if Martin first attacked Zimmerman, the claim of self-defense by Zimmerman would be valid under the usual self-defense laws that didn’t include the “Stand your ground” law. On the other hand, if Zimmerman stalked and attacked Martin, the “Stand your ground” law would not protect Zimmerman from prosecution. In either case, the Florida “Stand your ground” law would be irrelevant.
However, the “Stand Your Ground” law grants Zimmerman the right to a pretrial hearing where a judge could find Zimmerman immune from prosecution and dismiss the charges without going to trial. The defense would need to show through a preponderance of the evidence, i.e. show with more than 50% certainty, that Zimmerman thought he would be killed or seriously injured. The trial began without Zimmerman asking for such a hearing.
Three weeks after the shooting, Florida authorities announced they had picked 19 people to head up a task force to review the Florida statute that deals with justifiable use of force, including the stand your ground provision. After six months of work, the result was that the task force did not recommend significant changes to the law.
On January 16, 2013, Trayvon Martin’s mother and Democratic lawmakers in Florida called for the repeal of the state’s “stand your ground” law.
Trayvon’s father Tracy Martin, family attorney Benjamin Crump and mother Sybrina Fulton, at the ‘Million Hoodies’ protest in Union Square, New York
For the first 10 days after Martin’s death, the story was covered by only the Florida media. In order to bring more attention to the case, Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson sought the assistance of publicist Ryan Julison on March 5.
On March 7, 2012, Reuters covered the story, and the following day, CBS News, acting on a tip it received from the network’s local bureau in Atlanta, Georgia, obtained an exclusive interview with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton that was broadcast on CBS This Morning.
Also on March 8, The Huffington Post, The Young Turks, and TheGrio.com, which is affiliated with NBC News, started to cover the case. On March 9, 2012, ABC World News featured the story on their nightly broadcast. CNN first reported on the case on March 12, 2012, and by the end of that week, radio hosts and bloggers were also reporting on the story. National coverage started to increase the week of March 12 and intensified after March 16, when tapes of 9-1-1 calls were released to the public. Having the 9-1-1 calls, which the police had previously declined to release, gave radio and TV reporters more material to report on.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported that media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case became the first story in 2012 to be featured more than the presidential race. According to the Project, the varying types of media have focused on the case in different ways. An article in the Tampa Bay Times wrote that, “on Twitter, people are outraged at Zimmerman and want justice, while on cable news and talk radio people are discussing the state’s laws for self-defense and gun control and on blogs the focus has been on race.”
Fox News newsmagazine host Geraldo Rivera, a former NBC employee, asserted that MSNBC “made an ideological decision that… they would argue strenuously for the prosecution of George Zimmerman and the ultimate conviction of George Zimmerman… [T]hey are cheerleading for the conviction of George Zimmerman.”
Aspects of coverage
Media portrayal of Martin and Zimmerman
The Associated Press noted that initially the most widely used media photo of Martin was several years old and showed him as a “baby-faced boy,” rather than as a 17-year-old young man. To represent Zimmerman, the media chose a shot of a beefy 21-year-old Zimmerman taken seven years prior to the shooting, whereas recent photos show him as slim-faced and more mature. The two outdated photos chosen by the media may have helped shape the initial public perception of the shooting. The AP quoted academic Kenny Irby on the expected effect, “When you have such a lopsided visual comparison, it just stands to reason that people would rush to judgment,” and another academic, Betsi Grabe, as saying that journalists will present stories as a struggle between good and evil “[i]f the ingredients are there.”
With the release of witness testimony and the details of the altercation prior to Martin’s death, various media had advanced the primary source testimony with speculation surrounding the events which further drove public outcry. Martin and Zimmerman’s height and weight were the subject of contention in the media and blogs and used to assert speculation. Some of these speculations fueled outrage and controversy on both sides; combining scant or misleading information with speculation. Contributing to the controversy was an image of a different person also named Trayvon Martin in a “gangsta” pose; the error discovered much later.
Reporting on Zimmerman’s call to police
Economist and commentator Thomas Sowell criticized the national media for implying that Zimmerman had continued to follow Martin after the police dispatcher said, “We don’t need you to do that.” He said that they mostly left out Zimmerman’s answer, “O.K.” because “too many people in the media see their role as filtering and slanting the news.”
After the audio of the call was released, reports by CNN and other news outlets alleged that Zimmerman had said “fucking coons” two minutes and twenty-one seconds (2:21) into the call. Two weeks later on April 4, 2012, CNN claimed that enhanced audio revealed that Zimmerman had said “fucking cold.” The following day, April 5, 2012, CNN’s Martin Savidge reported that forensic audio expert Tom Owen claimed it was “fucking punks.” It is said to be “fucking punks” in the affidavit of probable cause, dated April 11, 2012. Other reviewers of the call have offered alternate interpretations of what was said, some labeling it “unintelligible.” According to the Associated Press, the alleged racial slur “fed growing outrage over the police department’s initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman.”
Misleading audio editing by NBC
Between March 19 and 27, 2012, the NBC Nightly News, NBC’s Today show, and NBC’s network-owned Miami affiliate WTVJ NBC6 ran segments which misleadingly merged parts of Zimmerman’s call. On one version of the recording played by NBC, Zimmerman was heard saying, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something… He’s got his hand in his waistband, and he’s a black male.” In another what was played was, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” In the original 9-1-1 recording, Zimmerman said: “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.” The 9-1-1 operator then asked: “OK, and this guy, is he black, white or Hispanic?”, and Zimmerman answered, “He looks black.” The phrase, “He’s got his hand in his waistband, and he’s a black male” came several exchanges after that point in the conversation.
Erik Wemple of the Washington Post wrote that NBC’s alterations “would more readily paint Zimmerman as a racial profiler. In reality… Zimmerman simply answered a question… Nothing prejudicial at all in responding to such an inquiry… To portray that exchange in a way that wrongs Zimmerman is high editorial malpractice…”
NBC issued an apology for “an error made in the production process that we deeply regret,” but never apologized on the air. The network said that the Today show and Miami edits took place in two separate incidents involving different people. A Miami-based NBC News producer lost her job, WTVJ reporter Jeff Burnside was fired, and two other employees were disciplined. Lilia Luciano, who was the reporter on broadcasts containing both edited versions of the audio, was also fired, and her aired reports on the Trayvon Martin story, along with the misleading audio, were removed from the Today website.
On December 6, 2012, Zimmerman filed a defamation lawsuit against NBC alleging that they intentionally edited the phone call so that Zimmerman would sound racist. The lawsuit said, “NBC saw the death of Trayvon Martin not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.” A NBC spokeswoman said the network strongly disagreed with the accusations that Zimmerman made in the complaint, stating; “There was no intent to portray Mr. Zimmerman unfairly and we intend to vigorously defend our position in court.”
Surveillance video mistake
ABC News obtained a surveillance video of Zimmerman walking unassisted into the Sanford police station after the shooting. An officer is seen pausing to look at the back of Zimmerman’s head, but ABC originally said that no abrasions or blood can be seen in the video. The Daily Caller disputed this claim, and posted a still from the ABC video which showed the injury on the back of Zimmerman’s head. ABC later reported that it had “re-digitized” the video, and said that this version showed “what appear to be a pair of gashes or welts on George Zimmerman’s head,” but the story’s main focus was on a doctor who claimed it was unlikely that Zimmerman’s nose had been broken.
- ^ a b Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is a Hispanic from Peru. George Zimmerman’s ancestry includes an Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather.
- ^ a b The initial police report from the night of the shooting lists Martin’s height as 6’0″ (1.83 m) and weight as 160 lb (73 kg). Zimmerman estimated Martin’s height at 5’11″ to 6’2″ on the night of the shooting. The morning after the shooting, an autopsy found that Martin’s body was 5’11″ (1.80 m) long and weighed 158 lb (72 kg). Other values for Martin’s height of 6’2″ (1.88 m) and 6’3″ (1.91 m), and weight of no more than 150 lb (68 kg), were reported as being given by Martin’s family.
- ^ Zimmerman’s weight was shown as 185 pounds (84 kg) on his Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Booking Information on April 11, 2012, the date of his arrest.
- ^ Some reports in the media incorrectly gave the time as 7:11.
- ^ See The New York Times article The Events Leading to the Shooting of Trayvon Martin for seven aerial views which include depictions of The Retreat at Twin Lakes; the home where Trayvon was staying; the site of the shooting; Zimmerman’s home; the site of the 7-11; and other sites of interest.
- ^ The autopsy report can be found at “Trayvon Martin Autopsy Report: Killed By Bullet Fired At Intermediate Range”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
- ^ An Orlando Sentinel source reported in May 2012 that Zimmerman told investigators that Martin “was circling” his vehicle at one point, but news stories after Zimmerman’s statements to police were released reported that he said Martin “circled” his vehicle.
- ^ Some referenced information is from the embedded video of Robert Zimmerman’s interview,
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- ^ “Zimmerman testimony focuses on letter given to Trayvon Martin’s mom”. NBC News. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
- ^ “Rachel Jeantel faces 2nd day of questioning in George Zimmerman trial”. Click Orlando. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
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- ^ a b c Elliott C. McLaughlin (11 July 13). “Ex-Sanford police chief: Zimmerman probe ‘taken away from us’”. CNN. Retrieved 11 July 13.
- ^ a b The 2011 Florida Statutes, Title XLVI Crimes, Chapter 776 Justifiable use of force, posted at Official Internet Site of the Florida State Legislature.
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- ^ David Kopel, “Florida’s Self-Defense Laws”, Volokh Conspiracy, March 27, 2012. “The particular legal changes resulting from Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ and ‘Castle Doctrine’ laws (deadly force in the home/automobile; no duty to retreat in public places; Fourth Amendment arrest standard affirmation; protection from civil suits) simply have nothing to do with whether Zimmerman’s actions were or were not lawful.”
- ^ Opinion Staff (Aug 9, 2012). “Will George Zimmerman win his “stand your ground” hearing?”. The Palm Beach Post (Cox Media Group). Retrieved November 17, 2012.
- ^ Nelson, Laura J. (Aug 9, 2012). “George Zimmerman to seek ‘stand your ground’ self-defense hearing”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
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- ^ “George Zimmerman Stand Your Ground Law in Tact: No Reform in Florida Law After Trayvon Martin Shooting”. Lawyer Herald. November 14, 2012. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- ^ 9:30 am (November 14, 2012). “‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Gets A Pass From State Task Force”. WLRN. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
- ^ Olorunnipa, Toluse (November 13, 2012). “Stand Your Ground task force has little to show for six months of work”. miamiherald.com. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
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- ^ Strassman, Mark (March 8, 2012). “Parents seek justice for unarmed son’s killing”. CBS News. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
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- ^ Uygur, Cenk (March 8, 2012). “Trayvon Martin Shot, Killed By Neighborhood Watch”. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
- ^ Rosenbaum, Matthew (March 9, 2012). “Florida Family Seeks Justice After Unarmed Teen Shot By Neighborhood Watch Captain”. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
- ^ Kuo, Vivian (March 12, 2012). “Florida teen’s shooting by watchman questioned”. CNN. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
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- ^ Deggans, Eric. “Update: Trayvon Martin story now more covered than presidential race”. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
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- ^ “Misconceptions in the Trayvon Martin Case”. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
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- ^ “CNN’s Martin Savidge reports on forensic analysis of 911 tape”. CNN. April 6, 2012.
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- ^ Coates, Ta-Nehisi (March 22, 2012). “Did George Zimmerman Use A Racial Slur?”. The Atlantic.
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- ^ “NBC6 Zimmerman Edit Explanation | NBC 6 Miami”. Nbcmiami.com. 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
- ^ a b Sheffield, Matthew. “NBC News President: Network Should ‘Probably’ Apologize On-Air for Repeatedly Running Fake Zimmerman Clip”. Newsbusters.org. Retrieved April 23, 2012.
- ^ “Lilia Luciano report on Trayvon Martin, Mar 20″. NBC Today Show. Youtube.com. March 20, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- ^ “Lilia Luciano report on Trayvon Martin, Mar 22″. NBC Today Show. Youtube. March 22, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- ^ “NBC issues apology for edited Zimmerman 911 call”. Fox News. April 3, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
- ^ Carr, David (April 22, 2012). “TV News Corrects Itself, Just Not on the Air”. The New York Times.
- ^ “NBC Station Fires Reporter For Making Similar Edit in George Zimmerman 911 Call – TVSpy”. Mediabistro.com. 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
- ^ Robles, Frances (25 April 201). “NBC6 fires local reporter Jeff Burnside in editing of Zimmerman police call”. Miami Herald.
- ^ Stelter, Brian (April 6, 2012). “NBC Fires Producer of Misleading Zimmerman Tape”. The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2012.
- ^ “Today Show Luciano Report transcript, Mar 20, 2012, 0700 EST”. LexisNexis. NBC Company. March 20, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- ^ Ariens, Chris. “Another Misleading Edit Costs Another NBC News Employee Her Job”. TVNewser.com. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
- ^ Mirkinson, Jack (May 3, 2012). “Lilia Luciano Fired By NBC News Over Botched George Zimmerman Edit”. The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
- ^ “George Zimmerman sues NBC over edited 911 call”. Fox News Latino. Associated Press. December 6, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- ^ Martinez, Michael. “George Zimmerman sues NBC Universal over edited 911 call”. CNN.com (Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.). Retrieved December 7, 2012.
- ^ “George Zimmerman sues NBC and reporters”. USA Today. Retrieved February 4, 2013.
- ^ a b Gutman, Matt (March 28, 2012). “Trayvon Martin Video Shows No Blood or Bruises on George Zimmerman”. ABC News. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
- ^ “Police surveillance video of Zimmerman may show head injury”, The Daily Caller, March 29, 2012
- ^ Matt Gutman (April 2, 2012). “George Zimmerman Video Shows Little Evidence of a Broken Nose, Doctor Claims”. Good Morning America. ABC News.
- ^ “Trayvon Martin: ABC enhances George Zimmerman video”, Orlando Sentinel, April 2, 2012
- Zimmerman Defense websites:
- Other George Zimmerman legal websites:
- Collected news and commentary
- Walk throughs and graphics of events leading up to the shooting:
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