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Mar 30 2012

An eye witness steps foward in the Trayvon Martin case


Video of George Zimmerman being brought into the Sanford police station after shooting on 26 Feb 2012

I’ve held off on writing about the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin last month in Florida. There just wasn’t enough info at first and it was being blogged coast to coast elsewhere. But it’s started to fill in a bit and maybe some speculation on what could have happened is in order. First the eyewitness:

(CNN) — The witness recounted seeing two men on the grass, one on top of the other. “And at that point, not looking out the window, I heard the yell for help, one yell for help, and then I heard another … excruciating type of yell. It didn’t almost sound like ‘help.’ It just sounded so painful. But I wasn’t watching out the window during that. And then the next time I looked out the window, there’s the same thing: two men on the grass, one on top of each other.

We may never know what happened here. But we can guess, construct scenarios and judge them. My guess would be each of these guys inadvertently reinforced the worst fears of the other, fears stoked by popular media portraying urban myth and real world events in a confusing mix.

Zimmerman is worried about burglars, the neighborhood had apparently been hit several times. He sees a young man black man wandering around. Thanks to Zimmerman’s preconceptions, in large part fueled by media accounts, Martin is the right race, the right age, and behaving the right way to fire up his worst fears.

Martin is walking around talking to his girlfriend, probably bored like kids are at that age, and he sees an unknown grown-up paying very close attention to him. Zimmerman is the right sex, the right age, and behaving exactly the right way to fire up Martin’s worst fears, thanks to endless warnings about strangers and shows about child predators, that he’s being stalked by a perv.

Critical move; Zimmerman approaches Martin and makes social contact. Words are exchanged, neither party feels obligated to explain themselves to the other, far from it, each reinforces the false assumptions of the other, each becomes quickly convinced the other is up to no good. Someone pushes the other, a scuffle ensues. Zimmerman perhaps fearing for his life, pulls his gun. Martin, now fearing for his, grabs for it. Bang.

That’s one possibility, I have no way to know if that happened or not. But it makes sense. It’s plausible and it’s consistent with what has been reported. Decide for yourself if you think a scenario like that holds water, or if it would be a crime if something like that did happen. On the latter, I honestly don’t know.

19 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    That’s about what my guess is, although the pedophile angle hadn’t occurred to me. (I’m not sure 17 year old boys are all that worried about that aspect, but maybe I’m wrong.) And if so, that’s at minimum manslaughter, or at least ought to be in any sane part of the world.

  2. 2
    echidna

    Quite possible. That’s why neighbourhood watch people are unarmed, and don’t pursue people. It’s why people shoot their own children moving around the house at night. People make unwarranted assumptions all the time. But it was Zimmerman who made racial assumptions and created the lethal situation.

  3. 3
    Raging Bee

    Zimmerman is worried about burglars, the neighborhood had apparently been hit several times.

    If that’s really all Zimmerman was worried about, then no force or physical confrontation of any sort was warranted, let alone lethal force. Just show the potential burglar that you notice he’s there, and he’s less likely to try anything. The fact that Zimmerman went MUCH further than mere burglary would demand, shows there’s something else at work here. Like, oh I dunno, totally irrational insecurity and racism, probably stoked by YEARS of right-wing fearmongering by the NRA, PoG, libertarian anarchists, the Tea Party, and other interest groups that rely on fear and hate to keep people from realizing they have nothing else to offer.

  4. 4
    den1s

    Ya, Zimmerman was a self appointed neighborhood watchman; he was NOT registered with the national organization according to what I had first heard. Neighborhood watch people don’t carry any weapons, specially guns. Does Zimmerman have a carry permit or carry concealed permit? He was carrying that gun in case he figured he had to use it, and had already decided he would if confronted by anyone. And he did. The cops told him not to follow the kid, but did so anyway. He wasn’t afraid, he had a gun. This is clearly murder.

  5. 5
    Stacy

    Zimmerman was told not to follow Martin. He followed him anyway.

    Zimmerman was armed. Why should he have “feared for his life”? Why should he have gotten close enough to Martin for a scuffle to occur in the first place?

    This was a crime.

  6. 6
    unbound

    I agree with Raging Bee. When you have a strong concern you call the police (which Zimmerman did) and then monitor the situation. Perfectly fine to be noticed that you are watching, but no need to push any farther. Self-defense, as I was taught very clearly with martial arts training (I have a black belt), means that only respond to a bad situation, you never initiate the situation since (in my state at least) you will be the one charged with the misconduct or assault depending how far it escalates.

    About 1 1/2 years ago while working on a community fundraiser, we had teenagers at a few corners holding up signs and playing instruments to advertise the fundraiser. At one location we had 4 teenage girls and a white van (creeper van as my daughter calls them) pulled up and started acting inappropriately with the girls. I was in the process of swapping out groups when I arrived to find the girls went inside the nearest store to avoid the van. I went outside, leaned against my car staring very hard at the person in the van (who had parked near the store at that point) and a friend of his who had pulled up and parked his truck nearby and was “fixing” his engine. After about 2 minutes, they noticed I was there staring at them and wasn’t about to move. They got in their vehicles and left. If they hadn’t moved on, I would have called the police and continued to glare. I’m a trained martial artist, but there was no need for me to walk up to them to start anything. If I had walked over to them to start something, I certainly couldn’t claim self-defense since I would have been responsible for creating the situation even though the man in the “creeper” van was behaving questionably.

    Sorry, but I still haven’t read anything that tells me Zimmerman may be innocent in this. The key point (Zimmerman calling the police, being told to not engage / follow Trayvon, but doing it anyways) remains the primary reason, for me, that Zimmerman needs to be considered the problem. Until that key point is shown to be false, I’m not sure how Zimmerman can be viewed as being anything other than the aggressor.

  7. 7
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    In college a kid I know got hammered one night, he was so drunk that he tried to open what he thought was the door to his apartment, except it wasn’t his place. Then he went to what he thought was his window and tried to get in that way. Wrong window, he was on the wrong floor if I remember right. The lady inside was armed, she was a full on rightwing gun nut (She had even supposedly bragged that she WANTED to shoot someone someday with her many guns), an investigation later showed she even called the police as he was coming in the window, then she shot him from two feet away in the head and he died instantly halfway through the window slumped on the sill.

    Was that a crime? No, she was legally armed, and she was not legally obligated to warn him before she fired in that case. Now before anyone tries to pick this apart and explain how this isn’t what happened in Floprida, the point is, if Zimmerman was legally armed, was not legally obligated to warn Martin, and was legally permitted to fire in the event of any physical conflict whatsoever, it was probably legal to shoot. That sucks, but that’s what happens with terrible laws designed to pander to wingnut gun maniacs.

    Zimmerman wasn’t part a registered watch? Doesn’t matter, the way the laws are written he didn’t need to be, he could have been a lone citizens patroling any street in Florida for kicks. Zimmerman was told by the 9-11 op not to pursue? Doesn’t matter, he was permitted under the law to pursue his brains out if he felt like it. Zimmerman was racist? Doesn’t matter, it’s legal to be racist. He can go on Facebook and call every one he sees any racial name he wants all day without breaking the law. We may disagree with that, but that doesn’t make it illegal.

    We want there to be a crime when a totally innocent person is hurt or killed. That’s understandable, and maybe there is a crime here. But thanks to the way the law now exists there may not be, it may simply be a terrible, horrible, tragedy thanks to fucked up laws, political pandering to the gun lobby, and fear being pumped into everyone 24/7.

  8. 8
    unbound

    Stephen – I understand what you are saying. But, again, I have to point out the full context of the situation. Trayvon did not confront or interact with Zimmerman in any way until Zimmerman initiated the situation.

    Sorry, but that makes all the difference in the world.

  9. 9
    jamessweet

    I think that, because Zimmerman was pursuing Trayvon, at minimum this has to be manslaughter. I’m in a work meeting right now, so I won’t be able to expand on my rationale. But I just don’t see any way this is not at least manslaughter. Even if Zimmerman didn’t start the fight, he picked it by tailing Trayvon.

  10. 10
    Who Knows?

    To add to what unbound said Stephen, the situation you described is so unlike the situation in Sanford FL that it is completely irrelevant.

    There is a long history of people having the right to protect themselves in their homes. These Stand Your Ground laws are something new.

    Also, someone crawling through your window is completely different from someone walking down the street with a can of iced tea and a pack of Skittles talking on a cell phone. Then being stalked by a stranger who ends up killing them.

    How were you not able to understand this?

  11. 11
    ogremk5

    I’d just like to point out that the cops did NOT tell Zimmerman to not follow the kid.

    He told a 911 operator that he was going to follow him (or something like that) and the 911 (or police) dispatcher said “We don’t need you to do that.”

    And we will never, ever know what happened that night. Only two people really know what happened. One of them is dead and the other can say anything.

    Do I THINK Zimmerman was in the wrong? Hell yeah. He was an idiot spoiling for a fight. He had no business doing any of the things he did that night.

    Is he going to get away with it? Probably. It sucks. However, I bet he will not be wandering the night anymore looking for trouble.

    On the other hand, what this case might do is bring serious awareness of just how awful police departments have become recently. It’s a heck of a legacy, but if it does anything to change police attitudes, then it will help others.

  12. 12
    anne mariehovgaard

    Stephen, your example just makes it even clearer why this was a crime: the woman shot someone who was trying to get into her house. She had a legitimate reason to be afraid – I certainly would have been. He was doing something illegal (even if he was too drunk to realise). She did not follow someone who had not committed a crime in her car, then get out of her car where she would have been perfectly safe, take out her gun, confront him – and THEN claim “self-defense”. If that is legal in the US, then anyone can shoot anyone else, anywhere, at any time, for any reason they care to invent.

  13. 13
    unbound

    “He was an idiot spoiling for a fight. He had no business doing any of the things he did that night.”

    And, in most states, that would nullify any claim of self-defense. However, in the states that have implemented this “stand your ground” law, the responsibility of the person claiming self-defense has been largely gutted. Since Zimmerman happens to live in one such state, he will likely be able to walk free.

    I understand that law is very likely on the side of Zimmerman. However, most people understand that this should have been allowed to happen legally. It is my sincere hope that the focus within those states is to repeal the “stand your ground” laws since they do lead to this tragic situation of a killing happening without proper consequences.

  14. 14
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    I coulda sworn I mentioned “Before anyone picks this apart” … hey, I did! But I knew people wouldn’t be able to resist, that they’d ignore the point specifically made and go straight to that red herring. So I tried.

    Look, I’ll come right and say it: I want the guy to be guilty. It’s distressing that he could do what he did and not be guilty. I’m just not sure if he is guilty of a crime based on how those laws are written and interpreted, and have been presented on the various news programs I’ve watched.

    The point is, if the law is on the shooter’s side, it doesn’t matter if you or I think it was justified or unjustified. It may turn out the law is on Zimmerman’s side, regardless if you and I think it shouldn’t be. Because that’s exactly what can end up happening if there are dumb ass laws passed because of political pandering. And I honestly don’t know if that’s going to happen here, but we should be braced for that exact possibility.

  15. 15
    slc1

    Excuse me, the testimony of the witness seems to support the claim of Zimmerman that Martin was on top of him and banging his head against the ground. Zimmerman also claims that he had broken off his pursuit of Martin and was heading back to his car when the latter came up from behind and assaulted him. There are conflicting claims about injuries that Zimmerman claims to have suffered during the scuffle.

    It is quite clear at this point that we don’t know the full story of this incident so some of these comments are premature.

  16. 16
    felicis

    I would like to point out that, for me at least, it’s not about whether or not Zimmerman is ‘guilty’ or not, but that after shooting someone the normal procedure for homicide cases was not followed. Guilt or lack thereof is determined in court – but Zimmerman will never go to court, his ‘self defense’ story being so compelling that he was released the same night. I don’t know if he was guilty of a crime or not, but I do know (by his own admission) that he killed someone. Even if I were in his shoes, I would expect at least to have to post bail and probably have to show up at a Grand Jury, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I were indicted and had to defend my actions in court.

  17. 17
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    Agreed, this should absolutely have gone before a jury and it still should.

  18. 18
    eoraptor013

    I’ve ready many, many, of these comments — here, and on other blogs — and they all talk about how Florida’s SYG law make Zimmerman’s acts legal. Well, I looked up the statute and I don’t think it says what many of you think it says.

    The law is Fl Statutes 776.013 and is easily googled.

    Here’s a link: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html

  19. 19
    ibelieveindog

    Eoraptor,

    Thanks for the link. I think this is the part of the law that makes Zimmerman’s acts defensible:

    “A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

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