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Trayvon Martin

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Trayvon Martin could've been me 35 years ago.
—President Barack Obama.[1]

Trayvon Martin (February 5, 1995–February 26, 2012)[2] was a teenager who was shot to death in Sanford, Florida, on Sunday February 26, 2012 (between 7:15 and 7:30 PM local time) in the course of a fight with a neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, who claimed that the shooting was in self-defense. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, tried and found not guilty.

Many details of the case are to date very unclear; however, several aspects, including the fact that the local police department did not initially arrest or charge Zimmerman, the very controversial state law which was claimed to excuse him (though he did not actually invoke it), and the racial identities of shooter and deceased, turned the case into a national media circus. Trayvon Martin as a topic is basically an online racist magnet. It's rumored that if you say 'Trayvon Martin' three times into a mirror, a Donald Trump supporter will show up to defend slavery.[citation NOT needed]

Shooting[edit]

Zimmerman was an elected neighborhood watchman at the gated community where he lived. Due to a crime wave in the community that had resulted in the police being called there over 400 times in the space of three months, the neighborhood association had set up a neighborhood watch,[3] but Zimmerman had been the only person in the community interested in heading it up.

On February 26, 2012, under school suspension, Martin had come to the community with his father to visit his father's fiancee, who also lived there.[4] Although of K-12 public school age, Trayvon Martin was under suspicion. On his way home from a corner store with a bag of Skittles and a watermelon iced tea, he was spotted by Zimmerman (who was not on duty as neighborhood watchman at the time; he was on his way to the grocery store), who noted that he was dressed similarly to other miscreants who had been causing trouble in the neighborhood, and consequently thought he looked suspicious and called the police to report him.

Zimmerman was armed; he had recently purchased a gun on the advice of an animal control officer after a local pit-bull had cornered his wife.[5]

The emergency dispatcher advised Zimmerman not to approach Martin and that a police officer would be on the way soon.[note 1] What happened after that has not been precisely determined, but what is known is Zimmerman and Martin got into a fight, Zimmerman received a fractured nose and lacerations on his head from where it was banged into the concrete sidewalk, and Martin was shot by Zimmerman.

Although the detective who first investigated the shooting did not believe Zimmerman's claim of self-defense and asked that he be charged with manslaughter, the Florida attorney's office did not believe there was enough evidence to do so.[6] However, after the state's appointment of a special prosecutor and the opening of a federal investigation, Zimmerman was arrested on April 11.[7]

Discussions of the case have been widely infested with PIDOOMA, with both supporters and detractors of Zimmerman simply declaring that they know what "must" have happened, and proceeding to make arguments accordingly.

George Zimmerman mugshot.

Controversies[edit]

"Stand your ground" law[edit]

Many people have taken this incident as an opportunity to attack Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which is more lenient towards those claiming self-defense than the laws of most other states, reducing (but not, as falsely claimed, eliminating) the duty to retreat. However, Zimmerman did not put forth the Stand Your Ground law in his defense, and the facts of the case are not inconsistent with the application of the general self-defense standards. Despite this, the controversy over Martin's death re-ignited old questions about these laws, renewed calls for their repeal, and caused the state of Florida to assemble a citizens' task force to review the law. [8] More than 11,000 comments were submitted by the public during the hearing with nearly three times as many of which were opposed to the law as were in support of it. Despite this, the task force recommended against repealing the statute, ignoring concerns and studies. Critics pointed out that the members appointed to the task force had been chosen as they were already heavily biased against any significant changes in the law, and that, as a result, the panel's conclusions were no surprise. [9]

Race[edit]

Martin was African-American, which re-ignited some very unpleasant questions about the lackadaisical attitude of law enforcement in the U.S. South toward crimes against black people, specifically lynching.

Gated community[edit]

The term "gated community" has also been used quite a bit in relation to Zimmerman's neighborhood. For many people, this calls up the image of a fortified sundown town containing only rich, paranoid white people. However, due partially to the housing crash, which was particularly severe in that part of Florida,[10] this particular gated community had turned into a poorer, "majority-minority" area.[3]

Sanford, Florida[edit]

Sanford, Florida, the town where the shooting occurred, has a history of poor race relations and poor policing. The KKK was particularly active in the area in that organization's heyday,[11] and the town's police department has several times been accused of letting white perpetrators of crimes against blacks off too easy.[3] Ironically, about a month before the shooting, Zimmerman had spoken at City Hall as part of a movement to protest the police's handling of one of these cases. An anonymous relative of his also claimed he posted fliers for the protest outside churchs. A claim the church's in question have told was false. The sister of the victim of said case also called him out for using the case to make him out as a good guy.[12]

The Sanford police released Zimmerman after 5 hours of questioning, and informed Trayvon Martin's father between 9 and 10 AM on Monday 27 February 2012 after the elder Martin filed a missing person report; no form of identification was found on or near Trayvon Martin on Sunday night, nor could any witness (residents of the gated community living near the shooting) identify the teenager.

Today Show controversy[edit]

NBC played a portion of the call between Zimmerman and the Sanford police on The Today Show, clipped in such a way as to make it sound like smoking-gun proof that Zimmerman had targeted Martin for being black, when actually Zimmerman only made reference to Martin's race when prompted to do so. NBC caught a certain amount of guff for this, and launched an internal investigation of the matter.[13]

Hoodie[edit]

Martin was clad in a hooded sweatshirt, or "hoodie," at the time of his death. Geraldo Rivera of Fox News and Richard Cohen of the Washington Post made some remarks about how black and Hispanic youths ought not to wear hoodies and other "gangsta" apparel lest they be perceived as dangerous. Their remarks were roundly condemned as victim blaming, forcing the commentator and the newspaper respectively to issue non-apologies.[14][15] Rivera then went on to make similar comments calling the clothing "thug wear" after surveillance video was released.[16] Martin's hoodie was turned into a symbol of solidarity, with movements linked to Occupy Wall Street carrying out "Million-Hoodie Marches."[17] U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois even put one on to give a speech in the House of Representatives about Martin's killing, but was expelled for violating a rule against wearing hats.[18]

Skittles and iced tea[edit]

Martin famously was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea when he was killed. This led some wingnuts to claim that Skittles and iced tea can be used to make drugs in order to make Martin seem like more of a thug and thus justify Zimmerman's decision to shoot him.[19][20] Of course, this is all absurd nonsense, and if Skittles and iced tea really could be used to make drugs, the federal government would have banned them long ago. While some idiots thought tea and Skittles were ingredients in purple drank, when in reality it is made with soda, cough syrup and hard candy. If Martin was white, it is almost certain that these wingnuts wouldn't be accusing him of being a drug addict simply for carrying iced tea and Skittles.[citation NOT needed]

Trayvon Martin Day[edit]

In May of 2012, an elementary school in Washington, D.C. hosted an event called "Trayvon Martin Day" as part of an anti-bullying campaign, during which parents were given iced tea and students were given Skittles.[21]

This, and similar events, prompted complaints that Zimmerman was being convicted in the court of public opinion well before all the facts were known.[22]

Robert Zimmerman[edit]

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", as if that would work. Just as George Zimmerman's trial was set to begin, Robert Zimmerman published an e-book about the case in which he said that prior to the shooting, he had generally believed racism was no longer much of a problem and that he had personally not experienced much racism, despite being married to a Hispanic woman, but that since the shooting he had found that racism is "flourishing at the insistence of some in the African American Community".[23] The irony of claiming his son is not racist while claiming African-Americans are the true racists and that claiming he believed racism wasn't a problem because he hadn't experienced it is laughable.

Verdict[edit]

On July 13, 2013, the jury declared George Zimmerman not guilty of all charges pressed at him after a long, tedious trial, mostly decided by the testimony of Vincent Di Maio. According to him, the gunshot wound was in fact consistent with Zimmerman's version of the story.[24] The reaction by legal experts in the rest of the world can be described by a facepalm. However, the media circus lasted for a few more months, before dying down (not completely, however).

In August 2013, three weeks after the verdict, Zimmerman toured the factory that produced the firearm that he used in the shooting, also enquiring about the legality of buying a 12-gauge shotgun. An act even his defense lawyer criticised him for. [25]

In May of 2015, a man by the name of Matthew Apperson shot at Zimmerman, shooting at him from and into a moving vehicle on a busy street. Apperson claimed that Zimmerman pulled a gun on him first, but Zimmerman disputed that. Apperson was sentenced to 20 years in prison.[26] Depending upon your view of the outcome of the more {in}famous trial, that may or may not be massive amounts of irony.

In the summer of 2016, Zimmerman was punched in the face at a restaurant by someone who overheard Zimmerman discussing the incident and assumed Zimmerman was bragging about having shot Trayvon Martin to death.[27] He also sold the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin for $250,000[28] after a number of hoax bids like one by "Racist McShootface". Zimmerman called the gun "an American Firearm icon" on the auction website, and this was while he had the gall to accuse Trayvon's parents of profiting off his death. He said a portion of the proceeds would go to "fight BLM violence against Law Enforcement officers" because of course he did.[29]

In December 2019 Zimmerman, attempted to sue Trayvon Martin's family, their attorneys, the prosecutors in the trial, and others, alleging a civil conspiracy to defraud by the Martin family and their lawyers, malicious prosecution by the prosecutors, and defamation by several parties, etc. The lawsuit claimed that Martin's family and their attorney conspired to “destroy his good will and reputation in the community.” Because of course it must be a conspiracy and not the community realising he is a jackass. The Judge tossed the case as Zimmerman failed to show “any fraudulent representation” and that "there can be no claim for conspiracy to defraud if there is no adequately stated claim for fraud".[30]

Notes[edit]

  1. One claim regarding this, that Zimmerman should have obeyed "the police" when he was told not to approach Martin, is false: in the United States, a 911 dispatcher is not an officer of the law and has no authority to give binding orders to civilians. Furthermore, 911 dispatchers will virtually always advise people to avoid a conflict regardless of circumstances

References[edit]

  1. "Obama: 'Trayvon M Martin could've been me'" - CNN. Published July 19, 2013.
  2. Trayvon Martin - Biography
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Shooter of Trayvon Martin a habitual caller of the cops" - Miami Herald. Published March 21, 2012.
  4. Family Wants Answers After Miami Teen Shot, Killed In Sanford - CBS News Miami. Published March 11, 2012.
  5. "George Zimmerman: Prelude to a shooting" - Reuters. Published April 25, 2012.
  6. "Homicide detective Chris Serino says he wanted George Zimmerman slapped with manslaughter charges in shooting death of Trayvon Martin" - New York Daily News. Published March 28, 2012.
  7. Zimmerman charged with second degree shooting - CNN. Published April 11, 2012.
  8. "Task force to consider 'stand your ground' after Trayvon Martin death" - CNN. Published April 19, 2012.
  9. https://archive.today/20130726072153/http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/13/v-fullstory/3095729/stand-your-ground-task-force-has.html
  10. "South Florida home prices worst since crash" - Palm Beach Post.
  11. "Racist past haunts Florida town where Trayvon died" - Reuters. Published April 8, 2012.
  12. "Zimmerman rode with cops, ripped department" - Miami Herald. Published May 11, 2012.
  13. George Zimmerman 911 call: what the fallout is from botched editing - Christian Science Monitor. Published April 4, 2012.
  14. "Geraldo sorry for 'hoodie' comment" - Politico. Published March 2012.
  15. Washington Post Defends Richard Cohen Column Justifying Trayvon Martin Profiling" - Huffington Post. Published July 16, 2013.
  16. Jack Mirkinson, 2012 HuffingtonPost Rivera Sharply Criticized By Trayvon Martin Lawyer Benjamin Crump: 'You're Embarrassing Your Son Again
  17. Tragedy Gives The Hoodie A Whole New Meaning" - NPR. Published March 24, 2012.
  18. "Congressman Gets Kicked Off House Floor For Wearing Hoodie For Trayvon" - Think Progress.
  19. Skittles, Arizona Iced Tea, Cough Syrup = ‘Purple Drank’ Or ‘Lean’, Diane Sori, The Patriot Factor 13 July 2013. Archived here
  20. Trayvon's Drank Is Lean - Skittles & Tea - It's Ecstasy!, 26 July 2013, rovalocity
  21. "Trayvon Martin Day declared at D.C. elementary school"
  22. "Trayvon Martin day at D.C. school"
  23. Legum, Judd George Zimmerman's father says the 'true racists' are African-American
  24. "Martin was leaning over Zimmerman when shot, expert says" - LA Times.
  25. Liston, Barbara Lawyer for George Zimmerman chides him for visiting gun factory Reuters
  26. Matthew Apperson, the man who shot at George Zimmerman, gets 20 years in prison
  27. "George Zimmerman punched in face at Sanford restaurant, deputies say"
  28. Gun used to kill Trayvon Martin sold for $250,000: TV reports, Karen Brooks, Reuters 20 May 2016
  29. George Zimmerman sells gun used to kill Trayvon Martin on auction site, Richard Luscombe, The Guardian 18 May 2016
  30. Associated Press, (February 18, 2022). "Judge tosses George Zimmerman’s lawsuit against Trayvon Martin's parents", NBC News. Retrieved September 10, 2022.