True crime and trial opinions from a layman's perspective
Why did the Seminole County jurors vote not guilty? How could six women, five moms, care so little about a 17 year old teenager that they let a killer walk free? Is it because they are cold people? Is it because they are mostly white? Is it because our legal system sucks? Or is it possible that there is another reason why they voted not guilty?
Six people were sequestered, away from the media, away from the social groups, away from the protests, away from the everyday non-stop overload of mob opinion, and focused on what was presented to them in court, and then they decided.
Six months ago, if you were to ask me what I thought about this case, I would have told you that George Zimmerman had a lot of explaining to do for why he got out of his truck and shot Trayvon. I would have told you that he’s probably guilty of manslaughter. I also would have told you that this will be a tough case for the prosecution to prove. For people that don’t typically follow trials, they may not fully grasp how heavy the burden of proof really is, and therefore they assume it’s a slam dunk for guilty. I’m glad that the burden of proof is high. Not because I want criminals on the street. But because I don’t want innocent people in jail and prosecutors locking away every person that they “think” did something criminal. Some people think that the prosecutors always get it right. Sadly, that is very far from the truth. They are not immune to the politics that exist in our country. This is why we are judged by our peers and not judges. It really is the best system in the world. Six months later, and after a quest for truth, my opinions have radically changed. Not about the case being hard to prove but about what really happened that night.
So how did this case get so out of hand and why is America once again completely divided? On a rainy February night in central Florida, a 28 year old man, George Zimmerman, who was the captain of a neighborhood watch program, spotted a suspicious person in his neighborhood. He called it in to the non-emergency number and reported what he deemed to be suspicious. That suspicious person was 17 year old Trayvon Martin who wore a dark hoodie covering his head. And yes he was black. For whatever his own reasons that we’ll never know, Trayvon spotted George and decided to run. George got out of his truck to see where he went. This is the decision that has forever changed the lives of two men, two families and an entire nation.
What exactly happened in that moment that George hung up with the non-emergency operator and the moment that the fight began, nobody will ever know. But what happened during that fight, is what the jurors needed to decide. What the general public doesn’t understand, and what the state attorney’s office, Al Sharpton and the mainstream media don’t want you to know is that following somebody is not illegal. George Zimmerman did not commit any illegal act by getting out of his truck that night. He had every right to go see where this person went. Was it poor judgement? I think we all agree, yes it was. Do neighborhood watch programs advise against following suspicious people, yes they do. This poor choice was the beginning of what occurred but it legally was not provocation. This is extremely important to understand. The media and the prosecutors will scream at you that George provoked this crime. He did not, according to the law. That is not my opinion. That is fact. And just because George investigated something that he deemed suspicious, and that person happened to be black, does not automatically mean that George is a racist with a depraved mind that wanted to kill. You can’t make that assumption without proof and you certainly can’t charge somebody with second degree murder without proof.
So… why did George really get out of his truck? Have any of you really searched for the answer to that question beyond what the media has fed to you before making a judgement? Because if most people had a glimpse in to what was happening in that neighborhood, many people would have an answer to that question. Did George Zimmerman want to be a cop? Yes. Did George Zimmerman care about the safety of his family and community? Yes. These are noble desires. Not criminal desires.
In the summer of 2011, there were a series of burglaries that took place at the Retreat at Twin Lakes. Some burglars got away, some were caught. Most of the offenders were young. During one of those burglaries, a mother with a 4 month old baby was home and had to lock herself in the nursery, on the phone with 911, and scissors in her other hand as a weapon, while two young men broke in to her home and robbed her. Police made it there in time to help her, and the burglars fled. One ended up being caught, the other was not. They were in their late teens and they were black. Due to the events escalating in their neighborhood, the residents being fearful, met with their HOA and decided to create a neighborhood watch program. George became the captain of this group. The neighbors who knew him all described George as being calm, friendly, helpful and caring. After the creation of the neighborhood watch, George was able to prevent an attempted burglary by his patrol efforts. The program was helping. There are reports in the media that he called 911 hundreds of times. Clearly this must mean that he is an over-zealous paranoid cop-wannabe. The reality is that it was not hundreds of times and it was not always 911. Neighborhood watch captains are told to either call the non-emergency line or 911 depending on the level of the event. Every captain is informed of any potential crime that happens in the neighborhood. That is how the program works. Yes he did call those numbers numerous times to report events, some small, some big. He was doing what the program intended for him to do.
On the night of February 26, 2012, on his way out to the store, George spotted Trayvon Martin. He was a young man that he didn’t recognize, in a hooded sweatshirt standing on his neighbor’s lawn. It was raining and it appeared that Trayvon was just standing around. And yes he was black. George deemed him to be suspicious. Is this an enormous stretch to you that George found him suspicious? I propose in light of the burglaries, probably not. My mother was the victim of a burglary. If I saw somebody who was hooded standing on her lawn, I would be suspicious too. Suspicions are subjective. We are entitled to them. Did the fact that Trayvon was black play in to George’s suspicions? I’ll never know the answer to that question. But there is nothing in George’s history that suggests racism. If there was, don’t you think the prosecution would have brought that to trial? They didn’t.
Another misconception is that the police instructed him not to get out of his vehicle. This is also not true. George had already gotten out of his vehicle and was half way down the sidewalk, trying to see where Trayvon went, when the non-emergency operator asked him if he was following the suspicious person. He said yes. The operator said “we don’t need you to do that”. That is VERY different than a police officer commanding you NOT to do something. That is not how the media reports it. George’s response back was “ok”. There is no evidence whatsoever, again contrary to what the prosecutors want you to believe, that proves that George continued to chase Trayvon down after that point. The evidence actually points to George walking back to his truck when Trayvon reappeared and the fight began.
When George was brought to the police station the night of the shooting, the photos that the media wanted you to see were long distance grainy images of George getting out of the police car, and they went out of their way to point out that George had absolutely no injuries on him. What most people don’t know is that other photos were taken at the crime scene very soon after the event and George did indeed have a very swollen broken bloody nose, scrapes to his face and head, contusions, lacerations and bleeding on the back and sides of his head. He had been beaten. These photos are rarely seen by the public.
The lawn of the townhome where the shot was fired and where Trayvon was found belongs to John Good. He was the closest witness to the event. He was standing approximately 10 feet away from them. His statement hours after the event, and on the stand one and a half years later, has remained largely the same. He had no idea what George’s story was so there is no possibility that he made it up to match. This is his own account of what he saw that night: Trayvon was on top of George (he identified them by clothing and skin color, he did not know either of them by name), first Trayvon was laying on top of George in the grass and then straddling him on the pavement. (George reports that Trayvon was straddling him, pounding his head in to pavement.) Trayvon’s arms were moving in a downward motion, appearing as if he was raining down punches. He could not testify to definitively seeing fists hit skin but he did testify that there was a flurry of hands going in a downward motion and the man on the bottom was screaming. He said it looked like a mixed martial arts fight that is considered a ground and pound event.
George states that he was screaming for help. He saw John on his patio and was screaming for his help. John yelled out to the two men to stop what they were doing and that he was calling 911. He went back inside to make the call and then went upstairs to look out the window. It was after he went back inside that the shot occurred. So nobody actually witnessed it. The infamous screams on the 911 call made by neighbor Jenna Lauer match up with George’s statements and John Good’s witness accounts. I have listened to that tape numerous times. Although I certainly can’t say for sure who it is that is screaming, it does sound like George to me. But more importantly, it matches up with the accounts of that night.
If George was depraved and intended to harm Trayvon that night, why did he call the non-emergency line? Why did he request that police come to the scene to check out this suspicious person? For all he knew, the police could have been nearby and on-site within a minute or two. He also knew that there were witnesses to the fight. There were numerous townhomes surrounding them. It wasn’t just John Good watching but he reported that he could see other neighbors looking out their windows. In today’s day and age, somebody could have easily videotaped this. Are these ideal conditions to intentionally shoot somebody out of depravity? Use your logic.
The investigators who initially worked this case all testified at trial. In summation, they believed George and felt his statements were mostly consistent. And these were prosecution witnesses. This is why charges weren’t pressed for 40+ days. Not because the police department didn’t care about Trayvon, or because George supposedly had inside influences, but because this was a case of self defense and there was no evidence to prove otherwise. Every day there are cases that go uncharged because evidence doesn’t exist. You can’t charge somebody just because you’re pretty sure they did something wrong. Our justice system doesn’t work that way, thank god.
What happened after that?…. The Martin family didn’t like the fact that George wasn’t being charged and hired Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney. They began to circulate pictures of Trayvon that were 4 years younger, portraying him as a little boy, they got the Department of Justice involved, they held rallies with packets of Skittles and wore hoodies, and made their pleas to the American public. People became outraged, rightfully so. If the story they told was actually true, it would be outrageous. I bought in to it for a brief time too. The state attorney’s office demoted the original investigators, fired the chief of police and brought in a special prosecutor. They declined going to a grand jury, and instead decided to charge George with second degree murder. To prove second degree murder, you have to prove that the person killed with a depraved mind. It does not involve premeditation as is required with first degree murder, but does require the depraved mind element. Why did they charge him with 2nd degree murder instead of manslaughter? Because that decision was based on emotion and political pressure, not on fact or evidence. The state’s attorney office would like you to believe that the defense team brought race in to this case, but I’d like you to remember that the family’s attorney, a civil rights attorney, appealed to Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the Department of Justice for their assistance in this case. I propose to you that race was suggested by the state, not the defense. And oh how the media loved that. Now we have a story. And the American public ate it up.
The ONLY supposed evidence that the prosecution presented at trial to show that George acted with a depraved mind was that when he was on the phone with the non-emergency operator reporting the suspicious person, he muttered under his breath “these assholes always get away” and “fucking punks”. He did not shout those words, he did not say them angrily, he did not use any racial slurs. NBC went so far as to make a false version of that recording and added in a racial slur that I refuse to post on this blog. But please do google that event and you will be absolutely disgusted with NBC. They were totally busted for falsifying the recording and the Zimmerman family is suing them, rightfully so.
Does it seem plausible to you that perhaps these utterances under George’s breath were the result of a man who was just frustrated by the burglars in his neighborhood? Don’t misunderstand, this does not mean that Trayvon was a burglar. There is no evidence of that whatsoever and I’m not accusing him. We are talking about George’s perception and in his perception, Trayvon was suspicious. How many of you use the words asshole and punk on occasion when you are frustrated? Are you racist? I hope to god that someday I’m not accused of murder with a depraved mind in a criminal court because I used the word asshole.
The truth of this story that nobody wants to even remotely address is that Trayvon chose to fight that night. This is not my opinion and this is not an attack on the victim. This is information that was brought out at trial that is supported by physical evidence and witness accounts. He was not a helpless little boy with only a bag of candy. He was beating George. That was the choice that he made. He did have George’s head on pavement, and George feared for his life. George was carrying a legal concealed weapon. Whether you like guns or not, George did have a legal right to carry his gun. People who carry concealed weapons typically have them loaded. Why? Because how is it going to help them in an emergency if it’s not loaded? For people that are not gun advocates, the concept of carrying a loaded gun is crazy. For people that are gun advocates, the concept of carrying a loaded gun is perfectly normal. People do it all the time. My personal feelings about the gun debate have no relevance on this case and are topic of discussion for another blog entry. The Florida law states that George was legally in possession of his gun. The Florida law also states that deadly force is legal if it is used to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony (i.e. robbery). The force that George used that night was legal. If you don’t like these laws, you need to contact your political leaders and work to change them. But you absolutely cannot send somebody to prison because you don’t like the law and want to make a point.
It’s much easier for people to believe that George is an evil man who gunned down a black boy in cold blood because he was black; than it is to believe that a 17 year old teenager chose to fight, and had the ability to fight, a 28 year old man. Trayvon made as many bad choices that night as George did. I’m not being insensitive by saying this. I’m trying to speak the truth. What he did to George was illegal. If Trayvon had lived, he would probably be in court fighting assault and possibly attempted murder charges today.
If the racial card was never played by the Benjamin Crump camp, then none of us outside of Sanford, FL, would have ever heard of this case. Focusing on cases where racism is suggested merely because somebody is black, and there is no proof to back it up, does not help the healing in our country. It widens the divide. I am absolutely in favor of civil rights leaders getting involved where legitimate injustices have occurred. If they are not sure if something was a legitmate injustice, they have a responsibility to investigate first before blasting it all over the country and getting everybody incensed. I hope that all human beings will always fight for their equal rights in this country. I hope they do it in an honest way that is intended for the truth to be told, and not mobs to be created. And I am in total opposition to civil rights leaders who use their power only to achieve personal interests and intentionally cause divides. I feel strongly that this is what occurred in this case and I am not alone in this belief.
I am sad for the loss of Trayvon and for the pain of the Martin family. I am disappointed that they hired the people that they did to represent them. Those representatives did not properly honor Trayvon’s life. Trayvon should not have died. He didn’t deserve to die. I am also sad for the Zimmerman family, and for George. He shouldn’t have been beaten and he shouldn’t have been demonized by people that don’t know the whole story, or refuse to accept the whole story. He will have to live in hiding for the rest of his life. I don’t consider myself a George supporter. I don’t consider myself a Trayvon supporter. It’s not relevant to the commentary on this case. My opinions are all from the standpoint of seeking the truth and following the law. Some may read this and assume that I’m insensitive, that I don’t care about other ethnicities, that I’m anti-civil rights or that I support guns and crime. But those of you who know me will attest, nothing could be further from the truth.
I find myself in very unfamiliar territory with this case. Very rarely do I find myself agreeing with defense teams and disagreeing with victim’s families. And very rarely do I ever hear prosecutors say in court to a jury “it might have happened this way”. I have never in my life seen such a weak prosecution case. That’s not by chance… it’s because a case doesn’t exist. So in many ways, I’m out of my comfort zone and kind of feel like I’m standing on a ledge here. But I would be completely disingenuous if I stood up with the rest of the crowd and said “I am Trayvon” and wore a hoodie and demanded that George be thrown in jail. I am not Trayvon. I am an American who cares greatly about the well-being of my loved ones, my fellow citizens, equality and peace, and who seeks the truth, even when the answers are ugly.
What is really the biggest problem in this case? It’s not racism, it’s not media, and it’s not Al Sharpton. It’s OUR absolute blind acceptance of the media that is fed to us and the mob mentality that it creates. Media is a business. Of course they report the most dramatic and salacious information that they know the public craves. It sells stories and makes them money. It’s not their fault. It’s our fault for believing it without demanding proof or doing our own research.
If I was part of the Seminole County six, I would have voted Not Guilty. And in the interest of truth, I refuse to be afraid to admit that. I hope that every American takes the time to research what they hold dear. Don’t settle for what others want you to believe. Seek out the information and then make your own choice.