A Brief History
On July 13, 2013, self-appointed community watchman George Zimmerman, an Hispanic-American, was found not guilty of having murdered 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. The case was closely watched across America and prompted strong racial tensions.
Because of Zimmerman’s outward appearance, the public assumed, with help from the media, that he was white. He is white but also Hispanic and has some African background.
The media also falsely portrayed the video and audio recordings of the incident where Zimmerman observed and then shot to death the unarmed black teen. The 911 call was altered to make it appear that Zimmerman had recklessly disregarded instructions from the police dispatcher when in reality he complied and returned to his car, having “lost” the “suspicious” Martin. Furthermore, the video and photographs taken of Zimmerman after the incident were photo-shopped to remove the obvious injuries to the back of his head and to hide his clearly broken nose.
Fooled by the media, the public demanded Zimmerman be tried for murder, and, under public pressure, he was indicted for 2nd degree murder although it was obvious that the charge could not be proven due to a lack of witnesses to counter his account. Zimmerman claimed that Martin had accosted him while Zimmerman was returning to his car and that Martin, much taller than the wimpy Zimmerman, then assaulted Zimmerman, threatening him, getting on top of him and inflicting injuries, causing Zimmerman to fear for his life. Zimmerman also stated that he had yelled for help, and in the 911 calls, a voice screaming for help can be heard. Martin’s family expressed the opinion, however, that Martin had been the one calling for help, but witnesses confirmed that it was the man on the bottom who was wearing red, a color which Zimmerman had on, who was the one who was screaming. Also, one of Martin’s female friends later admitted she had perjured herself by giving false testimony.
Despite the lack of damning evidence, Zimmerman was the target of much hate before and after the trial, and director Spike Lee went so far as to post his address online, presumably so that irate citizens could harass him. Lee blundered, however, and put the wrong man’s address on the website, causing an unrelated person to be harassed!
Martin had been suspended from school for possessing marijuana, truancy and vandalism, and the autopsy results showed that he had traces of marijuana in his system. Police had also previously found him in possession of obviously stolen jewelry and a screwdriver, though he was not charged with a crime for that. Examination of Martin’s phone texts, tweets and internet traffic indicated he had been in fights, been involved with guns and that he had referred to himself as being a “gangsta.” The defense did not use this information at the trial, and defenders of Martin’s “honor” were outraged when this information became public after a hack.
The incident was also investigated by the U.S. Justice Department who determined that no case could be made against Zimmerman for any civil rights violation, another decision that enraged some of the public.
Since the trial, Zimmerman has had several scrapes with the law, ranging from traffic offenses and domestic disturbances to an altercation where he was shot at.
Question for students (and subscribers): Was justice served in this case? Should Zimmerman have been tried at all? How much culpability does the media have in misrepresenting cases? Please feel free to your opinions in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see:
Bloom, Lisa. Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It. Counterpoint, 2014.