[Update 4] Trayvon Martin: The Three-Week Old Story, Politics and Florida’s Right-To-Kill Law

Update: 3:17 pm Pacific
In this ABC News Video, at about 2:40 the reporter states that Trayvon Martin made a 9-1-1 call just before his death and the call captures Zimmerman’s voice in the background. This allegation has not been corroborated by any other media. [Tip to Educator @Anti_Intellect]

Trayvon Martin

Travyon Martin, Via Facebook

When I read Newt Gingrich’s comments about Trayvon Martin this morning, I was incensed. And not just because of what he said. I was angry because suddenly (yes, suddenly) the nation’s political opportunists (yes, Mr. President, I mean you, too) have decided that they need to go on the record about this tragedy.

I’ve been following this story, silently, for quite a while because of the racism it seems to represent, because I’m Southern and because of the “Easy Rider” approach to fear/vengeance/law and order that it reflects. For those of you not around then, Easy Rider (released in 1969) depicted southern small-mindedness. The protagonists (white “hippie” motorcyclists) are murdered by a (white) hillbilly while en route to Florida. Here, a black teen was shot and killed by a white (“Spanish-speaking minority“) man.

I’ve also followed this story because of what it says about Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which extended the right to self-defense from being in your home to anyplace you have a legal right to be. According to a news investigation, the number of “justificable” homicides in Florida has tripled since the law’s passage in 2005.

Think about this for a moment. A guy who has 100 pounds on you steps out of his SUV, maybe brandishing a gun, maybe not, and demands to know why you are in his neighborhood. What are you, unarmed, going to do? Attack him? Doubtful. But if he gets in your face and pushes you on the shoulder, would you push back? I think I would. So now there’s a fight – one that I did not start – but the mere fact that there is a fight is enough to exonerate the guy who shoots me?

Update 2, 3:59 pm Pacific:
On a tape of one of Zimmerman’s 911 calls the night of the shooting, he is heard saying under his breath what sounds like “f**ing coons.” Seconds later he confronted Martin and after a brief scuffle shot him dead. (Audio – listen closely, it’s there.)

Finally, I’ve followed this story because before the advent of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter, independent blogs and online petitions … this story would have been unlikely to reach a national audience. The odds that there would have been a federal grand jury? Slim. In many ways, it reminds me of Genarlow Wilson, “an honors student jailed for 10 years because of a poorly written Georgia law, a zealous prosecutor, and an impotent governmental system.”

Why does it seem that a national platform is needed to in order to render local justice?

Update 4a: 12:25 am Sunday
In the LA Times columnist Sandy Banks quotes her daughter: “It’s not about race anymore,” she told me when I asked why so many people seem to have made Trayvon a martyr. “This is about justice. A crazy man who shot a kid who wasn’t bothering anyone.”

Not only are our politicians now getting into the act, so are the national media pundits and a roster of celebrities from music and film. Perhaps Trayvon will serve as America’s 21st Century Nada [1], personifying the perilous life of teen black men in America and illustrating the rise in hate groups and hate crime.

Even though I cannot understand why no arrest was made, based on the evidence presented in the press, I realize that in a criminal investigation that not all evidence is disclosed to the media.

I’m concerned, however, that the case will never go to trial due to an inability to find a neutral jury, due to Florida’s gun-friendly get-out-of-jail-free law dubbed the “Stand Your Ground” law or due to witnesses giving their statements not to the police but to reporters.

I am also concerned about Internet vigilante justice: more than 1.7 million people have signed an online petition urging that the Zimmerman be prosecuted. His family, and the police chief, have received death threats.

I encourage you to read on, although this is a very long, two-part article. I hope to correct some errors from early reporting and, perhaps, dispel some myths along the way. The cited news reports are in no way intended to be complete.

The Unnoted Back Story

George Zimmerman (28, age first reported as 26) gunned down Trayvon Martin (17) the evening of Sunday, February 26, 2012 in a gated neighborhood (The Retreat at Twin Lakes) located in Sanford, FL, a suburb of Orlando.

Sanford (population 53,000) is the county seat of Seminole County (population 422,000); the Orlando SMA has a population of 2.1 million. According to the U.S. Census, Sanford is 57.3% Caucasian/Hispanic and 45.0% non-Caucasian/Hispanic. It is 30.5% Black, 20.2% Latino/Hispanic. In other words, dark-skinned youth are not a rarity.

Moreover, this neighborhood probably doesn’t match the picture in your mind when you hear or read “gated community.” It’s comprised of modest (less than 1,500 square feet) two-story townhomes with one-car garages with current selling prices of around $100,000. Oh. And like Sanford itself, it’s a mixed-race community.

What do we know about this case?

  1. Martin was walking back to his father’s home from a neighborhood convenience store, where he had purchased Skittles and a can of iced tea. He made the trip in a drizzle before an NBA All-Star game was set to start in Orlando.
  2. Zimmerman made a “non-emergency” 9-1-1- call (audio) and reported a suspicious person in the neighborhood. He was explicitly told (per the 9-1-1 transcript and Police Chief Bill Lee) not to follow Martin. He had attended a community neighborhood watch program in September that contained “a slide about not being vigilante police.” Transcript of the 9-1-1 call provided by Mother Jones.
  3. Martin, talking on his cellphone as he returned home, told his 16-year-old girlfriend that a man had been watching him. The phone logs show that the call occurred five minutes before the police arrived on the scene.
  4. Zimmerman disobeyed the directive from the police dispatcher not to follow Martin. Zimmerman confronted shot Martin with a 9mm handgun (he had a license to carry) and later claimed that he shot the unarmed teen in self-defense.
  5. The police found “Martin’s body lying face down on the grass about 70 yards from the family’s home.” [How do you fall face forward when shot in the chest?]
  6. The Sanford Police Department did not test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol, although this is standard procedure in a homicide.
  7. Zimmerman is a college student reportedly studying criminal justice who wants to be a police officer. He regularly calls 9-1-1 (46 times since January 1, 2011); this audio (via WKMG Orlando) illustrates his pattern of 9-1-1 calls.
  8. The Sanford Police Department accepted Zimmerman’s story that he had no arrest record. However, in 2005 (he would have been 18 or 19 21) “Zimmerman was charged with battery against an officer and resisting arrest.” He assaulted “a law-enforcement officer and resist[ed] arrest with violence” outside a bar. But because the charges were dropped and his arrest was expunged, Zimmerman was eligible for the concealed carry permit.

    Update 3: Also in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancée filed a petition accusing Zimmerman of pushing her during an argument at her Orlando home. He filed a claim the next day saying that “she did it.” [Does this sound familiar?]

  9. Martin attended North Miami’s Krop High School, where he had no record of arrest or disciplinary action for violence. He was serving a one-week suspension “due to tardiness and not misbehavior.”
  10. “When the homeowners association wanted to start a neighborhood watch, only one man stepped up: George Zimmerman…” Zimmerman is not part of a nationally registered neighborhood watch group; there are 22,000 registered groups. Neighborhood watch groups are supposed to report incidents, not try to enforce law.
  11. Zimmerman has not been charged. On March 19, the Florida State Attorney General announced that a federal grand jury investigation would being on April 10.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law (2005) makes it legal to use deadly force if you believe you are in imminent danger. Zimmerman claimed that “the confrontation was initiated by Trayvon.” Zimmerman was in a car; Martin was walking. Zimmerman had a gun and weighs 250 pounds; Martin did not have a gun and was 6-foot, 3-inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.

Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. Police Chief Bill Lee said, ““Zimmerman had injuries consistent with his story.”

Update 4b: 12:25 am Sunday
The prime sponsor of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law says Trayvon Martin’s alleged attacker not covered under law I wrote… Mr. Zimmerman’s unnecessary pursuit and confrontation of Trayvon Martin elevated the prospect of a violent episode and does not seem to be an act of self-defense as defined by the castle doctrine. There is no protection in the “Stand Your Ground” law for anyone who pursues and confronts people.

From the Yale Daily News:

As Martin walked down the street, talking to his girlfriend on the phone and keeping to himself, how did he pose a threat to Zimmerman? Zimmerman actively pursued Martin, getting out of his car to confront him while in possession of a handgun, thus calling into question the classification of this case as one of self-defense.

Moreover, neighborhood watch members are encouraged not to carry:

[Chris Tutko, director of the Neighborhood Watch program at the National Sheriffs' Association, which launched the neighborhood watch concept 40 years ago as a response to rising crime] said he was flabbergasted to learn about a watch captain’s shooting of the 17-year-old Martin last month in Sanford, Fla.
[...]
Tutko said it’s highly unusual, and highly discouraged, for a neighborhood watch to be armed.

“You do not carry a weapon during neighborhood watch,” he said flatly. “If you carry a weapon, you’re going to pull it.”

To corroborate Tutko’s assessment, we are learning that “The mere act of holding a gun makes it more likely that you will perceive an object as a gun,” according to James Brockmole, associate professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame and co-author of an upcoming paper on that phenomenon.

Part 2: How The Trayvon Martin Case Unfolded

[1] Unfortunately, the 20th century had a symbol, too. It’s almost 60 years later and how much progress have we made?

“Trayvon is the Emmitt Till of our generation,” said event co-chair Chris Sullivan. He’s referring to the Mississippi 14-year-old who was beaten to death in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

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  • dduck

    Nice round up of the information, so far. Thanks KG.

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    Thanks, @DD.

  • EEllis

    couple of little things, confronting someone while having posesion of a concealed handgun is not the same as confronting someone with a handgun. While I know that narrative has been pushed we really do not know if the firearm ever came out until the shooting, unless you have a source not noted. Police dispatchers have zero authority to give any orders what so ever. They are not law enforcement and can only advise and as such the fact Zimmerman didn’t follow their directions means little except possible to sate of mind.

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    Dear @EEllis — Did you not read what I typed? In my hypothetical scenario, I CLEARLY said “A guy who has 100 pounds on you steps out of his SUV, maybe brandishing a gun, maybe not”

    I don’t think anyone believes that Zimmerman was failing to follow a legal directive when he ignored not only the dispatcher but the training he had received in September. I certainly do not and did not say this. I merely pointed out the facts — that he (willfully) ignored protocol.

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    thanks Kathy, that’s a good topology of the situ… and, just this from a person who passed her CC cert. The steady rule drilled into us years ago, is when packing, dont pull a weapon EVER unless you are compelled to fire it. A firearm in CC is not for brandishing around or for intimidating others, or for showing off, or flashing doubtful self-importance, nor for anything else in most situs. A deadly weapon is meant to kill. It’s not an accessory; it’s not meant to make anyone into a pretend Clint Eastwood. It is serious weaponry for serious intent. Just my .02

  • JMNash

    4. “Zimmerman disobeyed the directive from the police dispatcher not to follow Martin. Zimmerman confronted Martin with a 9mm handgun.” People keep saying this, but there does not appear to be any evidence of it. On the police recording Zimmerman responds “Ok” after being told he didn’t need to follow. According to Martin’s girlfriend, it was Martin who initiated contact, at least verbally ‘why are you following me?’

    5. Guns are not magical rays of instant death that cause people to collapse in neat little piles.

    Perhaps if you meant to write an honest article about what happened you would mention the part where 3 separate EYE WITNESSES saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, at least one explicitly saw him beating him into the ground.

  • dduck

    JMN, “Perhaps if you meant to write an honest article about what happened you would mention the part where 3 separate EYE WITNESSES saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, at least one explicitly saw him beating him into the ground.”

    Can you give a citation on that?

  • DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, Managing Editor of TMV, and Columnist

    JMN, got links to your facts?

    thanks

  • JMNash

    This is the most supportive of Zimmerman : http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/seminole_news/022712-man-shot-and-killed-in-neighborhood-altercation#ixzz1phFMGCu4

    Looking for the other two ( a 13 year old and an adult woman). The news cycle has moved on and they are hard to locate now…

  • http://themoderatevoice.com/ JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief

    I have been offline for several hours but as someone who had been online and did the post about the reported eyewitness, I have not seen a report yet anywhere about THREE eyewitnesses. And the eyewitness mentioned is reportedly anonymous. None of the major news websites (including Fox News) had the story about the anonymous eyewitness yet on their sites. On this post I am amazed at the emails I got including someone saying I was wrong, lying that it was on a major news website and siting the TV station report that is sited in my posts. These folks just are in attack mode. If there are THREE WITNESSES then kindly a)provide links b)explain why CBS News, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC and ABC don’t have that “fact” on their websites? Here’s an explanation: there are not at this writing three witnesses and so far the witness is anonymous, although that may change and that person will have to say what he/she saw under oath in the future.

  • petew

    Of course Zimmerman’s story seems unbelievable, because it probably is false, but I appreciate Kathy Gill’s statement that too much publicity about the case may injure the chances for a just verdict.

    The most significant indicator of Zimmerman’s culpability, is the fact that a 911 operator specifically told him that they didn’t want him following Trayvon. That, including Gill’s assertion that the young man was found lying face down on the ground, in possession of only of a box of skittles and some ice tea, completes a scenario that casts significant doubt on the unlikely theory that the young man was actually the person at fault. But because no one actually witnessed the shooting, it will be difficult to prove that Zimmerman was actually the aggressor.

    If I had to guess, I would say that the outcome for Zimmerman will probably be a verdict of involuntary manslaughter. Even if he did plan to shoot the boy, this idea is obviously nearly impossible to prove.

    I don’t agree however that official statements made by Politician’s and the pundits who analyze their behavior, are necessarily ALWAYS a bad thing. A case like this involves the validity of the new gun laws and also involves our awareness that reacting to racial paranoia by profiling those we feel threatened by, is usually NOT a good way to go.

    Of course Newt Gingrich will continue to make one ignorant statement after another in an attempt to gain the votes of right wing extremists. I hope that the average sane person will recognize Obama’s attempt to describe his own personal feeling about the death of Trayvon, by mentioning the fact that his own son could have looked just like him, as a natural attempt to put a human face on this tragedy I hope Gingrich’s and other ignorant statements made by ambitious Republicans will eventually reveal the truly narrow minded nature of their own takes on social issues.

    Even now, years after my mother died, I still see elderly ladies who bring back endearing memories of her–just because of how these ladies look. Obama’s comparisons merely express his natural feelings of empathy. And yes, he probably would say something similar even if the victim had been a white boy. Thank God some politicians are really intelligent and completely sane!

  • zephyr

    Excellent rundown Kathy. At this point, after reading most of the reports and listening to tapes, it is clear that Zimmerman stalked an innocent person, created a confrontation, and killed a man. Given the information we have at this point I see no evidence that to prompt anyone to believe otherwise. That said, there are people who have their own agendas regarding this incident, agendas that aren’t going to hinge on what actually happened.

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    Note, too, that although the ABC reporter said on the air that Martin called 9-1-1, I have not seen any corroboration of that assertion, either.

    And I did link to Joe’s story about the alleged eyewitness.

    ADDED: Oh. How the heck do you shoot someone with a 9mm without “confronting” the person with the handgun? Are you suggesting the gun remained in Zimmerman’s pocket while he shot Martin in the chest?

    ADDITION 2: Fine. I changed “confronted” to “shot.” No argument with that verb.

    @JMNash : If I were going to link to any “eye witness” report here I would have to link to all of the eye witness reports, and it would have dominated the story.

    There are reports that the police coached a witness, that the police said a witness said something that she did not, that witnesses heard a voice that sounded like a CHILD crying for help. I have linked to most of these stories in “part 2″ of this which is a media recap.

    Finally, eye witness reports are notoriously unreliable. It’s possible to look out your window and see two people rolling around on the ground. You don’t know who threw the first punch, but the guy on top is “winning” at this point so you think it was him. Your deduction could easily be incorrect.

    I still have a hard time imagining a 140 pound man getting the best of a 250 pound man, but maybe Martin knew martial arts.

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    Thanks, P & Z. Y’all wrote while I was composing that longer comment.

  • bluebelle

    We don’t know what happened but we do know that the police had a witness change their story about who was yelling for help to Zimmerman– when they couldn’t possibly know for sure that it was him. The police did no forensics, and only drug tested the victim not the perpetrator, and that Zimmerman acted on his own to follow the victim– which is contrary to neighborhood watch protocol and to the directive from the police dispatcher.

    It seems to me even if a witness saw the kid on top of Zimmerman– which seems unlikely due to his lesser size and stature, that wouldn’t prove self-defense– as Trayvon would have also had the right to defend himself against reasonable fear of deadly force.
    The SYG law is creating a lot of murky situations like this, and the Sanford police dept has a long history of racial inequity when it comes to investigation and enforcement.
    All the more reason not to take our collective eye off of this situation

  • marksf

    That ABC News Video is odd. You’d think that would be HUGE news, but they just kind of threw it in at the end of a segment. Somehow I think they’re confusing 911 calls, and are thinking about the one Zimmerman made with the “coon” comment.

  • rudi

    @JG
    The other two witnesses overheard the confrontation. These two women aren’t hiding behind anonymous.
    http://themoderatevoice.com/142394/new-trayvon-martin-twist-witness-reportedly-tells-police-martin-attacked-zimmernan/comment-page-1/#comment-303472
    Mary Cutcher is the witness. She’s appeared on local Florida and national media to tell her story.
    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/anderson-cooper-interviews-witnesses-to-trayvon-martin-shooting/

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    @marksf : I agree that it’s odd. But I don’t know how it would be possible to be confused about a statement like that. OTOH, the Miami Herald got the story wrong when it first reported it (the Fri after it happened).

    @Rudi:
    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to get from this. @JM says that Martin was beating up Zimmerman.

    Deconstructing the Mediate story:

    1. Selma Mora Lamilla says the first thing that they heard was a gun shot.
    2. She saw a man on top of another. She IDed the man straddling the body as Zimmerman and she describes Martin as being on his stomach.
    3. Mary Cutcher says “straddling” … ““I thought he’s holding the wound, helping the guy taking a pulse, making sure he’s okay.”
    4. “But at that time it was so dark,” Lamilla added. “I just saw this person. When she started calling the police, I saw Zimmerman walking with — touching like his hair, like kind of like confused back and forth to the body.”

    Note: the altercation/shooting took place over the course of about 5 minutes, given the record of Martin’s phone call to his girlfriend and the time the police arrived (per ABC). So how could it suddenly be too dark to see?

    To @JM – I find it fantastic (in the original meaning of the word, ie, strikes of fancy) that you are placing the onus on “contact” with Martin because he had the audacity to ask Zimmerman why he was following him.

    Also, re TheMail’s story — FOX reported this very same thing on Feb 27. The guy, John (I cannot believe there are two John’s in this story) did not see the beginning of the fight:

    “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,” said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.

    John said he locked his patio door, ran upstairs and heard at least one gun shot.

    “And then, when I 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.”

    Read more: http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/seminole_news/022712-man-shot-and-killed-in-neighborhood-altercation#ixzz1q6sceeRG

    NOTE: Martin had a right to defend himself against Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the stalker, not Martin.

    I HATE this.

  • EEllis

    Did you not read what I typed? In my hypothetical scenario, I CLEARLY said “A guy who has 100 pounds on you steps out of his SUV, maybe brandishing a gun, maybe not”

    Yes I did read it I also read where you left out the maybe in you highlights of the case. I’m not trying to attack anyone just highlighting points that may have been less than clear

    I still have a hard time imagining a 140 pound man getting the best of a 250 pound man, but maybe Martin knew martial arts.

    You might be surprised at how often it happens. In this case there was quite a height difference which does matter as well as this being a very athletic kid vs. a much shorter pudgy guy. Age can also play a role but would tend to favor the 26 yo. Finally you just never know by looking. Having in the course of my work many physical altercations sometimes the one that are the toughest will surprise you. Book and Cover and all that.

    Martin had a right to defend himself against Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the stalker, not Martin.

    Stalker is a bit of a loaded term and technically incorrect. Aggressor or instigator might be a better fit. Even so even if Zimmerman did everything wrong if he turned and left to go back to his truck as he claimed then any action by Martin changes the scenario entirely. Now that claim may not be true but that is what the police were faced with. If, no mater how badly Zimmerman acted, he attempted to break contact and was then attacked then “defended” himself then the shooting doesn’t violate state law. Doesn’t mean thats what I think happened either but it’s not supposed to be about what people think but rather what can be proven.

  • JMNash

    Note: Police estimated Martins size as approximately 6 foot 160 lbs; on the small size for a 17 year old football player, but believable.

    They estimated Zimmerman’s height at 5 foot 9, no weight estimate.

    http://cnninsession.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/martinpolicreport.pdf

    I am not aware of any actually believable source for Zimmerman’s weight. I suspect they are just guestimating from the 7 year old mugshot everyone is using for him.

  • JMNash

    Follow up : when I say I do not know of any ‘believable source’ for Zimmerman’s weight I will define that as any source that did not also claim he made 46 911 calls since 2011. Reporting on this has not been heavy on fact checking.

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/03/22/george-zimmerman-s-history-of-911-calls-a-complete-log.html

  • dduck

    Seems like a thorough inquiry may clear up some estimates/guesses/etc.

  • rudi

    LoL
    This Zimmerman call is priceless.

    36. April 22, 2011 – 7:09 p.m.
    Type: TEL
    Subject: Suspicious activity
    Report: Juvenile black male “apprx 7–9” years old, four feet tall “skinny build short blk hair” last seen wearing a blue t-shirt and blue shorts

    4 foot BM with Skittles – VERY SCARY

  • petew

    No matter what the complete truth is, I think the most important lesson to learn from this mishap, is that paranoia, is a bad reason to invoke the Florida, “Stand your Ground,” law.

    The law needs to be re-written to include a prohibition about disobeying the advise given by a 911 operator, that, “we don’t need you to do that,” and then, proceeding anyway. In the end the courts are going to have to decide what it means to clearly believe that one is in physical danger, while being in a public place. It is all to sad, that this might have happened due to an over-reaction to fantasy, or a paranoid assumption.

    We’ve got to realize that any comment about this unfortunate incident can be seized upon by political opportunists like Newt Gingrich to imply that the president was biased about martin’s race, just because he made a human connection by stating that if he had a son, that son would have likely have looked like Trayvon. Because Trayvon was tall, thin, and black a possible resemblance to a hypothetical child of Obama, is perfectly natural. Years after my own mother died, I still become sad whenever I run into an elderly lady who resembles her. I’ll bet many other white Americans have had the same experience. And by having that experience, we are not attempting to imply that only white people should be mourned at death. Limbaugh shouldn’t pervert empathy into some narrow minded use of the “race card” to promote African Americans. God help us if he ever makes it to the white-house!

  • JMNash

    Everyone keeps saying he disobeyed the operator who said “we don’t need you to do that”.

    Nobody ever quotes Zimmerman’s reply.

    What was his reply?
    “Ok”

    What if he followed the direction and ran into Martin on his way back to his truck?

  • EEllis

    The law needs to be re-written to include a prohibition about disobeying the advise given by a 911 operator, that, “we don’t need you to do that,” and then, proceeding anyway.

    That is way over the top. You want to require someone to follow the orders of a $12 hr phone operator upon penalty of law? They give advice but cannot give lawful orders for a reason. The biggest one is they are not there and are unable to see the total circumstances involved. Plus the training required would be massive then so would the liability involved. There is just no way.

    ” In the end the courts are going to have to decide what it means to clearly believe that one is in physical danger, while being in a public place. ”

    We already have that. It is called a trial. Other than having mind readers as police officers…….. Truly tho if the DA is unsure then it should be refereed to a grand jury and then trial. The problem is Zimmerman isn’t being punished right now which is what people seem to want.

  • DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

    I have been biting my tongue, reading some of the exculpatory/”explanatory”/”cautionary” comments on this heinous case flooding the internet, but this one takes the cake:

    “This morning on ABC News, Oliver was asked about the moment on the 911 tapes when some believe that, just prior to killing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman used a racial slur. Oliver suggested that Zimmerman did not use a racial slur but said ‘“goons,’ which Oliver described as a ‘term of endearment.’”

  • SteveK

    That is way over the top. You want to require someone to follow the orders of a $12 hr phone operator upon penalty of law?

    Your self assured ignorance is really over the top this time EEllis.

    As a retired public safety member (fire house not cop shop) I’ve known and for a brief while worked as an emergency dispatcher and I can assure you that they are not “$12 hr phone operator[s].”

    Though not able to check identities and issue orders on their own 911 Dispatchers can and do transmit lawful orders from sworn safety personnel.

  • SteveK

    Edit to ad: Had Zimmerman “backed-off” when told (lawfully or otherwise) to by a 911 Dispatcher a young and promising child would still be alive today.

    He had NO BUSINESS confronting the young man.

    For the life of me I can’t understand why so many seemingly feel so good regurgitating their “yeah but” scenarios.

  • JMNash

    Steve K : again, how do we know he did not ‘back off’ after the operator said to?

    He says Martin ‘jumped him’ on his way back to the truck. Nothing I know of contradicts this; at least allowing for a definition of ‘jumped’ that means ‘panicked and attacked’.

    Zimmerman claimed he was just trying to keep Martin in sight so he could report to the police where he went. Martin left his route home to avoid Zimmerman. It ain’t that big an area. It seems entirely possible that they found themselves accidentally face to face when GZ headed back to his truck and TM resumed his trip home.

    Think how frightening that would be from both their perspectives…

  • ShannonLeee

    The SYG law wont apply here. Z persued T, “something” happened, Z shot and killed T.

    Z will be convicted of manslaughter, at a mini.

    Z was looking for trouble, found it, and now will go to jail.

    the next question is what happens to the police officers involved in this thing…they have some serious explaining to do. “He attacked me so I shot him”, isnt proof enough to let someone walk. If so, we all now have an easy way to get away with murdering someone we dont like…just make sure there are no witnesses… or at least kill them too and say they also attacked you.

    the whole thing is tragic and is a sad example of what is happening to our fear based society… or maybe just proof that Florida is a completely screwed up state… as if we need any more proof of that.

    From what I have read, Trayvon was just trying to get home…why in earth would he pick a fight with anyone? No, he was threatened, reacted, and was killed by someone that did not understand the law.

    Maybe we are wrong, but common sense says otherwise.

  • ShannonLeee

    btw, great coverage KG… really nice job.

  • EEllis

    As a retired public safety member (fire house not cop shop) I’ve known and for a brief while worked as an emergency dispatcher and I can assure you that they are not “$12 hr phone operator[s].”

    Though not able to check identities and issue orders on their own 911 Dispatchers can and do transmit lawful orders from sworn safety personnel.

    Even on the list you linked there are jobs that are clearly in the range of pay I mentioned. One had starting 911 supervisor pay at $16, what do you think the regular operators start at? I know Tucson starts their 911 operators out at $12. Sworn officers can give lawful orders onsite but the authority to do so when the caller is not breaking the law is limited and I doubt in this case it would of been legal binding even if give by a sworn officer.

  • roro80

    It doesn’t matter what 911 operators make. Why is he calling them anyway if he’s going to simply ignore what they say? Your premise, EEllis, is that the operator told him to do something incorrect because the operator was dumb or didn’t care or something, because he or she isn’t making a ton of money. This is simply incorrect. Even if Treyvon were armed and dangerous (especially if he had been), it was most certainly the correct thing to tell Zimmerman not to follow him. One dude with a gun following around another dude with a gun, and then confronting him, is a bad thing for a civilian to do; it’s asking for a violent escalation. It’s the wrong thing to do. Zimmerman was given good advice by the “$12 an hour” dispatcher, regardless of what the dispatcher makes. Your point is therefore moot.

  • EEllis

    “He attacked me so I shot him”, isnt proof enough to let someone walk. If so, we all now have an easy way to get away with murdering someone we dont like…just make sure there are no witnesses… or at least kill them too and say they also attacked you.

    Ummm you do realize that the “shooter” has to prove nothing, it’s the prosecution who must prove otherwise. If GZ said he stopped at any time and retreated then regardless of his previous actions the shooting could easily be legal.

  • EEllis

    Your premise, EEllis, is that the operator told him to do something incorrect because the operator was dumb or didn’t care or something, because he or she isn’t making a ton of money

    Quit atributing things to me that I don’t write. I never said anything the operator said was wrong, I said there was no way that people would except taking lawful orders from phone operators some of whom are not all that well trained unfortunately. In Houston starting pay is $12 an hour. A bit above the city jailers but well below police and on par with phone operators for private companies, you know the “how may I direct your call” people.

    Your point is therefore moot.

    To bad it was a point I never made. I was responding to the idea that 911 operators should be able to give lawful orders. They shouldn’t and pay, training, and that they are unsworn are only some of the issues. Even if it had been a sworn officer the order wouldn’t have been “legal” anyway. If a police officer was there then they can tell someone to back off but that is because they are there. They can not direct my actions without their presence if I am not breaking the law. There was a reason the operators response was not phrased as an order but as a request.

  • roro80

    No, the point isn’t whether or not it was a legal order or command. It was the right thing to do. Zimmerman explicitly did the wrong thing. That’s a huge problem with the gun system we have — it gives people a false sense of security to do the wrong thing, to escalate instead of stabilize the situation, and people end up getting hurt.

    For example, a few years ago there was a case where an armed robber was robbing a Burger King, and one of the customers started a shoot-out with the robber and ended up killing him. This vigilante “hero” escalated the situation from a robbery of literally hundreds of dollars to a situation where someone died, and there was a shoot out in a public place where other bystanders could have easily been killed too. That others weren’t shot during the few seconds where multiple shots were fired by each person, in both directions, is luck only. Police officers are trained specifically to use such force only when necessary, and when/how it is most likely to de-escalate the situation and not put innocent bystanders at risk. Joe Cowboy-Wannabe is not. That’s the point, EEllis. In this case, Zimmerman could have and should have just backed off the situation and let the police do their job. His dillusions of granduer and vigilante heroism ended with an innocent kid getting shot to death. That is exactly why escalating the situation is the wrong thing to do.

  • http://wiredpen.com KATHY GILL, Technology Policy Analyst

    @JMNash – I truly don’t understand HOW you can be typing what you have been typing if you had simply allocated 5 minutes of your life to listening to the UNCUT 9-1-1 call.

    Here’s one of many that is on YouTube.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgR7gCxXQYg

    I can send you a Word Doc where I’ve transcribed it with timemarks if you like.

    2:19 – Zimmerman says Trayvon is “headed towards the back entrance”

    After Zimmerman says “OK” to the “We don’t need you to do that” statement from the dispatcher, you can continue to hear him breathing like he is walking quickly. He does not stop moving.

    At 2:39 Zimmerman is STILL walking and says “He ran” – the implication is “ran away”

    He then stops moving to make arrangements to meet the police who are ON THEIR WAY according to the dispatcher — rather than meet the police at the mailboxes, he wants them to “Call me so I can tell them where I’m at.” This shows clear intent NOT TO STAND STILL.

    Background noise suggests he begins moving again 3:45

    ***
    Yes, I’m shouting.

    Thanks, @ShannonLee

  • JMNash

    Thanks for the response, sorry ibdidnt notice it right away. I have actually listened to this before, but was good to do it again.

    I am less certain than you seem to be that the sounds we hear directly correlate to walking. I took them for wind noises when I first listened.

    Him changing his mind about meeting the police at the mailboxes doesn’t mean anything beyond that. Remember, this was a non-emergency call at this point. Cops could show up in 2 minutes or 2 HOURS. his nice warm truck is much closer.