By Jueseppi B.
The Washington Post says it best:
Eighteen years ago today, Trayvon Benjamin Martin was born to Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Nearly a year ago, their son was killed by George Zimmerman, aneighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., who viewed Trayvon as “a real suspicious guy.” Instead, the unarmed teenager was found with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea from 7-Eleven and a bullet hole in his chest from Zimmerman’s Kel-Tec 9 mm PF-9.
Get the rest of the story at The Washington Post.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by Mr. Zimmerman, a crime watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. The death of the unarmed black teenager and the decision of the local police not to bring charges against Mr. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, set off a national outcry, leading the Justice Department in March to open an investigation.
Trayvon, 17, was shot as he was walking to the home of his father’s girlfriend from a convenience store in Sanford, just north of Orlando. Mr. Zimmerman told the police that he shot Trayvon in self-defense.
The announcement of the federal investigation came after protests that the Sanford Police Department had mishandled the case.
In the wake of the tragedy, the fateful encounter between a black youth who wanted to go to college and a Hispanic man who wanted to be a judge polarized the nation. Across the country,the parsing of the case has become cacophonic and political, punctuated by pleas for tolerance, words of hatred, and spins from the left and the right.
George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old multi-racial Hispanic American, was the appointed neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community where Martin was temporarily staying and where the shooting took place.
While in his vehicle on a personal errand, Zimmerman noticed Martin walking inside the community. Zimmerman called the Sanford Police Department to report Martin’s behavior as suspicious, stating that Martin was “cutting in-between houses…walking very leisurely for the [rainy] weather” and “looking at all the houses”.
According to a police report, “there is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter”. While still on the phone with the police dispatcher, Zimmerman left his vehicle. After the phone call concluded, there was a violent encounter between Martin and Zimmerman. The encounter ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin once in the chest at close range.
When police arrived on the scene, Zimmerman told them that Martin had attacked him and that he had shot Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and from two vertical lacerations on the back of his head. EMTs treated Zimmerman at the scene, after which he was taken to the Sanford Police Department. Zimmerman was detained and questioned for approximately five hours. He was then released without being charged; at the time, police said they found no evidence to contradict Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.
The circumstances of Martin’s death, the initial decision not to charge Zimmerman, and questions about Florida’s“Stand Your Ground” law received national and international attention. Allegations of racist motivation for both the shooting and police conduct, along with intense media reporting that was sometimes inaccurate, contributed to public demands for Zimmerman’s arrest. On March 22, 2012, a Special Prosecutor was appointed to take over the investigation.
On April 11, 2012, the Special Prosecutor filed a charge of murder in the second degree against Zimmerman, who then turned himself in and was placed in custody. According to the prosecution’s Affidavit of Probable Cause, “Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.” A prosecution investigator who co-signed the affidavit later testified at a hearing that he did not know whether it was Zimmerman or Martin who started the confrontation. Zimmerman pleaded not guilty to the charge and is currently out on a $1 million bond while he awaits trial; he has requested a hearing under the “stand your ground” law provisions.
In October 2012, Judge Debra S. Nelson set Zimmerman’s trial date for June 10, 2013. She also ruled that any “stand your ground” hearing must be held by April 26, 2013.
Trayvon Benjamin Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012) was the son of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, who were divorced in 1999. He was a junior at Dr. Michael Krop High School and lived with his mother and older brother in Miami Gardens, Florida.
On the day Martin was fatally shot, he and his father were visiting his father’s fiancée and her son at her town home in The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, a multi-ethnic gated community, where the shooting occurred. Martin had visited his father’s fiancée at Twin Lakes several times.
Post mortem reports gave Martin’s body length and weight as 5′11″– 6′0″ (1.80–1.83 m) and 158–160 lb (72–73 kg). Statements from Martin’s family indicated his height prior to death was 6′3″ (1.91 m) and weight no more than 150 lb(68 kg).
Martin had been suspended from school at the time of his death, his third disciplinary suspension of the year. One suspension was for tardiness. Another suspension occurred when Martin was observed on a security camera in a restricted area of the school; he was observed spraying “WTF” graffiti on a locker. When he was later searched by a Miami-Dade School Police Department officer, he had several pieces of women’s jewelry in his backpack which he said was not his, and a screwdriver, which was described by the school police investigator as “a burglary tool”.
The jewelry was impounded and given to the police, but had not been reported as stolen. His final suspension involved a marijuana pipe, and an empty bag containing marijuana residue. Martin was not charged with any crime for any of the incidents and did not have a juvenile record. Judge Nelson ruled that the defense may have access to Martin’s records, including the details of these suspensions, as well as access to Martin’s social media sites, but has not ruled on if they will be admissible as evidence during the trial.
Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, said the parents had never heard about the bag of jewelry and it’s completely irrelevant to what happened on February 26. Martin’s parents and their attorneys also said the defense’s request for school records and social media was a “fishing expedition” aimed at attacking their son and an attempt to assassinate his character.
Martin family response to shooting
Tracy Martin was skeptical of the account of his son’s death told to him by Sanford police investigators and believed Zimmerman didn’t act in self-defense. Two days after the shooting, he was referred to civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who was retained to pursue legal action and to persuade the news media to cover the case. Attorney Natalie Jackson and publicist Ryan Julison, both of Orlando, also joined the Martin team. Due to their efforts, the case started to receive national attention on March 7. On March 9, Crump announced he was suing to have 911 calls from the night of the shooting made public. They were released by the Sanford mayor on March 16. As attention to the case grew, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton gave media interviews and appeared at some of the protests being held which called for Zimmerman’s arrest.
On April 11, 2012, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. In support of the charges, the State filed an affidavit of probable cause, stating that Zimmerman profiled and confronted Martin and shot him to death while Martin was committing no crimes. Florida State Attorney Angela Corey announced the charges against Zimmerman during a live press conference and reported that Zimmerman was in custody after turning himself in to law enforcement. In Florida, a conviction for second degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. If a firearm was used then the mandatory minimum is 25 years in state prison.
An undated personal photo of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie was displayed by protesters and sold by merchants on hoodies, T-shirts and keychains, prompting the family to trademark slogans using his name.
After the shooting, Zimmerman was criticized by the Martin family and in the media for following Martin and for carrying a weapon. Sanford police chief Bill Lee stated that neighborhood watch volunteers are not encouraged to carry a gun but have a Constitutional right to do so. Lee further stated, “Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred.” Sanford Police volunteer program coordinator Wendy Dorival, told the Miami Herald that she met Zimmerman in September, 2011, at a community neighborhood watch presentation. “I said, ‘If it’s someone you don’t recognize, call us. We’ll figure it out,’ ‘Observe from a safe location.’ Dorival said.”
Protests were staged around the U.S. prior to Zimmerman’s April 11 indictment on murder charges. Over 2.2 million signatures were collected on a Change.org petition, created by Martin’s mother, calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. It was the website’s largest petition ever.
Since Martin was killed while wearing a hoodie, hoodies were used as a sign of protest, and many cities staged “million hoodie marches” or “hundred hoodie marches.” Additionally, some professional athletes, including Carmelo Anthony and the entire Miami Heat roster, tweeted photos of themselves wearing hoodies.
Bags of Skittles candy and cans of Arizona Iced Tea were also used as protest symbols. Martin was reported to be returning from a 7-Eleven convenience store with these items when he was shot, although the beverage he purchased was actually an Arizona brand fruit drink.
Walkouts were staged by students at over a dozen Florida high schools, and thousands of people attended rallies around the country to demand Zimmerman’s arrest. Members of the Occupy movement marched in solidarity during the “Million Hoodie March.”
Speaking on the day of Zimmerman’s arrest, Al Sharpton said, “Forty-five days ago, Trayvon Martin was murdered. No arrest was made. The Chief of Police in Sanford announced after his review of the evidence there would be no arrest. An outcry from all over this country came because his parents refused to leave it there.” Jesse Jackson also referred to Martin as “murdered and martyred.” And U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson (Dem.), who represents Martin’s hometown of Miami, used the word “murdered” when she referred to Martin’s fatal shooting.
Herman Cain objected to what he called “swirling rhetoric” and “a war of words”, and former NAACP leader C.L. Bryant singled out Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for being “race hustlers” who were exploiting Martin’s death “to inflame racial passions.” Bryant also criticized President Barack Obama for his “nebulous” comment, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Former education secretary William J. Bennett criticized what he called a “mob mentality,” saying that “…the tendency in the first days by some, including Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and an angry chorus of followers, was to rush to judgment with little regard for fairness, due process, or respect for the terrible death of a young man.”
Senior Fellow Shelby Steele at Stanford University‘s Hoover Institution said that the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death was being exploited by a generation of “ambulance-chasing” black leaders who have promoted “our historical victimization as the central theme of our group identity.”
President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters on March 23 after federal investigators were deployed to Sanford, said, “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids, and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this… If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
According to Zimmerman’s father, George Zimmerman received death threats after the shooting and was forced to move out of his home. The New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 reward for the “capture” of George Zimmerman; this was condemned by the city of Sanford.
Film director Spike Lee retweeted to his 200,000 Twitter followers an erroneous Sanford, Florida, address, purported to be Zimmerman’s, which forced a family out of their home to avoid harassment after they received hate mail and unwanted visits from reporters. Lee was criticized for his retweet and he later issued an apology for having tweeted the wrong address, though not for engaging in what columnist Doug Giles called “cyberbullying” that exposed Zimmerman to “vigilante…mob violence.”
Professor Alan Dershowitz criticized the probable cause affidavit against Zimmerman as “so thin that it won’t make it past the judge,” calling it “irresponsible and unethical,” and opined that the charges were motivated by prosecutor Corey’s desire to be re-elected. The deadline for qualifying to run against Corey was 9 days after she filed charges, and no one stepped forward to challenge her, so she won re-election.
In June, Dershowitz said that Corey had contacted the dean of Harvard Law School about his remarks, threatening to sue Dershowitz for libel and slander, and the school too, and saying she wanted him to be disciplined by the American Bar Association. Dershowitz said the dean defended his remarks under academic freedom, and he commented that “even if Angela Corey’s actions were debatable, which I believe they were not, I certainly have the right, as a professor who has taught and practiced criminal law nearly 50 years, to express a contrary view.” CNN legal analyst Mark NeJame expressed concern over Corey’s threats and questioned if the prosecution of Zimmerman was for political reasons.
Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn wrote “…what’s often overlooked in all the heated conversations about this tragedy is the actual timeline based on police documents.” and “[The timeline] indicates that the victim as well as the accused made some terrible choices that night…and it tells us to keep our minds open and our tempers in check, at least until some of [the] gaps get filled at Zimmerman’s trial.”
Fox News Channel host Geraldo Rivera claimed that Martin’s “gangsta style clothing” was “as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.” Rivera was quoted saying, “I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies.” Faced with outrage over his statements, Rivera apologized, saying that he had “obscured the main point that someone shot and killed an unarmed teenager.”
When a 7-Eleven surveillance video showing Martin making a purchase on the night of the shooting was released two months later, however, Rivera referred to the clothes he had been wearing as “thug wear.” His comments were criticized by the Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, who compared them to people blaming rape victims for wearing short skirts.
After Zimmerman’s bond was revoked for allegedly misrepresenting how much money he had when his bond was set, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said he expected the prosecution to bring Zimmerman’s credibility “front and center in this entire case.” Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara stated that it was a “mistake” that had “undermined his credibility, which he will have to work to repair.”
Trayvon’s father Tracy Martin, family attorney Benjamin Crump and mother Sybrina Fulton, at the ‘Million Hoodies’ protest in Union Square, New York
For the first 10 days after Martin’s death, the story was covered by only the Florida media. In order to bring more attention to the case, Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson sought the assistance of publicist Ryan Julison on March 5.
On March 7, 2012, Reuters covered the story, and the following day, CBS News, acting on a tip it received from the network’s local bureau in Atlanta, Georgia, obtained an exclusive interview with Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton that was broadcast on CBS This Morning.
Also on March 8, The Huffington Post, The Young Turks, and TheGrio.com, which is affiliated with NBC News, started to cover the case. On March 9, 2012, ABC World News featured the story on their nightly broadcast. CNN first reported on the case on March 12, 2012, and by the end of that week, radio hosts and bloggers were also reporting on the story.
National coverage started to increase the week of March 12 and intensified after March 16, when tapes of 9-1-1 calls were released to the public. Having the 9-1-1 calls, which the police had previously declined to release, gave radio and TV reporters more material to report on.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism reported that media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case became the first story in 2012 to be featured more than the presidential race. According to the Project, the varying types of media have focused on the case in different ways. An article in the Tampa Bay Times wrote that, “on Twitter, people are outraged at Zimmerman and want justice, while on cable news and talk radio people are discussing the state’s laws for self-defense and gun control and on blogs the focus has been on race.”
Fox News news magazine host Geraldo Rivera, a former NBC employee, asserted that MSNBC “made an ideological decision that… they would argue strenuously for the prosecution of George Zimmerman and the ultimate conviction of George Zimmerman… They are cheerleading for the conviction of George Zimmerman.”
Robert Mackey, a blogger at The New York Times, wrote that a “wave of vitriol” was aimed at Martin by “conservatives online” in an attempt to make Martin appear menacing by selectively highlighting images from his social media accounts. In one case an image of a different person also named Trayvon Martin in a “gangsta” pose was reprinted in conservative blogs and publications such as the Daily Caller and Michelle Malkin‘s blog.
The trial is now scheduled for June 10, 2013. There will also be pre-trial evidentiary hearings in April.
“Made You Die” Trayvon Martin Tribute.
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Trayvon Martin Tribute