By Jueseppi B.
Just In Case You Don’t Know……
The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman took place on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, United States. Martin was an unarmed 17-year-old African American. 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 “This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about” 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. The prosecution’s account of what they allege happened on the night of the shooting is largely contained in the Affidavit of Probable Cause. Zimmerman pleaded not guilty to the charge and is currently out on a $1 million bond while he awaits trial.
In February 2013, Judge Debra S. Nelson set Zimmerman’s jury selection to begin on June 10, with 500 potential jurors being summoned. Zimmerman had requested a “stand your ground” hearing, but in March 2013, his defense elected to bypass the hearing so that his case would be tried before a jury.
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 M. Krop High Schooland 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 townhome 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.
The initial police report from the night of the shooting lists Martin’s height as 6’0″ (1.83 m) and weight as 160 lb (73 kg), while that night Zimmerman estimated Martin’s height at 5’11″ to 6’2″. The morning after the shooting, an autopsy found that Martin’s body was 5’11″ (1.80 m) long and weighed 158 lb (72 kg). Other values for Martin’s height of 6’2″ (1.88 m) and 6’3″ (1.91 m), and weight of no more than 150 lb (68 kg), were reported as being given by Martin’s family.
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 was for graffiti, when Martin was observed by a security camera in a restricted area of the school marking up a door with “W.T.F.” When he was later searched by a Miami-Dade School Police Department officer, looking for the graffiti marker, the officer found several pieces of women’s jewelry in his backpack, which Martin said were not his, stating a friend had given them to him. A screwdriver was also found, which was described by the school police investigator as a burglary tool.
The jewelry was impounded and given to the police, but no evidence ever surfaced to indicate that the jewelry was stolen. Martin’s third suspension involved a marijuana pipe, and an empty bag containing marijuana residue. Martin was not charged with any crime related to these 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 that it was 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.
George Zimmerman after his arrest in April 2012
George Michael Zimmerman was born on October 5, 1983, in Manassas, Virginia, and is the son of Gladys (née Mesa) Zimmerman, who was born in Peru, and Robert Zimmerman, Sr., a retired Virginia magistrate. He was raised Catholic in a family that his father has described as “multiracial;” his father is an American of German descent and his mother is Peruvian with some black ancestry through her Afro-Peruvian maternal grandfather. Zimmerman’s voter registration record lists him as Hispanic.
Zimmerman’s height is shown as 5′7″ (1.70 m); and his weight as 185 lb (84 kg) on his Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Booking Information dated 4/11/2012, the date of his arrest. Zimmerman’s height is shown as 5′8″ (1.73 m); and his weight at 200 lb (91 kg) on the Sanford Police Department Offense Report for 2/26/2012, the night of the shooting.
In 2009, Zimmerman had moved with his wife to The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida, a multi-ethnic gated community, where the shooting occurred. At the time of the shooting, he was employed as an insurance underwriter and was in his final semester at Seminole State College for an associate degree in Criminal Justice. In late 2011, he was refused an associate’s degree. He had failed at least one class and had not accumulated enough credits to graduate. In one of his interviews with police he stated his goal was to become a judge.
In 2005, Zimmerman was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, after shoving an officer while a friend of Zimmerman’s was being questioned about underage drinking. The charges were reduced, then dropped when Zimmerman entered a pre-trial diversion program. Also in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiance filed a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman requested a reciprocal restraining order. Both orders were granted. The incidents were raised by prosecutors at Zimmerman’s initial bond hearing. The judge described the incidents as “run of the mill” and “somewhat mild” and rejected the prosecution’s claim that the incidents showed that Zimmerman was violent or a threat to the community.
Sanford Police Department
Bill Lee had been chief of the Sanford Police Department for ten months when the shooting occurred. Prior to Lee becoming chief, the department had been accused of protecting relatives of police officers involved in violent incidents with blacks, and the Martin case increased distrust between the police and Sanford’s black community.
On March 22, Chief Lee temporarily stepped down from his position due to public criticism over his handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting. In April, the Sanford City Commission refused to accept Lee’s resignation and stated that “Lee’s spotless record showed there needed to be further review to determine if he failed in his duties.” Lee was fired on June 20, 2012 by Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte. Lee responded by saying “I continue to stand by the work performed by the Sanford Police Department in this tragic shooting, which has been plagued by misrepresentations and false statements for interests other than justice.”
On June 26, 2012, the lead investigator of the case, Christopher Serino, was transferred out of the Sanford Police Department’s investigative unit and reassigned to the patrol division at his own request. Serino said he felt pressured by several of his fellow police officers to press charges on Zimmerman when he believed there was not enough evidence to do so, and that one of the officers pressuring him was friendly with Martin’s father.
In September, 2012, Orlando TV station WFTV released a memo from the interim police chief Richard Myers blaming the police department spokesman, Sgt. David Morgenstern, for mishandling the Travyon Martin case and removed him from his spokeperson position.
State Attorney Angela Corey
The prosecutor initially responsible for the case was Norm Wolfinger, a State Attorney whose jurisdiction included Seminole County where the shooting occurred on February 26, 2012. On March 22, 2012, he requested to be removed from the case to help “tone down the rhetoric” for the public good.
On March 22, 2012, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced his appointment of Angela Corey as the Special Prosecutor in the Martin investigation. She is the State Attorney for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties. When Corey took the case, she chose Bernie de la Rionda as lead prosecutor. Rionda was an Assistant State Attorney in Corey’s office and had been a prosecutor for 29 years.
On April 11, 2012, Mark M. O’Mara announced that he was the new attorney representing Zimmerman. O’Mara is president of the Seminole County Bar Association, is a legal commentator for WKMG news, and had previously tried cases that involved the Stand Your Ground law. When he took the case, O’Mara said that Zimmerman had no money and that the state may help pay the costs. When reporters asked why he took the case, O’Mara said, “That’s what I do.”
On May 31, 2012, Orlando attorney Don West left his job as a federal public defender to join the defense team led by O’Mara. West specialized in murder cases and had been a board certified criminal trial specialist for 25 years. He and O’Mara had been friends for a long time.
Martin family attorneys
Benjamin Crump, the lawyer representing the interests of the Martin family, operates a law firm in Tallahassee, Florida, with his partner Daryl Parks. The firm has eight lawyers who focus on wrongful death, malpractice, personal injury and civil rights. In 2006, Crump sued to have the video released in the case of Martin Anderson, a teenager who died at a boot camp run by the Bay County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office. The Martin family is also represented by Natalie Jackson, an Orlando civil rights attorney.
Judge Debra S. Nelson of the 18th Circuit Court of Florida is the third judge to preside over the case. Nelson has been a judge for thirteen years, much of it handling criminal matters. Before becoming a judge she worked in civil litigation. Nelson succeeded Judge Kenneth Lester on August 30, 2012, after a Florida appeals court ruled that remarks he made about Zimmerman could make a reasonable person believe he was biased against him. Lester had taken over the case in April, 2012, after Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself due to a potential conflict of interest.
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.
A hearing was held, in which Judge Mark Herr ruled that the affidavit was legally sufficient to establish probable cause. Court documents, including witness statements and other information, were sealed. Zimmerman’s arraignment was scheduled for May 29. Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself as the primary trial judge, due to a potential conflict of interest and Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., was appointed by the chief judge to take over the Zimmerman case.
Initially, Zimmerman was released on a $150,000 bond and was fitted with an electronic monitoring device that revealed his whereabouts in real-time. At the hearing, Zimmerman took the witness stand and told the parents of Martin he was “sorry for the loss of your son”. Zimmerman’s attorney, waived Zimmerman’s right to appear at an arraignment and entered a not guilty plea on his behalf. The defense team announced that it would seek a “stand your ground” hearing because case evidence shows “clear support for a strong claim of self-defense.”
Judge Lester ordered that the defense have access to Trayvon Martin’s personal records including records from middle and high school, his cell phone, and access to posts he made on Facebook and Twitter as well as tweets from a girl Martin was on the phone with the night he was killed. On October 19, Judge Nelson granted the request for the defense to have access to Martin’s school records and social media posts, In her ruling, the judge stated that Zimmerman’s attorneys need to know whether Martin’s school records and social media postings reveal any evidence that he had violent tendencies. Martin’s parents and their attorneys 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. Judge Nelson also ruled that Zimmerman’s medical records should be provided to prosecutors. Nelson will review the medical records and decide whether anything should be withheld.
The defense also requested from ABC News and reporter Matt Gutman all their recordings, notes and correspondence related to Witness Number 8, Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend. She says she was on the phone with Martin just before he was shot. O’Mara’s motion stated the call lasted more than 26 minutes and the recording they received from the authorities was only 12 minutes, 44 seconds long.
Zimmerman’s bond revocation
In June, of 2012, Judge Lester granted a motion to revoke Zimmerman’s bond. The prosecution alleged that Zimmerman and his wife had misled the court by failing to reveal a large amount of money they had received through donations and that they had used a “rudimentary ‘code’ to discuss the money in recorded jailhouse phone calls—referring to $100,000, for example, as ‘$100.’”
On July 5, 2012, Judge Lester set Zimmerman’s bond at $1 million with several conditions – that he be electronically monitored, reside in Seminole County, have no bank accounts or passport and observe a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. Lester said he granted bond “because Zimmerman posed no threat to the community.” Zimmerman was released on July 6.
In May 2012, the defense received the first round of discovery evidence; 67 compact discs, a list of witnesses that included 50 possible law enforcement officers, 28 officers from the Sanford Police Department, 28 civilian witnesses, members of Martin’s family, two of Zimmerman’s friends and his father, Robert Zimmerman. Also listed as potential prosecution witnesses were technicians in biological and DNA evidence, trace evidence, gunshot residue, fingerprints and firearms, two FBI agents, and two audio technicians who analyzed the emergency calls made during the confrontation to determine who was heard screaming in the background. Additional evidence released were audio and video recordings, photos, witness statements, forensic findings, Martin’s autopsy report, evidence taken from Zimmerman after the shooting; his weapon, bullets, clothes, a DNA sample, medical records and his cell phone data.
In June, 2012, the prosecution released recordings of two 911 calls placed by Martin’s father the morning after the shooting. In the calls, Mr. Martin expressed worry that his son had not returned home, and inquired about filing a missing person report. Additional discovery released was a report containing the results of Zimmerman’s voice stress test, and Zimmerman’s account of the events and written statements. The defense also released audio and video recordings of Zimmerman’s police interviews and re-enactment following the shooting.
In July, 2012, evidence released was; FBI interviews with people involved in the case, including Sanford police officers, family, friends and associates of Zimmerman. Also released were photos of Martin’s bloodied sweatshirt and hoodie with a single bullet hole and several phone calls made by Zimmerman to Sanford police to report suspicious activity in the six months leading up to his encounter with Martin.
In August, 2012, the State’s 6th Supplemental Discovery, included 76 pages containing the audio statement from witness 31, three photos taken by witness 13 at the scene showing the back of Zimmerman’s head, a flashlight on the ground, the FDLE report with analyst’s notes, emails from the Sanford Police Department, copies of Tracy Martin’s 911 call reporting his son missing and Zimmerman’s Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Academy application.
On December 3, 2012, defense attorney Mark O’Mara stated that he was “frustrated” that in the original discovery, a grainy black and white photo of Zimmerman had been substituted for the original color photo of Zimmerman’s bloody nose. Criminal attorney David Wohl said the submission of the copy “borders on prosecutorial misconduct”.
Removal of Judge Lester
In July, 2012, Zimmerman’s lawyer filed a motion to disqualify Judge Kenneth R. Lester. O’Mara said Judge Lester had made disparaging and gratuitous remarks about his client in a July, 2012 bond order. The defense said the judge’s statement that he believed Zimmerman had misled the court at his first hearing “indicates bias against the party”, and would impact Zimmerman’s ability to get a fair trial. The state criticized the motion for citing “facts that are inaccurate, misleading and/or incomplete”.
On August 1, Judge Lester ruled that he would not recuse himself, stating that the defendant’s motion was denied for being legally insufficient. Zimmerman’s attorney filed an appeal in August, 2012, with a Florida appeals court to reconsider a ruling by Judge Lester refusing to step down from the case. On August 29, 2012, the Fifth District Court of Appeals granted the petition for a new judge for Zimmerman. This was the second judge to be removed from Zimmerman’s case. Judge Jessica Recksiedler removed herself from the case in April because of a conflict of interest. On August 30, 2012, Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson, who has been on the bench for 13 years, was assigned the Zimmerman case.
Jury selection is scheduled for June 10, 2013, with 500 potential jurors being summoned.
“Stand your ground” laws
Self-defense laws in the United States, particularly regarding justifiable homicide, vary by state. Florida law, as of 2005, includes a “stand your ground” provision, under which a person, who reasonably fears death or great bodily harm (the ordinary deadly self-defense requirement) is relieved of the common-law requirement that one first attempt to retreat, if one can safely do so, before using deadly force.
In almost all states, such laws exempt people in their own homes; Florida’s version extends the no-retreat doctrine to vehicles and public places. In at least 17 states, including Florida, there is no duty to retreat before using force. After the shooting, media reports had indicated that Zimmerman would most likely use the “Stand Your Ground” provision in Florida’s self-defense law. According to Durell Peaden, one of the sponsors of the Florida law, the law does not say that a person has a right to confront another. “When [Zimmerman] said ‘I’m following him’, he lost his defense.” However, the same Mar 20, 2012, article goes on to state, “Peaden and Baxley said they didn’t know all the facts of the case, so their interpretations of what happened could change if new information arises during the investigation.”
According to David Kopel, if Martin first attacked Zimmerman, the claim of self-defense by Zimmerman would be valid under the usual self-defense laws that didn’t include the “Stand your ground” law. On the other hand, if Zimmerman stalked and attacked Martin, the “Stand your ground” law would not protect Zimmerman from prosecution. In either case, the Florida “Stand your ground” law would be irrelevant.
However, the “Stand Your Ground” law grants Zimmerman the right to a pretrial hearing where a judge could find Zimmerman immune from prosecution and dismiss the charges without going to trial. The defense would need to show through a preponderance of the evidence, i.e. show with more than 50% certainty, that Zimmerman thought he would be killed or seriously injured.
Three weeks after the shooting, Florida authorities announced they had picked 19 people to head up a task force to review the Florida statute that deals with justifiable use of force, including the stand your ground provision. After six months of work, the result was that the task force did not recommend significant changes to the law.
On January 16, 2013, Trayvon Martin’s mother and Democratic lawmakers in Florida called for the repeal of the states “stand your ground” law.
Trayvon Martin’s Father: ‘Trayvon Saved My Life’
Published on Mar 22, 2012
Killer Vigilante George Zimmerman ‘Lynched’ Trayvon Martin For Carrying a Bag of Skittles and Iced Tea.
Trayvon Martin’s Mother: ‘There is a Hole in My Heart’
Trayvon Martin’s Parents Speak at ‘Million Hoodie’ Rally in New York City
Florida’s “Shoot First” Law Critiqued By Gun Control Lobby Following Trayvon Martin Shooting
Published on Mar 20, 2012
democracynow.org – We speak with Caroline Brewer of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence about how the killing of Trayvon Martin has brought renewed scrutiny to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, also referred to by critics as the “shoot first” law. Backed by the National Rifle Association, the law expands the right of citizens to claim self-defense in the killing of others. More than 20 states have similar measures in place. Martin says the law allowed Floridians with criminal backgrounds — including many who plead guilty to assault, burglaries and child molestation — to obtain concealed carry licenses. “You’re talking about people who are dangerous, people who are violent, and yet just within a short time after the law was passed, Florida had hundreds and hundreds of these people with these licenses to go out and kill somebody else,” Brewer says. “And pretty much it was their word against the other person’s.”
Trayvon Martin’s Death Sparks National Outcry For Justice
George Zimmerman is seen in a photo shortly after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in February.
A Florida judge has set June 10, 2013 as the start date of the murder trial of George Zimmerman.
Attorneys in the case said they estimate the trial will last three weeks, and Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda said he expected the jury selection would take longer than the trial itself, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Circuit Court Judge Debra Nelson was appointed to the case in late August after the former judge in the case made disparaging remarks about Zimmerman’s character and advocated for additional charges against him during a bond hearing.
Zimmerman is currently out of jail on bail. He and his wife, Shellie, who is charged with perjury in the case for her claims that the couple had no money at a bond hearing, are both living in hiding in Seminole County, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
By Graham Winch For HLN
Out of the public eye for weeks, George Zimmerman is finally back in court and HLN will be covering it LIVE on Tuesday starting at 9 am.
There is a critical hearing next Tuesday in George Zimmerman’s case, and it could be one of the last pre-trial hearings before his trial gets under way.
Jury selection for Zimmerman’s trial is scheduled to begin June 10.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge for shooting Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. The teenager was returning from a convenience store and was unarmed. Zimmerman told police he shot the teen in self-defense.
At the hearing Tuesday, attorneys will argue several motions filed by the defense. The defense wants the prosecution to turn over phone records from Zimmerman and his wife.
Zimmerman’s attorneys also want access to the confidential settlement agreement between the Martin family and the homeowners association of the neighborhood where Martin was shot.
Zimmerman’s attorneys are also asking Judge Debra Nelson to sanction the prosecution for violating rules of discovery for failing to turn over evidence in a timely manner.
The court could also hear arguments Tuesday about a motion the prosecutors filed this week. Prosecutors want Zimmerman to declare in open court whether he is going to ask for immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. During a hearing held in March, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara said his client was not going to pursue immunity under the “Stand Your Ground” law and will continue directly to his trial. For prosecutors, O’Mara’s statement isn’t enough, they want Zimmerman to say on the record whether he will pursue immunity.
Read more: Martin’s family settle wrongful death suit
The motion prosecutors filed this week asks the judge to advise Zimmerman of his rights under the “Stand Your Ground Law,” and to ask him directly under oath whether he is waiving his rights under the law. Zimmerman is expected to attend Tuesday’s hearing.
All the jockeying for the best possible position in this long awaited trial is over. On June 10th, 2013, jury selection will begin and unless a meteor from the Planet Krypton crashes into planet Earth…this trial will happen.
If justice is true, after the trial is finished, George Zimmerman will be sentenced…..to join Trayvon Martin….in death.
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