The Zimmerman Case: All Rise For The Media

Zimmerman Case

I think that by now everyone is aware of the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering Trayvon Martin. But what do we actually know about the case? Well, if you listened to and read media accounts in the days following Martin’s death, you would’ve seen that Zimmerman was a wild-eyed, crazy, gun-slinging, drooling white man who gunned down a thin, young African American boy who’d skipped his way to the store to purchase candy and a soda, all while humming Disney tunes as tiny bluebirds gayly flitted and fluttered around his head.

We know now, though, that many media accounts were far from accurate. Zimmerman, it turns out, is a half Hispanic man who is most likely a police officer wannabe but doesn’t meet the standard, and Martin was much older and much larger and not quite as innocent as the media wanted us to believe.

What a shock…some media sources stretched and bent and twisted the truth about the case until it turned into what it is today. And there were serious consequences. A police chief lost his job. Racial tensions are at the tipping point. Even the president of the U.S. stuck his nose in the case, saying, “If I had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin.” That was perhaps one of the most odd occurrences in the aftermath of the shooting. But it didn’t stop there. Suddenly, it was black against white (even though Zimmerman is of a Hispanic background). The usuals for both sides came out to stir the pot until it boiled over. There were death threats to Zimmerman, and promised retaliation from non-black hate groups. It’s been near chaos at times.

What we’re seeing play out in the televised coverage of Zimmerman’s murder trial is not even close to what most of the broadcast media outlets sent to our television screens in the hours and days following Martin’s death. Actually, most of the accounting that Zimmerman offered to police has been backed by evidence—Martin most likely punched Zimmerman and slammed his head onto a concrete surface; Martin was on top of Zimmerman when Zimmerman fired his weapon, etc. Even witness testimony and the testimony from an expert placed Martin on top of Zimmerman during the struggle, which brings up a legitimate question. If Martin was on top during the struggle (a good indicator that he was winning the fight) then why would he have reason to yell for help? Certainly, common sense tells us that the loser of a brawl would be more inclined to ask or yell for assistance.

As a police investigator, I searched for fact. I did not allow personal opinion interfere with my methods of solving cases. And that’s how I’ve viewed that facts in this convoluted and unfortunate case involving the death of Trayvon Martin. Sure, if I were a Monday morning quarterback I’d say it would have been best had Zimmerman remained in his car until the police arrived. But that’s not what happened, nor was Zimmerman under any obligation to do so. At any rate, he got out and a few minutes later somebody’s son was dead. And, another son would soon be arrested for murder.

We’ve seen a lot of posturing by attorneys in this case, with each trying to paint the other’s evidence in the worst possible light. They’re taking jabs at the other’s witnesses, trying to discredit them. And the prosecution is trying its best to make George Zimmerman out to be the racist gun-slinging crazy man I mentioned in the opening paragraph. And Zimmerman’s attorneys have tried, but so far haven’t been totally successful in their efforts to change the image the media painted of Trayvon Martin, the happy little kid who was merrily skipping his way home from the candy store.

Now, I wasn’t there when this unfortunate incident took place, which means I can’t with any authority say what happened. I do know, however, what the evidence shows. Do I think Zimmerman is a fine, upstanding citizen? Absolutely not. Not even close. Is he guilty of 2nd Degree Murder? I don’t think the prosecution has come anywhere close to proving their case. Again, not even close.

Sure, Zimmerman killed Martin, but the evidence is leaning in his favor that it was in self defense. Remember, Zimmerman had the same right as Martin to be there on that sidewalk. Zimmerman was not obligated to remain in his car. All that’s in question now is did Zimmerman feel his life or welfare was in jeopardy at the time he pulled the trigger?

And that brings us to Martin. The media and the defense have offered to us an image of a little boy who only wanted one thing, his Skittles and iced tea. However, Martin was no little kid. Sure, he was young, but he was the size of a grown man, and he lived like a man, boasting about fighting and selling and using drugs (on Twitter). The defense will shortly be introducing evidence that Martin had marijuana in his system the night died.

Images taken from Martin’s cell phone definitely paint an entirely different picture of him than what the broadcast media forced upon us. And that’s not including his school suspensions for drug paraphernalia, and other offenses.

Here are some of the images taken from Martin’s cell phone. I ask you, are these the images you’d associate with an innocent and timid little boy?

For those of you who don’t recognize the plant species, this is marijuana.

In no way am I saying Martin or Zimmerman were/are bad people. I’ve never met either of them, or their families. Instead, I believe that all sides of the case, and those involved in it, should be seen before decisions are made. I am saying, however, that the media should broadcast/print the true news—fact—not some story they’ve concocted by manipulating the events and words in ways that helps them sell papers and magazines, and that increases the number of viewers and/or followers to a particular network or political party.

If the Zimmerman case was indeed about race, then so be it. However, I don’t see where it was, but the media has ignited a hot fire that that’ll burn for a long time, and it will be up to others to extinguish it while the true firebugs move on to another story they can spin. For now, though, I feel for the Martin family who has to deal with losing a son. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. But I do know that the racist fire that was concocted and fueled by the media has deepened their wounds. I just hope the Martin’s can someday know that not all whites and Hispanics judge by skin color. I also hope they can do the same.

And, I feel for the Zimmerman’s, whose son may be headed to prison for a long, long time. Zimmerman may or may not be a racist, I don’t know. But he wasn’t given a choice thanks to recordings that were apparently and conveniently edited by the media to suit their agenda.

Anyway, the Zimmerman trial will soon be coming to a close. Hopefully, the jury can wade through everything they’ve seen and heard and reach a decision they believe is the right one—a decision based on the facts of the case. And, hopefully, everyone will accept their decision, whatever it may be, and move on.

Will that be case? I certainly hope so.

*Trayvon Martin’s cell phone images – CNN

22 replies
  1. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Lee- that may be right, but you know every side can produce ‘scientific evidence.” Regardless, it’s an unfortunate case on pretty much every front.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Elizabeth – Zimmerman’s attorney introduced scientific evidence that stated small amounts of pot can bring out aggression in young males.

  3. John McEvoy
    John McEvoy says:

    Zimmerman is YOUNGER than what Martin was? Huh? Don’t let them nasty Facts get in your Wacko/Waco way.

  4. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    BTW Lee, pot smoking, while illegal, is not known for inducing violent behavior–not that I have any personal experience…

  5. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    I agree with whoever said this was a “murky” case. At the onset of the trial, it frequently seemed like a swearing match–never a good sign-with eyewitnesses contradicting each other. To me, the place to lay blame is the ‘stand your ground’ law. My impression, which may be dead wrong of course, is that it gave Zimmerman a sense of validation, if you will. In the end the shooting may very well have been self-defense; we will never know for sure. However, I believe it was a case of imperfect self-defense at best. From a legal perspective, that probably means manslaughter.

    What bothers me, and this includes pretty much our entire justice system, is that none of the facts or lack of, or inconsistensies may enter into the verdict. Further, whatever the verdict, one group will be very unhappy.

    It’s a bad situation-created perhaps by bad law.

  6. Les Edgerton
    Les Edgerton says:

    I haven’t seen the media bias trying to portray Zimmerman as some kind of racist–I won’t watch the lame stream media for that reason–but I’ve watched a lot of the trial and it looks to me as if this should never have even gone to trial. And, that the police chief was fired was ridiculous. Do the media care anything about his loss of livelihood for doing his job in an intelligent manner? Do the so-called media let folks know that Martin has a long, long rapsheet and that there have been a bunch of burglaries in the area? Do they talk about the fact that Martin’s baby-daddy at first said he couldn’t tell if it was Martin on the phone screaming or not, but then reversed himself? Do they talk about the fact that an overwhelming number of people swear that it was Zimmerman screaming for help? The best one is the girlfriend who testified on Martin’s behalf, who couldn’t read cursive (19-year-old senior in high school) of a letter she first claimed she wrote and then admitted she had “help” with it. One thing was clear–it looks as if the Federal School Lunch Program was working… at least for her. Perhaps not so much the “education” thing… This entire thing is a sham and should never have gone to trial in the first place. Zimmerman should have been given a medal. If that makes me a racist in today’s society, well then I guess I can feel free to threaten to riot if it doesn’t go my way. Or, is that only the province of one group? The only thing that I can’t figure out is why anyone of average intelligence or higher would even watch the current media? I should probably keep my opinions to myself… or end up on one of the surveillance lists out there… I suspect I’m not the only one who feels like this, but may be one of the few to say it. This stinks.

  7. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Janis – I’ve never heard that Iced Tea and Skittles were used in Purple Drank/Purple Syrup. That’s interesting and good to know. I’m more familiar with a recipe of Mt. Dew, Energy drinks, or Sprite, and Jolly Rancher candy.

  8. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Everyone, please don’t read between the lines of any of my comments and/or statements. I am neither for nor against Zimmerman. The same for the victim and his family. I do not know anyone involved in this case so there’s no personal connection. The main purpose of The Graveyard Shift is to assist writers and others in learning about law enforcement, first responders, forensics, and everything between.

    It is not my goal to sway anyone toward the beliefs of another. I do, however, try to present things realistically and honestly. If police investigators, attorneys, judges, and jurors decided cases based on gut feelings and personal opinion of suspects and victims, well, there’d still be a lot of people in prison, but not necessarily the right ones. And, a lot of people would still remain free. Again, not necessarily the right ones.

    I’ve worked many, many cases where I didn’t particularly care for either the offender or the victim, but I treated everyone the same, dealing only with facts.

    I wish everyone in the public would/could view these high profile cases in the same way – leaving out personal feelings, emotions, personal beliefs, the what-if’s and shoulda-woulda-coulda’s. In the Zimmerman case, for example, there are very few concrete facts, but what has come to light mostly is in line with Zimmerman’s story.

  9. Janis Patterson
    Janis Patterson says:

    One thing I have not seen mentioned is that iced tea and skittles can be combined with another innocuous ingredient or two to create ‘purple syrup’ – which will give a very violent, antagonistic and intense high.

    There are two things that the media and most of the country seems to have forgotten –

    1. Everyone is considered innocent until proved guilty.

    2. Self defense is not a crime.

    If I had some big thug hitting me, banging my head against the concrete until I bled and holding me down while he hit me, I’d shoot.

  10. Bud
    Bud says:

    Maybe “accost” is inexact. There’s a guy gets out of a car, follows a pedestrian, and the events unfold. Maybe Martin did turn and speak first. But without the guy following him, there would have been no turning. Zimmerman was the initiator, by all tellings. An implicit accost? An implicit threat certainly, following somebody, closing the gap.

  11. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Glynn – Watch programs should be under the wing of programs like the Neighborhood Watch developed and sponsored by the National Sheriff’s Association. They have guidelines and written manuals. And, one of the guidelines is to not engage possible suspects. Instead, Watch members are to call the police and to not take matters into their own hands. These programs are supervised by police officers who stand ready to answer questions and offer suggestions to the groups. They even tailor patrols according to input from Watch groups – more patrols in certain areas, if needed, etc.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea for Watch members to wear uniforms or other identifying logos. If so, they may as well have bright red bulls eyes painted on their bodies – targets for drive-by shootings, etc. Crooks might think that shooting the Watch members on duty they’d have free reign in the neighborhood to do as they please. And I do not think Watch members should be armed.

  12. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Bud, what have you seen or heard that caused you to know that it was Zimmerman who accosted Martin? I’m following this case fairly closely and have yet to hear this as fact. All I’ve seen and heard thus far is each side pointing fingers and playing the blame game. Does it not also seem reasonable that it was Martin who first spoke, asking, “Why are you following me?” Again, we will never know the truth, because Martin is dead and we already know that Zimmerman has lied to officials in the past.

  13. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Judith, I appreciate your comments, I really do. And I understand them. However, I have to ask, with what do you disagree? I offered no opinion regarding the criminal case whatsoever. The only opinion was of the media coverage. Are you saying you disagree with the facts of the case?

    Your statements seem to be based on your perception of what you think may have happened. For example, you say Zimmerman chose to stop and accost Martin. We don’t know that to be fact (remember, fact is what criminal cases are based on, not perception). Actually, it could have been Martin who first challenged Zimmerman, which, as Glynn mentioned is what she may have done had she been in Martin’s shoes. And, we can’t assume Zimmerman’s feelings, tone of voice, etc. because we don’t have a single shred of evidence that sheds any light in that regard. We don’t know beyond a reasonable doubt who spoke first, who landed the first blow…we just don’t know any of this to be fact. And we’ll never know if Martin felt fear or anything else.

    What we do know is that there had been recent trouble in the neighborhood, break-in’s, I believe, and the crimes were committed by young African Americans. Therefore, seeing Martin, a stranger and young African American male, walking through the neighborhood on a rainy night, would raise suspicions, especially to a Watch captain. Did Zimmerman act irresponsibly? Well, I think I probably would have tried to see where the stranger was headed and what he was up to. Would I have followed him on foot? Hmm…maybe, maybe not. But even I can’t say for sure until I’m placed in that position.

    The photos from Martin’s phone do indeed pertain to the case in that they show the court a grown, muscular young man who was physically capable of causing Zimmerman’s injuries. The firearm and marijuana plant coupled with some pretty graphic text messages indicate familiarity with violence and drug use and sales. In other words, Martin was no stranger to either.

    I do agree that Zimmerman should have kept his rear end inside his car. I also believe, and this is my opinion, that having a firearm on his side gave him a sense of “riding tall in the saddle.”

    I do not see enough to convict Zimmerman of 2nd degree murder. Manslaughter, maybe so or maybe no.

  14. Bud
    Bud says:

    It is a seriously murky mess with most of the facts in dispute. Thanks, Lee, for scraping away some of the overlay of junk.

    Zimmerman wasn’t just “being on the sidewalk with Martin.” Nobody but Zimmerman knows exactly what happened, but it seems clear that he accosted Martin and demanded an accounting for his presence in Zimmerman’s neighborhood, exercising his (non-existent) Neighborhood Watch authority. Free speech, on one side; freedom to walk unharassed on public sidewalks on the other. The verbal confrontation transitioned to an assault, maybe by such tiny increments (words, louder, touch, push, punch) even an eyewitness might have had a hard time saying who started the physical fight.

    But the structure of the event persists. Martin didn’t chase Zimmerman. Nothing indicates that absent Zimmerman’s intervention, the skittles and ice-tea would have got safely home, also Zimmerman, nobody hurt, nobody dead.

    Maybe Martin was a powder keg, tough and powerful, just waiting a spark. Maybe he was a posturing teen doufus. But if he thought he was in danger from Zimmerman, under Florida’s stand-your-ground law, he had the right to defend himself, even with lethal force. Same as Zimmerman.

    If it doesn’t matter who started it, both sides can claim stand-your-ground license to kill, in this case, and in every killing in Florida: Give me your wallet I got a knife; oh, you got a gun, I’m feeling threatened, got to stab you now, in self-defense. That law needs work.

    How does Zimmerman being Hispanic affect race as a possible issue? Whether the media got it wrong initially doesn’t speak to whether Zimmerman or Martin were motivated by racist impulses or stereotypes. Or were not.

    The “posturing attorneys” enact our adversarial trial system. It’s rarely pretty because neither side is after justice. The state wants a conviction, the defense wants an acquittal. The theory that if equally skilled practitioners perform their one-sided shows in front of them, the jury and judge will find the way to justice, is sometimes successful in practice. Like Churchill’s comment about democracy: it’s the worst possible system, except for all the others.

  15. Judith Williams
    Judith Williams says:

    I respect your blog and stories greatly but disagree greatly on this one. Yes, the media has shaped this story — made this story what it is — as they so often do now that news outlets are struggling for survival. Can’t trust them much.

    But we can’t hold a trial based on character. Doesn’t matter what photos are on Martin’s cellphone; Zimmerman wasn’t privy to them and can’t have known anything about Martin. Zimmerman knew that there was a black man walking down the street. Zimmerman chose to stop and accost him. There was no reason to do so. Martin wasn’t holding a hostage, displaying a weapon, visibly carrying off loot from a robbery, etc. This action precipitated the events in question; no accosting, no gun firing. This is supposition but I believe that Martin had reason to fear for his life. I doubt that Zimmerman, wannabe cop who probably was jazzed to find a suspicious person on his turf, was polite and non-menacing as he approached Martin. Martin, seeing a non-African American approach with intent certainly wouldn’t be expected to feel happy and safe.

    I’m not trying the case here. I’m just saying that Zimmerman, despite his right to stand on that sidewalk, used very poor judgment and precipitated something that needn’t have happened.

  16. GlynnMarshAlam
    GlynnMarshAlam says:

    Did Zimmerman have any ID that was visible to say he was part of the watch? I know, as a female who sometimes wears a hoodie in rain, I wouldn’t want this guy stalking me. What if instead of running for dear life, I turned and used self defense tactics on him. Would he have shot me? Or would the NRA expect him to use the gun for defense? I have no idea what the jury will do in the current case, but I know I do not want this kind of guy supposedly “watching” my neighborhood.

  17. Terry Shames
    Terry Shames says:

    You’re right that Zimmerman had a right to get out of his car and be on the sidewalk, just like Martin did. Was he smart to do so, given that he thought the young man was a criminal? No, he wasn’t. But he shouldn’t be maligned because he was stupid, which he was. Did he feel threatened when he pulled the trigger? Probably. Again, we shouldn’t malign him because he did something out of fear.

    But the one thing nobody mentions is that Martin also had ever right to feel fear–but unlike Zimmerman’s, his fear was justified. It’s possible that he overpowered Zimmerman, using the only weapons he had at his disposal, his fists and his size. The point is both people felt threatened–one because he got out of the car and followed someone he thought was doing something wrong; the other because he was walking while black, with a hoodie pulled over his head, in the rain. So both felt threatened. And if one hadn’t had a gun, they would probably both still be alive. But one of them did have a gun. End of story.

  18. Jason Leisemann
    Jason Leisemann says:

    I hope so too, Lee.

    Unfortunately, both sides are focusing entirely on the emotional impact of the case. I’ve long felt that emotion has little to no place in being a good juror (perhaps the reason I’ve never been on a jury!) The facts that we are currently unaware of, that do not *seem* to be in dispute, would seem to be the following:

    There was a fistfight.

    At some point, either Zimmerman or Martin was on top and beating the other’s face.

    Martin was shot from the front to the back.

    There is no evidence that the bullet struck the ground beneath him, or that his body was moved significantly after he was shot.

    His body was found face-down on the ground.

    I just can’t come up with any scenario, given that information, where Martin isn’t the one on top. And if you’re getting your face beaten in, and your head struck against concrete, I can’t come up with any scenario where a reasonable person wouldn’t believe that their life was in danger.

    This was a tragedy. Nobody’s denying that. And, frankly, I suspect that Zimmerman is going to spend the rest of his life wishing he’d never gotten out of his car, no matter how the trial turns out.

    But unless somebody can put the gunshot happening outside the context of a fight where Zimmerman was getting his head beaten against the sidewalk, based on my admittedly limited understanding of the law, it’s not murder.

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