The Zimmerman Trial:
Lies, Slanders...and the Cold-Blooded Lynching of Trayvon Martin
July 14, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The eyes of a nation are on the trial of the killer of Trayvon Martin, and in many ways, the whole world is watching. Trayvon Martin was a Black teenager gunned down by a vigilante killer just after 7 pm on the evening of February 26, 2012. He was walking to his father’s house with a can of ice tea and a bag of candy.
George Zimmerman knew nothing about Trayvon Martin, never even heard of him. But he thought he knew him. All Zimmerman had to see was a young Black man in a hoodie walking home with a snack, and he “knew” that Trayvon Martin was a “suspect.” He “knew” Trayvon Martin was a “fucking punk.” He “knew” Trayvon was “a fucking asshole” who “always gets away with it.”
And based on that, Zimmerman got out of his car, stalked Trayvon Martin, pressed a 9mm pistol into Trayvon Martin’s sweatshirt right at his heart. He fired a hollow-point bullet into Trayvon’s heart, killing him nearly instantly.
Zimmerman never showed any remorse for killing Trayvon Martin. Not when he pulled the trigger. Not when he told police over and over again—without any basis—that Trayvon was “the suspect.” Not when directly asked if he would change anything if he could, in a TV interview that was played in court. In that TV interview, Zimmerman claimed—obscenely—that it was “god’s will” for him to kill Trayvon Martin.
And through this all, Zimmerman has acted as if he has a whole system behind him. For good reason. The Trayvon Martins of this country (and this world) have been branded suspects by a system that has no future for them. From endless depictions of them as thugs on TV and in the movies, to the institutionalized criminalization of them through “stop-and-frisk,” to the schools-to-prison pipeline to mass incarceration, they are a generation for whom this system has no future.
But Trayvon Martin was a human being! He had a right to live, to have a future, and so do millions like him. And so the stakes of this trial are truly decisive to the kind of world people will live in.
As the prosecution presented its case in this trial, over and over it has been revealed how Zimmerman coldly murdered Trayvon. Evidence has come out that Zimmerman got out of his car, followed Trayvon when the non-emergency dispatch operator told him not to, lied to the dispatch operator to cover his tracks as he stalked Trayvon, and shot Trayvon Martin point-blank through the heart.
This was Zimmerman’s state of mind: He saw a Black youth he “knew” was up to no good. Zimmerman chased Trayvon down with malice, and shot him straight through the heart knowing this would kill him and then afterwards gave a narration like a proud wannabe cop killing a “perp.” In his statement to the cops he referred to Trayvon repeatedly as the “suspect” when in fact it was Zimmerman who was taken into custody for killing Trayvon! And the police who “interviewed” Zimmerman shared that mentality, not challenging him on this.
Some Truth Emerges in Court
Prosecutors ended their case on Friday, July 5. George Zimmerman cannot be forced to testify against himself (this is a basic right that any defendant has) but prosecutors presented Zimmerman’s calls to a non-emergency operator. Zimmerman’s interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity was played in court. There was testimony as to statements Zimmerman made to police, and testimony of a close friend of Zimmerman’s who wrote a book justifying the murder of Trayvon Martin. Through this material, as well as other statements he has made that were reported in the press, Zimmerman’s versions of what happened that night were revealed to contradict each other, and to be full of lies (see “Zimmerman’s Lies: A Brief Recap”).
Prosecutors also called several witnesses, most notably Rachel Jeantel who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin for much of the time he was being stalked and followed by Zimmerman. She testified to Trayvon’s fear of his stalker and his efforts to get away from him (see “Timeline of a Murder”).
Rachel Jeantel testified in court that during this call Trayvon told her he was being stalked by a strange man—a “creepy-ass cracker,” as she said Trayvon called him. She told the court that Trayvon told her he was going home, and never said he was going to confront the man following him.
Zimmerman had gotten out of his vehicle in pursuit of Trayvon despite instructions not to from the non-emergency dispatcher. He was armed with a loaded 9-mm handgun. Even though the community in which this took place was small and Zimmerman was well acquainted with it, he claimed he didn't know what street he was on, telling police just to call him when they arrived in order to hunt down Trayvon.
During this time, Rachel Jeantel testified that she advised Trayvon to run. He replied he was walking fast. Rachel said the last thing she heard Trayvon say was “get off, get off.” Then their connection cut off. Rachel Jeantel, as she told the court, was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin.
Only minutes after Zimmerman set off to hunt down Trayvon Martin, a gunshot was heard on a 911 call. When police arrived on the scene, Trayvon Martin was lying face down on the ground, bleeding to death from the one blast that tore Trayvon's heart open. The dead body of Trayvon Martin was tested for drugs; Zimmerman never was. Zimmerman was taken into police custody. Five hours after he shot and murdered Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman was released by Sanford police with no charges filed. The next morning, Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, was notified that his son had been killed the previous night.
These are facts established by the public record, documented by phone logs and recordings, corroborated by the testimony of key witnesses, in particular Rachel Jeantel. George Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin, picked up his gun, got out of his car looking for the “fucking punk” he didn't recognize. Then he found Trayvon, and shot him dead.
Lies, Confusion, and Distortion from the Defense
Any witness who in a significant way stood in the way or challenged the fable of Trayvon as a thug who assaulted Zimmerman, and Zimmerman as the watchman protecting the neighborhood, was subjected to a barrage of hateful vitriol and ridicule in the courtroom, and gutter-level attacks on social media.
This was most true of Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon's friend since grade school, who was talking on the phone with him when Zimmerman began stalking Trayvon. Rachel Jeantel’s testimony is some of the most substantial in this case, and she is one of the more credible witnesses. The time and length of her phone calls with Trayvon as he walked towards his father’s home are well documented, and they corroborate most closely with all the available evidence. And these are precisely the facts that are “lost” or “forgotten” in much of the media commentary on Rachel that has focused instead on her appearance, her demeanor, and her attitude.
Rachel Jeantel and her testimony were treated with outright contempt by Zimmerman's lawyers. Because Rachel had been overcome by shock and grief after the death of Trayvon, the defense lawyers claimed that she kept changing her story, and that it was not consistent. In fact, as anyone who listened to her knows, Rachel's testimony about the key elements of what Trayvon told her was happening when they were on the phone and he was being stalked by a strange man—a “creepy-ass cracker” as she said Trayvon called him—never wavered at all.
Rachel Jeantel stood up to hours of badgering, haranguing, and insult, and then to attacks waged on social media. One of the “viral” features of the social media onslaught began when the adult daughters of Don West, one of Zimmerman's lawyers, posted a message on Instagram of the two of them and their father eating vanilla ice cream and boasting that these were their “we-beat-stupidity celebration cones.”
What kind of legal system—what kind of social system—would heap such abuse on a young woman who comes forward to testify to the truth about what she knows of the murder of her friend? As Revolution wrote last week, bullies who act like this in the courtroom or in society generally are “... trained to act and react by a system, to spew their ignorant venom full of the confidence of someone who feels they have power on their side.”
Defense lawyers also went after Dr. Shiping Bao, a medical examiner. Dr. Bao performed an autopsy on Trayvon and testified that Trayvon was shot with one close-up blast of a 9mm handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets. The bullet tore through Trayvon Martin’s pericardium and the right ventricle of his heart. He died, in pain, most likely within three minutes but certainly from one to ten minutes later. He was incapable of doing or saying anything after he had been shot. Dr. Bao’s testimony exposed as a lie Zimmerman’s claim to police investigators that Trayvon had spoken after he was shot, and that Zimmerman had to hold Trayvon's hands down after shooting him.
A critical element of Zimmerman's defense is the claim that he acted in “self defense” when he was supposedly assaulted by Trayvon. This claim was effectively refuted by the testimony of Dr. Valerie Rao, a medical examiner who reviewed video and photographs of Zimmerman's injuries, who testified his supposed “wounds” were “insignificant” and only required the treatment of a band-aid.
Finally, one of the ugliest and most contemptible acts of the defense was the attempted intimidation of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, by Zimmerman's lawyer, Mark O'Mara. Sybrina Fulton testified that the voice she heard screaming on the 911 tape was that of “my son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin.” On cross-examination, O'Mara tried to badger Sybrina into saying that other people had told her she would be listening to screams from the moments of her son's death, and that her testimony was based on “potential recall,” and therefore discredited. O'Mara also had the audacity to ask Sybrina if she was hoping that Trayvon “would not have done anything that would lead to his own death”—trying to get her to somehow testify something that would discredit her murdered son, or imply that he had “brought it on himself.”
In spite of this, Sybrina Fulton testified with courage and dignity, and anyone with a heart felt the pain of her loss.
If Zimmerman Didn’t Have “Ill Will” Nobody Ever Has
An element of the charge of second-degree murder is that the prosecution has to establish that Zimmerman acted with a “depraved state of mind,” with “ill will.” Defense lawyer O'Mara argued that no “ill will” or “depraved” state of mind led Zimmerman to shoot down Trayvon, and therefore charges of second-degree murder should be dropped in a directed acquittal by the judge.
But in fact, Zimmerman's hate-filled state of mind is revealed in his own words and demeanor. At no point does he ever exhibit or express any remorse at all over killing an unarmed 17-year-old. Again, this is someone who told Sean Hannity on national TV that he has NO regrets over the incident, and that murdering Trayvon was “part of god's plan.”
Zimmerman got out of his car, gun in hand, stalked Trayvon and pointed a gun at him and shot him through the heart with a hollow point bullet. If that isn't “malice,” what is? If that doesn't demonstrate “ill will” and a “depraved state of mind,” what does?
Zimmerman demonstrated that he was in fact filled with malice towards Trayvon—he thought he knew Trayvon as one of those “fucking punks.” And when he saw Trayvon, he stopped what he was doing, got out of his car, and hunted and killed Trayvon Martin.
A Double Outrage
Since the trial began, Zimmerman’s defense team, along with a section of commentators, have made every attempt to distort and lie about what actually happened that night.
The vilification of Trayvon began in the mass media and on social media shortly after his murder. At that time, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, said “even in death, and Trayvon is gone and not returning to us, they are still disrespecting my son, and that's a shame. The only comment I have right now is that they've killed my son, and now they're trying to kill his reputation.” The hateful, racist atmosphere has intensified and expanded during this trial.
Here are two basic facts of life in the U.S.A., 2013—youths like Trayvon Martin are murdered by police, and even by racist vigilante killers like George Zimmerman; and tens of thousands of youths like Trayvon Martin are put into prison year after year by this system that has no future for them.
What made the murder of Trayvon Martin different from the murders of other Black and Latino youth was that despite the police treatment of Trayvon's murder as legitimate self-defense by George Zimmerman, despite the fact that no charges were immediately filed against Zimmerman, despite the treatment of this case in the Florida media as “just another killing of a Black youth who was somewhere he shouldn't have been,” the story of a 17-year-old kid wearing a hoodie who was shot down while he was walking to his father's home with a soft drink and a bag of candy became national news—and a focus of national outrage and protest.
Acting on Our Anger; Changing the Dynamics
In 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black youth from Chicago was lynched by white men while visiting relatives in Mississippi. His body was horribly mutilated, weighted with a 70-pound fan, and dumped in the Tallahatchie River. The killers were not charged.
Emmett's mother, Mamie Till, courageously insisted on an open casket at her son's funeral, so people could see what had happened to him. The widespread outrage and anger that spread throughout the country over the savage death of Emmett Till became a spark that catalyzed thousands of people in a growing struggle to end the injustices perpetrated on Black people.
The cold-blooded murder—the modern-day lynching—of Trayvon Martin also sparked deep and widespread outrage throughout U.S. society. And now we're at a crucial turning point in the struggle for Justice for Trayvon.
As a recent Revolution editorial put it, right now “the situation in the world, and in this country, is very intense. There is the potential for eruptions ‘in the routine’ of one kind or another.” Mass incarceration of Black and Latino people, especially youth; relentless assaults on women and in particular on the right to abortion; continuing wars and occupation, and new revelations of massive government spying; all this and much more is part of a “cauldron of contradictions” confronting the rulers of this capitalist-imperialist system.
The battle for Justice for Trayvon Martin is framed by that bigger picture—and it has the potential to alter that picture—if people ACT. It can mark a big step towards the day when no longer are people like Trayvon Martin and his friend Rachel Jeantel treated like part of a “generation of suspects”—Black youth who people in this society are conditioned and trained to look at as “fucking punks.” People who can be hunted down and shot, and the police sweep it away like its just another day on the job.
There are two sides to this battle, and the side that demands Justice for Trayvon needs to become much more powerful. There are calls for vigils and rallies when the case goes to the jury and when the verdict comes down. The “We Say No More” statement can have an important impact.
As Revolution wrote recently, society is polarizing around the murder of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman, and “this growing struggle must be repolarized into broader energy, clarity, and direction for Justice for Trayvon Martin ... and for revolution and emancipation altogether.” The need to act on that understanding is more urgent than ever.
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