A large quantity of information about the Trayvon Martin case was recently made public.
This new information constitutes only a small portion of the massive collection of information turned over by the prosecution as part of discovery. Upon reading through the 183 pages of documents, it becomes apparent that George Zimmerman should have never been charged with second degree murder, as I have maintained since the beginning of the controversy at the Daily Kos.
From the onset, media have selectively reported the facts to create a fantasy narrative where George Zimmerman stalked and shot a helpless unarmed teenager. The media ignored the mountain of evidence that suggests that Trayvon Martin was on top of George Zimmerman beating him when he was shot, and that Zimmerman acted out of fear of death or serious injury. The media instead focused on the speculative testimony of Mary Cutcher and Selma Mora Lamilla over an actual eyewitness account from a man identified by the press as “John.” That the rest of the evidence strongly supported “John’s” version of events made the false narrative crafted by the media even more outrageous. When Police Chief Bill Lee released a statement saying that Zimmerman had claimed self-defense and that the evidence supported him, the media attacked Lee. Now that the evidence has come out, we see that it weighs on the side of Police Chief Lee and against the people who attacked him.
George Zimmerman had a broken nose, two black eyes, and lacerations on the back of his head. Trayvon Martin, in contrast, had no injuries aside from the gunshot wound and a small abrasion on his knuckles. Responding officers and paramedics witnessed George Zimmerman’s injuries and medical records confirm them. An eyewitness stated that a man matching George’s description was being pummeled while screaming for help. The lead investigator, who wanted to charge Zimmerman with manslaughter, determined that the voice screaming for help was George Zimmerman’s.
All of this evidence does weigh on the side of George Zimmerman’s version of events, as leaked to the Orlando Sentinel. In light of these developments, I thought I would review the basic questions of the case:
Did George Zimmerman follow Trayvon Martin after he was advised it was unnecessary?
This is unclear from the evidence. However, Dale Gilbreath, an investigator for the state, testified that none of the evidence contradicted George Zimmerman’s claim that he had stopped following Martin and was returning to his vehicle when Martin confronted him. The lead investigator, Christopher Serino, does not specifically state that Zimmerman followed Martin after he was advised not to.
Who started the fight?
Dale Gilbreath has stated that he doesn’t know who attacked first, and none of the witnesses Serino interviewed saw the start of the confrontation. But the physical evidence shows a lopsided encounter where Trayvon Martin inflicted serious injuries on George Zimmerman, while Zimmerman was incapable of fighting back. As stated above, Trayvon Martin was unscathed aside from a small abrasion on his left hand and the fatal gunshot wound. Zimmerman, meanwhile, sustained various injuries that required medical attention. This fits with the version of events leaked to the Orlando Sentinel.
If George Zimmerman is innocent, why did Chris Serino want to charge him with manslaughter?
Chris Serino felt that the confrontation could have been avoided if Zimmerman had stayed in his vehicle or had identified himself as a concerned citizen. But the law doesn’t require people to be polite or deferential; following people around and asking them nosy questions is perfectly legal. Zimmerman may have exercised poor judgment, but he didn’t violate the law. The case should be decided based on the facts and the law, not on how we personally feel about George Zimmerman or his behavior.
Did George Zimmerman reasonably fear being killed or seriously injured?
That is the most relevant question, and the answer weighs on the side that he did. The evidence suggests that it was George Zimmerman who was pinned to the ground and unable to defend himself. He was being beaten mercilessly and had no idea when help would arrive or if his attacker would stop. Even if George Zimmerman had attacked Trayvon Martin first (which is extremely unlikely given the physical evidence), Trayvon was not entitled to pin him to the ground and beat him. The lethal gunshot was fired from less than eighteen inches away, disproving any speculation that he had managed to wriggle free before shooting Trayvon from a safe distance.
Thus, as Alan Dershowitz has recently argued, a legitimate argument could be made that, under the law, George Zimmerman has enough evidence to support his claim of self-defense.
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