Zimmerman

Obama: “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago”


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n some of his most extensive comments on U.S. race relations since entering the White House, President Obama on Friday gave a very personal perspective of the shooting of 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin and the subsequent trial of George Zimmerman, offering an explanation for why the case has created so much anxiety within the African-American community.

 

“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said this could’ve been my son. Another way of saying that is, Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Mr. Obama said in an unexpected appearance in the White House briefing room, where reporters were gathered to question White House spokesman Jay Carney. (Watch his full remarks in the video above)

 

 

 

“When you think about why in the African-American community, at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, it’s important to recognize the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and history that doesn’t go away.”

 

After a Florida jury on Saturday acquitted Zimmerman of murder, Mr. Obama gave a decidedly muted response, noting that the Justice Department was reviewing the case. Some civil rights leaders called for more action from the administration of the nation’s first African-American president.

 

 

The president on Friday laid out a series of actions the government could take to help ease racial tensions at the community level, as well as foster a better environment for African-American boys. He also spoke about the sort of negative experiences that are common for young African-American men — some of which he said he has personally experienced — that have prompted the passionate reactions to the Zimmerman verdict.

 

 

 

“There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping at a department store, and that includes me,” he said. He spoke about hearing the locks click on car doors while crossing the street — something Mr. Obama said he experienced before he was senator — or seeing a woman nervously clutch her purse while in an elevator with an African-American man.

 

 

“I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. It’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”

 

Mr. Obama said that government at all levels could help ease race relations by working with local law enforcement to create racial sensitivity training programs and best practices. As a state senator in Illinois, Mr. Obama helped pass racial profiling legislation that required training for officers on racial bias issues. He said that while police departments were initially resistant, it allowed them to build more trust with their communities.

 

Next, Mr. Obama said, “I think it’d be useful for us to examine some state and local laws to see if they are designed in such a way that they may encourage the kind of altercations and tragedies” that occurred in the Trayvon Martin case.

 

 

 

Obama calls for “soul-searching” in wake of Zimmerman verdict

 

The president acknowledged that Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law was not part of Zimmerman’s defense. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama said that kind of law does not necessarily send a positive message.

 

“If we’re sending a message in our societies … that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms even if there is a way for them to exit from the situation, is that really going to be contributing to the peace and order?” he asked. “For those who resist that idea, I’d just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? Do we actually think he would’ve been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman because he followed him in a car?”

 

Mr. Obama also said the nation should consider how to “bolster and reinforce our African-American boys.”

 

“There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting negative reinforcement,” he said, adding there is “more we can do to give them a sense their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest them.”

 

Mr. Obama added that he is not “naive about the prospects of some new, grand program,” but that business leaders, clergy, athletes, celebrities and others could help “young African-American men feel that they’re a full part of this society and that they’ve got pathways and avenues to succeed.”

 

The president said that national dialogues on race are not typically productive because “they end up being stilted and politicized,” but that it’s worth having conversations among families or churches.

 

Finally, he said the nation shouldn’t lose sight of its progress on issues of race and equality.

 

“When I talk to Malia and Sasha, and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they’re better than we are,” he said. “That’s true of every community that I’ve visited all across the country.”

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Justice Department To Sift Through Evidence In Zimmerman Case, Look For Potential Racial Motive


July 16, 2013

MIAMI — The Justice Department will sift through trial testimony, interviews and other evidence during what is likely to be a months-long investigation into whether George Zimmerman violated Trayvon Martin’s civil rights when he shot the black teenager.

The key to charging Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, lies in whether evidence exists that he was motivated by racial animosity to kill Martin, who was 17 when he was shot during a fight with Zimmerman in February 2012. And while Martin’s family has said the teen was racially profiled, no evidence surfaced during the state trial that Zimmerman had a racial bias.

Former Miami federal prosecutor David S. Weinstein says it will likely be months before a decision is made on whether to bring charges.

Zimmerman, 29, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges after claiming he fired his weapon in self-defense only after Martin attacked him. His friends and family have repeatedly denied he harbored racial animosity toward blacks. Florida did not use its own hate crime laws against Zimmerman.

Legal experts say the FBI and prosecutors will go back through the interviews done before the state case began; look at all the forensics such as crime scene records and medical reports; and review the state’s witnesses to see if any who did not testify might have important information.

However, investigators are not limited to existing evidence; they can pursue new evidence and conduct new interviews as they see fit. For instance, federal investigators could look more closely at Zimmerman’s past for any evidence of racial bias.

“They are going to need to do a thorough vetting of the facts. It takes time,” said Lauren Resnick, a former prosecutor who obtained a guilty verdict in a 1991 New York hate crime case involving the stabbing death of an Orthodox Jew. Those defendants had been acquitted in state court.

In a speech Tuesday to an NAACP convention in Orlando, Attorney General Eric Holder said “I am concerned” about the Zimmerman case and pledged the Justice Department will conduct a thorough review.

“While that inquiry is ongoing, I can promise that the Department of Justice will consider all available information before determining what action to take,” he said.

The lone juror in the case who has spoken publicly – known only as Juror B37 because their identities have not been released – said Monday that she did not believe Zimmerman followed Martin because the teen was black.

Still, supporters of the Justice Department filing civil rights charges say additional evidence could exist in the federal investigation that didn’t come up in the state prosecution of Zimmerman, possibly even witnesses who have not previously been interviewed or did not come up in the state case.

“They have a separate set of evidence they’re looking at,” said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “They might have additional witnesses that were never called upon by the state. I think they will make the best decision that is possible in this case and they will pursue what they think is legally possible.”

Several civil rights groups, including the NAACP, are demanding that the Justice Department bring federal charges against Zimmerman, and there have been numerous protests around the country about the outcome of the Florida trial.

During a news conference Tuesday, the Rev. Al Sharpton acknowledged there are hurdles. But he said there remains a fundamental question of “does Trayvon Martin and the Trayvon Martins of this country have the civil right to go home?”

He added: “… we have some experience on how to deal with hurdles and we see that as part of our strategy.”

Beyond the exact language of the law itself, the federal probe must navigate between sensitive racial and political issues that arose when Zimmerman initially wasn’t charged in Martin’s killing.

“Many people simply cannot process how an unarmed teenager is killed, and yet no one is held criminally accountable for his death,” said Marcellus McRae, a former federal prosecutor in Los Angeles.

Resnick said a federal jury would have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman had a racial motive when he began following Martin and that he did not act in self-defense when he fired his gun.

“There remains the serious challenge that prosecutors still have to prove the racial motive,” she said.

Zimmerman could get life in prison if charged and convicted under federal hate crime laws.

Generally, the Justice Department is reluctant to get involved in cases that have already been tried before a state jury, in part because of concerns about double jeopardy.

Perhaps the best-known example where federal prosecutors did intervene was the case of four police officers acquitted after a California state trial in the beating of motorist Rodney King, which triggered deadly riots in the Los Angeles area in 1992.

Two of the four officers were convicted in federal court of violating King’s rights, but that case differs from Zimmerman’s because they were acting as sworn law enforcement officials, not as a private citizen claiming self-defense.

In contrast, the Justice Department declined to prosecute New York Police Department officers after they were acquitted in the 2006 shootings of three men including Sean Bell, who was fatally wounded the morning of his planned wedding. The short Justice Department statement – issued in 2010, four years after the shooting – simply said there was insufficient evidence to proceed.

“Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a federal criminal civil rights violation,” the department said in the Bell case.

___

Associated Press writer Mike Schneider in Orlando and Shaquille Brewster in Washington contributed to this story.

George Zimmerman Not Guilty: Jury Lets Trayvon Martin Killer Go


George Zimmerman not Guiltytrayvon martin father tweets

After deliberating for more than 16 hours, a jury of six women on Saturday evening found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman had pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder with an affirmative defense, claiming he had shot Martin to save his own life after being attacked by the teen on Feb. 26, 2012. The trial, televised nationally on cable networks and streamed live across the Internet on various sites, kept the country captivated awaiting a verdict on the tragic events that took place that rainy night.

Following four weeks of testimony, more than a dozen witnesses and a host of controversy, Zimmerman walked out of court a free man.

The case first drew national attention during the 44 days the Sanford Police Department took to decide that Zimmerman should be arrested and charged with murder. During that tense period, protests were held across the country calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. Those protests were buttressed by the controversy’s strong presence across the Internet, with hashtags like #JusticeForTrayvon becoming mainstays on Twitter. Celebrities including LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates and Jamie Foxx were photographed wearing hooded sweatshirts like Martin had been wearing the night he died.

That night, Martin was walking back to the home of his father’s fiancee from a local 7-Eleven convenience store after purchasing a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. He was spotted by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who thought Martin looked suspicious because of what he described as an unnaturally slow and meandering gait. Zimmerman called the police and proceeded to follow the teen through the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community where Zimmerman lived and where Martin had been staying. A confrontation ensued, Zimmerman shot Martin, Martin died, and six weeks later, Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

On March 16, 2012, police released audio of the 911 calls made by Twin Lakes residents who were witness to the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman occurring near their homes. In one chilling call, a voice can be heard screaming for help in the background. The wailing ends as the loud crack of a gun shot rings out. Those screams and the question of who was making them would become pivotal for both the prosecution and the defense, with the implication being that the person screaming was the one being attacked.

As attention around the case mounted before the trial, details emerged about the teenager and the man involved in the fatal confrontation.

It turned out this wasn’t Zimmerman’s first run-in with the law. He had previouslybeen accused of domestic violence by a former girlfriend, and he had also previouslybeen arrested for assaulting a police officer. More controversially, in July 2012, an evidence dump related to the investigation of Martin’s death revealed that a younger female cousin of Zimmerman’s had accused him of nearly two decades of sexual molestation and assault. In addition, she had accused members of Zimmerman’s family, including his Peruvian-born mother, of being proudly racist against African Americans, and recalled a number of examples of perceived bigotry.

The national focus on the case also brought into question, for some, the character and life history of Trayvon Martin. As time passed, websites like The Daily Caller found Martin’s posthumously scrubbed Twitter page, which featured the teen at times tweeting profanities and showing off fake gold teeth. To some, these behaviors, along with the hoodie Martin wore the night he was killed, were an indication that he was something other than an innocent teenage boy who was shot while walking home from the store. To others, the attention paid to Martin’s tattoos, gold teeth and hoodie were symptomatic of the same kind of stereotyping and profiling that led to Zimmerman’s assumption that the teen was “up to no good.”

While much of this background information proved inadmissible at trial, the characterizations of the two men helped drive an often racially charged polarization on the issue at the heart of the case — whether the killing of Trayvon Martin was self-defense or murder.

The prosecution argued that Zimmerman had profiled Martin, deeming him “suspicious,” as indicated by Zimmerman’s description of the teen to the non-emergency hotline he called for police assistance. The prosecution said that he then stalked Martin, initiating an unnecessary confrontation that led to his shooting the 17-year-old in the chest at point-blank range.

The defense maintained that Zimmerman was just walking back to his car when Martin confronted him, punching him in his face and knocking him to the ground. According to the defense, Martin then mounted Zimmerman and smashed his head into the concrete pavement multiple times, forcing the older man to shoot the teen in order to save his own life.

Testimony at the trial was, at times, contentious. Defense attorney Don Westaggressively questioned Rachel Jeantel, the friend to whom Martin was talking on the phone just before he was killed. Jeantel, who speaks English as a second language, kept her answers tersely short and stuck to her understanding of what had transpired that night, despite the defense’s attempts to undermine her account. Her perceived lack of polish on the stand, though, thrust the teenager into a national conversation about whether she had hurt or helped the state’s case.

The testimony of Dr. Shipping Bao, the medical examiner who performed the autopsyon Martin, was also highly contested. Bao often clashed with the defense as he repeatedly made sure that everyone in the courtroom understood the difference between what he saw as facts and what he considered opinions related to the case.

Both the prosecution and the defense went to great lengths to show who was screaming for help in the background of that 911 call. The prosecution called Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, and his brother, Jahvaris Fulton, who testified that it was Martin. The defense called George Zimmerman’s mother, father and a host of friends to testify that it was Zimmerman screaming.

Ultimately, there are only two people who ever knew for sure who was screaming for his life that fatal night. One of them is dead, and the other has been acquitted in his killing. And with that acquittal, this chapter of the Trayvon Martin case, one that has captivated and divided a country for almost 17 months, has been brought to a close.

UPDATES JULY – ZIMMERMAN – MARTIN CASE


July 19, 2012 Not God’s Plan 

MIRAMAR, Fla. — The parents of the unarmed teen who was shot and killed by a Florida neighborhood watch volunteer rejected the shooter’s claim that the death was a part of God’s plan.

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity televised Wednesday, George Zimmerman said he felt the course of the night 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed “was all God’s plan.”

“We must worship a different God,” Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, told The Associated Press. “There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son.”

Speaking Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, the teen’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said the notion was “ridiculous.”

In the Fox News interview, Zimmerman also said he’d like to talk with Trayvon Martin’s parents about what happened.

“Absolutely not,” Fulton said when asked on NBC if she’d be willing to meet with Zimmerman.

The Fox News interview was Zimmerman’s first lengthy television interview and was conducted at an undisclosed location in Seminole County, Fla., where Zimmerman must remain under conditions of his release on bail.

July 18, 2012 Zimmerman Apology

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman charged with murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, said during his first televised interview: “I’m not a racist. I’m not a murderer.”

Zimmerman, joined by his defense attorney Mark O’Mara, sat down with conservative Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity and discussed the events that unfolded the February night Zimmerman shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin, the national outrage the shooting caused and what he perceived as the media’s rush to judgment.

“Is there anything that you regret? Do you regret getting out of the car to follow Trayon that night?” Hannity asked. “Do you regret that you had a gun that night?”

“No, sir,” Zimmerman, 28, replied. “I feel that it was all God’s plan and not for me to second-guess it or judge it.”

At times Zimmerman seemed to eke out a nervous smile, with sweat gathering on his upper lip. He spent much of the one-hour interview recounting the moments just before and after the shooting. But he also addressed Martin’s parents. When asked what he would say to them, he answered, “I would tell them again that I’m sorry.”

“I don’t have my wife and I don’t have any children,” he said. “I have nephews that I love more than life, I love them more than myself. I know that when they were born it was a different, unique bond and love that I have with them. And I love my children, even though they aren’t born yet. And I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily.”

Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the Feb. 26 shooting in his gated community in Sanford, Fla. He was jailed on two separate occasions and is now free on bail. Zimmerman told Hannity that while he has few regrets of the way he handled himself that night, the result was a “tragic situation and I hope that it’s the most difficult thing I’ll ever go through in my life.”

About 45 minutes after the televised interview, Martin’s family released a statement condemning Zimmerman’s comments.

“George Zimmerman said that he does not regret getting out of his vehicle, he does not regret following Trayvon, in fact he does not regret anything he did that night,” the statement read. “He wouldn’t do anything different and he concluded it was God’s plan.

“We must worship a different God because there is no way that my God would have wanted George Zimmerman to kill my teenage son,” Tracy Martin, Martin’s father, said in the statement.

Much of what Zimmerman addressed in the one-hour interview was rehashed, the stuff of previous news fodder from police reports, recorded phone calls and witness statements.

But it was the first time that Zimmerman publicly spoke about the shooting since he took the witness stand during an April bond hearing. And it gave him an opportunity to counter reports this week that a cousin claimed he molested her over the course of a decade when they were younger, and that his family was boastfully racist.

First, Hannity asked Zimmerman to “take us back to that night.”

Zimmerman said that per his usual Sunday routine, he was on his way to do some grocery shopping at a nearby Target store when Martin caught his attention.

“That’s the last time I’ve been home,” Zimmerman said.

It was a rainy night, and Zimmerman said that Martin seemed suspicious because of the leisurely way that he was walking and ducking between the houses. Martin didn’t look like a resident running out to get the mail or a “fitness fanatic,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman sat in his vehicle, his 9 mm handgun tucked into his waistband. He told Hannity that aside from work, he kept the licensed handgun on him at all times. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, told Hannity that he’d joined the previous August after a neighbor’s house was broken into while she was home with her 9-month old baby. Zimmerman said his wife, Shellie, saw the burglars escape through their backyard.

“That was enough to scare her, to shake her up,” Zimmerman said. “I promised her I would do what I could to keep her safe.”

On an audio recording of a call Zimmerman made to a police non-emergency number the night of the shooting, Zimmerman said Martin saw him sitting in his vehicle and walked toward him, reaching into his waistband.

“I thought he was just trying to intimidate me,” Zimmerman said.

On that same phone call to police, Zimmerman said Martin then ran. He told Hannity that Martin wasn’t running at all, more like “skipping.”

Zimmerman said he never went more than 100 feet from his vehicle, and got out just to see where he was. When asked about the gap from the time Zimmerman hangs up with the police dispatcher and the time Martin is killed, and whether he was following Martin after the dispatcher warned against it, Zimmerman said he wasn’t. He said that he was simply trying to locate a proper address, and that he wasn’t chasing Martin.

Less than 30 seconds later, Zimmerman said Martin appeared, “asked me what my problem was” and “punched and broke my nose.” Zimmerman said that he wasn’t sure if he was knocked on his back or pushed, but landed on his back with Martin pummeling him and smashing his head into the sidewalk “more than a dozen” times.

He said Martin taunted him during the struggle, telling him to “shut up, shut up, shut up,” and at one point saying, “You’re going to die tonight.”

Zimmerman said Martin tried to suffocate him by covering his mouth and his broken nose with his hands. Zimmerman said that he screamed out hoping to alert the police, who he assumed would be arriving.

Zimmerman said Martin noticed the gun in his waistband.

“At that point I realized that it wasn’t my gun, it wasn’t his gun, it was the gun,” Zimmerman said. “I didn’t have any more time.”

Zimmerman fired a single bullet into Martin’s chest.

“He sat up and said something to the effect of, ‘You got it,’ or ‘You got me,'” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said he at first didn’t realize how badly Martin was injured. About an hour later, after he was taken to the police station, he learned he’d killed the youth.

“Why do you think Trayvon would have confronted you the way he did,” Hannity asked. “Could there have been any possibility that he thought you were after him and you thought he was after you and there was some misunderstanding in any way?”

“I wrestled with that for a long time, but one of my biggest issues through this ordeal has been the media, conjecture, and I can’t assume or make believe,” said Zimmerman.

Hannity then referenced that Martin’s parents lost their son and what if anything Zimmerman would say to them if he could.

“I pray for them daily,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder and faces a possible life sentence if convicted. He said he thinks about that possibility daily, but trusts the system.

“It’s a finite situation that I’ve been placed in,” he said, “… I have no choice but to believe in the system.”

O’Mara declined to allow Zimmerman to speak on allegations by prosecutors that he lied to the court during an early bond hearing in which he and his wife told the judge that they were broke, while days later it was revealed that the couple were sitting on more than $135,000 in donated funds. Shellie Zimmerman has been since charged with perjury and the judge has suggested that George Zimmerman may have broken the law as well.

O’Mara for the first time said that he is considering using Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law, which gives people wide discretion in the use of deadly force, as a defense.

Zimmerman refuted claims by a cousin, now in her mid-20s, who told investigators that his immediate family were racist and that he sexually molested her from the time she was 6 years old until she was about 16.

“It is ironic the one and only person that they could find that’s saying anything remotely to me being a racist also claims that I’m a deviant,” Zimmerman said.

The interview comes after rumors that Hannity had offered to pay some of Zimmerman’s legal fees. The rumor mill began churning this week after Zimmerman was heard in newly released recorded jailhouse phone calls telling a friend that a mystery benefactor he identified only as “SH” had agreed to support him.

Globalgrind.com later reported that “a rock-solid source” confirmed that the personal email address for ‘SH’ that George Zimmerman gave to a friend is Hannity’s, “thus confirming that ‘SH’ is in fact the Fox News host,” the website reported. Hannity during the interview denied offering Zimmerman anything.

The Zimmerman-Hannity relationship goes back several months. In April, Zimmerman defied his then-lawyers and spoke with Hannity in an off-the-record phone conversation. Hannity later conducted what critics have called a sympathetic interview with Zimmerman’s father.

Toward the end of the interview, Hannity asked Zimmerman to look into the camera and address Martin’s family, the American people and “so many people with so many opinions that vary so much … to tell them about George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.”

Zimmerman looked into the camera, and said:

“I do wish that there was something, anything that I could have done that wouldn’t have put me in the position where I had to take his life. And I do want to tell everyone, my wife, my family my parents, my grandmother, the Martins, the city of Sanford and America, that I’m sorry that this happened. I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, it’s polarized and divided America and I’m truly sorry.”

Zimmerman, 28, is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, about 20 miles north of Orlando. Martin is black and Zimmerman has a white father and Hispanic mother. The shooting prompted nationwide protests after Zimmerman was not arrested for weeks after the shooting.

Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him and has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. Zimmerman is free on $1 million bail.

In his interview, Zimmerman said he would like to tell Martin’s parents he was sorry about the teen’s death.

“I can’t imagine what it must feel like. And I pray for them daily,” Zimmerman said. Later, he added: “I am sorry that this happened.”

But Fulton said it is hard for her to accept his apology because he still says he does not regret anything he did on the night of the shooting.

When asked in the Fox News interview to explain what he meant when he told a police dispatcher he was following Martin, Zimmerman said he was trying to keep an eye on Martin to tell police. He said he was not following Martin but attempting to get a more precise address for the authorities.

Whether Zimmerman was the aggressor plays a major role in his self-defense claim.

“I hadn’t given them a correct address. I was going to give them the actual address,” he said. “I meant that I was going in the same direction as him. I didn’t mean that I was actually pursuing him.”

Zimmerman said shortly after he got out of his car, Martin was right next to him. Zimmerman said he looked down to try to find his cellphone and when he looked up, Martin punched him and broke his nose. Then, he said, Martin straddled him and started slamming his head down.

“He started bashing my head into the concrete sidewalk. I was disoriented,” Zimmerman said, adding that it was at that point he began to fear for his life – another key element in his self-defense claim.

He said as the two were struggling, Martin said “you’re going to die tonight.” Zimmerman said he yelled out multiple times – shouts captured on 911 calls by local residents – in hopes the authorities would locate them.

“I was yelling in hopes that they were in the vicinity and they would come and find me,” he said. “As soon as he broke my nose, I started yelling for help.”

Martin’s parents have said they believe it was their son who was yelling for help.

Zimmerman also said racial profiling had nothing to do with the confrontation.

“I’m not a racist and I’m not a murderer,” he said.

July 12, 2012 No racial Bias

In nearly 300 pages of documents and other evidence newly released by the Florida State Attorney’s Office in its second-degree murder case against George Zimmerman, Zimmerman appears at once absolved of racial animus in the killing of Trayvon Martin, but also as a man whose life has been complicated by a “hero complex” and haunted by abusive personal relationships.

The evidence includes dozens of interviews with witnesses, friends and neighbors, former colleagues and Martin’s family, all of which were conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI. Other evidence includes email correspondence between Zimmerman and members of the Sanford Police Department and an interview with Christopher Serino, the lead investigator on the case.

During Serino’s interview with FBI investigators, he recounted the report he made shortly after Martin’s February 26 killing in which he said the deadly encounter between Zimmerman and Martin was “ultimately avoidable” by Zimmerman.

Zimmerman’s statements to 911 and to police investigators “make it clear that he had already reached a faulty conclusion as to Martin’s purpose for being in the neighborhood,” according to Serino’s statements to the FBI. Those statements included observations that Martin appeared suspicious and possibly on drugs,

But, according to the FBI report, Serino added that he believed Zimmerman’s actions on the night of the killing — when he saw Martin walking home from a nearby store, and began following and ultimately shot him — were motivated less by Martin’s skin color and more by a “little hero complex.”

The report states, “Serino believed that Zimmerman’s actions were not based on Martin’s skin color but rather based on his attire, the total circumstances of the encounter and the previous burglary suspects in the community.”

Still, based on previously released police reports, Serino believed there was probable cause for Zimmerman to be charged in Martin’s death. But in the hours and days after the shooting, then-Police Chief Bill Lee and State Attorney Norman Wolfinger decided against charging Zimmerman.

The FBI has since found no evidence that racial bias played a role in the killing, according to the records released this morning.

In interview after interview, colleagues and friends of Zimmerman said that they did not know him to harbor racially biased views. Former colleagues described Zimmerman as professional, mild-mannered and courteous. One former co-worker, who spoke with Zimmerman the day after the shooting in the lobby of their workplace, said that Zimmerman looked “absolutely devastated.” Another described him as “beat up physically and emotionally.”

source : huffington post

Lawyer: Zimmerman Is No Threat, Should Be Released


June 25, 2012  Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — The jailed neighborhood watch volunteer charged with killing Trayvon Martin poses no threat to the community and should be released a second time on bail, his attorney said in a court motion released Monday

George Zimmerman’s attorney asked that Zimmerman be granted bond for a second time as he awaits a second-degree murder charge in the 17-year-old Martin’s shooting death during a confrontation in February in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. His attorney says Zimmerman isn’t a flight risk and stayed in touch with law enforcement during his initial release on bail.

A judge will consider the request at a second bond hearing Friday.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense.

The neighborhood watch volunteer was granted a $150,000 bond last April but it was revoked earlier this month after prosecutors accused Zimmerman and his wife of misleading the court about how much money they had raised from donations to a website. Prosecutors say they had raised at least $135,000 from the website created by Zimmerman.

During the hearing, Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds to use for bail since she was a fulltime nursing student and he wasn’t working. Zimmerman did nothing to correct her as she testified by telephone due to safety concerns. Prosecutors say jailhouse calls between Zimmerman and his wife a few days before the hearing show the neighborhood watch volunteer instructing his wife on how to transfer funds raised by the website to her account.

Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie, was later charged with making a false statement.

“Mr. Zimmerman’s failure to advise the court of the existence of the donated funds at the initial bail hearing was wrong and Mr. Zimmerman accepts responsibility for his part in allowing the court to be misled as to his true financial circumstances,” Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara wrote in the motion.

O’Mara also will ask Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester to reconsider his decision to make public all of Zimmerman’s jailhouse calls and the statement of an unnamed witness. O’Mara said most of the calls aren’t subject to the state’s public records laws and the witness statement is irrelevant and could prejudice a potential jury.

Attorneys for two sets of media groups filed motions Monday arguing there was no need for the judge to reconsider his decision.

“There should be no further delay in the public’s access to these public records,” attorney Scott Ponce wrote in a motion for one media group that includes The Associated Press.

George Zimmerman’s Reenactment Of Trayvon Martin Shooting (VIDEO)


june 21, 2012 Source :http://www.huffingtonpost.com

ORLANDO, Fla. — George Zimmerman appears believable when he re-enacts for police what he says led to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, but some of his statements are questionable, lawyers who reviewed the footage Thursday said.

Watch here : video 

Even a detective who interrogates the neighborhood watch leader in an audio recording points out inconsistencies in his story, particularly Zimmerman’s claim that Martin confronted him, punched him and slammed his head onto the ground when the teenager had no prior history of violence.

Detective Chris Sereno asks Zimmerman whether he was profiling Martin because he was black, a claim Martin’s parents have made.

“You know you are going to come under a lot of scrutiny for this,” Sereno said. “Had this person been white, would you have felt the same way?”

“Yes,” said Zimmerman, who father is white and his mother Hispanic.

The video and audio tapes released by Zimmerman’s attorney give Zimmerman’s most detailed account yet of what led to the Feb. 26 shooting. They were released almost a week before Zimmerman’s second bond hearing on a second-degree murder charge, and on the heels of unflattering telephone calls capturing Zimmerman and his wife talking in code about using money collected for a defense fund to pay credit cards.

Zimmerman claims he shot the unarmed 17-year-old Martin teen in self-defense, under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

Martin’s parents have said Zimmerman was the aggressor. They said Martin was walking back from a convenience store through the gated community in Sanford when Zimmerman spotted Martin and started following him.

In the video ( ), Zimmerman said he grabbed his gun from a holster on his waist before Martin could get it, and shot Martin once in the chest as they fought on the ground outside townhomes in a gated community. After firing, Zimmerman said he thought he missed. http://apne.ws/KWquJX

“He sat up and said, `You got me. You got me, or something like that,'” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman said Martin had been on top of him, slamming his head against the ground and smothering his mouth and nose with his hand and arm. The tape shows two butterfly bandages on the back of Zimmerman’s head and another on his nose. There are red marks on the front of his head.

It felt like my head was going to explode,” he said.

Criminal defense lawyers who reviewed the video for The Associated Press and have no connection to the case said there were some parts that didn’t add up.

“He came across as being straight-forward,” attorney David Hill said. “I didn’t see him being too slick on the details.”

Hill said the video didn’t show him to be the zealous “cop-wannabe” that Martin’s parents have portrayed.

Zimmerman claims Martin confronted him after the neighborhood watch leader had given up searching for him and was walking back to his truck. But there doesn’t appear to be a place to hide in the area where Zimmerman says Martin suddenly appeared, Hill pointed out.

Zimmerman’s injuries also don’t appear to be consistent with the severity of the attack he described, Hill said.

Attorney Blaine McChesney said he found parts of Zimmerman’s re-enactment difficult to envision, such as his account of how he was able to reach for his gun with Martin on top of him. Zimmerman said he got on top of Martin after the shooting to restrain him.

“I also find it strange that Zimmerman would have attempted to use both his arms to hold Martin facedown, re-holstering his firearm, given those circumstances,” McChesney said. “Once out from under Martin’s alleged attack, it would have been more logical to hold Martin at gunpoint from a few feet away until police arrived.”

In one of the audio recordings, Sereno tells Zimmerman three days after the shooting that Martin was a “good kid, mild-mannered kid.”

Sereno tells Zimmerman that Martin, an athlete with an interest in aeronautics, was “a kid with a future, a kid with folks that care.” The detective said Martin only had a bag of Skittles and an iced tea on him when he died.

“Not a goon,” Sereno said.

He asked Zimmerman to explain why he doesn’t have bruises on his body or broken ribs. The two dozen punches Zimmerman claims he took are “not quite consistent with your injuries,” Sereno said.

Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Martin’s parents, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Thursday. But appearing on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight,” Crump said Zimmerman’s credibility is the issue.

“Everybody’s going to have to look at this for what it is,” Crump said. “You’ve got objective evidence, and then you’ve got George Zimmerman’s versions. You put them up against one another and we know that written statement that he did that night doesn’t match up to that 911 tape.

“And there are other inconsistencies, and when we see the lie, we’ve got to call it out and say, there’s his credibility again, and that’s the important thing.”

Zimmerman called police after spotting Martin walking around the neighborhood and the dispatcher told him not to follow the teen. For reasons that are still unclear, Zimmerman kept up his pursuit, even getting out of his truck. He lost sight of Martin and was walking back to his truck when Martin confronted him, Zimmerman said.

“Do you have a problem?” Zimmerman said, quoting Martin.

If Zimmerman’s account his accurate, he has a viable “stand your ground” defense, McChesney said.

Zimmerman’s attorney has the option of asking for a “stand your ground” hearing in which he will present Zimmerman’s account to a judge and ask that the charge be dismissed without going to trial.

Zimmerman’s second bond hearing will be June 29. His $150,000 bond was revoked earlier this month after prosecutors said Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, misled the court about how much money they had available for bail. Shellie Zimmerman was charged last week with making a false statement.

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said his client will be shown to have told the truth about the incident, even though the statement regarding the Zimmermans’ finances was shown to be false.

“The attacks on Mr. Zimmerman’s credibilities are going to pale in comparison to the undeniable, objective evidence,” he said.

FLORIDA – George Zimmerman’s Jailhouse Calls To Wife Reveal Couple’s Alleged Plan To Hide Funds (AUDIO)


June 18,  2012 Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com

The special prosecutor in the case of George Zimmerman, the Florida man accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, released a half-dozen recorded jailhouse phone conversations between Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, which prosecutors say reveal the couple’s plans to conceal more than $130,000 of donated money via transfers between their personal bank accounts.

The release of the recordings comes just a week after Shellie Zimmerman was arrested and charged with perjury for lying under oath about the family’s financial status during an April hearing in which her husband was granted bond.

Prosecutors say that while George and Shellie Zimmerman told the judge under oath that they were broke, and their lawyer requested a low bond because of the couple’s dire financial situation, they were instead paying off credit card bills and transferring funds into his wife’s personal bank account from a Paypal account linked to a website to raise defense funds.

In a call on April 12 Zimmerman tells his wife how happy he is about all of the money pouring in from website.

“Oh, man, that feels good… that there are people in America that care,” George Zimmerman tells Shellie. “Yeah they do,” she responds.

Shellie Zimmerman then tells George how so many people had gone to the website that it crashed several times.

“It makes me feel happy and to lay here and um be okay,” George Zimmerman tells his wife during that phone conversation.

“I’m so happy to know that you’re gonna be okay,” Shellie Zimmerman says. “After this… you’re gonna be able to just, have a great life.”

“We will,” Zimmerman said.

The call was made the day after Zimmerman was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

LISTEN PHONE CALLS : CLICK HERE 

On Friday, State Attorney Angela Corey’s office said that it would be releasing a trove of evidence in the case, including 151 audio recordings of phone calls that Zimmerman made from the Seminole County Jail. But not long after the announcement, Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, argued that only a fraction of those calls — which prosecutors used to have Zimmerman’s bond revoked and charges levied against his wife — should be released.

O’Mara has said that he plans on filing a motion to ask the judge in the case only to allow the release of phone calls that are directly related to Zimmerman’s bond. Otherwise, he wrote in a web posting, the privacy of family and friends of his clients could be compromised.

“Our motion will contend that the majority of the phone calls are personal and irrelevant to the charges against Mr. Zimmerman or issues surrounding the next bond hearing,” O’Mara wrote on gzlegalcase.com. “Moreover, the public release of these phone calls could jeopardize the privacy of friends and family of Mr. Zimmerman who are unrelated to the case. We will not be objecting to the release of phone calls that include conversations relevant to the the bond hearing or the charges Mr. Zimmerman faces.

Shortly after George Zimmerman’s initial bond hearing in May, it was revealed that he had raised as much as $200,000 via a website to collect funds for his defense. At a June 1 hearing, his bond was revoked after prosecutors presented recorded jailhouse conversations in which the Zimmermans seem to collude to keep the funds hidden. Zimmerman told his wife to “pay off all the bills,” which included those for American Express and Sam’s Club credit cards.

“This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny,” prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda said at the hearing. “It was misleading, and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.”

According to court documents filed last week, prosecutors also obtained bank records showing that between April 16 and April 19, just days before Zimmerman’s first bond hearing, Shellie Zimmerman transferred more than $74,000 from her husband’s account to her own.

There were a total of eight transfers, according to the documents — four transfers in the amount of $9,990, two for $9,999, and two others for $7,500. Even after Zimmerman’s release, the large transfers of cash continued. On April 24, Shellie Zimmerman transferred more than $85,000 from her husband’s account to her own.

Shellie Zimmerman was arrested and charged last week but that same day posted a $1,000 bond and was released.

George Zimmerman, who has plead not guilty to second-degree murder charges in the February 26 shooting death of Martin, has a new bond hearing scheduled for June 29.

read the full article : click here 

FLORIDA – Defense: George Zimmerman in police custody


June 3, 2012 Source http://www.palmbeachpost.com

MIAMI — George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin, surrendered to police Sunday and was booked into jail after having his bail revoked two days earlier.

Zimmerman’s legal team said in a tweet that he was in police custody. Zimmerman’s bail was revoked because the judge said he and his wife lied to the court about their finances so he could obtain a lower bond.

On Sunday afternoon, about 40 minutes before the 2:30 p.m. deadline to surrender, Zimmerman was listed as an inmate on the jail website. He was listed as being held without bail and having $500 in his jail account.

Prosecutors had said Zimmerman and his wife told the judge at a bond hearing in April that they had limited money, even though he had raised about $135,000 through a website. Defense attorneys said the matter was a misunderstanding.

Attorney Mark O’Mara announced earlier Sunday on his website that Zimmerman had arrived in Florida late Saturday evening ahead of his surrender. Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of the 17-year-old Martin, was ordered by a judge Friday to return to jail.

During a bond hearing in April, the couple had indicated they had limited funds. But prosecutors say Zimmerman had raised thousands through a website he had set up for his legal defense.

Zimmerman’s legal team said Sunday that they will ask for a new bond hearing to address those concerns, and that they hope Zimmerman’s voluntary surrender will show he is not a flight risk. Furthermore, the money Zimmerman has raised is in an independent trust and cannot be directly accessed by Zimmerman or his attorneys, according to the press release.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder charge. He maintains he shot Martin in self-defense under Florida’s so-called “stand your ground” law because the teen, who was unarmed, was beating him up after confronting Zimmerman about following him in a gated community outside Orlando.

Zimmerman’s credibility could become an issue at trial, legal experts said, noting the case hinges on jurors believing Zimmerman’s account of what happened the night in February that Martin was killed.

Zimmerman wasn’t charged in the case until more than a month after the shooting. Protests were held across the nation, and the case spurred debate about whether race was a factor in Zimmerman’s actions and in the initial police handling of the case. Martin was black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.

Police in Sanford did not immediately arrest Zimmerman, citing the Florida law that gives wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat in a fight if people believe they are in danger of being killed or seriously injured.

Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the killing.

Prosecutors pointed out in their motion that Zimmerman had $135,000 available when the bond hearing was held in April. It had been raised from donations through a website he had set up. They suggested more has been collected since and deposited in a bank account.

Shellie Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn’t know how much money had been raised. Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set bail at $150,000. The 28-year-old was freed a few days later after posting $15,000 in cash — which is typical.

Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda complained Friday, “This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny. It was misleading and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.” The judge agreed and ordered Zimmerman returned to jail by Sunday afternoon.

The defense countered that Zimmerman and his wife never used the money for anything, which indicated “there was no deceit.”

The judge said he would schedule a hearing after Zimmerman is back in custody so he could explain himself.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, said his clients have always said Zimmerman should remain in jail until trial.

___

FLORIDA – George Zimmerman’s Bond Revoked In Trayvon Martin Case


June 1, 2012

A Florida judge on Friday afternoon revoked bond for George Zimmerman, the man charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, and ordered that he turn himself in within 48 hours.

Prosecutors had asked Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. to revoke Zimmerman’s bond because they contend that he was disingenuous at an earlier bond hearing when Zimmerman’s family and attorney claimed that he was cash broke. The motion filed by prosecutors claims that Zimmerman “misrepresented, mislead [sic] and deceived the court.”

During a bond hearing on April 20, Lester set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000, and days later Zimmerman walked free. It was later revealed that Zimmerman had received upward of $200,000 from supporters, a sum that he did not reveal to the judge or to his own attorneys.

At that April hearing, defense attorney Mark O’Mara questioned Shelly Zimmerman, George Zimmerman’s wife, who said she had no idea how much was in the account.

Prosecutors claimed that Zimmerman and his wife knowingly colluded to hide those funds, collected through a Paypal account attached to a website that Zimmerman launched to raise funds for his defense and thank his supporters.

“This court was led to believe they didn’t have a single penny,” Prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda said at Friday’s hearing. “It was misleading, and I don’t know what words to use other than it was a blatant lie.”

According to the conditions of Zimmerman’s release, he was to be monitored by GPS and surrender his passport.

During Friday’s motion hearing, prosecutors said that Zimmerman also failed to disclose or turn over a second passport in his possession. According to the motion, Zimmerman acquired a second passport in 2004 after filing a claim with the State Department that his original passport was lost or stolen.

But, according to prosecutors, while Zimmerman was in custody at the Seminole County jail on April 17, he had a conversation with his wife in which the couple discussed the second passport. The conversation was recorded by jail officials:

Defendant: Do you know what? I think my passport is in that bag.Shelly Zimmerman: I have one for you in safety deposit box…

Defendant: Ok, you hold on to that.

“It really is important what the judge did, because this whole case — the crux of this case — is about George Zimmerman’s credibility,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, told The Huffington Post not long after the judge’s ruling. “The court found that Zimmerman was dishonest, that he lied in court.”

Zimmerman, who was arrested 44 days after the Feb. 26 shooting in Sanford, Florida, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

At Friday’s hearing, prosecutors asked that a list of witnesses’ names and other evidence, which per Florida law would be part of the public record, not be released; defense attorney O’Mara also asked that the records be kept sealed. But a number of news organizations — including national news outlets such as the Associated Press,The New York Times, CNN and CBS News, as well as local agencies like the Orlando Sentinel — have filed a legal motion to ask that the judge allow all such documents to be made public.

The evidence, according to the Sentinel, includes five statements that Zimmerman gave authorities, crime scene photos that show Martin’s body and cellphone records for both men.

De La Rionda said that to make those records public could jeopardize the state’s case against Zimmerman.

“What’s occurring, unfortunately, are cases are being tried in the public sector as opposed to in the courtroom,” De La Rionda told Lester. “We are in a new age with Twitter, Facebook and all these things I’ve never heard of before in my career. Everybody gets to find out intimate details about witnesses. That never occurred before. Witnesses are going to be reluctant to get involved.”

Trayvon Martin Case: Witnesses Change Accounts, Which Could Hurt Zimmerman


 

May 23, 2012 Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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George Zimmerman’s self-defense claim could be hurt by his own witnesses, who have changed their accounts since they were interviewed early on in the Trayvon Martin case.

The Orlando Sentinel reported that four witnesses’ statements regarding the Feb. 26 shooting changed significantly when they were interviewed a second time in March. The statements are included in the collection of evidence officially released by the State Attorney’s Office last week.

 

 

Here is an overview of the key changes in their accounts, as reported by the Sentinel.

Witness 2A young woman who lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community, where Trayvon was shot, was interviewed twice by Sanford police and once by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

She told authorities that she had taken out her contact lenses just before the incident. In her first recorded interview with Sanford police four days after the shooting, she told lead Investigator Chris Serino, “I saw two guys running. Couldn’t tell you who was in front, who was behind.”

She stepped away from her window, and when she looked again, she “saw a fistfight. Just fists. I don’t know who was hitting who.”

A week later, she added a detail when talking again to Serino: During the chase, the two figures had been 10 feet apart.

That all changed when she was reinterviewed March 20 by an FDLE agent. That time, she recalled catching a glimpse of just one running figure, she told FDLE Investigator John Batchelor, and she heard the person more than saw him.

I couldn’t tell you if it was a man, a woman, a kid, black or white. I couldn’t tell you because it was dark and because I didn’t have my contacts on or glasses. … I just know I saw a person out there.”

 

Witness 12 was interviewed on March 20, saying she “didn’t know which one” was on top of the other during the scuffle. Six days later, she said she was sure it was Zimmerman on top, the Sentinel reported.

Witness 6 lived close to where the incident occurred. On the night of the shooting, he told investigators that Martin was on top,just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style,” the paper reported. He also noted that Zimmerman was calling for help. But three weeks later, the witness said he wasn’t sure who was calling for help.

Witness 13 said he spotted Zimmerman with “blood on the back of his head,” he told police. Zimmerman allegedly told the witness that Martin “was beating up on me, so I had to shoot him.” In two interviews after that one a month later, the witness described Zimmerman’s demeanor as nonchalant, “… More like, ‘Just tell my wife I shot somebody’ like it was nothing.”

The witnesses are expected to be interviewed at least once more before Zimmerman’s trial.

This week, security video was released showing Trayvon Martin at a Sanford, Fla. 7-Eleven the night he died. The teen purchased a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea, a short time before he was killed.

The evidence from that night — and the dialogue surrounding it — has grown increasingly complex. Last week, it was revealed that Zimmerman really did sustain injuries to his face and head during the incident. In addition, information from Martin’s autopsy report was leaked just one day after medical records from Zimmerman’s family physician were released.

ABC News reported that the teen had traces of THC, the drug found in the marijuana plant, in his system the night of the shooting.

Zimmerman has been charged with shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on the evening of Feb. 26 in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer called 911 and told a police dispatcher that the teen, who was returning from a trip to a nearby convenience store, “looked suspicious.” After an altercation, Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest, subsequently telling local police that he acted in self-defense.