Friday, April 18, 2014
By AUDRA D.S. BURCH, EVAN S. BENN and DAVID OVALLE/The Miami Herald
(Continued from page 1)
George Zimmerman, right, speaks with defense counsel Don West after the jury leaves the courtroom for more deliberations Saturday in the 25th day of his trial at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman later was acquitted in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The Associated Press
Almost immediately, the case – and for some, the verdict – was viewed through the prickly lens of race: Zimmerman is a white Hispanic. Martin was African American.
To some, Martin’s legacy will be the conversations his death has inspired about America’s unsettled race history and its uneasy relationship with guns.
“This case opened the eyes of many people about a multitude of issues. It forced a conversation around Stand Your Ground, around self defense laws. There was also the discussion of what is the value of a young, black man’s life,” said Roland Martin, host of a new TV One cable network show and former CNN political analyst who comments regularly on race and social issues. “Without Trayvon Martin, you might not have seen a new generation of young folks, especially African Americans, engaged in social justice.”
The violent encounter – just seven minutes from the first phone call to police to the arrival of officers – was set in motion that drizzling Sunday night when Zimmerman headed to Target and Trayvon returned from 7-Eleven. The teen was in Sanford with his father, riding out a 10-day suspension from Michael Krop High in North Miami-Dade after being caught with a small bag containing marijuana residue.
Zimmerman, a former criminal justice college student, called police about 7:09 p.m. and reported seeing a “suspicious” young black male not unlike others who had recently burglarized the complex. Zimmerman advised the dispatcher in the call that he was going to follow the teen. She told him that he didn’t need to do that. He continued to follow the teen, somehow encountering him in a dark, open stretch of the gated townhouse community. At the time, Zimmerman was carrying a licensed 9 mm semiautomatic gun. Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona drink in his front hoodie pocket.
Minutes later, at about 7:17 p.m., Martin was sprawled in the grass, dying with a bullet in his chest. Zimmerman had injuries to his nose and the back of his head. Neighbors who heard and saw parts of the struggle called 911, with one call recording the desperate screams of Martin or Zimmerman, followed by the fatal gunshot.
From the moment police arrived, Zimmerman steadfastly maintained it was a case of self-defense, saying he only shot after he was attacked by Martin. “I did not shoot to take his life, I shot to save my own,” Zimmerman would later post on his personal website.
Evidence and witness statements initially bore out his account, police decided. He was released from police custody that night. No charges were filed and the case was sent to local prosecutors as Martin supporters began pushing for an arrest. With the impassioned plea of the parents, the justice-for-Martin movement was launched, carried nationwide by social media, civil rights organizations, politicians, celebrities and students. Fulton and Martin launched a petition calling for the arrest of Zimmerman that generated 2.2 million signatures and inspired others to use the Internet to publicize other cases.
The arrest 44 days after the shooting – and eventual trial – was hailed a victory.
“All we ever asked for was for equal justice for the young man who was killed that drizzling night in Sanford, Florida. If George Zimmerman had rights, so did Trayvon Martin,” music mogul Russell Simmons, founder of the Global Grind website, wrote in a Huffington Post column days before the verdict. “And that is why Mr. Zimmerman was properly arrested and charged with murder in the second degree. He will soon be judged by a jury of his peers, and that is the best we can do.”
(Continued on page 3)