Fact and Fiction in The Shooting of Trayvon Martin

UPDATE: A new video shows George Zimmerman with no apparent injuries on the night of the killing.

I get so dispirited by the state of American discourse, which all too often comes down to not acknowledging any part of the truth, or even a potential fact, that doesn’t agree with one’s current opinion.

Because of it, I have to open up this post by saying I think George Zimmerman is culpable in the death of Trayvon Martin. Otherwise, I’ll be attacked for being an apologist for a man who I think is a racist reactionary who shot an innocent boy. That said, the story is more complex than we originally believed.

Here are the facts as we know them, first those that are undisputed, then from Martin’s point of view, then from Zimmerman’s, followed up by an attempt to reconcile the accounts.

The undisputed facts:

  • George Zimmerman began following Trayvon Martin in a gated neighborhood in Sanford, FL.
  • Zimmerman called 911 and reported a suspicious person he was following.
  • The dispatcher told Zimmerman to stop following Martin, and that police were on the way.
  • Zimmerman resisted to give his name and contact information to the police dispatcher, then hung up the phone.
  • Several 911 calls from neighbors record a scuffle, a man screaming for help, and a single gunshot.
  • In the time between hanging up and the police arrival, Zimmerman shoots and kills Trayvon Martin.
Next, the best understanding I can muster of both Martin and Zimmerman’s experiences that evening. Some of the facts are unclear or in dispute.
What Trayvon Martin experienced, as best as we can understand it:
  • Trayvon Martin walked to the store for some Skittles and an iced tea.
  • It was raining, and Martin had a hoodie on.
  • On the phone, Martin told a friend that a creepy man was following him.
  • The friend advised Martin to run, and Martin said he’d walk faster to get away.
  • The friend hears a scuffle on the phone, the call drops.
  • Martin is shot dead by George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s account, as we understand it:
  • George Zimmerman was driving to the store and spotted what he called a suspicious person.
  • Zimmerman stopped and parked his SUV, got out, and began following Martin.
  • He called 911 and reported a suspicious person. The reason for his suspicion is unknown.
  • Martin confronted and assaulted Zimmerman, at which point he shot the teen in self defense.
  • During the fight, Zimmerman sustained injuries, including a broken nose, and abrasions on his head, and perhaps other injuries, but refused medical treatment.
In dispute is the crucial minute or two between the time Zimmerman hung up with the 911 dispatcher and the police arrived on the scene. Either Zimmerman shot Martin in cold blood, without provokation, or it occurred during a physical altercation between the two. The difference between murder, manslaughter, and self-defense lies in that moment about which we may never know the truth. 
Because we may never know the truth, we try to intuit it from an understanding of the actors involved. That’s where the next set of facts and judgments comes in:
  • George Zimmerman called police 46 times in the past year or so, often reporting suspicious people in his neighborhood.
  • He was a law enforcement wannabe who consistently demonstrated paranoia toward others, especially minorities.
  • He appears to be a racist who muttered f***ing c**ns while on the phone with the 911 dispatcher.
  • Martin had caused some trouble in school, including possible marijuana possession, a suspension, and excessive absenteeism.

What else matters in this case? Why? What’s been happening that, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter?

One thought on “Fact and Fiction in The Shooting of Trayvon Martin

  1. ” Either Zimmerman shot Martin in cold blood, without provokation, or it occurred during a physical altercation between the two. ”

    That is not exactly correct. Or, at least, it does not accurately state the determinative issue in the case. The claim of defense raised by Zimmerman was under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. You may want to read it carefully. http://bit.ly/Q68Zy7.

    Thanks for your follow on Twitter. I wrote numerous comments in several posts on the incident. If you search my blog, you might find some information helpful in your appraisal. I am an attorney. I did practice in Florida for many years. I am still licensed and a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. I currently do digital forensic consulting, among other business ventures in Africa gold mining development and in classic motorcycles.


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