- On July 13th, after claiming self-defense, George Zimmerman (28), neighborhood watch captain, was declared innocent in the killing of Florida teen, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
- The tragedy occurred on February 26th 2012. Some of the events leading up the shooting still remain vague due to the lack of direct witnesses.
The night of the shooting:
- Trayvon Martin walked into a 7-Eleven in Sanford, FL to buy Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. He headed back to the home of his father’s fiancé, where he was staying while he was in town.
- Zimmerman called 911 to report a suspicious person in the area; “This guy looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something. It's raining, and he's just walking around,” were his exact words, CNN reported. He decided to follow Martin, in spite of 911 officials’ suggestions to stay inside of the car.
- Martin called his girlfriend Rachel Jeantel and, as testified by her, he expressed his concern on a “creepy-ass cracker” following him. Jeantel stated that she heard Martin asking “what are you following me for?” and that she heard him saying “get off” repeatedly right before the call ended.
- Some people that were walking by heard someone having an argument and talking loudly.
- One of the pedestrians called 911. The police sergeant attending the call could hear someone yelling “help!” several times.
- FBI showed the recording to Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, and he admitted that it wasn’t his son’s voice. However, further analysis led to the conclusion that it is impossible to determine whose voice it was due to the intense emotional state of both of them, not-sufficient voice quality, and “overlapping voices” in the recording.
- According to Zimmerman, Martin attacked him “hitting him in the nose and knocking him back into the pavement."
- The witnesses heard a gunshot which came from Zimmerman’s gun. He had shot Martin in his left chest claiming self-defense.
- According to one of the witnesses, there was a “‘larger man’ standing over Martin.”
- When the police arrived they found Zimmerman facing down in the grass and bleeding from the nose and the back of his head.
- After conducting CPR on Martin, the police declared him dead at 7:30 PM.
- Police officers took Zimmerman to the station and questioned him. Finding there wasn't enough evidence to refute his self-defense claim, Zimmerman was not arrested and allowed to return home.
- Unaware of the events that transpired and upon his son not returning, Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, filed a missing persons’ complaint in the morning, on February 27th. The police showed him Trayvon’s picture, to which he confirmed it was his son.
What’s happened since:
- Several weeks after the tragedy, due to national outcry and a “capias request” (an order to arrest a person), Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and arrested. He was released on bail on few weeks later.
- On June 24th 2013 the Zimmerman trial started.
- Rachel Jeantel testified about what Martin told her over the phone right before the incident, on June 26th.
- On June 28th, John Good, a resident of the housing complex where Trayvon Martin was killed, stated that from what he saw, someone wearing white or red (Zimmerman, in this case) was being beaten by someone in dark clothes. A police officer called Timothy Smith stated that soon as he got to the scene, he noticed that Zimmerman’s clothes were wet in the back and with pieces of grass on it.
- On June 29th, the jury listened to taped police interviews with Zimmerman, in which he stated that he thought “something was off” with Martin and that he started following him first by car and then by foot. He also said that as soon as he got out of the car, Martin punched him and threw him on the floor, suffocating him and hitting his head against the concrete repeatedly and threatened him saying, “you’re going to die tonight.”
- A medical examiner, Dr.Valerie Rao, stated that Zimmerman’s injuries were “very insignificant” considering his statement that Martin hit him against the pavement several times, on July 2nd.
- Crime lab analyst Anthony Gorgone stated that he found DNA of Zimmerman and Martin in Martin’s sweatshirt and on Zimmerman’s jacket, on July 3rd. Also, prosecutors stated that Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin “driven in part by his desire to be a law enforcement officer.” And, since Zimmerman was the aggressor, it couldn’t be considered self-defense, they stated.
- On July 4th, Sybrina Fulton and Gladys Zimmerman, Martin’s and Zimmerman’s mothers respectively, both stated that it was their son’s voice yelling “help” in the 911 call recording. Another medical examiner, Shiping Bao, stated that Martin’s hands were wounds-free except for “scrapes on two of his left knuckles."
- On July 8th Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, stated before the jurors that the voice crying for help was his son’s and explained why he first said it wasn’t.
- Di Maio, an expert in forensic pathology, stated on July 9th that Martin’s injuries imply that he was on top of Zimmerman during the fight. However, he also said that it was possible that “Mr. Martin could have been trying to get off Mr. Zimmerman, even if he was leaning.” In addition, he stated that the fact that Zimmerman’s head only had two small cuts doesn’t mean that he wasn’t bleeding on the inside of his skull.
- On July 11th, the judge ruled that the jury could consider convicting Zimmerman of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder since “to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not merely negligent, justified, or excusable and which caused death.”
- Before closing the trial on July 12th, the prosecution kept suggesting the use of common sense through the analyzing of the following questions: “How could Mr. Martin have grabbed for the gun and not left DNA on it? Why would Mr. Zimmerman get out of the car and follow Mr. Martin if he was scared of him? How could Mr. Martin have been punching Mr. Zimmerman, covering his mouth and reaching for his gun at the same time?”
- On July 13th the jurors declared Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and of manslaughter.
- Following the jury’s decision, the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) launched a petition to open a civil rights case against George Zimmerman stating the following: “The Department of Justice has closely monitored the State of Florida's prosecution of the case against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin murder since it began. Today, with the acquittal of George Zimmerman, it is time for the Department of Justice to act.The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin. We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation. Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today.” As to July 16th, the MoveOn website petition has 500,000 signatures and the NAACP’s website has 500,000 as well.
- After the backlash from Civil Rights leaders, the Justice Department has decided to reopen the investigation on whether Trayvon Martin’s murder can be consider a hate crime concerning race. According to Benjamin T. Jealous, president of the NAACP, several things need to be re-examined. One of them includes whether Zimmerman’s decision to follow the 17-year-old could have been influenced by the fact that he was black. “There is a pattern of George Zimmerman making dozens of calls to 911 over several years, frequently about young men of color,” stated Jealous. The Justice Department will further the investigation to see if the case violates limited federal criminal right statutes.
Sources: New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN, NBC