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Prosecute the killer of our son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin
Petition by Trayvon Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin
Why This Is Important
On February 26, our son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked to a family member’s home from a convenience store where he had just bought some candy. He was only 17 years-old.
Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, admitted to police that he shot Trayvon in the chest. Zimmerman, the community’s self appointed “neighborhood watch leader,” called the police to report a suspicious person when he saw Travyon, a young black man, walking from the store. But Zimmerman still hasn’t been charged for murdering our son.
Trayvon was our hero. At the age 9, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone.
When Zimmerman reported Trayvon to the police, they told him not to confront him. But he did anyway. All we know about what happened next is that our 17 year-old son, who was completely unarmed, was shot and killed.
It’s been nearly two weeks and the Sanford Police have refused to arrest George Zimmerman. In their public statements, they even go so far as to stand up for the killer – saying he’s “a college grad” who took a class in criminal justice.
Please join us in calling on Angela Corey, Florida’s 4th District State’s Attorney, to investigate my son’s murder and prosecute George Zimmerman for the shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin.
Fear and Loathing in American Suburbs
By Rebecca Davis
Three weeks ago, an unarmed black teenager called Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Sanford, Florida, by a man called George Zimmerman because he looked “suspicious.” Under Florida’s self-defence laws, Zimmerman was not charged or arrested – until a growing outcry is now prompting an investigation.
In the photos of Trayvon Martin released by his family, he looks younger than his 17 years. He looks like a little kid with a big smile. On the night of 26 February, Martin was walking to his father’s girlfriend’s house in the city of Sanford. He didn’t live in Salford. He lived with his mother and older brother in Miami Gardens, but he was visiting his dad for the night. They spent the evening watching a basketball game on TV, and during the halftime break, Martin walked to a nearby 7/11 to pick up some snacks. At the shop he bought a can of iced tea and a packet of Skittles. Those were the deadliest weapons he had on him: iced tea, Skittles, and a cellphone.
Martin used the cellphone to call his girlfriend. She has testified he told her he was being followed by a “strange man”, and that he was scared. She says she then heard Martin ask someone “What are you following me for?”, followed by a male voice responding “What are you doing here?” Martin’s girlfriend says that she then heard the sound of physical jostling and Martin’s cellphone went silent.
Meanwhile, there is the record of a phonecall made to the emergency number 911 shortly before this. In the recording, the caller reports Martin as engaging in “suspicious behaviour” – “just walking around looking about”. The caller said, “This guy looks like he is up to no good”. The emergency call dispatcher advised the caller not to take any action, saying that he would send a police car. The caller then informed them that Martin had “taken off”. The dispatcher asked if the caller was pursuing him. He said yes. The dispatcher told him this was unnecessary.
The caller has since been identified as George Zimmerman, 28. Zimmerman was originally reported by the media to be a Neighborhood Watch official for the area, but now the idea that he took on this role in any kind of official capacity is disputed. It seems Zimmerman may have been a self-appointed watchman: the National Sheriffs’ Association, which runs the Neighborhood Watch Program, issued a statement saying it has “no information indicating the community where the incident occurred has ever even registered with the NSA Neighborhood Watch program.”
What is clear is that Zimmerman was preoccupied, to the point of obsession, with the safety of his neighborhood. Between January 1, 2011, and the night of Martin’s shooting, he made almost 50 calls to 911, reporting individuals and incidents that he found suspicious within his community – ranging from the spotting of two black males he thought might fit the profile of suspects from a recent robbery, to the fact that a neighbor’s garage door was open.
As for what happened next, that depends on whose story you believe. George Zimmerman says after having called 911, he returned to his truck to await the police car they said they had dispatched, only to be jumped on and attacked from behind by Martin. Zimmerman then says he shot Martin in the chest with his semi-automatic handgun because he feared for his life. There are conflicting witness accounts. One witness endorses Zimmerman’s version of events, saying he saw Martin beating Zimmerman up. Another witness, Mary Cutcher, said she and her housemate heard no signs of a scuffle at all – only a young voice whining and crying, followed by a gunshot, and then seeing Zimmerman pinning Martin on the ground with his knees.
In some ways it is what happened next that has become the real story, however. Police tested the body of Trayvon Martin for traces of drugs and alcohol. (They found none.) They were happy, however, to simply take Zimmerman’s word for it that the older man had no drugs or alcohol in his system – no testing was carried out on Zimmerman. Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, has said that the family was told by police that they believed Zimmerman’s account of events in all respect because he had a “squeaky-clean record”. This turned out to be not quite true, however.
In July 2005 Zimmerman had been arrested after a tussle with security outside a bar in Florida, but because it was a first offense, he escaped with a “pretrial diversion program.” The same year, the Daily Beast notes, an injunction was filed against him by a woman claiming charges of domestic violence against him. The injunction was granted. In 2008 he reached a settlement with a credit card company, Capital One, after falling behind with payments.
But police seemed more interested in the criminal background of Trayvon Martin, carrying out a full check on the dead boy, which failed to bring up a speck of dirt. Martin was reportedly a good student (he received A and B grades), who hoped to study further. On a website set up by Martin’s parents, they describe him as “our hero.” They wrote:
“At the age of nine, Trayvon pulled his father from a burning kitchen, saving his life. He loved sports and horseback riding. At only 17 he had a bright future ahead of him with dreams of attending college and becoming an aviation mechanic. Now that’s all gone.”
Police did not arrest George Zimmerman, and neither did they charge him with any offense. This was permissible on their behalf thanks to Florida self-defense laws. Since 2005, Florida law has included a “Stand Your Ground” premise, under which an individual who perceives their life to be under threat can defend themselves without needing to try to get away. Prior to 2005, you needed to be able to prove that you had used deadly force as a last resort. Since the passing of the “Stand Your Ground” law, technically known as the ‘Castle Doctrine’, this caveat no longer exists. CBS Miami reported this week that since the law was passed, deaths in which self-defense is claimed have risen by over 200 percent.
As a result of the Stand Your Ground law, in fact, police could not only get away with not arresting Zimmerman, but were legally prevented from doing so. This is their defense, in any case. This week the city manager of Sanford released a letter which read:
“Mr Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self defense which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony. By Florida Statute, law enforcement was prohibited from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.”
The situation may be a little murkier still. Despite the Sanford police chief Bill Lee’s claim that he carried out a “fair and thorough investigation” three weeks ago, the police stand accused of having failed to follow up on important leads – such as the testimony given by Martin’s girlfriend about the cellphone conversation. Then there’s the claim by Mary Cutcher that after she gave evidence to police, they “corrected” her statement to make it agree with Zimmerman’s. She said it appeared to her at the scene of the shooting the police “were siding with him from the start.”
Now there’s also the claim that police missed a racial slur uttered by Zimmerman on his 911 call. Officers told ABC News this week that they may have overlooked a moment in the recording where Zimmerman may have said the phrase “fucking coons” under his breath, though some audio experts say that he more likely said “fucking punks”.
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell went so far as to describe this as “evidence of a police cover-up”.
This week it was announced the shooting will be the subject of three investigations. One carried out by the Sanford police department, one by the US justice department with the FBI, and one by the Florida state attorney. However, it’s fair to say the only reason the matter is being taken further now is because of the outcry that has been growing over the past three weeks, led largely by Martin’s family, black lawyers and civil rights activists. A petition calling for Zimmerman’s arrest has now attracted more than 800,000 signatures. But as The Guardian’s Gary Younge notes,
“It is not at all uncommon for young black men to leave the world in a shower of bullets followed by deafening silence.”
In some ways Zimmerman’s assumption that Martin must be up to no good was not illogical given the social context, Younge writes. Almost one in 10 black men in America are in prison, and they are more likely to be stopped and searched than any other group.
“To assume that when you see a black man you see a criminal is rooted in the fact that black men have been systematically criminalized,” Younge writes.
“That excuses nothing but explains a great deal”.
The investigation into Martin’s death may cause a rethink of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which many will welcome. Sanford police chief Bill Lee will also be lucky to hold on to his job in the face of mounting public outrage. [Lee has stepped temporarily aside, and Capt Darren Scott will serve as interim police chief during the investigation. DC] It remains to be seen if any change will be brought about in the American justice system.
VIDEO: Rally in Sanford, Florida on March 22, 2012 at which Trayvon’s mother spoke (Courtesy Maddillz, 2 1/2 min).
Haitian-Americans lead Trayvon Martin march and rally in Little Haiti
Members of Miami’s Haitian community marched early on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 demanding justice for slain Dr. Krop student Trayvon Martin.
“I will never give up,”
Ronald Sulton, Trayvon Martin’s uncle, told WSVN as a crowd chanted at the statue of Toussaint L’Ouverture in Little Haiti.
“Never, till justice is served.”
The group, led by Concerned Haitian American Citizens (CHAC), marched south to 54th Street and then circled back to 62nd Street for a rally. On stage, a sign with a photo of Martin read
“Haitians for Trayvon. Justice = Liberty = Peace.”
The 17-year-old was shot and killed last month while visiting his father in Stanford by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman remains free as the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office reviews the Stanford Police investigation and decides whether to file charges.
At the rally, marchers held printed and handmade signs reading “Justice For Trayvon” and “Haitians For Trayvon” and wore printed shirts with the teen’s photo. Both Haitian and American flags waved as cars drove by honking.
Though Martin did not live in Little Haiti, one community leader said that was not important.
“This really scares the hell out of any parent,”
Marleine Bastien told the Miami Herald.
George Zimmerman in custody, faces second-degree murder charge in Trayvon Martin case
By M. Alex Johnson
April 11, 2012, 6:23 p.m. George Zimmerman is in custody in Florida and will be charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, authorities announced Wednesday.
“We did not come to this decision lightly,”
Angela Corey, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to re-examine the case, said at a news conference in Jacksonville. Corey had previously said she wouldn’t take the case to a grand jury, which took first-degree murder off the table.
Corey said she decided last week to seek the charge but needed several days to make sure all details were in order. She said she had informed Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, but she refused to discuss details of the case, saying she was committed to protecting the interests of both Martin and Zimmerman.
“So much information on this case has gotten released that should never have been released,” she said.
Under Florida law, Zimmerman, 28, must be taken before a judge within 24 hours of his return to Seminole County, where he has acknowledged he shot and killed Martin, 17, in the town of Sanford on Feb. 26.
“He will be taken when it’s appropriate for the appropriate appearance before a judge,”
said Corey, who wouldn’t say where Zimmerman was being held to protect his safety.
Zimmerman is being represented by Mark O’Mara, an Orlando lawyer and former prosecutor, after his previous attorneys said Tuesday that they had lost touch with their client and were withdrawing from the case.
Authorities in Sanford — began preparing early in the day for public reaction to the announcement. Several counties in the region activated their emergency operations centers and were on heightened alert, NBC News’ Kerry Sanders reported from Sanford, while Seminole County sheriff’s deputies spent Wednesday morning setting up barricades along the booking area for new inmates at the county jail, NBC station WESH of Orlando reported.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian, says he shot Martin, who was black, in self-defense after following him in a gated community in Sanford. Police questioned Zimmerman but decided against pressing charges.
The lack of an arrest or charges had sparked protests nationwide, with critics alleging that Zimmerman confronted Martin because of his race. Zimmerman’s supporters deny that.
The decision whether to arrest Zimmerman was delayed for several weeks because Zimmerman had indicated that he would argue self-defense under Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law, which shields Floridians from prosecution if a judge determines that the shooting was justified to protect life or property.
Corey called the law “a tough affirmative defense to overcome,” but she said,
“If ‘Stand Your Ground’ becomes an issue, we will fight it if we think we are on firm ground.”
A federal civil rights investigation is also under way, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that the Justice Department had to meet a “high bar” to bring any charges.
The main federal role is to “support the state in its ongoing investigation,” Holder told reporters Wednesday morning in Washington. At the same time, he said, the Justice Department is conducting its “own thorough and parallel investigation” to try to resolve the case “in as fair and complete a way and as quickly as we can.”
Kerry Sanders and Pete Williams of NBC News and NBC station WESH of Orlando, Fla., contributed to this report by M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.
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