The Trayvon Martin case is finally underway. According to reports, there are hundreds of prospective jurors who will be questioned to determine if they are fit to serve on the jury. Six jurors and at least two alternates will be chosen.
George Zimmerman, admittedly shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012.
Trayvon Martin 17, was a black teenager. Though not a resident of Sanford, Florida he had been staying at the home of his father’s fiancé, who was a resident of Sanford. Her home was in the same gated community where he would be shot and killed. At approximately 7:30 in the evening, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt (hoodie) he walked to a nearby 7-Eleven, bought Skittles and ice tea, and then began the walk back to his home.
While walking home he talked to his girlfriend on his cell phone. Trayvon then encountered George Zimmerman. What happened next is unclear but there was a confrontation between Trayvon and Zimmerman. Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in the chest with a black, 9mm handgun.
What We Do Know
George Zimmerman had been following Trayvon and had called 911 to report a “real suspicious guy” who “looks like he’s up to no good, or is on drugs or something.” The dispatcher learned that Zimmerman was following Trayvon and tells him “we don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman didn’t listen to the dispatcher and continued following Trayvon.
There were no eyewitnesses to the shooting. Numerous neighbors heard gunshots and called the police. Trayvon was found dead, lying face down in the grass.
Why was Zimmerman following Trayvon?
Zimmerman claimed to be a member of the local USAonWatch-Neighborhood Watch Program, however when their parent organization was contacted, the National Sheriffs Association (NSA), it was found that Zimmerman was not a member of any neighborhood watch organization. In a press statement, the NSA Executive Director condemned the actions of Zimmerman: “The alleged action of a ‘self-appointed neighborhood watchman’ last month in Sanford, FL significantly contradicts the principles of the Neighborhood Watch Program.” Zimmerman referred to himself as the “captain” of the neighborhood watch group. It’s unclear if there were other members or if Zimmerman was the lone member or if the organization actually officially existed at all.
In pre-trial hearings, it was revealed that Zimmerman had applied to be a police officer in Virginia but was rejected by the application review board. It’s unclear why his application was rejected.
At the time of the shooting, Zimmerman had almost completed a two-year degree program in criminal justice at Seminole State College. He participated in the Citizens Academy which is a program sponsored by the Seminole County Sheriff’s office. The program was designed for individuals interested in becoming “familiar” with police work but was not designed to qualify them or prepare them for police work.
George Zimmerman has had a long interest in police work, some might even say an obsession. Police records show that Zimmerman called 911, forty-six times between 2004 and the day he shot Trayvon Martin.
How many times have you called 911, since 2004?
Many of those 911 calls are related to what appear to be mundane problems in his neighborhood. For instance, call records show that he called 911 to report: potholes; loitering; a male driving with no headlights, fire alarms going off, someone riding a bike and popping wheelies; an aggressive dog in the neighborhood; a person in a pickup truck cutting people off; loud parties; people leaving their garage doors open; and rowdy kids in the neighborhood.
Zimmerman was particularly interested in suspicious activity. On November 4, 2006, he called to report a “vehicle driving real slow, with a driver who was looking at all of the vehicles in the complex and blasting music from the vehicle.”
He also spent his evenings looking for burglars. He reported people being in the neighborhood who appeared, in the mind of Zimmerman, to be looking to burglarize people’s homes.
Some have noted the inconsistencies between Zimmerman’s statement to the police and his reenactment filmed the day after the shooting. In his written statement, Zimmerman says he reached for a cell phone to dial 911 as Trayvon rushed toward him and punched him in the face. He says he fell backwards and Trayvon got on top of him.
But in the reenactment video, Zimmerman described moving toward Martin after being allegedly punched in the face and not falling backwards.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder. Prosecutors and those who support Travyon Martin, allege that Zimmerman is a vigilante with a “false sense of authority” who targeted black men in the neighborhood. Zimmerman’s attorneys say that he was accosted by Trayvon Martin and acted in self-defense against his aggressor.
This case has become a lightning rod for racial and civil rights issues, vigilantism, as well as the “Stand Your Ground” gun law. Some believe this might be the trial of the century. We will soon find out.