Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Zimmerman Trial: Some Random Thoughts

This is a long post.  I know not everyone is interested in this topic.  I know only those interested will want to read it, despite it's length.

Some may wonder why I would want to discuss the recent Zimmerman trial.  It's really off-topic for this blog, but some friends of mine were discussing it and I said I would offer my perspective here where I could make links and embed some things.  The media has been very selective in it's reporting.  While some doctored evidence to fit a certain narrative (such as NBC, which is now being sued by Zimmerman); other news sources - TV, radio, internet - omit things which also shape a certain narrative.  I wanted to explain to my friends how I arrived at my own conclusions.  I'm open to discussion and challenge on my understanding of the facts; I will not publish any comments filled with hate, ill-will, or inappropriate language.

I had been a pretty "low-information person" on the matter because I had merely followed headlines on the case.  I felt bad for the kid - he lost his life.  I had no idea what to think about Zimmerman; he was portrayed as a zealot.  First he was "white" then he was made into a "white-hispanic" by the media.

When I had vacation the first week of July, I had no idea I was going to immerse myself deep into the trial as I worked around my house.  I tried watching it on cable news channels, but they kept breaking for commercials and commentary. I found WFTV in Florida streaming it live, uninterrupted, with a retired attorney providing some matter-of-fact, informative commentary during the recesses.  I just let it run. When I would watch the news stories about a given day's trials, I sometimes wondered if they were watching the same thing I was.  Some critical things were omitted in the reporting.

I never thought I would find myself going back and watching some of the archived testimony I had missed.  I did the same in the evenings and weekends after returning to work on things I couldn't view or listen to by day.  By the time the jury was deliberating, I had digested it all.

So, my perspective isn't based on the CNN version, or the Fox version, or the MSNBC or Headline News versions.  My perspective isn't based on what was found online - I had not gone digging for information on this case during the trial. I just watched and listened to it.

I went into the trial believing those terrifying screams for help were that of Trayvon Martin. I came out of the trial convinced that it was George Zimmerman's voice that begged for help for at least 45 seconds, and I was not swayed by anyone's recognition of the voice - not relatives, nor friends.  Rather, it was the evidence at trial that convinced me it was Zimmerman.  Everyone battled to say it was the voice of Trayvon or the voice of Zimmerman because it would mean the other person was the aggressor. When it comes to self-defense that is important to establish.

People are talking about the Stand-Your-Ground law.  I won't be discussing that here because it didn't factor in. The defense didn't use that. Rather, Team O'Mara went for a full acquittal on all charges based on self-defense itself, knowing the Prosecution would likely put manslaughter in at the end. No one expected them to add Murder 3 (involving child abuse), but the Judge wasn't playing in that sandbox, so it wasn't on the table for jurors.

Some information you may not be getting from news sources

This diagram comes from a page at the Jawa Report.  It's speculative, but so is every other map out there, including those at the big news outlets.  But, this one fits the evidence given at trial as I envisioned it, so I am using it.

The red represents the path Trayvon Martin was taking and it is based on information Zimmerman gave, combined with testimony by Rachel Jeantel (Dee-Dee), the friend of Martin. Trayvon was on the phone with her leading up to the incident.

Yellow represents Zimmerman's path as he explained it, and as is supported by the first call to police.

Note the times are not shown, so just study the path and we will look at the graph again later as we bring in some time stamps. You might need to study this a few times after reading this full post.

Trayvon's Inadvertent Suspicious Behavior
One thing I want to point out is that if you look at the map, you see Trayvon's path beginning along the grass closer to the houses.  He was not walking in the street or on a sidewalk, but closer to the houses. It's understandable how someone might profile this behavior as suspicious.   Trayvon was also on the phone and may have been doing what many do when on the phone, stopping and looking around as he spoke.  This is something you don't hear anyone reporting on. All they keep saying is he was coming home with his skittles and fruit drink minding his own business. He was minding his own business, but he inadvertently made himself suspicious by walking too close to the buildings and Zimmerman spotted him as he was coming or going to a store.

Rash of Break-ins
Another important aspect of this, to put it in context, is that the neighborhood had dozens of break-ins.   One woman from the neighborhood testified that not long before incident, she saw two young, black males trying to get into her home while she was alone with her young son.  She called police as they broke in and were moving about the house. She herself in a room per their instructions, with scissors in hand, and the burglars were scared away when cops got there.  So, they "got away" (recall the language by Zimmerman that, "these f**** punks always get away." When I listen to the audio you'll hear in a minute, I took it to mean he was talking about people that were responsible for the many break-ins he mentioned at the beginning of his call. That was completely twisted out of context, and still is in many reports.

As an aside, I think O'Mara got out of that lady whose house was broken into while she was alone with her son, that the young men were caught some weeks after Martin was killed.  Zimmerman had come to the woman's aid and he didn't even know her.  He was aware that the door walls were not secure so he added a clip for her. He told this young mother to call him or his wife if she was afraid and wanted help (the woman was traumatized).

Now, you will find sites out there listing Zimmermans' dozens of calls to police, many of which he is describing young, black males and suspicious activity.  This is evidence, to them, of racism.  Consider for a moment that, of those caught, defense attorney Mark O'Mara pointed out most or all were black, and they were in their late teens.

So, while Zimmerman made a lot of calls, there are probably an equal number (or greater) of police reports with people having been victimized.

The First Call by Zimmerman
First, you have to listen to the raw, unedited audio of the first call George Zimmerman made to the non-emergency number (NEN) for the local police.  As George is talking try to follow him in the map above.  We'll do the same with Jeantel's testimony for Trayvon's path.

This raw audio of the call begins at 7:09:34 PM per the "connected" note on the police call log.  Some are talking about a roughly 2.5 minute gap in what was originally thought to the the start of the call and that 7:09:34 time, but the 7:11:12 was the "created time" in the police report.  Some say Zimmerman spent that 2.5 minutes looking for Martin.  Defense attorney Mark O'Mara said Zimmerman could have stopped and just been looking around on his way back to the car after looking at the house address (perhaps a 20-30 second walk).  So, at least two theories fill the blank; you can't say either theory is fact. It's an unknown. But, as we will see later, it seems unlikely that Zimmerman went looking for Trayvon and I'll explain why I believe this to be so.

Very Important Tidbits from Trayvon's Friend 
Let's help establish some of the points in that red path using the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the friend of Trayvon Martin (not his girl friend).

I don't trust edited clips because everyone is editing them to fit their own narrative, especially some of the big cable channels.  I'm using trial video from local Florida TV station, WFTV, which is keeping the full, raw archive indefinitely). Make of the testimony what you will.

Defense attorney, Don West, established via Rachel Jeantel's testimony earlier (maybe Part 3 on Day 13), that the two had lots of calls that day between one another, and part of the reason was that Trayvon's phone kept losing it's signal.  This happened after Trayvon began talking to her about Zimmerman, as well.

Now, we begin an important discussion of some facts you won't see the talking heads discussing in the news. Here is Day 13, Part 4 in the WFTV archives if you care to watch the first 15 minutes or so.  Here are some key points:

From the phone records of Trayvon Martin's phone, Don West focused on the last two calls with the following start/stop times:
  • 6:54:16 - 7:11:47  (recall, Zimmerman's call to NEN began at 7:09:34)
  • 7:12:06 - 7:15:43 (call dropped again as words were exchanged between Martin and Zimmerman).
Rachel Jeantel confirms that the first call had dropped and it took her about 19-20 seconds to reconnect with thim.  Prior to that drop, she had told him to just run and he told her he was running.  

Now, this next part, for me, was very important. 

Start this video around the 4 minute, 47 second mark (Day 13 in part 5), if you want to watch (to at least about 9 minutes in).  My notes from the video are below.

Don West continues to question Jeantel after the short recess.  We learn the following from Jeantel:
  • Zimmerman was still in his car when Trayvon began running right before the call dropped.
  • After the 19 or 20 second gap when the signal dropped, Jeantel had Trayvon on the phone again and told her he was "by the back" of his dad's fiance's house where he had been staying (he had been there for about a week, visiting).  On the map we looked at earlier, that house is at location (4)
  • Trayvon told her that he had lost Zimmerman (and recall, Zimmerman lost Trayvon).
  • Jeantel said at this point, Martin was breathing hard and tired, as if he had been running, so she believed what he was telling her just previously. 
  • Jeantel said Trayvon then began talking in a whispered voice for the next several minutes leading up to his encounter with George Zimmerman, at which time she heard Trayvon ask him: "Why you following me for?"  
The response she says she heard from Zimmerman varied between two different accounts. Jeralyn Merritt at the Talk Left blog has provided solid legal analysis, and says this (and I recommend reading her full post to see the many ways she's impeached herself):

She's now impeached on several areas, especially GZ's response to TM after TM confronted GZ and asked him, "What are you following me for?" I'm so glad West brought this out, see my post here. Her first answer to Crump was that GZ responded with "What are you talking about" not "What are you doing around here."
At the trial she claimed he said the latter. If you look at the frame I got out of Mark O'Mara's closing argument, you see two cardboard figures made to the height of each of the men. Trayvon was 6'3" - taller than O'Mara, especially with the kind of shoes he had on.  Some engaged in semantics saying Trayvon was NOT a cardboard cut out.  People had a right to know the size difference between Zimmerman and Martin. Kids his age were being sent off to war back in the 60's and 70's.  It makes more sense that George, in front of this towering figure, would respond with the first statement, but we will are left to guess since she gave two different answers.

Here again is that map.  From what we learned out of Jeantel's testimony, Zimmerman was in his car at bubble 2 at the time that Trayvon went running.  He gets out and begins to go up along that horizontal path (recall cop asked him which way he was running) as Trayvon runs during that 19-20 seconds about 80 yards to the back of his dad's fiance's house.  You hear wind in Zimmerman's phone and the cop tells him he doesn't need to follow the kid (3). Zimmerman says "okay" and within a few seconds you hear the wind or breathing calm (no one is certain which it is). Audio can't tell us if he changed direction, stood in place or kept walking straight ahead.  Zimmerman responded to the cop's request for an address by walking out to (5).  As he headed back, George says Trayvon approached him from behind, towards the left. If Trayvon had made it home, then came back up to the "T", and if George had just past the "T" heading back to his car, this would make sense.

The Animation

Now that you have an idea of where Martin had been (per Jeantel's testimony), watch the animation that was allowed in closing, but not in the trial itself.  You see Martin coming up the vertical path from the place he was staying and encountering Zimmerman as he gets just past the "T" (George's flashlight and I think his keys were found there).  If Trayvon had "lost" George, why did he come back up to the "T" if not to confront him?

The reason Trayvon is shown on top is because the closest eye-witness, John Good, said the guy on the bottom had the lighter jacket on, and he said that was the guy that was screaming. You hear that 911 call from Lauer overlaid in this animation.

Keep in mind when Ms. Lauer called, the screams were already rather loud and give us a sense that whomever is screaming is terrified.  I think the screams for help went on for 40-45 seconds, which is an eternity to someone getting the snot beat out of him.  If there is any doubt that it is Zimmerman, I'll add this: Since Trayvon was placed on top, MMA style (Mixed Martial Arts), and because George is the only one with visible signs of a pummeling, it makes no sense for Martin to scream for help while he is delivering all that.  You don't scream help when you have someone pinned down.  Zimmerman had punctate wounds in several places on his skull, along with the two lacerations on the back and swellings.  Those are consistent with the head being hit against cement, according to world renown ME, Dr. Vincent De Maio (You can see his compelling testimony here broken into parts. Use the side bar to get additional parts)

Moreover, aside from the gun shot wound to the front of his chest, Trayvon had one other injury - an abrasion on the knuckle, consistent with being scraped against cement or something else.  So, until the gun went off, the only aggressor appears to have been Trayvon.

Did he go back up the "T" looking for Zimmerman because he was afraid?  Or, did he do so because he was annoyed? We will never know.  It just doesn't make sense to me that when you are near the safety of home, and have lost someone who is following you, why would go back out into the darkness between those houses?

So much more; so little space

There is so much more I can point to that swayed me, including the testimony of Lead Detective Serino whose testimony as a witness for the Prosecution, and for the Defense, both worked in favor of the latter.  There was also Chief Lee's testimony on how, when he learned the 911 tape would be released, he tried to stop the Mayor from "infecting" each of the family members by letting them hear it all together (this is law enforcement 101 to separate people so they don't sway each other, even inadvertently).  Chief Lee was fired. Serino claimed the father had indicated that the screams were not coming from Trayvon (and another cop nearby corroborated witnessing that), and he claimed in court, it was his son screaming (but the prosecution didn't call him as it did his mother).  Serino was earlier demoted.

There was also rather strange testimony from the State's medical examiners, Dr. Rao and Dr. Bao, in contrast to Dr. Di Maio.  That's for another post, if I feel like it.  The medical science aspects of it revealed some very interesting things that fly in the face of some other common narratives.  Even the defense seemed to concede, if only passively, that Trayvon was the guy on top.

Both Martin and Zimmerman were imprudent
In the end, it appears as if both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin made imprudent decisions that fateful night.  Zimmerman would have been smarter to stay in his car, if anything for his own safety. Martin would have been smarter to slip into his dad's fiance's home after he lost Zimmerman for his own safety.  Both men had a right to be in in that location. Nothing was unlawful about either man following the other. It appears, by the evidence, that the first unlawful move came when Trayvon Martin sucker-punched Zimmerman.  Some say George didn't need to shoot.  But, after at least 45 seconds of screaming for help, consider that no one came. He couldn't retreat. He couldn't stop the beating, and I know if my head was being slammed into the cement and I was taking blows to my head, I would have to wonder if the next hit would render me unconscious.

For these reasons, I believe the jury came to the right conclusion on the matter of self defense.

I had never seen this video before, at least not the raw version.  Seeing clips really does change perception versus the raw video.  Consider Zimmerman did this the day after the shooting, without an attorney when he had the right not to speak.  Before he even knew those screams for help were on the 911 tape, he told the detectives he was yelling and yelling for help and no one came. Detective Serino had used a ruse by telling George that someone caught the whole thing on video (a tactic that makes liars more truthful).  Zimmerman's response: Oh, thank God someone got it.  Officer Serino said that is when he realized George was telling the truth.  As for small inconsistencies, Serino said police expect some and he did not think the small inconsistencies were outside the norm. He said police are more suspicious when a story is too consistent upon repeating. It shows memorization.

I pray for all affected and I ask you to do the same.  What an epic tragedy.


Someone just linked to this epic show down between two black liberals -  Juan Williams  and Leo Terrell (civil rights attorney) -  that Sean Hannity had on as guests.  It looks like this is not just dividing whites, blacks and hispanics, but it is dividing the black community, as well.

This is EPIC to the nth degree!

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