The easy answer is that the defense simply outmaneuvered the prosecution. They picked a jury of five white women and one black or Hispanic woman, waived a Stand Your Ground hearing in front of the judge, and then proceeded to focus on the fight itself, claiming that Zimmerman was in a fight for his life and therefore used his weapon in self defense.
The prosecution, meanwhile, tried to appeal to the character of Trayvon Martin, demonstrating as much as possible that this was an innocent kid who was merely walking home and who was suddenly accosted by an older, heavier male who seemed bent on an altercation. Trayvon, they said, was just trying to get away.
Clearly, the case broke down in three major places, but equally important, the prosecution missed three key pieces of evidence that could have helped the jury reach a guilty verdict.
These three pieces of evidence lead incontrovertibly to the following facts:
1. Zimmerman was racially motivated.
2. Zimmerman wanted police to believe he thought Martin was armed, and yet he pursued him anyway.
3. Zimmerman knew early on that Martin was a kid but shot him anyway.
- An all-female jury may have been picked to be sympathetic to Trayvon, but the reality is that most women have a deep-seated fear of black men, especially black men in a violent night-time scenario. For this reason, the jury as constituted was far more prone to be sympathetic to Zimmerman, not Martin.
- The prosecution failed to point out that fistfights are rarely lethal, and in this situation a lethal fight was highly improbable when all the evidence suggests both men were on the grass at the moment the gun was fired. Even if he was on his back, even if he had his head smacked into the sidewalk once or twice, and his nose popped pretty hard, there’s simply no reason for Zimmerman to believe that a 16-year-old kid could or would take the fight to its ultimate conclusion. It just doesn’t happen.
- The prosecution failed to adequately establish that before the fight began, Zimmerman was already actively looking for an altercation – and much of his motivation was racially charged.
For my third point above, I need to break down the voice recording of Zimmerman’s 911 call to the Sanford Police Department. In this call, Zimmerman says three things which, individually and combined, clearly demonstrate his intent to pursue and take down Trayvon Martin.
- Early in the call, Zimmerman is reporting the incident to the dispatcher and says that Trayvon is now “Coming toward me.” He later added that Martin circled his car.
“He has his hand in his waistband,” he says at one point and then, “he has his hand in his jacket” and then, “he’s got something in his hands.”
In each case, Zimmerman is clearly implying that he thinks Martin may be in possession of a weapon. Who, in a situation like that, gets out of his car in a dark rainy night, and follows someone who he suspects has a loaded weapon?
- Shortly thereafter, Zimmerman does just that – he goes after Martin. First, he describes Martin as “running away.”
“Which direction?” asks the dispatcher. The car door opens and Zimmerman is moving briskly in open air. Then, as clear as day, we hear Zimmerman say something that is not on the record anywhere, but which goes to the heart of a Civil Rights case.
Under his breath as he is walking, Zimmerman says, “Fucking coons.” You can clearly hear him say it in this detailed analysis.
The dispatcher then says, “Are you following him?”
“Yeah,” says Zimmerman.
“We don’t need you to do that,” says the dispatcher, in a voice that is clearly a strong advisory. But Zimmerman proceeds anyway.
Who calls anyone a “fucking coon” in this day and age? And then disobeys a strong directive to stop following the suspect?
- Finally, early in the call Zimmerman describes Martin as “in his late teens.” Later, as the call is closing and after Zimmerman thinks he may have lost Martin, he casually refers to Martin as a “kid.” Clearly, Zimmerman was aware early on that Martin was a kid, not an adult. This should have completely re-defined his strategy, i.e., Zimmerman should have avoided pulling out the weapon at all costs.
After all, who shoots a kid in a fistfight, with the cops on the way?
In total, this missed evidence suggests Zimmerman had racist motivations; he was well aware that an altercation could be lethal; and he was also well aware that Martin was a kid. In other words, this was a racially motivated event, designed to end very badly and targeted at a victim who Zimmerman may have thought was nevertheless an easy target.
Instead of seizing on these fundamental points, the Zimmerman prosecution volunteered itself for the defensive mode, trying (and failing) to show that Martin was not the aggressor, that he was on the ground, not Zimmerman, that he was calling for help, not Zimmerman. None of these points were of consequence, because in the jury’s mind, all they did was further establish that a significant and possibly life-threatening fight was under way, making the possibility that use of the gun was justified more and more relevant.
The Zimmerman prosecution failed to demonstrate motive and planning, it failed to convict, and it failed to find or note key evidence of a Civil Rights violation. Perhaps this will work in the Justice Department’s favor: perhaps they can argue that, because the evidence was not initially found, there was a miscarriage of justice for which a Civil Rights trial is the proper remedy.
As it stands today, the trial is a textbook case example of how to shoot an innocent kid and get away with it.