Book of the Month

The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin

By Charles M Blow, New York Times Op-Ed, March 16/17, 2012

[....] This case has reignited a furor about vigilante justice, racial-profiling and equitable treatment under the law, and it has stirred the pot of racial strife.

As the father of two black teenage boys, this case hits close to home. This is the fear that seizes me whenever my boys are out in the world: that a man with a gun and an itchy finger will find them “suspicious.” That passions may run hot and blood run cold. That it might all end with a hole in their chest and hole in my heart. That the law might prove insufficient to salve my loss.

That is the burden of black boys in America and the people that love them: running the risk of being descended upon in the dark and caught in the cross-hairs of someone who crosses the line [....]

For detailed coverage see:

Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog @ The Atlantic, for his posts on it dated March 13 through today, March 19; his titles, in chronological order:

  • Florida's Self-Defense Laws and the Killing of Trayvon Martin
  • Trayvon Martin, Cont.
  • Stand Your Ground and Trayvon Martin
  • More on the Killing of Trayvon Martin
  • The Town Where Trayvon Martin Was Killed
  • The Killing of Trayvon Martin: 911 Tapes Released
  • On the Police 'Investigating' the Killing of Trayvon Martin
  • Sanford's Police Chief Is the Real Victim of Racism
  • Obama Press Secretary Asked About Trayvon Martin
Read the full article at

Here's some new info that makes it even more clear that Trayvon was an innocent victim:


Once my emotions of horror from this tragic story died down a bit, I am more and more seeing a picture of a police department that needs to be hounded to death over it. I don't care what the crazy Florida law says, if you're a police force that's not going to carefully investigate vigilantism ending in death, then you've rendered yourself impotent; might as well just shut down and let everyone shoot it out. How they have operated here is dangerous for everyone regardless of color or creed. I am thinking they need to be made an example of to scare all the other police in the state, especially because of that crazy law.

As for the girl's story, my immediate reaction is that I pray that she is not embellishing anything, and ready to face some rough treatment with 100% accuracy.

THIS INCIDENT really has me going.

CNN and its sister spent a lot of time reporting on this.

I know I have not read the entire file, I know that I do not have all the facts, I know that there has been no trial but emotionally I really have a need to see the perp hanged in a public square--even though that would be wrong.

I do know this for sure; the statute that certain members of the local DA are using in defense of their decision (not final I hope) not to arrest this monster should have no applicability here.

The questions to be asked by investigators?

Is there probable cause to believe that X killed Y?

Is there probable cause to believe that Y had no weapons on his person at the time of the shooting? (Or there was not a weapon in the vicinity that could be attributed to Y)

Is there probable cause that the shooter did not act reasonably under the circumstances?

Juries decide who acted reasonably, who had reason to believe his life was in danger, who hated minorities approaching his community...

This was not just a murder it was a hate crime.

I could turn this into twenty questions. But I listened to the 911 call. I heard the instructions given by the cops. I saw pictures of the kid, the innocent kid in my mind anyway. Maybe if the kid were 7'1" wearing a sweat shirt that said "I will kill you"....Maybe if the kid had a weapon.

That this statute would enable charlatan attorneys to sue the state/county/municipality is irrelevant.

See, I told you this pissed me off.


 Juries decide who acted reasonably,

Thank you, such a crucial point! I  just read in comments on The New Yorker site what struck me as a very good "common sense" argument of the jury-thought kind:

It seems to me that any "self-defense" law which enables one to legally chase someone down, initiate a fight and then shoot them when they fight back is by its nature not a self-defense law at all, but a license to commit murder when your initial act of aggression doesn't pan out the way you wanted it to [....]

Posted 3/20/2012, 6:18:33pm by Manruss

As an ex-Floridian I can tell you that the shooter was NOT a COP and had absolutely no authority to shoot anyone.  He was a Citizens on Patrol volunteer. They are only supposed to report and not confront.

WELL PUT CHRIS. no kidding.


This self defense law is a new law that has not been on the books to long and passed by Repblicans . It was something the NRA pushed for along time here in Florida. The out cry after it passed was " what are they trying trying to do, turn Florida into the wild west?" It is big news down here. Depending on how it turns out, it could become a local political issue for the Democrats to run with.

No-confidence vote for Sanford police chief
By Tina Sussman reporting from Sanford, LA Times, March 21

In a tense meeting Wednesday that highlighted growing tensions over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, local officials in Sanford, Fla., passed a vote of no confidence in the police chief.... The no-confidence measure passed 3 to 2 after more than an hour of debate, and though it was not binding, the outcome and the public groans and applause that punctuated the debate underscored the anger pulsing through the Orlando suburb....

Dozens of Sanford residents gathered in the Sanford City Hall, where City Commissioner Mark McCarty set the tone for the meeting by noting that he had called for Police Chief Bill Lee’s ouster 10 days earlier in a meeting with the city manager, Norton N. Bonaparte Jr.

“I take no pleasure in publicly flogging our police chief. He’s a good man,” McCarty said.

But McCarty said questions surrounding the case, and the negative publicity cast upon the city since the killing, were largely the result of mishandling of the investigation....

My bold highlighting:

Trayvon Martin case 'not as conclusive as people think', says legal expert
By Karen McVeigh,, March 22

Defence attorney explains how lack of forensic evidence would complicate potential prosecution of George Zimmerman


[Jonathan] Turley believes that the case is going to turn on classic criminal defence elements under common law, where an individual is allowed to use lethal force if they fear injury or death.

Turley, who has written a blog about the case exploring the 911 tape, said it included elements in Zimmerman's favour:

It has him ignoring requests not to follow Martin but it includes a portion where he is saying that Martin is approaching him. We have heard reports that Zimmerman was bleeding as the result of a struggle. Zimmerman was a big individual and was armed. It's difficult to believe because of his size and the fact that he was armed that he felt in imminent threat of death. But lawyers could point to the tape showing that Zimmerman believed Martin might be armed. That Martin was moving towards him and checking him out. All of that is likely to be playing to a jury with the question of intend and whether he had a reasonable fear of serious injury or death.

At one point in the tape, Zimmerman refers to Martin's hand in his waistband.


Nevertheless, Turley believes there was enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman and to secure an indictment.

"Police would have been on solid grounds to arrest him. You have an unarmed teenager and someone who does not comply with a request that he not follow Martin.

"That doesn't mean there's enough evidence to secure a conviction."

Even under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, Turley said, Zimmerman, if indicted, would still have to demonstrate he had a reasonable fear of death or serious injury.

In other related news, for those who haven't kept up: the Sanford Police Chief resigned and there is a huge demonstration of thousands in Sanford this evening.

FYI - The police chief didn't resign.  He 'stepped away' (took leave) temporarily.

However, since the no confidence vote by council, his job no doubt depends on the outcome of the new investigation.


Right, sorry, my fault for using the wrong word.

Makes some good points about what's going on with the "Stand Your Ground" law, and some reminders of the outrageousness of the PD lack of investigation of this case:

Emmett Till in Sanford;
The killing of Trayvon Martin almost fell down the memory hole

By William Finnegan, Daily Comment blog @ The New Yorker, March 23

George Zimmerman Unprotected By Self-Defense Law in Trayvon Martin Killing, Florida Lawmakers Say
By John Rudolph, Huffington Post, March 21

[....] Republican state lawmakers in Florida responsible for a controversial 2005 self-defense law said it shouldn't apply to a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in February [....]

Dennis Baxley, a Republican state representative and co-author of the 2005 self-defense law, said Zimmerman negated his ability to claim immunity under the law by chasing Martin.

"This law is for innocent, law-abiding citizens who are under attack by a perpetrator," Baxley told The Huffington Post. "Anyone who is out pursuing and confronting people is not protected by this statute."

"I think they need to go back and read the statute," Baxley said, referring to the Sanford Police Department.

Former Republican State Sen. Durell Peadon, another co-author of the law, said Zimmerman "has no protection under my law."

"They need to prosecute whoever shot the kid," Peadon told the Miami Herald on Tuesday.

Gun rights advocates also question the decision not to charge Zimmerman [....]

Turns out the cries for help are disputed: Zimmerman's or Martin's?

George Zimmerman told police Trayvon Martin beat his head into pavement
Leaked police report details shooter's account, as family spokesman reveals Martin had school suspension for marijuana

By Matt Williams in New York,, 26 March 2012
[....] the Orlando Sentinel newspaper has obtained a leaked copy of the account he gave police in which he claims the teenager was the aggressor.

He told officers that he had followed the teenager but had lost sight of him. He was then walking back to the vehicle when Martin approached him from the left rear and they exchanged words.

Martin, according to Zimmerman's evidence, then asked him if he had a problem. The older man told police that he replied no and started to reach for his cellphone but Martin said, "Well you do now," or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the face.

When Zimmerman fell, he claimed, the teenager got on top of him and started slamming his head into the ground, prompting him to shout for help.

Tapes of the 911 calls from neighbours caught these cries for help, and Martin's family have been adamant that they came from Trayvon as Zimmerman attacked. But Zimmerman in turn claims it was him. According to the Sentinel, police say their evidence backs this account. One eyewitness has said he saw the teenager on top of Zimmerman.

It was only then that the neighbourhood watchman pulled out a gun and shot Martin in the chest at close range, Zimmerman's reported account claims.

Sanford Police refused to comment on the story, saying only that it could not "confirm or deny" the account [....]

Police: Zimmerman says Trayvon decked him, then hammered his head
By Renee Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel, March 26, 2012, Updated: 2:56 p.m.

With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times, leaving him bloody and battered, authorities have revealed to the Orlando Sentinel.

That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say.

Zimmerman has not spoken publicly about what happened, but that night, Feb. 26, and in later meetings he described and re-enacted for police what he says happened.

In his version of events, he had turned around and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from behind, the two exchanged words then Trayvon punched him in the nose, sending him to the ground, and began beating him.

Zimmerman told police he shot the teenager in self-defense [....]

On Feb. 26, when Zimmerman first spotted Trayvon, he called police and reported a suspicious person, describing Trayvon as black, acting strangely and perhaps on drugs.

Zimmerman got out of his SUV to follow Trayvon on foot. When a dispatch employee asked Zimmerman if he was following the 17-year-old, Zimmerman said yes. The dispatcher told Zimmerman he did not need to do that.

There is about a one-minute gap during which police say they're not sure what happened.

Zimmerman told them he lost sight of Trayvon and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from the left rear, and they exchanged words.

Trayvon asked Zimmerman if he had a problem. Zimmerman said no and reached for his cell phone, he told police.

Trayvon then said, "Well, you do now" or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the nose.

Zimmerman fell to the ground and Trayvon got on top of him and began slamming his head into the sidewalk, he told police.

Zimmerman began yelling for help.

Several witnesses heard those cries, and there's been a dispute about from whom they came: Zimmerman or Trayvon.

Lawyers for Trayvon's family say it was Trayvon, but police say their evidence indicates it was Zimmerman [....]

"Curious Case" turns out to have been an understatement; by the minute this afternoon, for example:

Looks like reasonable doubt is very much on the jury's menu:

Pathologist supports Zimmerman's description of attack
By Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY 2:38 p.m. EDT July 9, 2013

SANFORD, Fla. — Evidence supports George Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon Martin was on top of him when Zimmerman fired the shot that claimed Trayvon's life, a forensic pathologist testified Tuesday at Zimmerman's murder trial.

"The medical evidence is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's statement," said Vincent Di Maio, an expert witness for the defense. The pathologist also found that Trayvon lived no more than three minutes after the shooting and probably was conscious for at least 10 to15 seconds.

Di Maio also testified that Zimmerman's head injuries could have been caused by coming into contact with concrete and that such injuries can be very dangerous. That testimony supported Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon was slamming his head into a sidewalk [....]

I think that the back to back gutting of the Voting Rights Act and allowing the murderer of an unarmed Black teen to go free will speak volumes about the criminal justice system Couple that with a NYC mayor supporting "Stop and Frisk"  and Southern states rushing to suppress Black votes and more fuel is added to the fire.

Because of the GOP stance on immigration and voter suppression a Black/Latino coalition will gain speed as the two groups fight a common enemy, Conservative Republicans. 

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