Viewpoint: Was Zimmerman Telling the Truth?

The jury did their job based on what they had. The tragedy is that what they had may have been based on a lie

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Joe Burbank / Getty Images

George Zimmerman sits in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., on July 10, 2013

To many people, it is repulsive that Florida’s definition of self-defense made a “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman possible. However, not so long ago, many black people were comfortable refusing to allow that O.J. Simpson was a murderer based on hairs slightly out of place in the prosecution’s case. They almost excessively understood the concept of reasonable doubt. It shouldn’t be too hard to understand the jury’s decision here on the same basis.

(MORE: The Lessons of George Zimmerman’s ‘Not Guilty’ Verdict)

But we still will never know the truth about this key question: Who instigated the scuffle that led Zimmerman to pull out his gun? According to the taped account Zimmerman gave to police that was played in court, after just following Trayvon Martin some, Zimmerman was on his way back to his car when Martin popped up and sucker punched him, soon saying “You’re gonna die tonight.” Along those lines, a verdict that Zimmerman fired in justifiable self-defense makes what anybody could see as at least the beginning of sense. But I think that Zimmerman almost certainly lied about this. I think it for three reasons.

One: Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel recounted Martin’s describing a verbal encounter, with Martin asking Zimmerman why he was following him, Zimmerman asking why he was there, and Martin soon saying “Get off, get off.” Jeantel, although linguistically coherent, was not the most gracious interviewee — but her account of this exchange was straightforward.

(MORE: Rachel Jeantel Explained, Linguistically)

Two: For all the coverage of Jeantel’s dissimulations designed to keep herself out of the spotlight, Zimmerman himself has lied repeatedly — about his finances and about not knowing about Florida’s “Stand your ground” law when he had taken a criminal-law course that treated it extensively.

Three: His version simply doesn’t make human sense. Being followed makes Martin so angry he jumps the man and tries to beat him to a pulp? Concocted for a novel, play or film, such a scene would be ridiculed as hopelessly contrived. It sounds like something a desperate, unimaginative man makes up to keep himself out of prison.

However, anybody who thinks it was the jury’s job to base a verdict on guesswork misunderstands how law and close reasoning work. The jury did their job with what they had. The tragedy is that what they had may have been based on a lie.

MORE: 10 Twitter Reactions to the Verdict

552 comments
FlagstaffLud
FlagstaffLud

This is the best exposition I've seen about the Zimmerman-Martin trial.  The logic holds up if the facts reported here agree with the trial transcript.  You are correct.  We will never really know, but the jury reached the proper verdict given the evidence presented, and there seems to be no claim that any evidence was suppressed.

steve600
steve600

Before we move on,we have to learn as much as possible from this.  R.I.P. Trayvon,  screw Zimmerman.

steve600
steve600

I understand the trial is over and there is nothing we can do about it now,but t's a shame that while everyone talked about Trayvon wearing a hoodie,not many people have actually bothered to look at Trayvon's hoodie the night he was shot. If people actually have taken a second to look at Trayvon in the video at the store,then look at the picture of Trayvon's body at the scene in conjunction with the testimony that Trayvon said "get off" to Zimmerman, you see clearly that the hoodie was manhandled with the drawstring pulled out and everything else. Zimmerman grabbed Trayvon,which would cause anyone in Trayvon's place to resist. Trayvon did not "just viciously attack" Zimmerman just because Zimmerman pursued Trayvon. Zimmerman put his hands on Trayvon. Zimmerman was also likely holding onto Trayvon's hoodie as he pointed the gun at him in intermediate range. The prosecution really dropped the ball. I understand that the trial is over and were moving on and the jury spoke,but it;s a shame this wasn't emphasized at the trial. Zimmerman was not so helpless without his gun as he and his supporters claimed.

ryanfinoneil
ryanfinoneil

The expert pathologist clearly states that Zimmermans account of the shooting was accurate, trayvon was on top, as the witnesses testified punching him, he was shot while leaning over Zimmerman at a distance of between 2-4 inches. The witness for trayvon also indicates he was at his address before the incident occurred, therefore he made his way back up the dog lane where Zimmerman was. There really is no point on going on, the evidence was squarely in Zimmermans court.  

PatrickJ.Kiger
PatrickJ.Kiger

There were other problems with the statements that Zimmerman gave to investigators as well. For one, in the video walk-through of the incident, he initially demonstrates that he reached into the small of the back to draw his weapon--and then stops, corrects himself, and reaches for his front side hip. As he demonstrated, he also somehow slipped the arm that was holding the gun under his assailant's arms and then raised it to fire a shot into the chest--a path that would not have been available, if Martin was in fact leaning over him and trying to smash his head into the pavement, so that his bent arms and torso blocked the way. (It would have been more plausible if he'd shot Martin in the side from that position, which wouldn't have required him to get around an attacker's arms.) Zimmerman even stumbled a bit on his pin-pointing of the spot where the struggle occurred, initially pointing to a spot in the grass--which he then corrected, to remain consistent with his story that his head was smashed into the pavement repeatedly by Martin. You can see all this on the video, which someone has posted on YouTube. Additionally, if you look at an aerial photo of the commons area where the incident occurred, you can see that Zimmerman had to cover a considerable distance to get from the mailboxes, where his truck was parked, to the spot of the fatal confrontation. That suggests that he continued to pursue Martin, even after the dispatcher tried to persuade him to go back to his truck and wait for the police. None of that, in itself, proves 2nd degree murder, which I think was an unwise reach by the special prosecutor. But it does indicate that Zimmerman's account is probably not what actually happened.  Unfortunately, Martin is no longer alive, so we can't scrutinize his version.

Openminded1
Openminded1

Hey Roderick2021. I see you are a coward besides being a moron and a racist. I arrested all colors when they deserved or needed to be arrested you forget I am black dummy and I arrested more whites then blacks in 30 years, but I never heard a white say or use the race card. You must be a thug too,.

Rob99
Rob99

But we still will never know the truth about this key question: Who instigated the scuffle that led Zimmerman to pull out his gun?"

That makes it sound like it's a toss-up whereas the evidence strongly suggests it was Trayvon. Incidentally, the "straightforward" Ms. Jeantel also seems to think it was Trayvon who threw the first punch.

One more thing: If a defendant claims that the victim was the aggressor, the law allows the prosecution to introduce character evidence showing the victim's "peaceful nature". If the prosecution had done this, it'd have cast doubt on Zimmerman's self-defense claim. No prizes for guessing why they didn't go there.

This is what Charles Blow wrote, when the case first came to light: "To believe Zimmerman’s scenario, you have to believe that Trayvon...a boy whose mother said that he had not had a fight since he was a preschooler, chose that night and that man to attack."

If the prosecution had any evidence that this was remotely close to true, Zimmerman's self-defense claim would be in trouble. Unfortunately for them, Trayvon was a boy who wrote "He ain't breed nuff 4 me, only his nose", not the fantasy version that Charles Blow wanted to use to attack Zimmerman's credibility.


Rob99
Rob99

"His version simply doesn't make human sense. Being followed makes Martin so angry he jumps the man...?"

Oh, puhleeazzzz. You act as if we know nothing at all about Trayvon and have to rely solely on "human sense".

Trayvon wrote this "I'm not done wit fool," and, "He aint breed nuff 4 me, only his nose.", and whose cousin asked him this: "Yu ain't tell me you swung on a bus driver," . I'd submit that it makes quite a bit of "human sense" that such a person wouldn't shy away from getting into fights at the slightest provocation and continuing it well past the point where the other guy "breed nuff"

What doesn't make "human sense" is that elite columnists don't channel their passion for this case into researching easily-discoverable facts to refrain from misinforming their readers.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

(1) People with guns don't start fist fights. Guns are stand off weapons. (2) TM is dead because he picked a fight with a man with a legally concealed weapon.  Some mistakes you don't get to make twice.....

kamanalonokapu
kamanalonokapu

The examinar who examined the body noted that there was only an old abrasion made some time earlier on the side of Trayvon Martin’s hand but there was no bruises or swelling on top of his hands, knuckles or wrists. There also were no evidence on Trayvon Martins’s hands of GZ’s hair, skin, blood, sweat, body oil, tears, saliva or dna.  Martin’s hands were clean yet if GZ were telling the truth Martin’s hands should have had detritus from GZ all over them especially under his fingernails because GZ claimed that TM pounded 

his head on the cement pavement and TM could only have done that by tightly holding on to some part of GZ’s head.

CarlRobertson
CarlRobertson

"Obama took that risk because the spiritual or moral risk of saying nothing was too great." MORAL? What was Obama's stated reason for reminding blacks not to get violent in protest? Moral? Because it would be wrong to destroy property (as in Oakland now, as in cities all over the US after King was assassinated? As in Brooklyn during an electrical blackout? As in LA after Rodney King?) Or wrong to hit out at whites everywhere (as in Oakland, and before that, all over the U.S. - "This is for Trayvon" or "This is for Rodney King" while attacking and in some cases killing totally innocent whites). No. Obama didn't counsel blacks not to riot because it's MORALLY WRONG. But because it wouldn't LOOK good. And he cleverly couched that political motive of looking good by saying that it would "dishonor the memory of Trayvon Martin." So much for Obama's sense of morality and the importance of not injuring innocent people out of anger...the NORM among many blacks today.

Beenie
Beenie

Zimmerman followed Trayvon when he was told by the police not to.  He got out of his car when the police told him to stay in in.  He pulled his gun when he didn't need it.  George got into a confrontation with Trayvon, He claimed Trayvon hid in bushes and ambushed him when there are no bushes in the area George said there were.  This is a weak little weasel with a John Wayne complex.  He was thinking how great it was to have a gun and how great it would be to put the fear of God into someone with it.  This situation was about George Zimmerman being a big shot in the neighborhood watch program and what a big shot he would be when he captured this 'punk', who was only guilty of 'walking while black'.  This jury failed miserably and did their jobs poorly.  George will do something like this again - because that's how George Zimmerman is.  We'll be hearing about him again.

bcmugger
bcmugger

"Three: His version simply doesn’t make human sense. Being followed makes Martin so angry he jumps the man and tries to beat him to a pulp?"


You obviously havent been to worldstarhiphop .com and seen all the beat whitey videos.


swl@long.net
swl@long.net

I am very disappointed in your coverage of the Zimmerman trial.Your/CNN coverage was very one sided in Zimmerman’s favor.Until the trial verdict I was a loyal CNN viewer for news and current events.I don't know how I can ever get back to CNN. It is so hurtful that most white Americans are so insensitive to justice when blacks are the victim. You seem to be speaking a language that blacks should understand, doesn’t have a clue what language it is.The power of constant white influence over the airways clearly has been effective for the white agenda Whites control the message with perceived fair and balance commentators and predominately White expert guest that understand the message they are supposed to deliver.

Whites really don't and don't want to understand blacks, but are always portraying that they are sensitive to black’s conditions.Whites earn more money than blacks and act as if Blacks have an equal opportunity to earn as much, but realistically know that Blacks can't; White have forever went to the best education institutions, but now with less than a half century of substandard education whites claim that blacks should be able to compete with them (this is one the most egregious perception to equality); Whites control the court system and act as if the system is applies justices evenly without race, and you know that impossible to do, sit silent because it to your advantage to do so; Whites disrespect the United States President, and claim it’s just politics, and everyone know that it’s because he is black but never acknowledge the reality of race discrimination against theAmerican President; Whites change the rules if they don't like the results (Supreme Voters Registration decision, affirmative action, etc. ) in order to get the results Whites want; and Whites have so much influence and power that even your supposedly peer Blacks know their limits and are constantly acting around whites; Whites will never know the true feelings or emotions of blacks because Blacks will always be afraid of repercussion and retaliation for speaking the truth.

Blacks are clearly in a modern day slavery society; just like 180 years ago for those blacks that get out of line they are either systematically sent to prison or killed, whichever is convenient and effective to maintain the status quote. But as long as we don’t know that this is slavery, there is no need for Whites to address modern day slavery, it’s a secret. Everyone knows who the bogeyman is, but the people that the bogeyman is chasing dear not tell, it’s a secret, that way we can continue to play our roles and act like the bogeyman doesn’t exist.

So, please remove me from your e-mail list, because every time I get an e-mail from CNN only reminds me of the state of America and how dangerous it is for Blacks in America. This feeling is more than depressing, it debilitating,

Evo1
Evo1

Your version makes far less sense. One, Jeantel was caught in several outright lies, including some she told right on the stand. Plus, for her version of events to be true, Martin would have had to have moved 50 yards away from the safety of his home after the fight started in order to end up where he died and where witnesses saw them fighting. And Jeantel's claim about the "get off" statement was completely new, although she had been interviewed several times before. Her claim that she "didn't thunk it was important" is just idiotic, given that was by far the most inflammatory statement by far.

On the other hand, Martin had no marks at all anywhere on his body, except for the gunshot wound and scraps on his knuckle. If Zimmerman got in even one punch, especially the first punch, Martin would at least have some mark where it landed, even if he had blocked it with his arm. Also, if you listen to the whole recording of his call, the whole second half is about him finding the building number, determining his proximity to the neighborhood entrance, and giving directions to the police on how to meet him at his truck. Martin isn't even discussed. This conversation, before he could possibly know he needed an alibi, sounds like he's doing exactly what he claims - going back to his vehicle to meet the police.

As far as his "lies", he didn't lie about his finances, his wife did. That's why she was charged with perjury and he wasn't. As for SYG, how many students get perfect scores in class? Studies show most students only retain about 10% of what they learn in class. Even if they covered SYG, there's a good chance he doesn't remember it.

But, as to whether Martin might have attacked him, let's look at the excluded evidence. Martin, by his own admission, loved to fight. He texted several times gleefully about beating people up, including describing one fight that was almost identical, blow for blow, to the one Zimmerman described, where he was sucker-punched in the nose, knocked to the ground, and then beat in the head. Martin specifically talked about how such a sucker punch was effective in winning a fight. So it's a complete lie to say that it's unrealistic to believe he couldn't have attacked Zimmerman when one of his favorite pastimes was to engage in exactly that behavior.

Face it, while we'll never know who started it, the evidence, except for Jeantel's extremely questionable testimony, about which she had ample reason to lie, all supports Zimmerman's version of events.

DavidWilliams2
DavidWilliams2

It never occurred to you ask our President this question about Benghazi or "Fast and furious" did it? At the end of the day our President lying is far more damaging to our country than anything George Zimmerman could ever do. 

AndrewBennett1
AndrewBennett1

Zimmerman was intoxicated while driving a car,disobaying police, stalking and killing TrayVon martin.

Roderick2021
Roderick2021

@Rob99 Rob, we know that George had trained as an MMA fighter for over a year before he murdered Trayvon and the gym owner perjured himself.

Heck the gym even had a website advertising 'George Zimmerman' training which the State discovered after Pollock lied on the stand under cross examination but Judge Nelson refused to allow the State to call him back as a rebuttal witness.

But if you want to believe that Trayvon was some Super Black Ninja because of a few text  messages and George took a beating from a kid who was 50 pounds lighter than he was and never blocked his face nor got a punch in you must believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.


Openminded1
Openminded1

@Rob99 That would be to easy for them, and does not sell as well as the black race card, which stirs up more trouble and let BIG Mouth A Sharpton get more head lines.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@kamanalonokapu when you become a CSI expert let us all know, so we can read your articles reference to your expertise in the area of crime scene Investigations.

bcmugger
bcmugger

@swl@long.net life will forever be that way for blacks, its just how it is. Either learn to act like civilized humans or you will never see anything good happen to you.

CholeNico
CholeNico

@Evo1 Wrong,  Rachel only lied about the fact she told de la Rionda in a interview she went to Trayvon's funeral when in fact she didn't she admitted it on the stand she told the same story every time from statements to on the stand. You must be confused , Rachell never knew any locations but Zimmerman testified in all his statements he was punched down at the T and mounted yet Trayvon's body was found 40 feet away in John's back yard , oh about the address hunt the only time he mentioned any address was at the reenactment his excuse for following Trayvon so you tell me why he didn't give that address to NEN from Retreat View Circle ? ..............i know because he never went to get any address. Right , beat in his head 25 times on concrete and you only have two scrapes less than an inch, you don't know what your talking about.................he lied.

bcmugger
bcmugger

@AndrewBennett1 just because you write lies in a post doesnt make them so...go back to your mamas basement.

DavidWilliams2
DavidWilliams2

@AndrewBennett1  Really? Sight your sources. Oh silly me you're a leftist so because you wish that were the case in your ignorant little world, therefore it is. Get help, you need it.

rauckbay
rauckbay

@Openminded1 @kamanalonokapu The information kamanalonokapu revealed was from the medical examiner and if you had an Openmind like you falsely claim, you wouldn't make a foolish reference to a CSI expert. Your attempt at distraction doesn't change anything in the Medical Examiner's report concerning Martin's death and the examination of his clothing.

kamanalonokapu
kamanalonokapu

@bcmugger @swl@long.netYou will not find this in your history books but the white man is the most cowardly and murderous humans to ever set foot on the american continents.


Openminded1
Openminded1

@CholeNico @Evo1 Yo need to slow down, you speak as bad almost as Rachel and we know what a genius she is. She was good for the defense.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@rauckbay @Openminded1 @kamanalonokapu Your face says it all, When you have 30 years of law enforcement experience  you can tell me about medical examiners report of which I am sure you no nothing about. but I can tell you I do. Martin was a thug he circled bacl looking for a fight with moron GZ, martin started in on george and lost because he was stupid and hated white people. he did not expect the unexpected the guy had a gun and would use it. Had he just walked home like most teenagers would have done he would be  alive today for a little while longer. because he would have most likely been killed by another Black sooner or later or maybe shot by  a cop. A thug is a thug the odds are prison or death. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@kamanalonokapu @bcmugger @swl@long.net Considering there are more whites in the world there is chance that is correct. But in this country blacks and hispanics kill more people the whites per capita. And as far as cowardly you will find blacks fight in numbers like 4 0r 5 to 1 white that seems more cowardly. blacks like to have the deck stacked in there favor.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@CholeNico @Openminded1 @Evo1 what discovery? are you talking about the defenses discovery or the DA's discovery none of which matters the case is over, the verdict was not guilty so much for discovery.