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

581 comments
ErikWeinstein
ErikWeinstein

sorry mc worthless people going back to confront someone they get away from happens quite often according to every single law enforcement officer I have spoken to. As far as lying about not remembering learning about  stand your ground, it is completely possible that he forgot 2 years later about something he learned extensively  2 years earlier. I forgot things over the summer in college  that I learned extensively about. If it wasn't important information that I needed to utilize why would I necessarily remember it.

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.

ErikWeinstein
ErikWeinstein

@PatrickJ.Kiger  never claimed trayvon was slamming his head when Zimmerman went for his gun. Zimmerman claims trayvon had slammed his head into the ground, but, never claimed that trayvon was trying to slam his head into the ground when Zimmerman reached for his gun. He always said his gun was on his hip. So what if he didn't initially place his hand on his hip, maybe he wasn't being perfectly careful with his hand in demonstrating where his gun was. You're reaching. All Zimmerman would have to do is Shrimp which would have Zimmerman on his side which would make it very easy for Zimmerman to reach for his gun.

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.


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.


ErikWeinstein
ErikWeinstein

@Roderick2021 @Rob99  the gym was receiving a lot of questions about what kind of training Zimmerman was getting from people who were interested in the case. So they had on their website a posting that would answer people's question regarding this. They couldn't individually answer everyones questions. Their was no Zimmerman Training program they were advertising and promoting that people could get involved in. And he did not train for over a year. He belonged to the gym for one year, took two months off, and only trained for 10 months. The primary focus of Zimmerman's training was to get in better shape and lose weight, and not to become a better fighter. Only some attention was focused on self defense which Zimmerman made very little progress in according to Adam Pollock.