Photo: Trayvon Martin
LOS ANGELES--Rogue, self-appointed vigilante George Zimmerman is at it again.
The "it" is acquitting himself of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Here's his latest media spin on Thursday--the killing according to Zimmerman. Martin verbally abused him, then punched and stomped him, and repeatedly banged his head into the concrete. To drive his fight-for-his-life defense home, Zimmerman says he thought Martin was going for his gun and that he simply beat him to it and shot him only to save his life.
Zimmerman's crock of blarney about the events of that fateful night is contradicted by an indisputable body of factual evidence.
*He defied a clear directive from a police dispatcher to stand down and not follow Martin.
*There is the audiotape of Martin's phone call to his girlfriend in which he says he was being followed by a strange man.
*Zimmerman did not have or show any identification to Martin, leaving the teenager unable to tell a neighborhood “watch” person from a street thug.
*Zimmerman’s own damning words admit he was following Martin to see what he was doing.
*The mysterious wounds that later appeared on Zimmerman, supposedly from being assaulted by Martin, that are not evident in the initial police footage of him exiting a police car immediately after the shooting.
*Then there are statements by two witnesses stating they heard what sounded like Martin, not Zimmerman--screaming for help, and that Zimmerman was straddling Martin--not the other way around, as Zimmerman now claims.
Zimmerman's fantasyland version of events is punctuated by the single most significant indisputable fact: He’s alive; Martin isn’t.
George Zimmerman lives to tell whatever story he wants to allege to the press and the world without fear of contradiction from Martin. Even more frighteningly, he can tell it on the witness stand.
Even if his attorneys don’t call him to testify, the defense will be amply armed with the storehouse of officially released and unofficially leaked “new” and negative information about Martin to bolster his tale.
The Fog of Law
Zimmerman’s defense team will also be armed with Florida’s foggy, ill-conceived, stand-your-ground law. Its reading and loose interpretation is virtually a license to kill. This puts a colossal burden on prosecutors to prove that Zimmerman was clearly the aggressor, that his life was never in any danger, and therefore even under the provisions of the law, his use of deadly force was unjustified.
This is perhaps the most powerful shield that Zimmerman's defense team will hide behind. With a very much alive and media-talkative Zimmerman busily spinning away what can only charitably be called his dubious version of the murder of Trayvon Martin, Florida’s legal dice could definitely rolled in his favor.
But that's not all. Zimmerman is also backed by the endless legion of Martin bashers to sprint forward with a new round of “I told you Zimmerman is innocent” digs at Martin’s family, supporters, the Rev. Al Sharpton, the media and Zimmerman’s prosecutors.
From day one, they rallied to Zimmerman’s defense, intended not only to absolve him of culpability in the teenager’s death, but to reinforce the image of young black males, such as Martin, as irresponsible, crime prone and violent.
The steady barrage of inflammatory and potentially damning facts about Martin has aimed to cast Zimmerman in a sympathetic light. It continually makes headline news blared at a wide segment of the public. This will make it very difficult to find jurors, who haven’t heard something about the case.
The attacks have had some success in transforming Zimmerman from a loose-cannon vigilante to a tragic victim of Martin. The image remake has been so convincing to those who look to grab at any excuse, no matter how flimsy, to justify Zimmerman’s murderous act that they have poured tens of thousands of dollars into his PR and legal defense, and continue to pour even more into it every time he publicly pleads his innocence.
Degrading to Martin’s Family—and Justice
The campaign of innuendo and attack against Martin and defense of Zimmerman bolstered by new allegations about the shooting, of course, comes months after the killing. This puts the prosecution and Martin family supporters in the awkward and degrading position of having to fend off every hint or outright accusation of wrongdoing by Martin while Zimmerman’s image of a zealous troublemaker continues to get scrubbed cleaner.
The lethal combination of Florida's stand-your-ground law, Martin’s carefully constructed bad-guy image carefully constructed by Zimmerman and his defense team and the complicity of much of the media--and its dutiful reports often taking every Zimmerman concoction as fact--is fast turning the Martin murder into a pitiable fiasco.
The conduct of this case disgracefully mocks the legal and criminal justice system. But that's what happens when an accused criminal is allowed to publicly acquit himself.
Make no mistake, Zimmerman will continue to do just that.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson