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By: – April 05, 2012

In a post at Just One Minute, Tom Maguire suggests that the NY Times took its finger off the scales of justice.

Either the NY Times needs to tear out the front page or they have just delivered an epic fail. In either case, they have delivered a tilt to the scales of justice.

In a long attempt to detail the night of the Trayvon Martin killing they include this description of the fatal scuffle:

However it started, witnesses described to the 911 dispatcher what resulted: the neighborhood watch coordinator, 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, and the visitor, 6-foot-1 and 150, wrestling on the ground.

To my knowledge nobody anywhere has ever suggested that Zimmerman weighed 170 pounds [His friend did on March 27!]. I would say that the low bid I have seen is 220, although some people did remark that he looked smaller than they expected in the infamous ABC video taken the night he was brought in.

Trayvon Martin is consistently described as 140 lbs, although the police report had him at 160. The Sanford PD initial police report listed a weight for Martin but not Zimmerman; in retrospect, that will rank as one of the biggest blunders of their investigation.

I am serious – if the Times is correctly telling us that Zimmerman was roughly Martin’s size, that changes the whole theme of the scary large man stalking the overmatched boy. Do I need links to document how widespread that meme is? If the Times doesn’t correct this I’ll link up [See below].

He’s absolutely right about the weight issue. It has apparently been entirely misrepresented to us and if this is accurate it completely changes the outlook on the altercation. The source of the disparity seems to have been Tracy Martin.

I actually think the media just rode the horse that the father saddled up. That’s my guess, anyway.

I think this either this is the Times’ way of stealthily tiptoeing toward the truth without admitting the failure of the past. The problem is, the Times still has a long way to go. To wit:

Once again, they cried for the arrest of George Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch coordinator who has claimed self-defense under a Florida law with the assertive name of Stand Your Ground.

Bill Lee, the Sanford Police Chief released this statement:

Q. Why was George Zimmerman was not arrested the night of the shooting?

A. When the Sanford Police Department arrived at the scene of the incident, Mr. Zimmerman provided a statement claiming he acted in self-defense, which at the time was supported by physical evidence and testimony. By Florida Statute, law enforcement was prohibited from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.

Additionally, when any police officer makes an arrest for any reason, the officer must swear and affirm that he/she is making the arrest in good faith and with probable cause. If the arrest is done maliciously and in bad faith, the officer and the city may be held liable.

According to Florida Statute 776.032 :

Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.— 776.032

A person who uses force as permitted in s. (1) 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.

A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful. (2)

Many have been critical of the law, but Dave Kopel from the Volokh Conspiracy wrote this:

Media coverage of Florida’s self-defense laws in recent weeks has often been very inaccurate. While some persons, particularly from the gun prohibition lobbies, have claimed that the Martin/Zimmerman case shows the danger of Florida’s “Stand your ground” law, that law is legally irrelevant to case. So let’s take a look at what the Florida laws actually say.

Fla. Stat. § 776.012. Use of force in defense of person

A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or

So the general rule is that deadly force may be used only to “imminent death or great bodily harm,” or “the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” A person may only use deadly force if he “reasonably believes” that the aforesaid factual conditions exist. These standards are the norm throughout the United States.

(enphasis mine)

Further, about 776.032:

The Sanford police said this is why they did not arrest Zimmerman: they did not have probable cause to believe that he had broken the law. In fact, the statute does not change the law, but it apparently is effective at reminding law enforcement officers of the standard they are required to obey. Regarding arrests, the United States Constitution requires that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the . . . persons . . . to be seized.” As judicially interpreted, the Fourth Amendment does not require a warrant for some arrests, but the probable cause requirement remains enforceable. The normal rule in American law is that a police officer must have “probable cause” in order to arrest someone.

The Florida law is consistent with national standards. One may respond with deadly force if one believes one at risk of imminent death or great bodily harm. The SYG law apparently overlaps statutes regarding self-defense law. The Chief was quoting the law but the self-defense sections within it are the pertinent ones.

And he concluded:

In sum: there is not a shred of support for the claim that Florida law protects, or has protected Zimmerman, if he unlawfully attacked Martin. If Zimmerman’s story is true (Martin attacked him, putting him in imminent peril of grave bodily injury, with no opportunity to retreat), then Zimmerman’s self-defense claim would be valid under the laws of Florida, New York, or any other Anglo-American jurisdiction. The particular legal changes resulting from Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” and “Castle Doctrine” laws (deadly force in the home/automobile; no duty to retreat in public places; Fourth Amendment arrest standard affirmation; protection from civil suits) simply have nothing to do with whether Zimmerman’s actions were or were not lawful.

(emphases mine)

So it seems the “Stand Your Ground” law is getting a bad rap. That portion of the statute is irrelevant in this case.

The Times seems unable to drift into Bulwer-Lyttonesque imagery. It was a dark and stormy night:

A teenage boy in a gray hooded sweatshirt leaves a 7-Eleven’s neon brightness with his purchase of some candy and an iced tea, and heads back into the wet Sunday evening of Feb. 26, back to a residential complex with a forbidding gate and a comforting name.

Some of Martin’s past is noted:

He called himself “Slimm” on Twitter, and used a handle, @no_limit_nigga, that echoed a song by the rappers Kane & Abel. On Facebook, he expressed interest in everything from airplanes to “South Park,” from Bob Marley to LeBron James. On MySpace, he posted snapshots of his young life: admiring an airplane; fishing with his father; displaying a cake decorated with the words “Happy Birthday Tray.”

Omitted was Martin’s alleged assault on a bus driver five days before the shooting.

But then, reluctantly, the Times offers evidence that Zimmerman was not a racist:

But George could be a character. In middle school, a black boy named Anthony Woodson stumbled over a chair while walking into a classroom, prompting a student he did not know to joke: “Do you know how to walk, or did you trip over your lip?”

From that jarring remark, a friendship was born. Mr. Woodson said that he knew the student, George Zimmerman, meant nothing racist, mostly because of the friends sitting with him. “Two other black kids, an Asian kid and a Hispanic,” recalled Mr. Woodson, 30, now a pastry chef in Virginia. His new, bilingual friend seemed comfortable in a multicultural world.

and there’s more

Still, Mr. Zimmerman seemed to have a protective streak — a sense of right and wrong — that others admired. For example, Stephanie, a neighbor of the elder Zimmermans in Lake Mary and a family friend, recalled how George Zimmerman struck up a friendship with one of her sons, Douglas, who is autistic, swimming with him, taking him for car rides and letting him play with his dog, Princess.

“He just felt comfortable with George,” she said. “For Dougie, everything was ‘George, George, George.’ ”

Stephanie also recalled a party in early December to celebrate Mr. Zimmerman’s graduation from Seminole State College (though he still needed a few more credits to receive his associate’s degree). He shared his hope to be a judge someday with a small gathering that included two black teenagers whom, she was later told by Mrs. Zimmerman, George was mentoring.

It seemed in character. A 16-year-old boy named Austin, who for a long time has mowed the lawn at the Zimmerman home in Lake Mary, described George Zimmerman as a role model for younger boys, often providing advice while throwing a football around or shooting hoops.

“George would stick up” for a chubby boy in the neighborhood who was being bullied, recalled Austin (who, like Stephanie, asked that his last name not be used). “And if George saw bullies walking by his house, he would pull out his hose and spray them down and tell them they were wasting their time and to go and do something else.”

But then those at the Times fall back into their usual pattern:

“Hey, we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood,” Mr. Zimmerman said to start the conversation with the dispatcher. “And there’s a real suspicious guy.”

This guy seemed to be up to no good; like he was on drugs or something; in a gray hoodie. Asked to describe him further, he said, “He looks black.”

This sounds a lot like what NBC/MSNBC did to Zimmerman.

The actual words were:


We’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy. It’s Retreat View Circle. The best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle.

This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around looking about.

911 dispatcher:

OK, is he White, Black, or Hispanic?


He looks black.

911 dispatcher:

Did you see what he was wearing?


Yeah, a dark hoodie like a gray hoodie. He wore jeans or sweat pants and white tennis shoes. He’s here now … he’s just staring.

The context of that exchange is very important. Zimmerman mentioned neither race nor clothing until specifically asked by the dispatcher.

The Times train then goes off the tracks:

Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that the hooded figure was now running. He jumped out of his car to follow him, the beep-beep of his car, as recorded on the 911 call, announcing the instant that he moved beyond his understood mandate as neighborhood watch coordinator.

Again, from Chief Lee’s statement:

Neighborhood Watch programs are designed for members of a neighborhood to be “eyes and ears” for police and to watch out for their neighbors. They are not members of the police department nor are they vigilantes.

Training provided by law enforcement agencies to Neighborhood Watch organizations stresses non-contact surveillance of suspicious situations, and notifying police of those situations so that law enforcement can respond and take control of the situation.

Mr. Zimmerman was not acting outside the legal boundaries of Florida Statute by carrying his weapon when this incident occurred. He was in fact on a personal errand in his vehicle when he observed Mr. Martin in the community and called the Sanford Police Department.

Nowhere does Lee state that Zimmerman cannot follow Martin. The phrase “non-contact surveillance” implies that he can indeed follow Martin and observe. Only when Martin flees and Zimmerman takes up the chase of Martin does the dispatcher suggest that Zimmerman not chase him, to which Zimmerman replied “OK” and from the audio one can easily believe Zimmerman stopped when asked.

The Times:

Sanford police have said that once Mr. Zimmerman declared that he had shot Trayvon in the chest in self-defense, they were barred from arresting him by the state’s now-famous Stand Your Ground law, the broadest protection of self-defense in the country. It immediately requires law enforcement officials to prove that a suspect did not act in self-defense, and sets the case on a slow track.

Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area who has been appointed special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case, said that the controversial 2005 law has changed the rules for prosecutors. Making arrests, filing charges and securing convictions are more difficult and time consuming. Now, she said, “There is a different standard.”

As we have seen, SYG is part of the law but the actual SYG portions are not relevant to this case. This is something a whole lot of people seem to be missing.

We’ll be revisiting it.

And in another Times story, we find a little nugget. A “female voice” says

“There’s a black guy standing up over him.”

And guess what?

George Zimmerman: Enhanced Video Shows Injury

And this letter from the Zimmerman family to the NAACP should put an end to the “George Zimmerman is a racist” meme.

“Do you know the individual that stepped up when no one else in the black community would?” the family member wrote. “Do you know who spent tireless hours putting flyers on the cars of persons parked in the churches of the black community? Do you know who waited for the church‐goers to get out of church so that he could hand them fliers in an attempt to organize the black community against this horrible miscarriage of justice? Do you know who helped organize the City Hall meeting on January 8th, 2011 at Sanford City Hall??”

“That person was GEORGE ZIMMERMAN. Ironic isn’t it?”

“The main point for this letter is to explain to you that the black community has labeled George a racist without any investigation at all,” the letter continued. “Regardless of the fact that George personally spoke to many of your constituents, not one has stepped forward and said, ‘Hey I know that face. That is the Hispanic guy that was standing up for Sherman Ware. That was the only non‐black face in the meetings for justice in this case.’”

“You know as well as I do that there are many NAACP followers that recognize George from the Ware case as well as many other good things that he’s done for the black community.

We have heard so many complaining of the way Trayvon Martin is being treated on the blogs, but George Zimmerman is getting slammed and few are asking for the truth about him.