Despite the Trayvon Martin shooting being more than a month passed, misinformation and fallacious arguments continue to appear with great frequency.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the top misconceptions regarding the Trayvon Martin case.
- Trayvon was a normal, well-adjusted teenager.
- Discussing someone’s character is a smear campaign.
- George Zimmerman is racist.
- George Zimmerman called Martin a “coon.”
- George Zimmerman was chasing Trayvon.
- George Zimmerman should have stayed in his truck.
- George Zimmerman started the fight.
- George Zimmerman was simply let go at the scene.
- Zimmerman just lost the fight.
- George Zimmerman was bigger than Trayvon.
- George Zimmerman had no right to pursue Trayvon.
- It was Trayvon’s voice screaming for help on the 911 call.
- George Zimmerman is white.
- George Zimmerman disobeyed 911 orders.
- Trayvon was justified in punching Zimmerman.
- It has anything to do with hoodies.
- George Zimmerman was remorseless after the shooting.
- George Zimmerman was a vigilante.
- The Florida “Stand Your Ground” law applies.
- Trayvon was only standing his ground as well.
- George Zimmerman has no reason to be carrying a gun.
- It’s about race.
Seventeen-year-olds don’t normally have gold teeth, multiple tattoos, multiple school suspensions, friends publicly asking them for “plant” on their Facebooks, issues with graffiti, school problems with “burglary tools,” and so on.
Trayvon might not have been an out-and-out criminal, but he certainly wasn’t an average teen either.
What we do see is an escalating pattern of illegal behavior.
Multiple tattoos may be regarded by some as nothing beyond popular fashion, but without parental consent minors cannot get them.
Trayvon seems to have had several when he was only sixteen. Did he lie about his age or did his parents go with him when he got them?
In the last 48 hours, we’ve found out that Martin’s 10-day suspension (which was in effect at the time of his shooting) wasn’t the only time he was suspended recently.
In a few short months during his junior year in high school, Trayvon was suspended on three separate occasions, including one time when he was caught with a “burglary tool” and a bunch of jewelry that didn’t belong to him.
The Miami Herald claims that in October, he was caught with a ‘burglary tool’ – a flathead screwdriver – and 12 pieces of women’s jewellery. Martin insisted that they did not belong to him.
Earlier, he had been suspended for skipping school and showing up late to class. And most recently, in February, he was suspended again when officials found a ‘marijuana pipe’ and an empty baggie with traces of the drug.
Certain media outlets are still spinning the story.
NPR titled yesterday’s article, “Trayvon Martin’s Life Looking Much Like Many Teens.”
From that piece:
According to the Herald, Martin was suspended from school three times in recent months, for incidents ranging from tardiness to writing graffiti on school property to having a plastic bag with marijuana residue in his backpack. He had never been arrested.
Conveniently no mention of the jewelry or the screwdriver on NPR.
Trayvon’s character matters deeply in this case.
Since this shooting has become an extremely polarizing national news item, everyone involved requires scrutiny. That especially holds true for Trayvon, since his actions on the night of the shooting are truly at the heart of all of this.
We have to ask ourselves, “Was Trayvon the sort of person who would viciously attack and beat Zimmerman, as Zimmerman claims?” To answer that question, we have to know as much as we can about Trayvon and how he conducted himself.
The media has spent an inordinate amount of time looking into Zimmerman’s background. For a long while the same scrutiny was not applied to Martin. That has changed now somewhat. As more facts are coming out about who Martin was, the image many people had of him turned out to be very inaccurate.
Trayvon no longer seems to be the innocent victim the media initially portrayed him as.
This is not a smear campaign. It’s not blaming the victim. In fact, Martin wasn’t the victim if he unilaterally assaulted and viciously beat Zimmerman, as every piece of evidence currently seems to suggest. More on that later.
There is no evidence to suggest that George Zimmerman is racist and quite a lot of evidence against it.
Zimmerman and his wife were in the big brother / big sister program and mentored two black children. That doesn’t sound like the actions of a racist to me.
His friends and family have been extremely outspoken about Zimmerman not being racist from the start. Apparently, Zimmerman grew up in a multi-cultural family and has always been anything but discriminatory.
Joe Oliver, a long-time friend of Zimmerman’s, has been conducting interviews all this week about the topic as well.
This claim has been widely debunked.
Audio experts have attested that he said the word “punks” on the call.
WFTV had an audio expert listen to the call, and determined that the word said was “punks.”
Others think he may have said “crooks.” Several have mentioned that he could have even said “goons.” I’ve never heard of that expression, but apparently “goons” is actually part of the vernacular in Florida.
In any case, Zimmerman was highly unlikely to have said “coons” while on the line with 911. To begin with, “coons” is a fairly obscure, outdated word. Very few people under the age of sixty would use that term as a racial slur, there are half-a-dozen other offensive words that are much more commonly used.
Zimmerman has an extensive background in criminal justice. He probably wasn’t about to throw it away by littering his 911 calls with racist rhetoric. There is no record of him using any racial slurs like this on any previous 911 call.
It seems highly unlikely he would start doing so all of the sudden, forty-some calls in.
George Zimmerman wasn’t “chasing” Trayvon. Chasing someone implies you are trying to catch up to them — there’s no evidence that was Zimmerman’s intention.
Zimmerman was attempting to maintain visual contact. That is what he was supposed to do for his Neighborhood Watch, and that is what was being asked of him by the 911 dispatcher at the time.
This is supported by the 911 transcript.
Zimmerman: No you go in straight through the entrance and then you make a left…uh you go straight in, don’t turn, and make a left. Shit he’s running.
Dispatcher: He’s running? Which way is he running?
Zimmerman: Down towards the other entrance to the neighborhood.
Dispatcher: Which entrance is that that he’s heading towards?
The dispatcher was asking Zimmerman specific questions about where Martin was going, Zimmerman was answering as needed.
Every step of the way, Zimmerman complied with the 911 operator.
When he was asking for more information about the direction Martin went, Zimmerman provided it. When he said there was no need to pursue, Zimmerman stopped immediately.
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.
Dispatcher: Alright sir what is your name?
Zimmerman: George…He ran.
At this point, Zimmerman no longer has Trayvon within eyesight, and he’s no longer even attempting to look for him.
This is a baseless argument.
Zimmerman had no reason to think he should stay in his truck — he was reporting someone suspicious in his neighborhood and wanted to maintain visual contact with that person. He drove after them for a few minutes and the person ran away.
At this point, it makes perfect logical sense for Zimmerman to exit the vehicle to see where the suspicious person went, because he had just called them in to the police. Otherwise, the police would get there and Zimmerman would have no idea what direction to point them in.
If we listen to the 911 call it’s clear that Zimmerman was not chasing Trayvon. He was merely trying to see where he was going so he could relay this information to the dispatcher.
This fact is actually crucial to the case. Things would be different had Zimmerman actually been in some sort of hot pursuit, chasing after Martin, but he never was. Zimmerman wasn’t ever close to Martin, until Martin changed directions and confronted Zimmerman after the 911 call.
There is absolutely no evidence of this. It seems pretty clear that Zimemrman’s goal was to report someone he didn’t recognize in his community, not to pick a fight with them.
To believe that Zimmerman picked a fight with Martin, we first have to ask ourselves why Zimmerman would want to start a fight that he would almost certainly lose, against someone who was 10 years younger than him, half a foot taller, and in excellent physical shape.
Take a look at this picture of Trayvon and decide for yourself whether you would instigate a physical confrontation with him.
If Zimmerman wanted to start a fight or harass some random teenager, why would he call 911 before doing so?
Calling in a suspicious person report does not make any sense if Zimmerman wanted to go out and start physical confrontations.
Had Zimmerman proceeded to attack Martin, the cops would have arrived a few minutes later and Zimmerman would have been arrested for assaulting a minor. There would be no valid reason for him to do that whatsoever.
The concept of Zimmerman initiating violence makes no sense in context with the rest of the evidence we have.
Zimmerman was not simply “released” at the scene by the Sanford police.
He was handcuffed and placed in the back of the squad car where he first received treatment for his injuries.
Police then questioned Zimmerman for five hours at police headquarters the night of February 26th. All of that was without an attorney present.
A very risky move for Zimmerman, but he apparently felt he had nothing to hide.
There is a certain subset of people who continue to make derogatory statements about Zimmerman along the lines of:
- He’s a wimp who was mad because he lost a fist-fight and shot the kid afterward.
- He brought a gun to an otherwise fair fight.
- Getting beaten up doesn’t mean that you get to shoot the other guy afterward.
I would agree with all of those if they applied to this case in any way, but they don’t.
Zimmerman says he was unilaterally attacked by Martin. He never wanted to fight in the first place. It’s not as if he agreed to something physical and then proceeded to shoot Martin at the end of it.
One minute he was on the phone with police, the next he was knocked down with one punch, and getting beaten incessantly.
George Zimmerman weighed more than Trayvon. That only matters when the extra weight in question is muscle.
By all accounts, Zimmerman was not in good shape. He was out of breath on the 911 call after jogging for only a few seconds.
Trayvon had a six inch height advantage, as well as a ten year age advantage, and was generally much more fit overall.
Update: Surprise, the weight figures the media was pushing for Zimmerman were nowhere near accurate.
While he weighed 240 lbs. back in 2005, he has lost a considerable amount of weight in the last seven years. Zimmerman is described by friends as currently weighing only 170 lbs.
Zimmerman saw someone in his neighborhood who looked suspicious and he had every right to follow-up with them and talk to them without being assaulted.
In this case however, Zimmerman never even got the chance. He never got close enough to ask Martin anything before he lost visual contact, then headed back towards his truck to meet police.
This is probably one of the most critical misconceptions of the case. When the 911 tapes were released, nearly everyone assumed it was Trayvon screaming for his life on the recording. It was horrifying and very emotional.
But the evidence shows this terrified voice was actually Zimmerman’s, not Trayvon’s.
The only witness to the assault describes Zimmerman as being on the bottom in a “ground-and-pound” position, screaming for help. That witness told them, “I’m going to call 911,” and ran inside to do so.
On the 911 recording we continue to hear Zimmerman’s screams for help.
There is a continuity there — between what the witness saw, and what we hear on the tapes. Zimmerman was screaming for help when the witness first saw the fight, he was still pinned down and screaming for help when the 911 call was recorded.
Zimmerman was screaming for his life as Trayvon continued to beat him, even after a witness told them directly that he was calling 911. This alone shows that Trayvon had no regard for any sort of fair fight.
For those who don’t already know, Zimmerman is hispanic. Half-white on his Father’s side and half Peruvian.
This misconception is understandable, as Zimmerman was documented as being white in the original Sanford police report.
Zimmerman did not ever disobey 911 dispatcher orders. If you listen to the tapes, the dispatcher says, “We don’t need you to [follow him.]” And Zimmerman says, “Ok.”
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.
The conversation continues, and it’s obvious from his tone of voice that Zimmerman is no longer actively pursuing Martin.
How exactly would Zimmerman have caught back up to Martin after the call, when he couldn’t keep up with him in the first place?
The only way Trayvon would have been justified in punching Zimmerman would have been if Zimmerman successfully chased Martin down until he caught up with him. Even then, it would have been questionable.
But that is not the scenario we are dealing with. Martin initiated the confrontation, and almost certainly didn’t feel threatened while he was fighting Zimmerman.
Martin had him pinned to the ground and continued to beat him incessantly while Zimmerman was screaming for help. There is no justification for that.
For a few sentimental days, large groups of people were taking photos wearing hoodies to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin.
There’s nothing wrong with that per se, except that this case has nothing to do with hoodies. Trayvon was not shot because he was wearing a hoodie or any other article of clothing.
Trayvon was shot because he continued to viciously beat a man ten years his senior, while that man was crying out desperately for help. A man who had done nothing to him except briefly follow him as part of his Neighborhood Watch duties.
Multiple witnesses who arrived after the shooting saw Zimmerman trying to stop Martin’s bleeding. This alone signifies how much Zimmerman didn’t want to shoot Martin. He simply had no other choice after being pinned down and beaten.
Friends report that Zimmerman cried for days after the shooting. When you consider that Zimmerman was the victim of a violent crime he wanted no part of, this reaction makes sense.
This is a misunderstanding of the word “vigilante.”
What Zimmerman was doing was absolutely routine, everyday, neighborhood watch stuff. Driving around and reporting anyone suspicious that he didn’t recognize. Being the “eyes and ears” of the community.
If anything, what Martin did to Zimmerman was vigilantism. Martin assumed Zimmerman was up to no good when he saw him following him, and took it upon himself to dish out his own brand of justice.
As far as I can tell, it wouldn’t make any difference whether Florida had a “Stand Your Ground” law or not in this case.
Anywhere in America, if you are being pinned down and beaten in the head, your life is in danger and you have a right to defend yourself against bodily harm with deadly force.
“Stand your Ground” doesn’t apply when you’re pinned to the ground and being beaten.
Trayvon had rights in this situation. He had the right to confront Zimmerman and ask why he was being followed. He had the right to be offended and upset about any racial profiling he perceived Zimmerman engaging in.
And if he felt like Zimmerman was about to attack him for some reason, he may have even had the right to initiate violence to defend himself.
But Martin had no reason to feel threatened by Zimmerman when Zimmerman never even came close to catching up to him, and was only following from a distance.
And Martin certainly didn’t have the right to continue to beat Zimmerman indefinitely, while Zimmerman desperately screamed and pleaded for help.
There is simply no way that behavior can be justified by saying, “Trayvon felt threatened.”
It should be obvious from this case that Zimmerman had every reason to want to carry a gun.
When someone is willing to assault and beat you simply for approaching them, and so many other people are willing to justify and even rally behind their actions, it’s quite a dangerous society we live in.
I saved this for last because it’s the biggest misconception of them all.
Very little of this case has to do with race. Everything here is about violence and assault.
George Zimmerman shot a black teenager. That does not make him racist, because that black teenager had decided to beat him to a pulp.
I’m fairly certain most gun owners who conceal/carry would shoot anyone who was pinning them down and beating them mercilessly. Race simply does not factor into that equation.
If George Zimmerman had shot a white teenager who was viciously attacking him, would anyone be saying he had racist motivations? It’s highly doubtful. The majority of people would say, “Of course he shot him, he was being pinned down and being beaten in the head in his own neighborhood.”
The only aspect of the case that truly relates to race is whether the initial 911 call would have been made if Trayvon wasn’t black.
While we can’t answer that for certain, I believe the answer is yes.
George Zimmerman took his job as Neighborhood Watch very seriously, he called in all sorts of stuff, I believe he called Trayvon in because he didn’t recognize him, not because of his color.
There had been a massive string of burglaries in the area (pdf) in the preceding months.
Guess how most of the merchandise was recovered? From reporting suspicious people in the neighborhood.
So this exact type of “suspicious activity” reporting was proven to be effective only weeks earlier. Of course Zimmerman is going to use it.
Rpt Date: 2/7/2012 15:06 Reporter: B65567 Blake, James Clearance: 0 Open Narr. Type: S
Mod By: SANFORD\jhlake Mod Date: 2/7/2012 15:55 Related Case Number: 201250000751
On 02/07/12 at approximately 1300 hours, I responded to area of 1540 Retreat view Cir in reference to a group of suspicious person(s).
Sanford Dispatch advised that there were four males on bicycles in the area, that one of them was possibly a suspect in this case.
Upon arrival myself and Ofc. M. Hickley made contact with three black males and one white male on bicycles in a cut through area of the complex (a grass area were Retreat at Twin Lakes backs up to Colonial Village Apts). The white male had on a white t-shirt and jeans (one black male had on a black shirt and black beanie cap, the other black male had on a red hat and red shorts and the last black male was wearing a black shirt, black jacket and jean shorts and black shoes.)
Ofc. L. Rivera then arrived on scene; while he and Ofc. Hickley were checking the identifications of the subjects, I made contact with the caller Arnold Arms and lain Beard. Arms and Beard both stated that the black male wearing the black jacket, black shirt, jean shorts, and black shoes was the same black male they saw in the area of 1540 Retreat View Cir on 02/06/12. They also provided a sworn written statement advising that Burgess was wearing the same cloths that he was wearing on 02I06f12.
While Ofc. Rivera and Ofc. Hickley were trying to verify the identify Mme original gave a false name), I asked Ransburg if
I could look through his back pack that he was carrying. Ransburg gave me permission to look through his back pack, to which I found two laptop computers. One of the computers was an Apple Macbook Pro, I then asked Ranshurg if the Apple computer belonged to him, to which he replied no. It should be noted that with out any hesitation — told me that the Apple laptop was his computer and that he had bought it last night. l then ran the serial number on the Apple computer (WQOZZRSPATM) through FCIC/NCIC. The computer came hack stolen out of Sanford and came hack to this case number. The other computer came back with negative results at this time.
If no one had been calling in suspicious people in the neighborhood, this mini-crime spree would never have been solved.
Twin Lakes is a small gated community, Zimmerman knew who lived there and who didn’t. He didn’t recognize Trayvon.
That seems to be Zimmerman’s sole motive for calling Trayvon in, nothing more. He wanted to keep his neighborhood free from theft, and reporting suspicious activity had worked well for the community in the previous months.