I held off on putting up this post, until after the Martin family testified. But after hearing the questions that George Zimmerman’s attorney just asked of Trayvon Martin’s mother, for example, had she held out the hope that her son had not contributed to his own death? I have to ask,
Is Trayvon Martin on trial for his own murder?
“. . . If it was in fact, George Zimmerman screaming . . . then you would have to accept the probability that it was Trayvon Martin who caused his own death?“
– Mark O’Mara’s question to Sabrina Fulton
O’Mara continued down this line of questioning several times:
“You certainly hope, as a mom, that your son Trayvon Martin would not have done anything that led to his death, correct?” – Attorney Mark O’Mara
I hope to have up all four questions O’Mara asked. This is not a football game for either team to score points. But increasingly, both the defense and prosecution’s one upmanship are on display. I truly wish a female defense or prosecutor had been involved in this case. It was solely needed.
O’Mara asked four times. FOUR TIMES, a question that, in my mind, infers that Trayvon Martin was somehow responsible for killing himself.
First time question framed directly referring to Trayvon being responsible:
“If it was not your son screaming, if it was in fact, George Zimmerman, then you would have to accept the probability that it was Trayvon Martin who caused his own death?”
Second time question is framed:
“You certainly would hope that your son Trayvon Martin did nothing that could have led to his own death, correct?”
Third time question is framed:
“You certainly hope, as a mom, you certainly hope that your son, Trayvon Martin would not have done anything that would’ve led to his own death, correct?”
Fourth time question is framed:
“And now dealing with the reality that he’s no longer here, certainly your hope as a mom, hold out hope as long as you can, that Trayvon Martin was in no way responsible for his own death, correct?”
After watching the Jody Arias trial and now the George Zimmerman trial, the American system of justice continues to spiral down a very dark road.
Putting the murder victim on trial, as if to say “they deserved it.”
This type of defense isn’t unusual. Far too many rape cases put the rape victim on trial. Of note is one recent case, The Steubenville Rape Case.
In the George Zimmerman trial, I’m struck by how comments around the internet mention the Trayvon Martin trial as perhaps an innocent slip, but one that should be addressed. Trayvon Martin isn’t being tried for murder. But with the attempts by some to label him as a violent thug (who got what was coming to him) paint an attempt to do just that. So Trayvon Martin is a seventeen year old on trial for his own murder.
In order to have Zimmerman either acquitted or convicted on a lesser charge, it’s important that the defense form a depiction of Trayvon Martin as not just a young black teen, but a scary, brutal black male.
“Color still determines whether, by men, a man shall be dealt with as a man or a beast.”
– Jeremy Bentham, Colonies, Commerce, and Constitutional Law: Rid Yourselves of Ultramaria and Other Writings on Spain and Spanish America, ed. Philip Schofield (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995, Pg 130)
One of the first books and also movies that played upon this negative ideology was a bestseller by Thomas Dixon, which became the propaganda film The Birth of A Nation:
“As he bowed his thick neck in pompous courtesy, she caught with a shiver the odor of pomade on his black half kinked hair. He stopped on the lower step, looked back with smiling insolence, and gazed intently at her beauty. The girl shrank from the gleam of the jungle in his eyes and hurried within.” – Pg 207 of the online text of The Clansman, 1905 novel by Thomas Dixon and basis for the racial propaganda film The Birth of A Nation.
For more on the black brute trope, see this post:
I also thought that I’d take a look at some of the questions that continue to dog this case, and also look at how racial stereotypes may have contributed to that tragic night.
“Why didn’t Trayvon just call the police?”
I’ve seen that question asked more than I can count. But depending on whose account is believed, Trayvon’s friend Rachel Jeantel stated she was still on the phone with Trayvon and as some sort of altercation began, the phone went dead:
“Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again and he didn’t answer the phone.”
“And then he said, ‘That N-word is still following me now,'” said Jeantel. “I asked him how the man looked like. He just told me the man looked ‘creepy.’ ‘Creepy, white’ — excuse my language — ‘cracker. Creepy [expletive] cracker.”
Jeantel says she heard Martin talking to Zimmerman in the background of the call.
“He said, ‘Why are you following me for?’ And I heard a hard-breathing man say, ‘What you doing around here?'” said Jeantel.
Jeantel also said she heard a bump from Martin’s headset hitting something and “wet grass sounds.”
“I start hearing a little bit of Trayvon saying, ‘Get off, get off!'” said Jeantel.
JEANTEL: He got close to Trayvon, yes, sir.
WEST: And you don’t know whether the man was approaching Trayvon at that point and getting closer or whether Trayvon was approaching the man and getting closer?
JEANTEL: Trayvon would have told me he’ll call me back, sir, if he was going to approach him, sir.
WEST: So you’re assuming that Trayvon didn’t approach the man because he would have told you if he was going to confront the guy, he would call you back when it was over?
JEANTEL: Yes, sir.
SAVIDGE (reporter): Then West went after what could be the most damaging part of her testimony for the defense. Jeantel says over the phone she heard a bump then Trayvon say get off, get off, to Zimmerman.
WEST: So the last thing you heard was some kind of noise like something hitting somebody.
JEANTEL: Trayvon got hit. Trayvon got hit.
WEST: You don’t know that, do you?
JEANTEL: No, sir. WEST: You don’t know that Trayvon got hit.
JEANTEL: He could be —
WEST: You don’t know that Trayvon didn’t at that moment take his fist and drive it into George Zimmerman’s face.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please lower your voice.
WEST: Do you?
JEANTEL: No, sir.
This is contrary to George Zimmerman’s account, though Zimmerman admits he’d hung up from the non-emergency dispatcher. What’s at issue is whether Martin accosted Zimmerman, or George Zimmerman continued to pursue until he accosted Martin.
“Zimmerman recalled how Martin turned around to confront him and said “yo, you got a problem?” He said that he was reaching for his cell phone when Martin punched him in the face.”
The Walk through video can be viewed at the link above and also here:
Zimmerman: “I got to right about here, and he yelled behind me. He said ‘Yo, you got a problem?’ I turned around and I said, I don’t have a problem man.”
Police Officer: ‘Where was he at?”
Zimmerman: “He was about there, but he was walking towards me.”
Police Officer: “(In audible) Here”
Zimmerman: “Yes sir, I was already past that so I didn’t see where he came from, but he was about where you are.”
Additional Information used in this post:
When the screaming stops
That last scream on the 911 call recording is a death wail. It stops right after the gunshot, and there is an eerie pall after that.
And yet, when witnesses come upon Zimmerman here’s what was said about his emotional state:
“He stated to me that he was yelling for ‘help’ and that nobody would come help him,” said Smith.
Defense attorney O’Mara asked Smith whether Zimmerman seemed angry, frustrated, spiteful, cavalier or if he had any ill will or hatred that night. Smith said no to each individual description and called Zimmerman compliant throughout the entire ordeal.
Another neighbor named Jonathan Manalo, who was the first to approach Zimmerman after the shooting, was also asked to describe Zimmerman’s behavior that night.
“He wasn’t acting like anything different. He was coherent, he was responding to my questions just like any other person,” Manalo said.
Defense attorney Don West asked Manalo if Zimmerman told him, “This guy was beating me up and I shot him.”
“I was defending myself and I shot him,” said Manalo in response.
The tape audio clearly shows a highly emotional, even hysterical call for help. And what can probably be agreed to by all, is that with such an unsettling scream, the individual is in fear for his life.
George Zimmerman states he’s calling for help, because he feared for his life while getting beaten by Trayvon Martin.
Yet what’s also chilling, is since Zimmerman had a loaded gun in the ready to fire position, there’s another plausible scenario. Trayvon Martin was the one screaming for his life.
What the trial has done, at least in my mind, is bring up even more troubling questions.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, George Zimmerman will have live with the fact that he killed a young man who was merely walking back from the store.
So what’s a parent to do? Trayvon Martin was a lone black teen who was profiled. When kids are young, many parents caution children to stay in a group so that they aren’t singled out by someone looking to kidnap, rape, or far worse, murder. Yet when they get older and appear as a group, many times children of color are labeled “gangs” or “thugs” simply by sticking to what they’d been taught for safety. Unfortunately, on the night George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, I fear that if BOTH Martin and his 14 year old friend had been coming back from the store, there may have been two killings, judging from George Zimmerman’s paranoid state of mind.
And what I find truly reprehensible, is how the defense is intent on painting Trayvon Martin as both the aggressor of this tragic situation, and with the most recent ruling, perhaps as a pot head who went ballistic. Thus the defense’s depiction of Trayvon Martin will come full circle, as they follow the playbook of portraying yet another black male as one who is violence prone, but especially when under the influence.
So when George Zimmerman makes this statement:
“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.”
It put me in mind of the Rodney King beating, where officers stated:
1:16 a.m. From Powell and Wind to the foot patrol: “I think he was dusted…”
This post is in development . . .