Trayvon Martin, profiled as a criminal and then killed on a patch of grass in Florida more than a year ago, has been on trial for the last month. Now the verdict is in and Martin has been found guilty of trying to kill, or to cause serious damage to, George Zimmerman.
Oh, I know most people think Zimmerman was the man on trial, but it wasn’t so. It was the 16-year-and-a-month-old black kid in the hoodie, the black kid in the hoodie with the Skittles. And, of course, the black kid in the hoodie who, allegedly, armed himself with a sidewalk.
To sort of summarize what many Americans, many white Americans, felt about the black-kid-is-guilty verdict, I’ll use a Tweet from gun-crazed Ted Nugent:
You see, Nugent, along with many, many others—most of them before the trial began—convicted Trayvon Martin—a “kid” Nugent said—of an “attack” on George Zimmerman, even though there was no evidence, other than the word of George Zimmerman—who happened to be charged with second degree murder—for such a conviction.
But it was crucial for the defense to make that case, to leave the six-woman jury with the idea that 158-pound Trayvon Martin was a man-sized thug who was armed with a dangerous sidewalk and who meant to kill 200-pound George Zimmerman with it.
Now, unlike most people who will read this or read anything about the case, I watched nearly all of what I only loosely refer to as George Zimmerman’s trial, including watching the closing arguments, through which each side attempted to pull together the evidence in support of their respective claims in the case.
I can tell you, emphatically, that I would not have found Trayvon Martin guilty of trying to kill George Zimmerman. There simply wasn’t enough evidence to do so and the star witness against him had an obvious motive to lie. In fact, he lied to Sean Hannity about whether he had heard of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law:
HANNITY: …prior to this night, this incident, had you even heard “Stand Your Ground”?
ZIMMERMAN: No, sir.
HANNITY: You have never heard about it before?
Except that the trial revealed this:
…an army prosecutor who taught Zimmerman in a 2010 college class on criminal litigation, testified that he often covered Florida’s self-defense and “Stand Your Ground” laws in his 2010 course. Army Captain Alexis Carter said Zimmerman “was probably one of the better students in the class,” calling him an “A” student.
Leaving aside the lie about that dangerous law in Florida, let’s move on to something simple: if Martin had really wanted to use the sidewalk as a way of seriously injuring or killing Zimmerman, he could have. Perhaps, some cynical people would argue, he should have. Had he done so, had he killed Zimmerman with that deadly sidewalk, Trayvon Martin would be alive today and, given the ridiculous nature of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, might be free to wander the streets in pursuit of more Skittles and more victims of his sidewalk-aided killing spree.
Except that George Zimmerman’s injuries, as the evidence demonstrated to me, were not consistent with the idea that Trayvon Martin was trying to kill him using that killing machine some of us know only as a walkway.
If we believe the star witness against Martin, that is, if we believe Zimmerman’s varying accounts of what happened, then we must believe that Martin is guilty of attempted murder. We must. If we believe that Zimmerman was pinned down with his head on the concrete, if we believe he was being beaten so badly that he feared for his life or seriously injury, then we must believe that Trayvon Martin was guilty of trying to kill the neighborhood-watching Zimmerman, who, by the way, never bothered to identify himself as such, when he and Martin met.
We must believe Martin was the person with the intent to kill, or else Zimmerman is a liar. Zimmerman told police, the day after he killed Martin, the following:
I kept yelling for help. And I got a little bit of leverage, and I started to sit up, and then he took my head and slammed it into the concrete several times….I started screaming for help, and he covered by nose with one hand and my mouth with the other one, and he told me, “Shut the fuck up!” And I couldn’t breathe; I was suffocating. But when I shifted, my jacket came up and my shirt came up, exposing my firearm. And that’s when he said—he sat up and looked and said, “You’re gonna die tonight, motherfucker.” And I saw him take one hand off my mouth and slide it down my chest. And I just pinched his arm and I grabbed my gun, I aimed it at him, and fired one shot.
Leaving aside the mechanical implausibility of that account, leaving aside its self-serving nature, the claim is that Martin explicitly threatened Zimmerman’s life. Some months later, Zimmerman told Sean Hannity that Martin told him that “he was going to kill me.” Was he? Did this Skittles-buying kid have murder in his heart? What did the evidence presented during the trial tell us?
Again, as the Zimmerman defense team—which was really the Martin prosecution team—framed this case, the salient issue was whether a black teenager wandering home from a convenience store viciously attacked George Zimmerman and meant to kill him with a slab of concrete. They made this case despite the fact that there were no serious injuries to the eventual killer’s head. They made this case despite the fact that their client didn’t require medical treatment beyond a few Band-Aids.
I will submit to you that Trayvon Martin most obviously was not trying to kill his killer or to seriously harm him, as only a few hard cracks against that sidewalk—defense attorney Mark O’Mara at one time forcefully and deliberately demonstrated to the jury what that would look like—would have done the trick.
In fact, it was O’Mara’s violent demonstration on a foam dummy during the trial that convinced me that Martin did not do what O’Mara essentially accused him of doing. Straddling that dummy, O’Mara violently pounded the back of its head into the floor. Wow, I thought. If Trayvon Martin did that to Zimmerman on the sidewalk and Zimmerman lived to tell about it, he must have a super-human titanium skull.
That demonstration by O’Mara was not without foundation. George Zimmerman told Sean Hannity that Martin “was slamming my head into the concrete, and I thought I would lose consciousness.” I can only tell you, as the state tried to tell the jurors in this case, to use your “God-given common sense.” You try banging your head, with the force implied by the defense, against a slab of concrete and see how long you are conscious enough to talk about it, let alone remember it in vivid, if self-serving detail. It became clear to me that no such thing happen to Zimmerman. There wasn’t sufficient evidence for it, even though a paid defense expert witness said,
You can get severe trauma to the head without external injuries, actually.
Think about that. Zimmerman said his head was being slammed repeatedly into concrete. The defense dramatically claimed concrete was a deadly weapon. And, conveniently, they put on a doctor who suggested that such a weapon could kill or seriously wound without leaving much of a mark! That Trayvon Martin could slam Zimmerman’s head into the concrete “several times,” trying to kill him, and it might not necessarily look like it after the fact, after the fact that Zimmerman shot Martin in the heart. I’m sorry, but that’s not something I can accept as even remotely plausible, and certainly not believable enough to convict Trayvon Martin of attempted murder.
So, I disagree with the verdict in this case. I would have found Martin not guilty of trying to kill George Zimmerman. The evidence simply wasn’t there and the witness against him offered an implausible account and had a good reason to lie about what happened. But apparently the jury, and certainly many white Americans, don’t agree with me.