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Trayvon Martin Tag

Hate crime hoaxes have been a frequent topic here dating back to the early days of Legal Insurrection. We have over 200 posts involving various fake hate crimes. A hoax can be a complete fabrication (e.g. Jussie Smollett) or a real incident that falsely is spun...

Seven years ago George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in lawful self-defense, as Martin beat Zimmerman to a bloody pulp Mixed Martial Arts style. Martin died of a single shot. The eyewitness and forensic evidence introduced at trial corroborated Zimmerman's account of being sucker punched in the nose, something Martin had bragged in text messages, kept from the jury, was his preferred method of starting fights. An eyewitness witnessed the beating, and the forensics were completely consistent with Zimmerman's account.

This week’s Case of the Week is inspired by the so-called “documentary,” Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, produced by Jay Z and Trayvon Martin’s parents. The first two episodes focus enormous attention on the fact that George Zimmerman was not arrested until April 11, 2012, 44 days after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin on February 26.

With the “documentary” Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story by Jay Z in the news, I though it worthwhile to make this Case of the Week about the lies created by doctoring the audio file of the call George Zimmerman made to the police moments before he was viciously attacked by Trayvon Martin.

It's hard to believe, but my first post here at Legal Insurrection was on June 5, 2013. Naturally, it was a post covering the murder trial of George Zimmerman, after Professor Jacobson noticed some of my comments on his own posts and kindly invited me to contribute to the site. I ended up watching every moment of the trial and reviewing every piece of evidence, and wrote about the trial and surrounding events rather extensively.

Today is the 5th Anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead by George Zimmerman. I don't think any other website has covered the case as extensively as we have. We have hundreds of posts under the tags Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and George Zimmerman trial. We covered the initial publicity, the pre-trial criminal proceedings, the trial itself, and the post-trial problems George Zimmerman experienced. Andrew Branca's live coverage of the trial was epic and widely credited, including by Don West, co-defense counsel for Zimmerman, Unexpected thanks to Legal Insurrection on 2nd Anniversary of Zimmerman Acquittal.

I mostly missed the Ken Bone phenomenon. I either wasn't watching or wasn't listening when he asked a question at the last presidential debate. He then became a media darling, though I'm not really sure why. Something to do with his red sweater, apparently. And the fact that after the debate he said he started off leaning towards Trump, but was impressed with and considering Hillary. It was a perfect pro-Clinton media meme, common guy journalists otherwise would mock becomes cool because he moves from Trump to Hillary; a good example for the common folk to hear about. Bone then sought to cash in, selling a version of his red sweater and doing other stuff to make a buck and promote himself.

Yesterday, on the 4th anniversary of the self-defense shooting of Trayvon Martin, we wrote about Florida's just enacted changes to its "10-20-Life" mandatory minimum sentencing law in the context of aggravated assault and self-defense. There is also another substantive change to the state's self-defense law that is advancing through the Florida legislature:  a reduction in the threshold for obtaining criminal and civil self-defense immunity. More specifically, the Florida senate has approved a change to the state's self-defense immunity law that would require state prosecutors to disprove self-defense by clear and convincing evidence in order to deny a defendant immunity from prosecution (and civil suit).

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the fateful day on which Trayvon Martin made the imprudent and quickly fatal decision to viciously beat (as testified to by eye witnesses) an armed George Zimmerman. Presumably coincidentally timed with anniversary, Florida has made or is making a couple of substantive changes in its laws covering some key facets of self-defense. The first change actually made this week is that Florida has removed the crime of aggravated assault from among the gun crimes that fall subject to the state's infamous "10-20-Life" mandatory minimum sentencing requirement. We'll cover that change in this post. (We've previously written on proposals for this change, here: Changes Proposed to Florida’s Infamous “10-20-Life” Sentencing Law.) The second change has not yet taken effect, but is advancing through the legislature.  That is the Florida senate approval of a change to the state's self-defense immunity law that would require state prosecutors to disprove self-defense by clear and convincing evidence in order to deny a defendant immunity from prosecution (and civil suit).  We'll cover that prospective change in a subsequent post. For now, let's take a look at the changes to "10-20-Life" signed into law this week.

Today the South Florida Times posted on their web site a piece entitled "FILM USES VIRTUAL REALITY TO REENACT TRAYVON’S MURDER." In that piece they describe a piece of fabricated ("virtual reality") cinema that purports to tell the "true story" about the interaction between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin that resulted in Martin's death. The article notes that:
The promotional material for One Dark Night indicates, “By anchoring the piece in accurate and unassailable elements, the user becomes transported inside a reliable, albeit virtual, version of the story as an eyewitness. One Dark Night breaks new ground on multiple levels, including through audio carefully cleaned by forensic specialists Sourcesound and Primeau Productions, with the latter asserting that the reconstructed audio indicates George Zimmerman cocked his gun just before he gave chase.
(emphasis added) Except there's one little problem with that narrative:

I suppose it's to be expected that on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad victim selection day we would get to enjoy a resurgence of the many false narratives surrounding Martin's attack on George Zimmerman, Zimmerman's self-defense, the circus of Sharpton-led protests, the politically-driven prosecution, and the resulting acquittal. Back when this was all going on in real time I had the pleasure of writing several posts that gutted the worst of the memes.  It seems, then, that the most appropriate response to the re-emergence of these lies is to re-post their evidence-and law-based rebuttals. Here I'll just point to the myths I busted at length in my own posts--I'll defer on the other related nonsense, such as the ubiquitous portrayal of the 17-year-old Martin using a picture of him at age 12 (a more age-appropriate "selfie" of Martin is featured above), and the lightening of photos of George Zimmerman to place greater emphasis on the "white" rather than the "Hispanic." I don't have time to cover all of the carefully orchestrated falsehoods perpetrated by those who wished to put an innocent Zimmerman in prison for the rest of his life--there were easily dozens of these lies--but here's an afternoon's worth of enjoyable myth-busting reading.

The Department of Justice will reportedly announce that it will not bring federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman over Zimmerman's self-defense killing of Trayvon Martin, reports ABC News. This decision comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with the actual facts of the case. Zimmerman's claim of lawful self-defense was overwhelmingly supported by evidence presented at trial, and there was no additional evidence suggesting Zimmerman had set out to deliberately violate Martin's civil rights. Indeed, the only shocking aspect of this is that it took the Department of Justice 19 months after Zimmerman's acquittal to make the announcement. Given the Obama Administration's incessant spinning of the news cycle so as to avoid getting pinned down to any single particular scandal, it seems likely that the announcement will be timed to coincide with the three year anniversary (February 26, two days from today) of Martin's death. Soon after the 2012 shooting, the Department of Justice ordered a team of FBI agents to interview witnesses, neighbors, co-workers, and friends of Zimmerman in a search for any evidence of racism.  They didn't just come up empty; what evidence they did find confirmed that Zimmerman was decidedly not racist.

There's no eloquent way to introduce a story about a group of elected officials who want to ban wearing hoods in public---so let's just jump in. Oklahoma lawmakers are considering a bill that could make it a fineable offense to wear any kind of identity-concealing garment in a public place. Don't believe me? I didn't when I first heard it, but here's the text of the bill (in part):
It shall be unlawful for any person in this state to: A. To wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment; or B. To intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place by means of a robe, mask, or other disguise.
These two points are followed by a long list of times when wearing a hood or mask will be allowed, including on Halloween, during parades or demonstrations, or during periods of inclement weather. Basically what this does is (in part) create an included offense to the larger offense of actually committing crime; a similar provision has been on the books since the heydays of the KKK. The larger problem is part (B), which would prevent people from "concealing their identity" in public. It doesn't explicitly ban hooded sweatshirts, but the law of unintended consequences is lurking just around the corner in Chuck Taylors and a Dave Matthews Band summer tour hoodie, just waiting for an opportunity to pop out and menace the perpetually comfortable. As always, lawmakers have good intentions.

Earlier this month we posted news that Frank Taafe, a self-proclaimed "friend" of George Zimmerman, was going to testify before a Grand Jury that he now believed Zimmerman had a racist motivation for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  This news came just days before the hotly contested November 4 election in which the Democrats took the same kind of beating that Trayvon delivered to Zimmerman, but without the benefit of being armed.  (See: Key Witness for Zimmerman Grand Jury Changes Story.) Taaffe's Grand Jury appearance, scheduled for last Wednesday, was delayed for unexplained reasons.  (See:  We interrupt post-election gloating for news about the DOJ Zimmerman Grand Jury.)  According to reporting by the Orlando Sentinel newspaper, however, Taaffe was to appear before the Grand Jury today to testify about Zimmerman's purported racial animus. Such testimony would be a game changer in lingering efforts to seek Federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.  Despite dozens of FBI interviews of people associated with Zimmerman, there was never so much as a smidgen of evidence that Zimmerman shot Martin for reasons of racism.  Indeed, what evidence was developed ran counter to that narrative. Among those at the time who told FBI agents that they had no reason to believe Zimmerman had a racial motive for shooting Martin?  Frank Taaffe. Here's the video: Without evidence of racial animus there was no basis for a Federal civil rights prosecution, and in fact none was forthcoming. Earlier this year, however, with public interest in him waning, Taaffe suddenly recalled that he had, after all, had a phone conversation with Zimmerman in which the media-described "white Hispanic" had voiced racial animus towards Martin.  It appeared, suddenly and literally incredibly, as if there might be a hook on which to hang a civil rights prosecution of Zimmerman after all.

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper is reporting that it appears as if no actual witnesses showed up for today's Federal Grand Jury convened to determine if civil rights charges should be brought against George Zimmerman for his self-defense shooting of Trayvon Martin. The DOJ had subpoenaed Frank Taaffe, a self-declared "friend" of Zimmerman's, to testify before the Grand Jury.  In the days following the shooting Taaffe told FBI investigators that based on phone discussions with Zimmerman he did not believe there was a racial motive for the shooting. Earlier this year, however, nearly two years later, Taaffe changed his story and said he now believed that Zimmerman did have a racial motive for shooting Martin.  We covered this change of story previously here:  Key Witness for Zimmerman Grand Jury Changes Story, and the Grand Jury convening here:  DOJ Convenes Grand Jury For Zimmerman Civil Rights Case. In that latter story we had speculated that the sudden announcement of this Grand Jury, just days before elections likely (and ultimately) to prove troublesome for Democrats was merely a political stratagem seeking to draw greater numbers of African Americans to the polls.