Letter to the Guardian

Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead in February last year. Photograph: Reuters

I wish to express my concern about the item by Garry Young published on the 14th of July. I realize that this was an opinion piece but it seems very irresponsible to publish a piece that includes such a large number of demonstrable falsehoods. I reproduce the piece with comments in bold italics (red in the letter).

To start, the picture of Trayvon Martin was taken when he was about thirteen years old, four years before the shooting.

Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase

The jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder and manslaughter because the prosecution presented no evidence to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted in self-defense. There is also no evidence that he was chasing, however that word is defined, Trayvon Martin.

and then shoot dead

There is strong evidence that between Zimmerman’s observation of Martin and the shooting, he was assaulted by Martin, who did not stop his assault even when a neighbor said he was going to call the police.

an unarmed young black man on his way home

Martin was not on his way home. He was apparently going to the home of  “a” girlfriend of his father (the indefinite article was used by his father when calling the police the following day) where he had been staying – according to different accounts — for three, four or five days.

from the store

It took Trayvon Martin forty minutes for a ten-minute walk. He obviously was not going straight “home”.

because you didn’t like the look of him.

Zimmerman said that Trayvon Martin appeared to be on drugs and that he appeared to be casing houses. Zimmerman’s suspicions were justified since evidence not admitted in court shows that he was involved in at least one burglary incident in Miami and that he was a regular user of marihuana and “lean”, a concoction based on cough medicine. Also, he had apparently entered a gated community through private property instead of going through the gate and punching the code given to residents and their guests. The police dispatcher found Zimmerman’s suspicions reasonable.

Zimmerman also told the police dispatcher that Martin approached his vehicle and made a gesture that could reasonably be interpreted as suggesting that he wanted to give the impression that he had a gun in his waistband.

The killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin last year was tragic. But in the age of Obama the acquittal of George Zimmerman offers at least that clarity. For the salient facts in this case were not in dispute. On 26 February 2012 Martin was on his way home

As noted above, Martin was not on his way “home”.

, minding his own business

He may have been but there is evidence, noted above, that he was not.

armed only with a can of iced tea

This is the most ridiculous of Younge’s falsehoods. Trayvon Martin was not carrying iced tea. The crime scene photo, the 7-11 video, the receipt from the 7-11 and the display in the courtroom all show unambiguously that Martin purchased ARIZONA WATERMELON FRUIT JUICE COCKTAIL.

Is Younge so PC-paralyzed that he cannot bear to utter the W- word? Or is he so lazy that he did not see the evidence available on the Internet for months?

and a bag of Skittles.

Let us not forget the lighter and Martin not being a cigarette smoker.

Zimmerman pursued him,

There is no evidence that Zimmerman pursued Martin.

armed with a 9mm handgun, believing him to be a criminal.

Zimmerman said that Martin was suspicious not that he was committing a crime. If he did believe Martin to be a criminal he would not have been very wrong.

Martin resisted.

There is evidence that Martin launched a sudden, unprovoked and effective assault on Zimmerman.

They fought.

Until pulling the gun there is no evidence that Zimmerman did anything that could be described as fighting.

Zimmerman shot him dead.


Who screamed.

The preponderance of evidence is that it was Zimmerman.

Who was stronger.

Obviously Zimmerman.

Who called whom what

Assholes and punks, the latter inaudible, versus creepy ass cr***a and n***a. It is obvious that the first was not racist and the latter, regardless of where the hyphen goes, was.

and when and why are all details to warm the heart of a cable news producer with 24 hours to fill. Strip them all away and the truth remains that Martin’s heart would still be beating if Zimmerman had not chased him down

Again, there is no evidence that Zimmerman did any chasing.

and shot him.

Again, after enduring an unprovoked assault

There is no doubt about who the aggressor was here.

Correct. It was Martin.

It appears that the only reason the two interacted at all, physically or otherwise, is that Zimmerman believed it was his civic duty to apprehend

Again, there is no evidence that Zimmerman had any intention of apprehending Martin.

an innocent teenager who caused suspicion by his existence alone.

Is it necessary to comment on this nonsense?

Appeals for calm in the wake of such a verdict raise the question of what calm there can possibly be in a place where such a verdict is possible. Parents of black boys are not likely to feel calm. Partners of black men are not likely to feel calm. Children with black fathers are not likely to feel calm. Those who now fear violent social disorder must ask themselves whose interests are served by a violent social order in which young black men can be thus slain and discarded.

But while the acquittal was shameful it was not a shock. It took more than six weeks after Martin’s death for Zimmerman to be arrested

He was in fact arrested on the night of the shooting. He was not charged for six weeks because there was no evidence with which to charge him.

and only then after massive pressure both nationally and locally. Those who dismissed this as a political trial (a peculiar accusation in the summer of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden) should bear in mind that it was politics that made this case controversial.

Charging Zimmerman should have been a no-brainer. He was not initially charged because Florida has a “stand your ground” law whereby deadly force is permitted if the person “reasonably believes” it is necessary to protect their own life, the life of another or to prevent a forcible felony.

He was not charged because there was no evidence to contradict his claim of self defense.

Since it was Zimmerman who stalked Martin, the question remains: what ground is a young black man entitled to and on what grounds may he defend himself? What version of events is there for that night in which Martin gets away with his life? Or is it open season on black boys after dark?

Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict will be contested for years to come. But he passed judgement on Trayvon that night summarily.

“Fucking punks,” Zimmerman told the police dispatcher

He whispered the phrase so quietly that was some controversy about what the second word was.

Zimmerman told the police dispatcher that night. “These assholes. They always get away.”

So true it’s painful. And so predictable it hurts.


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