“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth, Act V, Scene V
I’ve been reading and collecting some portions of the blizzard of commentary and the smaller drizzling of fact on the Trayvon Martin case over the last week, and pondering how to write this, the 6th article in the continuing series on this case. As I’ve previously written (all related articles are available in the SMM Trayvon Martin Case archive), this is truly an unremarkable case. Under normal circumstances, it—like hundreds of similar cases every year–would have been locally handled and the nation would have never heard of Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman.
As a technical matter, a matter of police science and practice, this is an easy case. All of the relevant evidence was quickly and easily identified and gathered. All of the witnesses were likewise readily apparent. The potential suspect, Zimmerman, cooperated more fully with the police than most victims of crimes. There were few, if any, unanswered questions, at least none that would preclude the completion of a competent investigation and prevent making a professional charging decision. The witness statements and the evidence supported Zimmerman’s account, and as this week’s document dump illustrated, to a greater degree than even the embarrassingly faulty charging affidavit, through omission and obfuscation, suggested.
As I’ll demonstrate in articles to follow, the Sanford police investigation is equally unremarkable. By this I mean they did it competently and without evidence of racial or other bias. As I’ve previously mentioned, in the real world, it is not necessary that everything done by a police agency be done to the standard of absolute perfection, that every task completed and decision made be as perfect as the most perfect police officer could make it. It is sufficient that the work of the Sanford Police Department be within the boundaries of the reasonable exercise of professional police practice and discretion, and from what I’ve been able to discover through a review of their actual work, it is.
And so we—Americans of good will and reasonable sensibility—find ourselves in a strange situation. It is a situation made by political forces that see culture war advantage in this run-of-the-mill case, even though they have had to invent entirely new racial categories (“white-Hispanic”) out of whole cloth. And even that invention has been overtaken by events, such as the revelation that George Zimmerman actually has a black great-grandfather. Do not, however, expect the Lamestream Media and its followers and supporters to alter the racialist narrative to reflect the undeniable fact that Zimmerman can legitimately call himself black-white-Hispanic if he wishes.
We find ourselves in a bizarre sort of role reversal, a backward universe where day is night, up is down, and white is black is Hispanic or some combination of those three as it best serves the evolving narrative. On one hand we have the narrative where Trayvon Martin was an innocent child, a virtual nascent Rhodes scholar, “profiled” and wantonly murdered for being black and perhaps wearing a hoodie, by a huge, hulking cop-wanna-be brute many times his size, who relentlessly chased him down and murdered him as he ran for his life, wanting nothing more than to reach the safety of his temporary home. The senseless horror of the premeditated murder was made even more poignant by the fact that Martin, like all innocent child victims of profiling, was carrying tea and Skittles, an utterly irrelevant fact elevated to near-mythic status.
As the evidence has consistently revealed, the narrative, politically useful to those who seek to divide and inflame America, is almost entirely false. However, this narrative will never die, for there are those who need this particularly decomposed zombie to shamble along for as long as it is politically and financially profitable. It might be a new age truism that fact and evidence have little effect on the walking dead.
In the legal world, the role reversal is most bizarre and unsettling. As a former police officer, I find myself amazed and appalled at the strange turn this case has taken. There is a threadbare but useful adage among defense attorneys that goes something like this:
If the facts aren’t on your side, argue the law. If the facts and the law are against you, attack the police.
Every experienced police officer has seen this adage at work in the courtroom. In the early days of my police career, it was used against me by a bright defense counsel in a particularly novel way. He managed to convince a gullible jury that because I had a degree in English education, his DUI client was too stupid to understand what I was saying. This particular attorney and I laughed about it later and he was more than smart enough never to try the same trick twice.
In the Martin case, the reversal is even sharper and more jarring. Under normal circumstances, it is the police and prosecutor who have the facts and evidence on their side. They need only present those facts and evidence in a logical, effective way to have a substantial chance of conviction. And of course, the defense must conjure tortured but barely plausible means of wiggling around the facts and the law, and must attack the character, abilities and performance of the police. The defense must come up with a theory that will allow them to convince a jury to ignore the facts and the law and to focus on trivia or side issues sufficient to introduce enough doubt or confusion to obtain an acquittal. When it is possible to stir up the media, defense lawyers often try the case more in the court of political and public opinion than in the halls of justice.
Now it is the defense that is sober and professional, declining comment and proceeding with care while the prosecution pats its functionaries on the back, gushes over Martin’s parents like a vacuous female talk show host (“…our prosecution team promised those sweet parents…”), while promising to actually follow legal ethics and Florida law in its efforts[?!]. It is the defense that has not only the facts and the law on its side, but logic. Meanwhile, the prosecution releases bits and pieces of the evidence, all of which to date not only supports the defense case ever more strongly, but blows enormous holes in the narrative, forcing its purveyors to dodge and weave and cling to any potentially remaining fragment before it too can no longer pass the laugh test. Simultaneously, however, the prosecution clings to the narrative and those who further it, despite the fact that the very evidence it ignores renders its case and the narrative increasingly untenable.
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE EVIDENCE:
None of the evidence known or suspected, has to date, been contradicted or overturned. There have been no prosecution revelations that would tend to cast doubt upon or impeach Zimmerman’s account of events, just as the prosecution’s investigator, Gilbreath, testified at the bond hearing.
Zimmerman’s Injuries: There is little doubt that George Zimmerman did suffer injuries in the “scuffle,” as the charging affidavit put it. Even the Lamestream Media has been forced to admit as much. On May 15, ABC News reported that the day following the shooting, Zimmerman’s physician diagnosed a closed fracture of the nose, two black eyes, two lacerations to the back of the head, bruising in the upper lip and cheek and an injury to the lower back. ABC also reported:
A neighbor told ABC News that the day after the shooting he saw Zimmerman as he spoke to officers outside his home. He too recalled seeing black eyes and significant swelling — as well as a bandage over his nose.
This is supported by the observations of Sanford PD Officer Ricardo Ayala. Following is a screenshot of a PDF of his report dated “2/27/2012 3:29”:
The circled text reads:
While I was in such close contact with Zimmerman, I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass, as if he has been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head.
Another initially responding officer—Jonathan Mead—wrote:
The circled text reads:
Zimmerman appeared to have a broken and bloody nose and swelling of his face.
Officer Mead described Zimmerman as being “in protective custody,” and wrote that he knew him as the head of the “neighborhood watch.”
A third responding officer—Timothy Smith—drove Zimmerman to the police department:
The circled text reads:
While en route to the Sanford Police Department with Zimmerman, he complained that his head hurt and that he felt a little light headed. I asked Zimmerman if he would like to go to the hospital. Zimmerman stated that he wasn’t sure what to do. I advised Zimmerman that it was his choice, and that I would drive him to the hospital Zimmerman declined once again to be taken to Central Florida Hospital.
Another on-scene officer—Michael Wagner—wrote:
The first circled text reads:
As the scene came under control, I walked to Ofc Smith’s car where Zimmerman was sitting and in handcuffs and used my personal I-Phone (due to an immediate lack of access to a digital camera) to take a picture of Zimmerman’s face. I saw that Zimmerman’s face was bloodied and it appeared to me that his nose was broken. I also saw that the back of Zimmerman’s head was also bloodied.
These are not the only mentions of Zimmerman’s obvious injuries in the police reports.
CNN quoted from a Sanford Fire Department paramedic report of Zimmerman’s injuries:
According a report from the Sanford Fire Department, released Thursday, Zimmerman had ‘abrasions to his forehead,’ ‘bleeding/tenderness to his nose,’ and a ‘small laceration to the back of his head’ when emergency personnel arrived at the scene at 7:27 p.m., six minutes after they were first called.
Martin’s Injuries/Condition: To date, there has been no confirmation of Martin’s injuries. No longer. Local Florida news outlet WFTV was able to discover that the coroner recorded not only the single gunshot wound to Martin’s chest, but that the skin of his knuckles—on both hands—was damaged in a manner consistent with Zimmerman’s account of the “scuffle.”
The evidence, though, was also noteworthy for what was missing: any clear indication of who started the fight that led to the fatal shooting. The evidence released also did not include any of the statements 28-year-old Zimmerman made to police after the shooting.
Several witnesses told police they saw the two on the ground fighting, but investigators talked to no one who saw how the fight started or saw Zimmerman on top. One witness said that 17-year-old Trayvon was on top.
And crime-lab experts found that Zimmerman’s blood was on several pieces of evidence: his shirt, his jacket, his gun and Trayvon’s shirt.
Among the pieces of evidence released was a photocopy of a photo taken of George Zimmerman at the scene. In it, he has a bloody, swollen nose [this was the iPhone photo taken by Officer Wagner].
According to the Sentinel, the coroner reported that the round that struck Martin pierced his heart. The coroner also placed Martin’s height at 5’11” and his weight at 158 pounds. The story also observed:
The Volusia County Medical Examiner’s Office found just one other injury on Trayvon’s body: a small “abrasion” on one finger of his left hand. It also found THC — the active chemical in marijuana — in Trayvon’s blood and urine.
It is particularly interesting that the released documents do not include the level of THC in Martin’s urine. For a more in-depth discussion of marijuana effects and its persistence in the blood and urine, visit Just One Minute, which continues to produce excellent analysis of this case.
On May 17, The Telegraph reported:
The report showed traces of THC – an ingredient found in marijuana – in Martin’s blood plus a positive test for cannabis in his urine.
Earlier this year it was revealed that Martin had been briefly suspended from school for marijuana use but family contend that it was irrelevant to his death. . .
The medical examiner’s report also showed a small abrasion on Martin’s left ring finger but no other injuries apart from the fatal gunshot wound.
In yet another May 17 report, the Associated Press also reported the presence of THC in Martin’s blood and urine. That report also noted:
A separate report written by Serino at the crime scene says Martin had $40.15, Skittles candy, a red lighter, headphones and a photo pin in his pocket. A single 9mm shell casing was found near Martin’s body.
Audio Evidence: A prosecutor’s witness list has also been released, though a good number of witnesses are identified only by means of numbers. Among those witnesses are two FBI audio examiners. Regarding them, the Orlando Sentinel wrote:
A 911 call shows that someone was screaming for help in the background, but two FBI audio specialists tried to identify who and concluded it was impossible. The quality of the recording was not good enough, and the screams didn’t last long enough, they wrote.
Much has been made about whether Zimmerman during that call used a racial epithet in referring to Martin. But an FBI analysis, released Thursday, determined that the word could not be definitively identified ‘due to weak signal level and poor recording quality.’
A screaming voice could be heard on other 911 calls placed by neighbors, with some speculating those screams came from Martin and others that they belonged to Zimmerman. The FBI did not make a final determination either way, citing several reasons including the fact they came during ‘an extreme emotional state,’ there weren’t enough words to make a good comparison and the sound quality was low and distant.
New witness accounts also emerged Thursday. A witness, whose name is redacted, told investigators he saw ‘a black male, wearing a dark colored hoodie,’ on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help.
The witness, who was looking out the sliding glass door at his home about 30 feet away, said he saw the black male throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style.’
He said he told the fighters he was calling the police. He said that as he was making the call, he heard a shot. He looked outside and saw the person who had been on top laid out on the grass as if he had been shot. He said the other fighter was standing on the sidewalk, talking to another person with a flashlight.
According to records obtained by the Miami Herald, Martin had been suspended from school three times: once for writing graffiti on a door, another time for school truancy and the last time due to drug residue being found in his backpack.
Speaking of her son’s suspension to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Sybrina Fulton said, ‘Whatever he had dealings with the school, it was not criminal, it was not violent, he’s never been arrested.’
“Toxicology tests found elements of the drug in the teenager’s chest blood — 1.5 nanograms per milliliter of one type (THC), as well as 7.3 nanograms of another type (THC-COOH) — according to the medical examiner’s report. There also was a presumed positive test of cannabinoids in Martin’s urine, according to the medical examiner’s report. It was not immediately clear how significant these amounts were.
No precise levels on the urine were released.
Dr. Michael Policastro, a toxicologist, cautioned against reading too much into the blood THC levels, adding that one cannot make a direct correlation between those findings and a level of intoxication.
He also noted levels of THC, which can linger in a person’s system for days, can spike after death in certain areas of the body because of redistribution.
And Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction specialist who hosts a show on CNN’s sister network HLN, added that marijuana typically does not make users more aggressive.
Sanford police believed the encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ‘ultimately avoidable’ if Zimmerman had ‘remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement.’
‘There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter,’ said one police report in hundreds of pages of evidence released Thursday.
The investigator who called for Zimmerman’s arrest, Christopher Serino, told prosecutors in March that the fight could have been avoided if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement. He said Zimmerman, after leaving his vehicle, could have identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and talked to him instead of confronting him.
He said there is no evidence Martin was involved in any criminal activity.
The lawyer for Martin’s parents seized on the investigator’s recommendation.
‘The police concluded that none of this would have happened if George Zimmerman hadn’t gotten out of his car,’ said attorney Ben Crump. ‘If George Zimmerman hadn’t gotten out of his car, they say it was completely avoidable. That is the headline.’
Two acquaintances paint an unflattering picture of Zimmerman in police interviews.
A distraught woman tells an investigator that she stays away from Zimmerman because he’s racist and because of things he’s done to her in the past, but she didn’t elaborate on what happened between them.
‘I don’t at all know who this kid was or anything else. But I know George, and I know that he does not like black people. He would start something. He’s very confrontational. It’s in his blood. We’ll just say that,’ the unidentified woman says in an audio recording.
A man whose name was deleted from the audio told investigators said he worked with Zimmerman in 2008 for a few months. It wasn’t clear which company it was.
The man, who described his heritage as ‘Middle Eastern,’ said that when he first started many employees didn’t like him. Zimmerman seized on this, the employee said, and bullied him.
An unnamed girl, the one identified by the Martin family attorney as Trayvon’s girlfriend [to date, referred to as “DeeDee”], may be one of the case’s most important witnesses. She told prosecutors that she and Trayvon talked by cellphone on and off as he went to the store that evening.
She said Trayvon told her a white man in a vehicle was watching him. Trayvon started walking, and the call cut off, she said. When she called back,’he said this man is still following him.’
The girl said Trayvon started running, ‘and then he said he lost him [Zimmerman],’ she said, adding that the teen’s ‘voice kind of changed … I could tell he was scared. And in a couple minutes, he said a man’s following him again.’
She said Trayvon asked, ‘Why are you following me for?’ and a man’s voice said, ‘What are you doing around here?’ Then she heard a noise, and the call cut off.
In article #7, to be posted on Wednesday, 05-23-12, I’ll analyze all of these developments in detail. It should be abundantly clear to those willing to rationally and dispassionately consider evidence that the prosecution’s case has dissolved. In the normal course of events, the original decision of the Sanford Police not to press for charges would have been quietly noted and filed. The case would have been over. However, as I’ve noted in past articles, since the case took on racial, social and political significance far beyond its importance in the criminal justice system, it will be difficult for any judge to do anything other than allow the case to proceed to trial, if for no reason other than hoping that with the passage of time, tempers will cool and racial strife and violence might be averted.
While that is possible, it is unlikely. The media are so caught up in this narrative, which Mr. and Mrs. Obama have now made a part of their campaign narrative, that it seems unlikely they can possibly allow it to quietly die lest they lose whatever crumb of credibility they yet retain.
The case should be dismissed long before trial. In a rational justice system not being assailed by self-serving racial and political forces, it would be quickly dismissed. Unfortunately, it will almost certainly continue.
One of the most bizarre but utterly predictable developments in this case is the merchandising of Trayvon Martin—by his mother, Sybrina Fulton, who has actually trademarked him. In addition, Martin’s family has recently taken their show on the road–to merrie olde England.
The Last Refuge has this story, and provides fascinating information into the personal and fellow traveler links between the various characters involved with the Martin family in maintaining the narrative and in keeping the cash flowing. Through her bad judgment, special prosecutor Angela Corey has allied herself with anti-social forces and has drug the citizens of Florida with her.
Am I suggesting that the Martin family is cynically trying to cash in on their son’s tragic death? I don’t know that they are. I know nothing of them. I’d prefer, as I’ve often said in this case, to stick with analysis of the legal and professional criminal justice issues. However, since the prosecution has allied itself with those seeking to try the case in the court of public/political opinion, and since they are dragging that destructive baggage into court, I have little choice but to address the issues they raise if my readers are to be well informed. I’ll content myself to provide fact and analysis of the issues revolving around this case, and leave it to my readers to make up their minds.
Let’s consider the two primary racialist narrative themes to have emerged from the most recent document dump. Remember that the narrative must evolve as the facts continue to chase it further and further away from real justice into the realm of “social justice”:
(1) Sanford Police Investigator Christopher Serino wanted, at some point, to see Zimmerman charged with manslaughter, therefore he must be guilty and must be convicted of second degree murder.
(2) If Zimmerman remained in his vehicle, everything would have been just fine, therefore, Zimmerman must be guilty and must be convicted of second degree murder.
In Article 7, I’ll address not only these issues—and more–but prove:
(1) When observed by George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin was breaking the law.
(2) The investigators and assistant prosecutor that prepared the charging affidavit lied on that document and had to have known they were lying.
Thanks for your attention and support, and I hope to see you there.
UPDATE: 05-20-12, 2300 CST. While conducting research for this article and Update 7, I chanced on an interesting and brief article that well supports part of what I wrote about in Update 4: it is indeed possible to seriously injure or kill people simply by means of beating them with bare hands. It happens all the time. There is, in fact, substantial information on this topic, much of it gleaned from traffic accidents. By all means, visit Brian Palmer’s article at Slate. File this under: “things to keep in mind when narrative believers try to downplay the danger visited on Zimmerman.”