George Zimmerman was released today, Friday, on a $150,000 bond. He is required to wear an ankle bracelet tracking his location.
The hearing revealed new evidence on accusations against Zimmerman of prior violence. While interviewing Zimmerman’s current wife, the state prosecutor read from an affidavit by his former girlfriend. She alleged in the sworn statement that he “pushed her,” then slapped her with an open hand to the mouth and “asked her how it felt.” She said he “picked me up and threw me on the bed” and then “grabbed me again.” Zimmerman’s wife responded that her husband was simply trying to “protect himself from being attacked by her.”
Zimmerman today apologized to the Martin family, though also said “I did not know if [Trayvon] was armed or not.”
The Trayvon Martin case has divided America, largely along racial lines. A USA Today Gallup poll found that most blacks believe that Zimmerman is guilty of a crime and that racial bias was a major factor in the shooting, and the events that led up to it, and that he would have been arrested if he had shot a white person. The numbers are the opposite for whites, only about a third believed that racial bias was a factor or that Zimmerman would have been arrested if the person he shot was white.
America’s Real ‘Race Baiters’
“Mob justice rules the day.” That was the reaction on just one leading right-wing website to the news of the arrest of George Zimmerman.
It was a common theme. Speculation that the charges are “unethical”, claims that — somehow — a Republican prosecutor appointed by a Republican Governor was being forced into charges by anyone from Al Sharpton up to and including the President himself, or claims that prosecutor Angela Corey just wants the limelight.
That Zimmerman is innocent until proven otherwise goes without saying, but Corey obviously believes she has a case and there is more than enough evidence in the public arena to support that she might well have enough beyond reasonable doubt. But that is might.
I recommend this going over of all the evidence by blogger Booman. It comes back to a point made by others — what happened in the 60 seconds prior to the shot being fired. Clearly Corey believes she can prove what happened and, no, she is not (this is another right-wing meme) required to prove that in the initial affidavit.
What Zimmerman’s surrogates have been saying has changed over time. We need to hear from Zimmerman himself, and hear whatever other evidence his defense team has, that Zimmerman had some reason to fear for his life.
In their media campaigning, his former lawyers repeatedly accused the family and their supporters of ‘racializing’ the case. That tone from those directly involved with Zimmerman appears to thankfully be over, with Zimmerman’s new lawyer dampening down speculation about the case as well as extending his hand to Martin’s parents. However, we are still hearing threats from the right of a “race war” — and politicization by linking it to the general election.
The heat brought light
“Mob justice” looks like, to put it mildly, a nasty insult when viewed next to the reactions of Trayvon Martin’s parents. They took their calm message of ‘all we want is an arrest’ everywhere — even into Bill O’Reilly’s ‘No spin zone.’
Both the parents and those who have been working for them, including civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton, have consistently called for justice — not Zimmerman’s head. Since the arrest, Martin’s parents have made clear they will accept whatever the judicial outcome is.
Watch Al Sharpton ‘This was about one thing, justice’:
That campaigning for justice is why Angela Corey is prosecuting Zimmerman and why the case will end up in a court room. The police chief made it crystal clear that just because Zimmerman said ‘self defense,’ he believed he had to let him walk and the first prosecutor dismissed the police request for a prosecution. It was the campaign of Martin’s parents which led to the release of the 911 tapes, which exploded media interest, and then led Florida Governor Rick Scott to replace the first prosecutor and draft in Corey — who has an extremely tough reputation as a victims advocate and has one of the nation’s highest rates for getting the death penalty.
The opposition to the Martin family’s dignified campaign has been the real ‘race baiting.’ It was once the President said “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon” that Fox and right-wing blogs stepped up the divisiveness and the taking of sides. It has resulted in a highly polarized reaction to the charges against Zimmerman between black and white Americans, and those who are encouraging it on the right know full well why they are doing it.
Page 2: Care2 members’ thoughts, cover-up of Trayvon’s pictures and Stand Your Ground laws >>
“Trayvon was a thug.” This is an actual comment from a Care2 member.
Such thinking has resulted from a shameless campaign by influential right wing news sites to paint Trayvon that way. Some of the misinformation has even originated from trashing efforts by white supremacists, other stories selectively leaked from a Sanford police department under fire.
The New York Times demolished the selective picking from Trayvon’s social media feeds. They ignored of pictures of Trayvon holding up a birthday cake with his name on it, fishing with his father, dressed in a suit for his prom, and looking excited to inspect an aircraft engine.
The right has called the protests about the case a distraction from other crimes, claimed falsely that communities are failing to protest gun violence, endlessly referred to “black on black” crime to suggest that blacks are somehow more prone to violence — which is untrue, yet so widely fixed that even African Americans have come to believe it.
Guns and laws
One of the highlights of Corey’s press conference was her saying she will “fight” any immunity request using the ‘stand your ground’ law. Before the law was passed in Florida, there was a near united front among police and prosecutors that the law was a bad idea, so her attitude is not surprising.
That front was not enough to defeat a legislature in fear of the NRA, but the new focus on this law — which even Bill O’Reilly has expressed disquiet with — alongside the growing pushback against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the conservative group responsible for pushing ‘stand your ground’ laws in state legislatures for the NRA, is a good sign.
In a little noticed commentary last week, a veteran’s group examined how the law actually gives far more latitude to American civilians to shoot people and face no consequences than soldiers in war zones. The army rules of engagement requires a whole series of tests to be met before lethal force can be used, which this law does not.
Of course, the actual application of the law in practice suggests even more leniency. People shot in the back while fleeing, people pursued and shot, gang members chasing and killing other gang members, the law failing to protect blacks or other minorities who are defending themselves — despite what its defenders say, the law has been applied by judges in all those cases to set killers free.
Bill Cosby, when asked about this case, did not say it was about race, he said it was about guns. Cosby lost a son to guns, so he’s not a disinterested observer. And he’s plainly right. No gun would have made it far less likely there would have been a death.
But this is in a state where Zimmerman, despite having been arrested for an altercation with a police officer and having had a protective order entered against him for domestic violence, had been granted a concealed carry permit under Florida’s lenient system.
Picture: CNN screengrab