The George Zimmerman Case (Trayvon Martin)

I had my feelings the media rushed to judgment in this case from the start. Whether it was NBC doctoring of the non-emergency call from Zimmerman to police, for which a producer was fired. Or all of the media ignoring the first witnesses description of Trayvon Martin on top of Zimmerman beating him (this video was shot the day after the incident, with interview portions shot either that night or the night after):

John witnessed Trayvon on top of ZImmerman

The case was just too tidy and easy to wrap up in a little bow. Life is generally messier.

Just recently, I got a chance to look at the CNN transcripts of the Bail Hearing (1, 2, and 3) to see what evidence was presented in the bail hearing. I am a bit shocked at how little evidence one of the investigators who signed the probable cause affidavit actually had (probable cause to arrest ZImmerman on second degree murder, that is). It makes me wonder if there is really much evidence at all to support the charges. And, if not,

In transcript 2, Zimmerman’s Attorney questions Gilbreath, one of the investigators who determined there was probable cause to arrest Zimmerman for second degree murder. The basics of the story are:

1. George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin.

O’MARA: That he had an ice tea and a bag of Skittles, that he walked back into the gated community, he was on his way back when he was profiled by George Zimmerman. If I say to you the word peanut butter, what do you think?
O’MARA: OK, Moe, Larry and —
O’MARA: OK, when I say the word profiling, what do you think?
GILBREATH: I believe you’re applying a predetermined thought pattern to a set of circumstances.
O’MARA: No other word comes to mind when I say profiled to you?
GILBREATH: I gave you my answer, sir.
O’MARA: OK, I appreciate the answer. Did you consider it to be some specific type of profiling?
O’MARA: Why did you use the word profiling rather than noticed, observed, saw, or anything besides the very precise word profiled? And by the way, was that your word?
GILBREATH: I don’t recall. This was a collaborative answer — excuse me, collaborative document.

From the examination, the investigator admits there is no evidence of profiling. George Zimmerman may have profiled Trayvon Martin, but may have just called because he saw someone suspicious, as he contends.

2. George Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin.

O’MARA: Zimmerman confronted Martin, those words. Where did you get that from?
GILBREATH: That was from the fact that the two of them obviously ended up together in that dog walk area. According to one of the witnesses that we talked with, there were arguing words going on before this incident occurred. But it was between two people.
O’MARA: Which means they met. I’m just curious with the word confronted and what evidence you have to support an affidavit you want in this judge to rely on that these facts with true and you use the word confronted. And I want to know your evidence to support the word confronted if you have any.
GILBREATH: Well, it’s not that I have one. I probably could have used dirty words.
O’MARA: It is antagonistic word, would you agree?
GILBREATH: It could be considered that, yes.
O’MARA: Come up with words that are not antagonistic, met, came up to, spoke with.
GILBREATH: Got in physical confrontation with.
O’MARA: But you have nothing to support the confrontation suggestion, do you?
GILBREATH: I believe I answered it. I don’t know how much more explanation you wish.
O’MARA: Anything you have, but you don’t have any, do you?
GILBREATH: I think I’ve answered the question.

From the transcript, the investigator admits he does not know if George Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin or the other way around. We know George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin. From the tape, we know he followed him at least until the investigator told him not to. Some suggest he stopped running after that, evidenced by the change in his breathing. After that point, either Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin or Trayvon Martin confronted George Zimmerman.

3. Analysis reveals that the voice crying for help is Trayvon Martin:

O’MARA: Witnesses heard people arguing, sounded like a struggle. During this time, witnesses heard numerous calls for help. Some of this was recorded. Trayvon’s mom reviewed the 911 calls and identified the cry for help and Trayvon Martin’s voice. Did you do any forensic analysis on that voice tape?
O’MARA: Did you or are you aware of anything?
GILBREATH: The "Orlando Sentinel" had someone do it and the FBI has had someone do it.
O’MARA: Is that part of your investigation?
O’MARA: Has that given any insight as to the voice?

There is no evidence that the voice crying for help was Trayvon Martin. It may have been, but it could have been George Zimmerman, as his family contends.

3. George Zimmerman started a fight with Trayvon Martin

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So do you know who started the fight?
O’MARA: Right.
O’MARA: Do you have any evidence that supports who may have started the fight?

No evidence on who started the fight. It may have been George Zimmerman. It may have been Trayvon Martin.

Here is another interesting bit from the transcript:

O’MARA: That statement that he had given you — sorry, law enforcement that day, that we just talked about, turning around and that he was assaulted, do you have any evidence in your investigation to date that specifically contradicts either of those two pieces of evidence that were in his statement given several hours after the event?
GILBREATH: Which two?
O’MARA: That he turned back to his car. We’ll start with that one.
GILBREATH: I have nothing to indicate he did not or did not to that.
O’MARA: My question was do you have any evidence to contradict or that conflicts with his contention given before he knew any of the evidence that would conflict with the fact that he stated I walked back to my car?
O’MARA: No evidence. Correct?
GILBREATH: Understanding — are you talking about at that point in time?
O’MARA: Since. Today. Do you have any evidence that conflicts with his suggestion that he had turned around and went back to his car?
GILBREATH: Other than his statement, no.
O’MARA: Any evidence that conflicts with that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He answered it. He said no.
O’MARA: Any evidence that conflicts any eyewitnesses, anything that conflicts with the contention that Mr. Martin assaulted first?
GILBREATH: That contention that was given to us by him, other than filling in the figures being one following or chasing the other one, as to who threw the first blow, no.
O’MARA: Ok. Now, you know as one of the chief investigators that is the primary focus in this case, is it not?
GILBREATH: There are many focuses in this case.
O’MARA: That would be considered the primary, would it not, in your opinion, 35 years experience?
GILBREATH: I don’t know that it’s primary. It’s one of the concerns, yes.

And this

O’MARA: The injuries seem to be consistent with his story, though, don’t they?
Dale; The injuries are consistent with a harder object striking the back of his head than his head was.
O’MARA: Could that be cement?
GILBREATH: Could be.
O’MARA: Did you just say it was consistent or did you say it wasn’t consistent?
GILBREATH: I said it was.
O’MARA: Ok. Have you ever had your nose broken?
O’MARA: Have you ever had your nose fractured or broken.
O’MARA: You know that that was an injury that Mr. Zimmerman sustained, correct?
GILBREATH: I know that that is an injury that is reported to have sustained. I haven’t seen any medical records to indicate that.
O’MARA: Have you asked him for them?
GILBREATH: Have I asked him for them? No.
O’MARA: Do you want a copy of them?
O’MARA: I’ll give them to the state. It’s a more appropriate way to do it. If you haven’t had them yet, I don’t want to cross you on them.

This last part seems to fit the exclusive photo ABC news obtained:

And is seen in the video that ABC (and many other outlets) originally claimed did not show any injuries:


The state of Florida must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt to convict George Zimmerman of second degree murder.

  1. The victim is dead
  2. The death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant;
  3. There was an unlawful killing of the victim by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

Point 1 is easy to prove, as it is fairly evident Trayvon Martin is dead. Point 2 and 3 seem to hover around George Zimmerman starting the fight, for which the investigator has stated there is no evidence. Perhaps there is some evidence the investigator does not know about, but since he signed the probable cause document, it seems strange he is not able to definitively state there is evidence that George Zimmerman started the fight.

But, I am not certain even Zimmerman starting the confrontation is iron clad. In 1993, Eugene Baylis walked into a Colorado Springs bar on the corner of N Nevada Ave and E Filmore St to find a biker that he claimed shot him in the face with a pellet gun earlier that day. He carried with him an AK-47 and a 9mm pistol. After shooting the AK-47, he was knocked to the ground and the AK-47 was aimed at his face. The two holding him down stated they were going to kill him. So he pulled out a 9mm and shot the two guys on top of him. Jury decision: Self-defense.

Admittedly, that is a stretch and I was in Colorado Springs both when the shootings occurred and when the trial commenced. I was dumbfounded, but  the jury members questioned stated they agreed to the innocent finding because he was, at the moment he shot the two, fighting for his life. Now there seems to be even less evidence against Zimmerman than there was against Eugene Baylis.

I doubt the Zimmerman trial will go this way. But I believe it is going to be a long, hard ride unless there is more evidence than the investigator who signed the probable cause affidavit indicates. If this is all they have, I see no other way for this to turn out than Zimmerman being set free, unless the Prosecutors are really that good and the Defense attorney is not (he seems pretty sharp at this time).

Now, they could have chosen manslaughter, which has the following definitions:

Voluntary Manslaughter occurs when a person kills another in the heat of passion, without planning beforehand. The classical example is when a person finds their spouse having sex with another person and reacts immediately by killing.

Involuntary Manslaughter, also known as criminally negligent homicide, occurs when a death is an indirect result of recklessness or negligence. This occurs when a person runs a red light and hits another vehicle and a person is killed.

I think the state would have a better chance with manslaughter, but they either have to prove this is a heat of passion crime, which the evidence points against (unless there is more) or involuntary, in which they would have to prove negligence, which gets right back to proof that Zimmerman confronted Martin and not the other way around.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out and I would love to have all of the evidence the state has. I certainly hope it is more than the investigator is aware of, or this could be a travesty of justice like the Duke Lacrosse Team Case.

My main reason for this post was the media rush to judgment. I am not sure how it will turn out, but even a guilty finding does not acquit the media of such one-sided reporting. Just because you picked the right horse does not mean you accurately called the race.

Peace and Grace,

Twitter: @gbworld