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George Zimmerman

 

George Michael Zimmerman was born on October 5, 1983, in Manassas, Virginia,[34] and is the son of Gladys (née Mesa) Zimmerman, who was born in Peru,[35] and Robert Zimmerman, Sr., a retired Virginia magistrate.[36][37] He was raised as a Catholic,[35] in a family that his father has described as "multiracial"; his father is a White American of German descent[38] and his mother is Peruvian with some black ancestry through her Afro-Peruvian maternal grandfather.[35][Note 3] Zimmerman's voter registration record lists him as Hispanic and a registered Democrat.[39][40]
 
Zimmerman's height is reportedly 5′ 7″ (1.70 m); and his weight is recorded as being 185 lb (84 kg) on his Seminole County Sheriff's Office Inmate Booking Information dated April 11, 2012, the date of his arrest.[33] Zimmerman's height is shown as 5′8″ (1.73 m); and his weight at 200 lb (91 kg) on the Sanford Police Department Offense Report for February 26, 2012, the night of the shooting.[41]
At the time of the shooting, Zimmerman was employed as an insurance underwriter and was in his final semester at Seminole State College for an associate degree in Criminal Justice.[35][42] In one of his interviews with police he stated his goal was to become a judge.[43]
In early 2011, Zimmerman participated in a citizen forum at the Sanford City Hall, to protest the beating of a black homeless man by the son of a white Sanford police officer. During the meeting, Zimmerman called the behavior of officers on duty "disgusting" and detailed officers napping while on duty and refusing to take on difficult assignments.[44]
Zimmerman and his wife moved to The Retreat at Twin Lakes in 2009.[24][25]
 
In 2005, at the age of 21, Zimmerman was charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, after shoving an officer while a friend of Zimmerman's was being questioned about underage drinking. The charges were reduced, then dropped when Zimmerman entered a pre-trial diversion program. Also in 2005, Zimmerman's ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence. Zimmerman requested a reciprocal restraining order. Both orders were granted.[35][45] The incidents were raised by prosecutors at Zimmerman's initial bond hearing. The judge described the incidents as "run of the mill" and "somewhat mild" and rejected the prosecution's claim that the incidents demonstrated that Zimmerman was violent or a threat to the community.[35][46][47]

Sanford Police Department

Bill Lee had been chief of the Sanford Police Department for ten months when the shooting occurred.[48] Prior to Lee becoming chief, the department had been accused of protecting relatives of police officers involved in violent incidents with blacks, and the Martin case increased distrust between the police and Sanford's black community.[49]
 
On March 22, Chief Lee temporarily stepped down from his position because of public criticism over his handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting.[48] In April, the Sanford City Commission refused to accept Lee's resignation and stated that "Lee's spotless record showed there needed to be further review to determine if he failed in his duties." Lee was fired on June 20, 2012 by Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte.[50] Lee responded by saying "I continue to stand by the work performed by the Sanford Police Department in this tragic shooting, which has been plagued by misrepresentations and false statements for interests other than justice."[51]
 
On June 26, 2012, the lead investigator of the case, Christopher Serino, was transferred out of the Sanford Police Department's investigative unit and reassigned to the patrol division at his own request.[52] Serino said he felt pressured by several of his fellow police officers to press charges on Zimmerman when he believed there was not enough evidence to do so, and that one of the officers pressuring him was a friend of Martin's father.[53]
In September 2012, Orlando TV station WFTV released a memo from the interim police chief Richard Myers blaming the police department spokesman, Sgt. David Morgenstern, for mishandling the Travyon Martin case and removed him from his spokesperson position

George Zimmerman's account of events

On the advice of his legal counsel, Zimmerman did not speak to the media after the shooting.[160] The statements he gave to police investigators were publicly released on June 21, 2012, when Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, published his written and recorded statements on Zimmerman's legal defense web site.[161][162][163] Prior to the release of the statements, the only publicly available information about Zimmerman's version of the incident came from interviews with some of his family members and friends and from leaks to the news media by sources inside the investigation, and his recorded phone call to 9-1-1. Zimmerman maintained his public silence until he was interviewed by Sean Hannity of Fox News on July 18, 2012.[164][165] According to early news reports on the incident, on the night of the shooting, and afterwards, Zimmerman described in detail for investigators what took place.[166][167][168][169]
 
Zimmerman said he was driving to the grocery store when he spotted Trayvon Martin walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman's father said that, while his son was not on duty that night as Neighborhood Watch captain, there had been many break-ins and he thought it suspicious that someone he didn't recognize was walking behind the town homes instead of on the street or the sidewalk. Zimmerman therefore called a non-emergency police line to report Martin's behavior and summon police.[170][171] During the call, Zimmerman told the dispatcher that Martin was "coming to check me out."[77] A source to the Orlando Sentinel said in May that Zimmerman told investigators that at one point Martin circled his vehicle,[Note 7] and he rolled up his window to avoid a confrontation.[167][172]
 
After telling the police dispatcher that Martin "ran",[173] Zimmerman left his vehicle to determine his location and ascertain in which direction Martin had fled.[167][174] The dispatcher asked if Zimmerman was following Martin, and Zimmerman replied "Yeah." Then the dispatcher said, "OK, we don't need you to do that." Zimmerman replied with "OK" and stated that Martin got away.[173] After a discussion about where Zimmerman would meet police, the call ended, and Zimmerman told investigators he was returning to his vehicle when Martin approached him from his left rear and confronted him.[167][168] According to Zimmerman, Martin then punched him in the face, knocking him down, and began beating his head against the sidewalk.[167][168]
 
Zimmerman said he called out for help while being beaten, and at one point Martin covered his mouth to muffle the screams.[167][168] According to Zimmerman's father, during the struggle while Martin was on top of Zimmerman, Martin saw the gun his son was carrying and said something to the effect of "You're gonna die now" or "You're gonna die tonight" and continued to beat Zimmerman.[166] Zimmerman and Martin struggled over the gun, and Zimmerman shot Martin once in the chest at close range, in self-defense.[167][168][169][Note 8]
On June 21, 2012, Zimmerman's attorneys released audiotapes of several interviews he had with police shortly after the shooting. Also included were Zimmerman's written statement of February 26, 2012, and video recordings of his reenactment of the incident and a voice stress test that he passed.[161][163][175][176][177]
 
In the interviews, Zimmerman says he took note of Martin because he was near a home that he had previously called police about. He also said "he was just walking casually, not like he was trying to get out of the rain," and he felt "something was off" about Martin.[172]
 
Zimmerman said he left his truck to find a street sign so he would be able to tell the police dispatcher where he was. He told investigators that he was not following Martin but was "just going in the same direction he was" to find an address, but admitted that he had also left his truck to try to see in which direction Martin had gone.[174] The altercation began, he said, when Martin suddenly appeared while Zimmerman was walking back to his vehicle. He described Martin at different points in the interviews as appearing "out of nowhere," "from the darkness," and as "jump[ing] out of the bushes."[174][175] Zimmerman said that Martin asked, "You got a fucking problem, homie?" Zimmerman replied no, then Martin said "You got a problem now" and punched Zimmerman.[178]
 
 As they struggled on the ground, Zimmerman on his back with Martin on top of him, Zimmerman yelled for help "probably 50 times." (See Background sounds of yelling for help in 9-1-1 calls) Martin told him to "Shut the fuck up," as he hit him in the face and pounded his head on a concrete sidewalk.[175] When Zimmerman tried to move off the concrete, Martin saw his gun and said "You're going to die tonight motherfucker!" Martin grabbed for the gun, but Zimmerman grabbed it first. He said after firing his weapon at Martin, he was not sure at first that he had hit him, so he got on top of him in order to subdue him.[174][174][175] Bystanders and police arrived shortly after Martin was shot.[179][180]
 
Police reports state Zimmerman "appeared to have a broken and a bloody nose and swelling of his face." Zimmerman was offered three chances to be taken to the hospital, but Zimmerman declined each time, according to police reports released by the prosecution.[179] ABC News reported that a medical report compiled by the family physician of George Zimmerman showed that, following the altercation with Martin, Zimmerman was diagnosed with a closed fracture of his nose, two black eyes, lacerations to the back of his head, a minor back injury, and bruising in his upper lip and cheek.[181]
 
In the course of Zimmerman's recorded interviews, Detective Chris Serino questioned aspects of Zimmerman's account, such as Zimmerman's statement that he didn't know the name of a street in the Twin Lakes community where he had lived for three years. Zimmerman said in response that he had a bad memory and takes medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.[172] Investigators also questioned the extent of his injuries and why he didn't identify himself to Martin as a Neighborhood Watch coordinator. Zimmerman said he didn't want to confront Martin.[172][175]
On June 26, 2012, the prosecution released the results of a voice stress test performed on George Zimmerman the day after the shooting.[182][183] A voice stress test is a type of test used to measure deceptive or psychological stress in the human voice in response to questions.[184] Zimmerman was asked, "Did you confront the guy you shot?", to which Zimmerman answered, "No." Zimmerman was asked, "Were you in fear for your life, when you shot the guy?", to which Zimmerman answered, "Yes."[182] The examiner concluded that Zimmerman "told substantially the complete truth" in the examination, and Zimmerman was classified as "No Deception Indicated (NDI)" according to the report.[182]
 
During a bond hearing on April 20, 2012, Investigator Dale Gilbreath testified under oath that he did not know whether Zimmerman or Martin started the fight and that there is no evidence to contradict Zimmerman's claim that he was walking back to his vehicle when Martin confronted him. Gilbreath, however, questioned Zimmerman's statement that Martin was slamming his head against the sidewalk just before he shot the teenager, saying it was "not consistent with the evidence we found."[185][186][187] Gilbreath was one of two investigators who attested to the facts stated in the probable cause affidavit.[188]
Legal analysts at the time stated that Zimmerman's credibility could become an issue at trial and that Zimmerman's claim of self-defense rested on whether the jury could trust him "as a reporter of the facts".[189][190] Douglas Keene, a trial consultant and forensic psychologist, stated that in a self-defense case, a jury has to decide "whether or not someone can be trusted to have used good judgment. Credibility is always a paramount issue in any trial," he said.[189]
 
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who has criticized Special Prosecutor Angela Corey's handling of the case, said he believes that the video reenactment of the incident would help Zimmerman during a trial if it were submitted as evidence and shown to a jury, but he was not sure that it would be. Without going into detail, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump referred to several alleged inconsistencies between Zimmerman's written statement and his recorded call to the police dispatcher.[174]

Zimmerman's first media interview

On July 18, 2012, Zimmerman, accompanied by his attorney Mark O'Mara, gave his first long media interview to Sean Hannity. Part of the interview appeared on Hannity that evening. During the interview he said that he did not regret his actions on the night of the shooting, but he also said, "I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn't have put me in the position where I had to take his life. I want to tell everyone, my wife, my family, my parents, grandmother, the Martins, the city of Sanford and America: I'm sorry that this happened. I'm truly sorry."[164][165][191]
When Hannity asked Zimmerman why his suspicions were aroused when he noticed Martin, Zimmerman replied in part:
“I felt he was suspicious because it was raining. He was in-between houses, cutting in-between houses, and he was walking very leisurely for the weather. ... It didn't look like he was a resident that went to check their mail and got caught in the rain and was hurrying back home. He didn't look like a fitness fanatic that would train in the rain.”[192][193]
Following the interview with Hannity, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey filed formal notice that she intends to use the interview as evidence against Zimmerman.[194] According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman's story differed in at least two details[clarification needed] from previous versions of what he said happened the night he shot Martin.[194] Florida defense lawyers said it was a mistake for Zimmerman to do a TV interview and discuss what happened that night. One of them said, "It's really baffling what he thought he'd gain from it. I question who's in charge of the defense strategy, Zimmerman or O'Mara".[194]
Martin's parents said they don't accept Zimmerman's apology for killing their son.[195] Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said she doubted that Zimmerman's apology was sincere. "I have a hard time accepting it because he also said that he doesn't regret anything that he did that night..." Fulton stated.[196]

Prosecution's account of events

The prosecution's account was largely contained in the affidavit of probable cause filed on April 11, 2012, in support of second-degree murder charges against Zimmerman. A conviction of second-degree murder could have resulted in Zimmerman receiving a prison term of 25 years to life.[1] The affidavit stated that it did not contain a complete recitation of facts, but presented only the facts to support probable cause for second-degree murder charges. Judge Mark Herr ruled that the affidavit was legally sufficient to establish probable cause.[197] The affidavit described what investigators alleged took place between Zimmerman and Martin on the night of the shooting.[188][198][199][200]
 
The affidavit stated that Martin was walking back from a nearby 7-Eleven store to the townhouse where he was temporarily living when Zimmerman profiled Martin, who was unarmed and not committing a crime.[188][198] Prosecutors stated that Zimmerman was driving in his vehicle when he observed Martin and assumed he was a criminal.[198] Feeling that Martin did not belong in the gated community where Zimmerman lived, he called the police to request an officer to respond, because he perceived that Martin was acting suspiciously.[188][198] Investigators said the dispatcher told Zimmerman an officer was on the way and to wait for him.[188][198] In the call, Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had gotten away with break-ins in the neighborhood, and while talking about Martin, stated "these assholes, they always get away" and also said "these fucking punks".[188][198][200]
 
According to investigators, while Zimmerman was speaking with police, Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening. She said that Martin was scared because he was being followed by an unknown male and didn't know why.[198][200] Investigators said that Martin attempted to run home, but Zimmerman followed him, because he didn't want Martin whom he falsely assumed was going to commit a crime, to get away before the police arrived.[198][199] When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he told Zimmerman that was unnecessary and that an officer would meet him.[188] Prosecutors stated that Zimmerman ignored the dispatcher's instruction and continued pursuing Martin on foot.[197] Investigators said Zimmerman then confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.[188][198]
 
The affidavit described witness accounts of hearing people arguing, what sounded like a struggle, and yells for help that were recorded in the 9-1-1 calls to police.[198] According to prosecutors, Martin's mother reviewed the 9-1-1 calls to police and identified the voice crying for help as her son.[188][201] (See Background sounds of yelling for help in 9-1-1 calls) When police arrived at the scene, Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin in the chest.[188][198] An assistant medical examiner conducted an autopsy and determined that Martin had died from the gunshot.[188][198]
 
Legal analysts have criticized the prosecution for over-charging Zimmerman, claiming that the probable cause affidavit does not support a charge of second-degree murder.[202][203] Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz claims that the probable cause affidavit may be perjurious if Special Prosecutor Angela Corey knowingly omitted facts favorable to Zimmerman's self-defense claims.[202]
Richard Kuritz, a former prosecutor who worked with Angela Corey, said the state attorney had no obligation to include exculpatory evidence in the affidavit. He stated that Dershowitz could face civil action for making accusations that Corey committed a crime. "To suggest that she's committing any crime, Dershowitz is way off on that", Kuritz said.[204].[54]
 
 
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