A Further Perspective

The Trayvon Martin Nightmare

A shameful moment in civil rights history. 

By 4.19.12

Send to Kindle

The Martin-Zimmerman matter is a nightmare because of the way in which government officials, private citizens, and the media have made blunder after blunder in taking a sad situation and provoking it into a national and international catastrophe. Instead of acting as the leader of the nation and seeking to calm the situation, President Obama engaged in blatant racial pandering by saying the dead youngster would have looked like his son if he had one.

Attorney General Holder has been even worse and I assume that he is working with the active approval or indeed the encouragement of Mr. Obama and the White House staff. Of all the sins committed in recent months by the Obama-Holder Justice Department, one of the worst is the refusal to curb the blatant criminal activities of the New Black Panther Party. This hate group has taken to the Florida streets and has openly put a $10,000 bounty on the head of George Zimmerman, dead or alive. If the attorney general needs legal advice on what federal statutes have been violated by the Panthers, I will seek out some freshman law student in Washington and send him down the street to the Justice Department.

Such shameful racial pandering gets votes, lots of them. There is an important election coming in November. As a veteran of the original civil rights movement, I simply cannot believe that this is happening to the country that I love. I have the same angry, sad feeling that I had when I sat in a civil rights hearing in July 2010 and watched J. Christian Adams blow the whistle on in his former colleagues in the Civil Rights Division for their racist behavior in the performance of their official duties. The current disturbing actions of Messrs. Obama and Holder demonstrate that Adams' seminal book, Injustice, was sadly prophetic.

For many years in the distant past my specialty was investigating and reporting on police and mob brutality to blacks and other minorities. My investigations often were conducted in the hot sun of Mississippi or Alabama or in the cold of beautiful downtown Detroit as part of my duties as a federal civil rights official. Time after time I documented cases of such unlawful actions against innocent black citizens. (For what it is worth, I was helped in my Detroit investigations by a little known young black lawyer named John Conyers.) Moreover, on several occasions I confronted the brutal police and mob leaders and sought to convince them to curb their racist activities.

The available evidence in the Zimmerman-Martin case bears no resemblance to the actual cases of brutality that I documented. The evidence, to start with, reveals George Zimmerman to be a minority citizen who had black friends, including two young kids he mentored. Joe Oliver, a black friend with media experience, has felt impelled to come to his defense in the public forum, and continues to do so. No reliable evidence shows Zimmerman to be a violent bigot. No reliable evidence supports the notion, put forth by many black and white officials, that he hunted Martin down and shot him like a dog.

While other evidence may appear that will change my mind -- and it is evidence not wild hysterical charges that should rule here -- the current available evidence suggests that in his legal capacity as a neighborhood watch volunteer Zimmerman became concerned that Martin might have been one of the burglars who had been breaking into homes in that neighborhood. The two had some conversation and soon, according to Zimmerman, Martin hit him, knocked him down, and jumped on him. There was a struggle on the ground and Martin tried to get Zimmerman's pistol which was in a holster at his waist. Zimmerman somehow got his gun in his hand. One shot was fired and the young man died. That was indeed a tragedy but the evidence suggests that the shot was fired in self-defense.

Had George Zimmerman been intent on killing the young man, as many people have claimed, he could have taken his gun out and shot him several times from a safe distance. There is no evidence of that murderous intent. To the contrary, there is evidence that Zimmerman deeply regrets the shooting and is suffering from post-traumatic stress. He believes that his life has been ruined. Because of the massive number of threats on his life, including threats from the Black Panthers, he and some of his family members have been hiding and living in fear.

Think of that fact. An alleged assailant, a minority member who claimed he is innocent, has been hiding and living in fear of black mobs. In America. In the year 2012. Now, George Zimmerman has been charged by the special prosecutor, Angel Corey, with second degree murder and is in jail awaiting further proceedings.

WHILE THE FACTS OF THE CASE have been reviewed time and time again in the media, here and around the world, I have just gone back and looked at a few key pieces of objective fact that seem to have been forgotten in the racial hysteria.

Zimmerman claimed self-defense, a legal defense that has been in existence for centuries, long before the new stand-your-ground laws expanded on that defense. I have not found a single solid contrary fact that has been brought forth in all the emotional weeks since the sad death of Trayvon Martin. In her amateurish statement of probable cause for the second degree murder charge, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey did not cite a single such solid contrary fact. Her actions seem to be in response to the public protests and not to any new objective facts. It is just possible that Ms. Corey could be facing ethical charges like Mike Nifong, the ill-fated prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case.

In my experience the facts that come out soon after an incident occurs are usually the facts that tell the truth. Perry Mason moments are as rare as hen's teeth. Officer Timothy Smith arrived within minutes of the shooting. He wrote in his report: "Zimmerman stated that he had shot the subject [Martin] and he was still armed. Zimmerman complied with all of my verbal commands and was secured in handcuffs. Located on the inside of Zimmerman's waist band, I removed a black Kel Tek 9mm PF9 semi auto handgun and holster. 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 had been lying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head."

That report also stated, "Zimmerman was placed in the rear of my police vehicle and was given first aid by the SFD [Sanford Fire Department]. While the SFD was attending to Zimmerman, I overheard him state, 'I was yelling for someone to help me, but no one would help me.'"

These objective facts are fully supportive of Zimmerman's version of the incident. They have not been rebutted except by mass hysteria and by charges of racial discrimination on the part of police and prosecutors.

Zimmerman agreed to talk to the police investigators and even took a voice stress test while in custody. This is a type of lie detector test used by hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It was reported that Zimmerman's voice test came out clean.

Yet, there was a conflict in the opinions of the local law enforcement officials as to the proper course of action. Lead homicide investigator Chris Sereno said he did not believe Zimmerman's story and wanted to file an affidavit charging him with manslaughter. However, Police Chief Bill Lee and State Attorney Norman Wolfinger looked at the same set of facts and concluded that there was not enough evidence to support a conviction. Since Wolfinger was in the superior position, the case was dropped and Zimmerman was released. This action was consistent with centuries of Anglo-American legal traditions enshrining the presumption of innocence.

However, those centuries of traditions mean nothing in the current racial quagmire afflicting America and its legal system. Race hustlers Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the New Black Panthers soon took the lead in demanding that Zimmerman be arrested and jailed. It seemed as if the nation's social fabric was being torn asunder by racial hate and mob hysteria.

And where are our president, our attorney general, and the entire federal law enforcement community in this nightmare? They seem to be on the side of the mobs. Instead, they -- starting with Messrs. Obama and Holder -- should be saying that they understand American history and American legal traditions and they know that even if Zimmerman appeared to be guilty, the forces of justice would stand solidly in favor of fair and peaceful judicial process. They should be shouting out from the Rose Garden of the White House that the era of lynching is long dead and we will not let mobs of any color revive it, that we will protect the judicial process and we will protect Mr. Zimmerman -- with federal troops if necessary.

IN THE RECENT PAST the mobs were white and the objects of their hate were black, as at many efforts to integrate schools in compliance with court orders. National and local police and military forces were ordered out to hold the white mobs back. Now one of the main inciters of violence is Al Sharpton, our president's designated leader of outreach to the black community. Moreover, there seems to be no attempt to curb the Black Panthers, who a few years ago were also given favorable treatment by Mr. Holder's Justice Department. I repeat: this is a nightmare for all of us, including the millions of decent black citizens who will take years to recover from this trauma.

Brooding over this entire situation is the obscene level of black crime in America. That subject is too often ignored. Normally, it receives little national attention unless the assailants are white and the victims are black. Black leaders and liberal politicians routinely deny that the high level of black crime even exists. Numerically, as is well known, black on black crime is the sad rule. However, black on white crime frequently occurs, which was the case in another recent murder case in Florida, one that has been largely overlooked by the national media. It has also been ignored by President Obama and his entire administration.

The evidence in this case is not in dispute and it is truly a horrible racial hate crime. Last April, Shawn Tyson, black and aged 16, confronted two white British tourists in a Sarasota public housing neighborhood where Tyson lived. The young man was raised by a single mother; no father was in the house. The Britons were James Kouzaris, 24, and James Cooper, 25. Both were well-educated young professionals on a carefree holiday in Florida. It was early in the morning and both were quite drunk when they wandered into Tyson's area, the Old Projects in Newtown, a section of Sarasota. Tyson confronted them with a pistol and demanded money. When the two said they did not have any money, Tyson replied that he had "something for your ass." The young murderer bragged to friends later that when he started shooting, the victims started crying and pleaded for their lives. Tyson was unaffected by the pleas of the "crackers" and continued shooting until both were dead. At the trial, which concluded recently, virtually no defense was offered by Shawn Tyson. He was convicted and was immediately sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Paul Davies and Joe Hallett, friends of the murdered Britons, attended the trial and issued emotional statements about their dead friends and about the lack of compassion shown to their parents, particularly in light of the massive amount of compassion shown recently to the parents of Trayvon Martin. Davies said, "We would like to publicly express our dissatisfaction at the lack of any public or private message of support or condolence from any American governing body or, indeed, President Obama himself. Mr. Kouzaris [the father of one of the victims] has written to President Obama on three separate occasions and is yet to even receive the courtesy of a reply. It would perhaps appear that Mr. Obama sees no political value in facilitating such a request or that the lives of two British tourists are not worth ten minutes of his time."

Thus, there is tragedy and heartbreak all around us now. Our president should take the lead to defuse the mob mentality roiling our society. He should disarm and prosecute the Black Panthers. If nothing else, he must launch massive efforts to curb black crime, whether involving black victims or victims of other races. He must see to it that George Zimmerman and his family are provided with police or military protection. And of course it might be a nice idea if he called the parents of Cooper and Kouzaris and expressed his condolences for their tragic losses in our country. If our president cannot accomplish these civilized actions, he has finally and fully forfeited the trust of those who voted for him.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author
Arnold S. Trebach, J.D., Ph.D., the author of several books, is professor emeritus of public affairs, American University. He was involved as a front line protester in the original civil rights movement and has been a federal civil rights official.