Thursday, September 26, 2013

Perspectives on the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin shooting

By Massad Ayoob

The media told us a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain and wannabe cop with gun-derived courage was on patrol when he profiled a young child because he was black and wearing a hoodie, and that he stalked and gunned down the helpless youth out of sheer malicious bloodlust. The media trumpeted that theme so loudly that most of America believed it. When the killer was acquitted, there was national and even international outrage. It was a bandwagon made for anti-gunners to leap on, from the Brady Organization to the White House, and they jumped on it with more feet than a nest of spiders.

The trouble was, it wasn't like that at all. George Zimmerman had been named head of the watch group by his own neighbors. While he had considered a career in criminal justice and taken some classwork in that area, he had also been offered a quasi-police patrol car and uniform by the police department that coordinated with the Neighborhood Watch, and had turned it down. Zimmerman wasn't "on patrol" in his private vehicle on that proverbial dark and rainy night; the evidence showed he was simply driving to a Target store to buy some lunch makings for work that week.

En route, he observed a tall young man in a dark hoodie, the favored garb of the local "gangsta" set ... not hurrying home in the driving rain, but looking in windows and doing a convincing imitation of a burglar "casing" his next target. Eye contact was made, and Zimmerman reported to the dispatcher that the "suspect" was running away. The dispatcher asked in what direction the man was running, and where the responding officer should meet Zimmerman, the complainant. In a large development of look-alike homes, Zimmerman wasn't sure what street he was on and couldn't see a street sign. Also indoctrinated by Neighborhood Watch training to be "the eyes and ears" of the authorities — and literally talking to "the voice of authority," the police dispatcher — he stepped out of his car to reconnoiter so he could answer both questions. As he moved in the direction where the man in the hoodie had disappeared, the dispatcher asked if he was following that person. Zimmerman replied in the affirmative. The dispatcher told him he didn't have to do that, and the evidence shows that Zimmerman then stopped following and headed back toward his vehicle.

Meanwhile, Trayvon Martin was talking to a female friend on his Android, telling her a "creepy ass cracka'" was following him, but Trayvon had lost the "nigga," and he was close to the unit where he was staying. Minutes passed ... and, the timeline showed, during those minutes Trayvon Martin had to have moved away from his nearby safe haven and toward Zimmerman's position. If he was afraid, why didn't Martin call police with the phone already in his hand ... or simply, "go home?"

Zimmerman said he was confronted and then attacked, his testimony consistent with the last words Martin's female friend heard before his phone went dead. Neighbors heard — and one neighbor clearly saw — the struggle. Someone was screaming piteously for help. There was a single shot. The screaming stopped.

Police arrived a minute later.

Trayvon Martin, 17, was dead, killed by a single 115 grain 9mm Sellier & Bellot hollow point bullet fired from the Kel-Tec PF9 pistol of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was well-bloodied, his nose smeared across his face, the back of his head lacerated from where he said Martin had been smashing his skull against the sidewalk after knocking him down with a powerful punch to the face, followed by a rain of blows and a mixed martial arts "mount." Testimony of the key eyewitness was consistent with Martin atop Zimmerman. The only injuries on Martin were the single gunshot wound and knuckle scraping consistent with him giving, not taking, a beating.

All this, the jury knew. The cops who chose not to arrest him, knew more, and the lawyers who brilliantly defended Zimmerman knew even better by time of trial. He was no racist; an FBI investigation prior to his trial showed Zimmerman had mentored black kids, and had black friends. He was part black himself on his mother's side. A lie-detector test (voice stress analysis) shortly after the shooting showed Zimmerman to be telling the truth.

At time of death, Martin, a regular pot smoker and apparently a drug dealer as well, was enamored of a narcotic concoction called "lean" or "purple drank," made by mixing cough syrup with candy like Skittles and fruit cocktails like the Arizona Watermelon drink that the media turned into "iced tea" because they couldn't bear to connect watermelons and black people. Martin had a history of street-fighting and of being dissatisfied that one victim didn't bleed enough, and had been negotiating to illegally buy a handgun. There had also been suspicion of burglary prior. This sort of thing was what got him kicked out of school in the Miami area, and which convinced his good Mom to send him to his Dad out of tough love, which is why Trayvon Martin was in Sanford in the first place. None of this information, gleaned from Martin's cell phone and other sources, ever made it to the jury: the judge ruled that since Zimmerman didn't know it, it was not germane to his decision to shoot, for which he was being judged.

But what the jury did know was enough. Following isn't stalking. Being followed isn't justification for trying to literally beat a man's brains out. Having your skull smashed into hard surfaces is likely to kill you, and the universal laws of man and God allow you to kill your attacker to make him stop doing that to you. The forensic evidence and the bulk of the testimony alike were consistent with Zimmerman's account of self-defense. The state's witnesses, one after the other, turned into defense witnesses. In the end, the state's theory amounted to ... nothing.

That prosecution theory, in turn, evolved from the media ... and, tracked back further, the media's fantasy of what happened evolved from a brilliant left-wing public relations firm hired by the lawyer who was hired by the family of the deceased. For more information on this, see my July 2013 entries in the blog at www.backwoodshome/blogs/massadayoob.

The PR folks outraged the media, and the media inflamed the public. Enraged people, once invested in their emotion, have trouble facing contradictory facts and evidence. Fortunately, the Zimmerman jury recognized the facts, and the evidence. They — like the original investigating officers who believed Zimmerman, like the original prosecutor who saw no reason to prosecute, like the FBI agents who investigated Zimmerman and found no hint of racism, and like the member of the Special Prosecutor's office who was fired for doing what prosecutors are supposed to do and turning over exculpatory evidence to the defense — did Justice.

"What do we tell our kids after this?" How about we tell them not to do drugs and not to violently, illegally assault people? Tell them to call 9-1-1 as soon as they perceive a threat? And perhaps we should warn them too that if they defend themselves from life-threatening assault, they should be prepared to face the misdirected, powerful wrath of the clueless and politically driven ... a powerful force being directed against George Zimmerman from multiple angles even now, at this writing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Some Trayvon Martin background

As thousands of people gathered here to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry.

The Miami Gardens teen who has become a national symbol of racial injustice was suspended three times, and had a spotty school record that his family’s attorneys say is irrelevant to the facts that led up to his being gunned down on Feb. 26.

In October, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera in an unauthorized area “hiding and being suspicious.” Then he said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with “W.T.F” — an acronym for “what the f---.” The officer said he found Trayvon the next day and went through his book bag in search of the graffiti marker.

Instead the officer reported he found women’s jewelry and a screwdriver that he described as a “burglary tool,” according to a Miami-Dade Schools Police report obtained by The Miami Herald. Word of the incident came as the family’s lawyer acknowledged that the boy was suspended in February for getting caught with an empty bag with traces of marijuana, which he called “irrelevant” and an attempt to demonize a victim.

Trayvon’s backpack contained 12 pieces of jewelry, in addition to a watch and a large flathead screwdriver, according to the report, which described silver wedding bands and earrings with diamonds.

Trayvon was asked if the jewelry belonged to his family or a girlfriend.  “Martin replied it’s not mine. A friend gave it to me,” he responded, according to the report. Trayvon declined to name the friend.

Trayvon was not disciplined because of the discovery, but was instead suspended for graffiti, according to the report. School police impounded the jewelry and sent photos of the items to detectives at Miami-Dade police for further investigation.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Margaret Thatcher's proudest moment was saving an Austrian Jew
When Margaret Thatcher passed away today, the tributes began pouring in from all over the world. Mrs. Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister, serving for 11 years starting in 1979. Known as the Iron Lady, she was a strong Conservative who changed England’s perspective on its economic and political life.

Despite her many impressive accomplishments, including fighting the Soviet communist regime, Thatcher said that her proudest moment was when she saved a Jewish teenager from Austria during the Holocaust.

In 1938, Edith Muhlbauer, a 17-year-old Jewish girl, sent a letter to Muriel Roberts, Edith’s pen pal and the older sister of Margaret Thatcher, asking if the Roberts family could help her escape from Austria. The Nazis had started rounding up Jews from Vienna and Edith knew it was just a matter of time before she would be among them.

Alfred Roberts, the father of Muriel and Margaret, was a grocer in a small town. They lived in a cold water flat above the grocery with an outhouse; the Roberts did not have the time or the money to bring Edith to their home. So Margaret, then 12 and Muriel, 17, decided to try raising money and asking the local Rotary club to help. They succeeded in bringing Edith to England where she stayed with several Rotary families, including the Roberts for the next two years before joining relatives in South America.

Edith slept in Margaret’s room and Thatcher later wrote in her memoir: “She was tall, beautiful, evidently from a well to do family. But most important, she told us what it was like to live as a Jew under an anti-Semitic regime. One thing Edith reported particularly stuck in my mind. The Jews, she said, were being made to scrub the streets.”

In 1995, after Edith had been located in Brazil, she told audiences, “Never hesitate to do whatever you can for you may save a life.”

Edith is now a Jewish grandmother in Sao Paolo who says that she owes her life and the life of her children and grandchildren to Margaret Thatcher’s family. When Thatcher visited Yad Vashem during a historic, first visit to Israel by a British prime minister in 1986, she was visibly shaken as she stood in front of a photo of a German soldier shooting a Jewish mother and child.

She exclaimed, “It is so terrible. Everyone should come and see it so that they never forget. I am not quite sure whether the new generation really knows what we are fighting against.”

Thatcher continued to be a loyal friend to the Jews as she fought the British support for the Arab boycott of Israel, protested on behalf of Jewish refuseniks in the Soviet Union and chose several Jewish leaders to be part of her cabinet. Thatcher admired the hard work and self-reliance of the British Jewish community and frequently turned to England’s late chief rabbi, Immanuel Jakobovits for spiritual back up. She even elevated Rabbi Jakobovits to the House of the Lords and he later became known as “Thatcher’s rabbi.”

Thatcher also made the following statement about Israel’s security: “Israel must never be expected to jeopardize her security; if she was ever foolish enough to do so and then suffered for it, the backlash against both honest brokers and Palestinians would be immense - ‘land for peace’ must also bring peace.”

Thatcher spoke up with such courage and strength because as she described herself, “This lady is not for turning.” When she believed in an ideal, whether it was transforming the British economy or saving a terrified Jew from Austria, she was not afraid to follow through, even if she had to stand up against popular opinions to do so.

There were so many reasons why twelve year old Margaret and her sister could have thrown up their hands in despair and stuffed Edith’s letter into a drawer in their tiny, freezing apartment. They had no money, no power and no idea how they would be able to rescue this terrified girl that they had never met. But they believed that they could and should do everything that they can to help. They knew even then that there was room in the world for great leaders, even if they were only twelve years old and living above a small town grocery store with no hot water.

We pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher for her friendship and work with the Jewish people. For her wise words and inspiring courage. And for teaching us, that above all else, the greatest achievement in life is sometimes not one that earns you a trophy or money or even a powerful position. Sometimes it’s the quiet, determined accomplishments that no one hears about until years later.