Was Zimmerman told to stay in his car?

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2013

The pundit corps’ favorite fake fact: It’s now the norm in our broken culture:

Dishonest elites invent fake facts about every high-profile topic. Everyone ends up reciting these facts, even though they are bogus.

Here are the three most basic facts about the killing of Trayvon Martin. If you can memorize these statements, you too can be a big pundit:
George Zimmerman was told to stay in his car.
Trayvon Martin was armed with nothing but Skittles and iced tea.
Martin was an innocent child who did nothing wrong.

If you can memorize those remarks, you too can be a major pundit! Sadly, though, the first of those statements is false.

We thought it might be worth laying out the basis for that assessment. For our first example, consider the way the New York Times described the events in question in its mammoth report about this matter in April 2012.

The report ran 4852 words. The byline named eleven reporters, including Dan Barry:
BARRY (4/2/12): ''Hey, we've had some break-ins in my neighborhood,'' Mr. Zimmerman said to start the conversation with the dispatcher. ''And there's a real suspicious guy.''

This guy seemed to be up to no good; like he was on drugs or something; in a gray hoodie. Asked to describe him further, he said, ''He looks black.''

''Now he's just staring at me,'' he said.


Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that this ''suspicious guy'' was in his late teens, with something in his hands. He asked how long it would be before an officer arrived, because ''These assholes, they always get away.''

Mr. Zimmerman's father said that what largely aroused his son's suspicion was how this person was walking close to the town houses, and not on the sidewalk or in the street. Perhaps someone up to no good—or, perhaps, someone disoriented in a maze of identical structures, ducking the rain and looking for the house he had left less than an hour before.

Around the same time, Trayvon told the girlfriend he was talking to by cellphone that somebody was watching him, according to Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for Trayvon's family. The lawyer said that the girl, whose name has not been released, said she told Trayvon to run—and that Trayvon responded by saying: ''I'm going to walk fast.''

Mr. Zimmerman told the dispatcher that the hooded figure was now running. He jumped out of his car to follow him, the beep-beep of his car, as recorded on the 911 call, announcing the instant that he moved beyond his understood mandate as neighborhood watch coordinator.

The wind could be heard whooshing through Mr. Zimmerman's cellphone as he tried to keep the visitor in view. Also heard is a garbled epithet that some have interpreted to be a racial slur, though his father insisted that his son would never say anything like that.

Dispatcher: ''Are you following him?''

Mr. Zimmerman: ''Yeah.''

Dispatcher: ''O.K., we don't need you to do that.”

Mr. Zimmerman: ''O.K.''

He and the dispatcher arranged for Mr. Zimmerman to meet a police officer near the mailboxes at the development's clubhouse, and the call ended with a ''thank you'' and a ''you're welcome."
According to the Times’ account, Zimmerman exited the car; his car’s beep-beep helped make that clear. When the dispatcher could hear the wind in Zimmerman’s cellphone, he asked him if he was following Martin.

Two weeks earlier, Mother Jones had described the events the same way. For that account, click here.

For Jacob Sullum’s account at Reason, click this.

The Associated Press first reported the sequence on April 12, 2012: “A dispatcher told Zimmerman he didn't need to follow Martin after Zimmerman got out of his truck and started pursuing the teen.”

Is it possible that these people all got it wrong? Everything is possible! But here’s a question with an obvious answer:

Why didn’t prosecutors constantly say, during Zimmerman’s trial, that he was told to stay in his car?

Because he wasn’t told to stay in his car! The exchange in question came later, as he was trying to follow Martin on foot.

By now, of course, the bogus fact is about to be carved on Mount Rushmore. This is the way your culture has worked for several decades now.

Everyone in the professional “press corps” acts as if this makes perfect sense. Name the scribe who has said a word about this astonishing practice.

The culture of fake fact is strong. All your heroes accept it.

Tomorrow: Judy Woodruff, potted plant


  1. Replies
    1. Go to hell, Troll, these columns are superb.

    2. You tell em, Bob.

  2. So Somerby demonstrates, for the nth time, that when told not to pursue Martin, Zimmerman was NOT in his car, but was ACTIVELY PURSUING Martin, and that the dispatcher, suspecting as much, advised him to stop. While this point may prove that the reporting was/is lazy and sloppy, as it is on every issue of the time, one might ask, how much attention is it really worth?

    Of course, the reporting remains of poor quality, even if the matter is of far less consequence than Somerby's narrative requires. Then again, this was a "made for Bob" controversy: nobody knows the actual facts, so Bob's lack of historical and policy expertise is no obstacle to analyzing press behavior, and with no sense of proportion.

    1. One of the interesting things about Bob's treatment of this is his complete inattention to Zimmerman's behavior. Ordinarily, Bob would term someone like Zimmerman -- an armed "man" who follows strangers around at night, while ranting about asshole punks who always get away with it under his breath -- as a "nut" or "kook." But if he does that here, it gives credence to the pundits who are outraged by the case, which undermines Bob's perpetual narrative of "Everyone who says something I don't like is either an insane tribalist, or a hack who panders to insane tribalists." As a result, Bob has accomplished the remarkable achievement of endlessly talking about the Zimmerman case, without talking about what actually happened. That's quite a feat. At times, for example, when he got (higher up) on his high horse about Digby's use of the word "stalking," it's pretty obvious he either doesn't know what the word means, or didn't know the basic facts of the case, that Zimmerman had been following Martin around for over five minutes, starting in his car, then on foot, and continued following him even after he ran away. Yet, Bob is the first to attack people for not knowing their facts. Really, this whole thing has been Bob at his very worst, and he shows few signs of getting better.

    2. til,

      No, TDH doesn't talk about the Zimmerman case without talking about what actually happened. On some crucial parts, no one knows what actually happened. TDH's complaint is that some people talk about what didn't actually happen as though it did.

      You and digby, for instance. Stalking is a crime in Florida. And if Zimmerman had been committing a crime, it would have altered his legal position. But stalking requires a pattern of behavior, which one incident cannot make.

      But stalking sounds so much more sinister than following and reporting.

    3. Please look up the definition of "stalking," both in a dictionary, and in the legal statutes of Florida. In a dictionary definition, what Zimmerman did was "stalking." It's open and shut. According to the laws of Florida, not so much. But then, using words according to their meaning must not be done when it A) goes against the narrative Bob is trying to establish; and B) in your case, makes a sinister act appear, well, sinister.

      If it had been you being followed around that night, I'm going to take a wild stab and say you'd be less inclined to talk about the innocent joys of "following and reporting." But then, it wasn't you.

    4. til,

      In the first place, this was a criminal case, and when we're using words it's advisable to understand the legal uses such words are put to. In Florida, what Zimmerman did wasn't stalking "not so much," but not at all. The vernacular use of the word applies to a predator after its prey. That's called premeditation, and even Corey didn't charge Zimmerman with that. The word has the connotations of sinister manner and stealthiness. It's likely that Zimmerman was so stealthy that night that he managed to be surprised by his "prey" who punched him in the nose and knocked him to the ground.

      So, no. It's not "open and shut." It's narrative. Was it a sinister manner because you were there or you vetted the videotape? Or was it because the outcome was so tragic? TDH says if you don't know, you don't make it up.

      Nowhere do I say that Martin was bound to interpret Zimmerman's actions as innocent and joyful. If Zimmerman threatened Martin, or even if Martin mistakenly but reasonably thought he had been threatened, then Martin had the legal right to defend himself. But Martin isn't around to tell us, and as tragic as that is, you haven't been deputized to tell us on his behalf.

      If I'd been followed around that night, I don't know what I'd have done or felt. That's because I wasn't around that night.

      And you weren't either.

    5. So according to a dictionary, it's stalking, but according to the legal definition, it wasn't, so it wasn't. Digby is, according to Bob, an "insane tribalist" because of the difference between the legal definition and dictionary definitions of a word. We can only use the legal definition of the word, because otherwise it makes Zimmerman look "sinister," and we can't have that. If you say so.

      As for "speaking for Martin," I don't need to, as we know from his phone calls how he perceived Zimmerman: a "creepy cracker." According to the way I interpret that phrase, he felt Zimmerman was a threatening figure, who was stalking him. Perhaps you have your own interpretation of what a "creepy cracker" is. Maybe it meant he thought Zimmerman was, say, a stale saltine. Or maybe Zimmerman was cracking his knuckles, or some walnuts in a weird fashion, while he was following Martin around. The term "creepy cracker" can mean all sorts of things; if you hunt hard enough you'll find some definition that would imply Martin didn't feel threatened by Zimmerman. And I'm sure you will. Or maybe, like Bob, you shot off your mouth without knowing the basic facts of the case. But you seem to know plenty about Florida law and stalking. That, at least, is something.

    6. "That guy who started out following you in his car, then on foot, than continued following you after you ran? Don't worry about that -- according to Florida law, that isn't stalking."

      Really, you ought to be ashamed for that shit.

    7. Granted you shouldn't come to TDH looking for some policy prescription to deal with Martin/Zimmerman confrontations, because TDH does not advocate for any policies at all, ever.

      But President Obama made it clear he thought this case was about race over a year ago. Eric Holder, the US Attorney General seems to think it might be about race. Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP, certainly thinks the case is about race. They are not pundits.

      So when the media follows the cues of elected leaders and other important cultural leaders and looks at the case through the prism of race relations, is it really the media that is broken?

    8. til,

      NIce try, but according to the dictionary, it's not stalking unless you want to present the narrative that Z was a predator who was deliberately hunting down his prey. And, of course, it's not stalking according to the Florida statutes. Both the vernacular and the technical uses of the word imply threatening, premeditated behavior. The legal term doesn't require an intent to slay, but the vernacular does.

      I don't read Digby, I don't care what Bob has to say about her, and I'm not here to tell you what words you can and can't use. I'm telling you that your word usage betrays your favored narrative. If your narrative is one of Z as a sinister predator, then "stalked" is your word. Your narrative may even be correct. But please don't pretend it's based on facts established anywhere but inside the stories you tell yourself. And us.

      What did M mean when he called Z a "creepy cracker"? Why, let's ask him. Oh, too bad. The tragedy is that we can't. And the gallingly ironic reason is that Z is responsible for that. But luckily for everybody concerned, we don't have to remain ignorant because we have you and your handy compendium of narrative. According to the way you interpret that phrase, M felt Z was a threatening figure, who was stalking him. Problem solved. The only mystery remaining is why the prosecution didn't call you as a witness.

      To set your mind at ease, no, I'm not going to defend the position that M wasn't afraid of Z. He certainly had every reason to be at some point, but unlike you I won't pretend that I know if or when that was. As I've said before, if M was in reasonable fear for his safety, he had legal reason to defend himself with physical force.

      Yeah, I know a bit about Florida law and also about the facts of this case. That's because I've taken the trouble to find out about both. Don't take this the wrong way, but I decline to be lectured on my ethical responsibilities by fiction writers like yourself who haven't. Following someone in a public place is neither illegal nor by itself grounds for an attack by the followed on the follower. Which, again, isn't to say that Z didn't threaten M or that M didn't respond with legally permissible force..

    9. I already posted the definition of stalking in another thread. This fits it.

      My "favored narrative" is one where Zimmerman is a clumsy fool, who stupidly followed someone around at night when he was armed, scaring and angering them until they might have done something stupid. It's a "favored narrative" that happens to fit the facts. You may, of course, invent whatever you think my "favored narrative" is, but it's just that: your invention.

      As for the rest of your post, well, it was just verbiage, no arguments, so I'll let it go, except for the last. What you "decline" to do is up to you. Just don't go on as if whether "following someone in a public place is legal" was the topic of discussion, or even something I said anything about. In the future, please "decline" to pretend people said things they didn't say. I realize it's an easy out, but it's hardly a proper thing to do, even though it isn't against the law in Florida, a state whose laws you know a bit about.

    10. til,

      Call me stubborn, but I'm not gonna let this go without another try. Stalking is stealthy shadowing that predators do before they deliberately attack to kill their prey. Zimmerman, whom even you now call a clumsy fool, hardly fits the stealthy part. Not even the prosecution accused him of deliberation.

      I don't have to invent your favored narrative. You deliver it in your own words. You may now wish to disclaim that narrative in favor of a new one that doesn't fit your language of "stalking" and "threatening," but don't accuse me of inventing something. Clumsy, foolish, and stupid may be no way to go through life, but that's hardly the characteristics of threatening stalkers. And it doesn't rise to the level of criminal behavior.

      And as for the rest of my post, you're just going to let that go, eh? Well played, Brave Sir Robin. If I had to defend fiction as fact, I'd bravely run away too. Following someone in a public place is legal, legal doesn't include threatening, and threatening is part of your narrative. Or it was. You remember, the part where you channel the spirit of Treyvon Martin to tell us what he felt. You want to change your narrative to make Zimmerman a Keystone Kop instead of the Terminator? Fine, but let's not pretend that I'm misrepresenting what you've written, OK?

      Somehow for you knowing something about Florida law is contemptibly funny but making up scenarios as fact is intellectually honest.

      Go figure.

    11. deadrat,

      I don't think the world has granted you a monopoly on word definitions. The dictionary definitions below are not as narrow as you are claiming--they are consistent with til's argument, not yours.

      1. To pursue by tracking stealthily.

      3: to pursue obsessively and to the point of harassment

    12. 6:38, what they're *not* consistent with is "facts in evidence."

      We don't know that there was "stealth." Some evidence suggest not.

      We don't know there was either "obsession", a state of mind or "harassment."

    13. So you're dropping the predator/prey argument and your argument now hinges on whether Zimmerman's observation and pursuit of Martin could be described as "stealthy."

      You're way out on a limb ...

    14. Anonymous on 7/17/13 @ 6:38A,

      On the one hand, you accuse me of making up my own definitions. But at least you then make my point for me by quoting the dictionary. Thank you.

      Tracking stealthily. This is the vernacular definition. Those who track are hunters after game or animals after prey. That has to be the context because Martin was killed by Zimmerman, a tracker so stealthy that his prey surprised him, jumped him, and punched him in the nose.

      Pursue obsessively. This is from the legal definition. Obsession and harassment are determined from a pattern of behavior. Except for you in this case, in which the diagnosis doesn't require repetition.

      TDH is right. Narrative never dies.

    15. deadrat's entire argument consists of misunderstanding the meaning of a word, even when confronted with dictionary evidence, then claiming everyone who points out he's wrong is simply following a "narrative," (unlike him, who, presumably, is a slave to the evidence -- except he has revealed he doesn't know basic facts about what happened). In fact, what he's done is actually create narratives and tried to shove them on other people, in the name of fighting "narratives." He's become Bob. Probably, he thinks that's a compliment.

    16. til,

      I'm not the one who misunderstands the meaning of a word. Not the vernacular, not the legal term. Let's be clear: if you want to use the vernacular because you know the legal term doesn't apply, you're stuck with the connotations of the word. Not the ones I dictate, but the ones usage does. Don't pretend that your use of "stalking" doesn't imply the stealthy approach of a predator to its prey. That's your narrative: the predator Z stalked his prey M, and as predators are wont to do, killed him deliberately. Own it.

      I have shown that there are other narratives, ones that fit the evidence every bit as much as your favorite one. In response to a challenge by you, come to think of it. The difference between us is that I realize that these are just-so stories. That they're equally as credible as yours says nothing about their truth and everything about just-so stories. I'm not trying to "shove them" on other people. I don't believe my narratives any more than I believe yours. They're just an illustration that you've picked a narrative you like and you're sticking to it. Own that too. Don't put your choice on me.

      And you can stop reading my mind at any time. That's another story you tell yourself (and commenters here), this time about me instead of Z and M.

  3. Who keeps repeating he was told to stay in his car?

    1. Why pretend you're going to start paying attention *now* Greg?

    2. Anon@321: another Carnac the Magnificent.

    3. Hi I Hate Liberals,

      Beyond paying no attention, is there another explanation for not knowing, at this point, on this blog, "who keeps repeating" that particular canard?

    4. What shaky bluff. Bob has never been known to shy away from naming names, and endlessly repeating said names. I've watched my far share of this circus, though I don't watch MSNBC, I've noticed the selective facts used by both sides, and I have yet to hear anybody claim Zimmerman was told to stay in his car. So examples please, Bobobots.

    5. Reteading this post, forget the lily gilding on "told to stay in his car", the whole thing is a collection of sloppily built straw men, the kind you get when Bob phones it in. Too bad, in that he's probobaly largely correct.

    6. "he's probobaly largely correct"

      He is. So your comments really are as stupid as they were first judged.

      Good of you to (almost) admit that.

  4. Guy's packing a gun and following, for no good reason, a kid (and that's exactly what he was) carrying skittles. A fight ensues, which would never had started if the armed little man had not decided to be a tough guy. Teen gets the better of little man, so little man fires his gun. Kid's dead at 17.

    So, yeah I have a hard time seeing how this isn't largely if not completely the adult, gun toting little Zim's fault. But i'm from Brooklyn not redneck Fla.

    Hank Borelli.

    1. Hank, I would agree if your description were accurate. However, there's no evidence that

      -- Z was following M for no good reason
      -- Z attempted to be a tough guy

      In fact, there's a decent amount of evidence contradicting these two assertions.

    2. David, Z called the cops and said he was following the kid. Since the kid was doing nothing but walking home, I say that's no good reason.

      Z was carrying a loaded gun (!) in his car while driving around as some self appointed neighborhood watch moron. Wanna be tough guy right there.

    3. How do you know the kid was only walking home? How do you know that? Zimmerman saw someone trespassing onto the yard and porch of houses he knew to be unoccupied. It looked suspicious. he called 911. Martin was not walking innocently down the sidewalk. How do you know what he was up to? Do you just assume that he was a nice sweet law-abiding young man because he liked skittles? What do you really know about Trayvon Martin's behavior that night, because that's all George Zimmerman had to go on. George Zimmerman did not know that Martin was not armed and dangerous. All he knew that Martin was behaving suspiciously. You seem to know better. How do you know that all Martin was doing is walking home?

    4. What do I know? Enough not to drive around with a loaded weapon following "suspicious" people.

      News for you, people walking in a neighborhood are innocent. If you hassle them, you are starting things. If you get your ass kicked, deal with it like a man, don't freakin' shoot an unarmed kid because he broke your nose.

      End of story.

      Hank Borelli

    5. Teenage thugs who throw punches over feeling stared at or after profiling the person staring at them as gay ought to make sure the person they watch for 4 minutes then attack doesn't have a gun. Trayvon Martin caused his own death.

    6. "If you get your ass kicked, deal with it like a man"

      mch, your "masculinists" are misbehaving again...

    7. Hey Hank Borelli,

      Say you live in a neighborhood prone to muggings and burglaries and whatnot and really the police are not able to do much about it. Let's say you have experienced people breaking in to your home while you and your family are asleep and once again the police cannot do much about it. it is very frustrating to watch fine old neighborhood go down the tubes because of crime and the fear it causes. When you live through all that as I have, you start to understand a George Zimmerman.

      It's a damn shame so few people on the left didn't stop publicly to consider the possibility that Zimmerman did the best he could and that his motives were not dishonorable.
      The bottom line is that Zimmerman did not misuse that gun. He did not improperly brandish the weapon and did not pull it until he was physically assaulted. Zimmerman had no way of knowing that Martin was an unarmed kid. The reality is that Martin attacked Zimmerman and Martin was a good fighter. Are you saying Hank, Borelli, that just because a young man can beat you up, you have to accept it? The obvious truth is that Zimmerman was indeed getting his ass kicked and if you know anything at all about fighting, you would know that Martin could very easily have seriously hurt or even killed Zimmerman if the fighting had continued. If he can knock his head into the concrete once or twice then he might have continued until he bashed his skull in. Fighting is deadly especially if you are good at it, and Martin was obviously a confident aggressive fighter.

    8. Holy shit! Who knew The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Florida, a multi-ethnic gated community, had turned into downtown Beirut when no one was looking. You sure we don't need to send in the National Guard to protect or is George The Wuss Quick Draw McGraw enough to protect the community from all those muggings?

    9. Why do you think the community has gates?
      Everything in these places might look OK in the daylight but things often get weird at night. Burglars prey on just such neighborhoods--nice enough to rob but not fancy enough to have high-tech professional security.
      I used to have a neighbor down on the Gulf Coast who had done time in Iraq and Afghanistan. We lived in a decent multi-ethnic community, ungated. I used to think he was paranoid when he told me about the predators going through the neighborhood at night. I eventually learned the hard way that he was not exaggerating. You have to take into account the kind of behavior that an expensive drug habit causes and the fact that there are a lot of addicts living off thievery. Trayvon Martin might not have been a thug or an addict but Zimmerman could not have known that, but he had a very realistic basis for concern--due to Martin's erratic behavior. As Zimmerman reported to the dispatch, Martin was wandering around erratically in the rain like he was on drugs-- Zimmerman clearly believed Martin was casing the neighborhood.
      It's horrible the way people mock Zimmerman and call him a coward or a wuss, when he was out there as a volunteer trying to protect his community. Even if he did make mistakes they were in the moment and out on a dark night with an unknown assailant. Maybe foolish, but he was brave for even being out there.

    10. MCarpenter, thanks for explaining to the stupid.

    11. MC,

      You're the anti-til.

      "Zimmerman saw someone trespassing onto the yard and porch of houses he knew to be unoccupied."

      Really, and we know this because Zimmerman said so?

      "It looked suspicious."

      You mean Zimmerman claimed it looked suspicious.

      "He called 911."

      Finally, a fact.

      "Martin was not walking innocently down the sidewalk."

      He wasn't walking down the sidewalk? You know this how? And suppose he was spooked by Zimmerman and he got off the sidewalk. So what?

      "How do you know what he was up to?"


      Do you just assume that he was a nice sweet law-abiding young man because he liked skittles? What do you really know about Trayvon Martin's behavior that night, because that's all George Zimmerman had to go on.

      Well, the answer is not much. We know some about what Zimmerman thought he knew about Martin's behavior, but that's different.

      "George Zimmerman did not know that Martin was not armed and dangerous. All he knew that Martin was behaving suspiciously. You seem to know better. How do you know that all Martin was doing is walking home?"

      How do you know differently? From the reports of the man who killed him?

    12. Yeah, exactly, from Zimmerman who happened to be on the phone to a police dispatcher answering her questions in real time. He reported Martin behaving erratically as though he were on drugs. This might be false but the burden is on the prosecution to prove otherwise and it failed utterly to do so. In fact, it just happens to turn out that Zimmerman's story is the only story that has held up. His story might be false but it's pretty amazing that there is no evidence to show that. All of the media got it wrong. My point is that all the narratives you have been using to convict Zimmerman are unproven and have not held up to a closer scrutiny of the facts. Zimmerman's story has not been disproven.
      The evidence shows that Martin stalked and attacked Zimmerman, and that is what got him killed.

    13. MC,

      Thanks for you support but no thanks. The evidence doesn't show that Martin stalked Zimmerman any more than the other way around. That's your narrative.

    14. The evidence shows that Martin assaulted Zimmerman after Zimmerman returned to his car. Martin had to have followed him there and attacked him. That is clear. Sure Zimmerman followed Martin first, but Martin definitely turned the tables on him. How can you say otherwise? Zimmerman did not invite Martin back to his car.

    15. MC,

      The evidence shows that Martin hit Zimmerman after Zimmerman says he returned to his car. Shortly thereafter Zimmerman shot Martin. See how that works?

      Zimmerman presumably didn't invite Martin back to his car, but then Martin was in the same public place as Zimmerman with the same right to be there. Just as Zimmerman had every right to query Martin about Martin's presence, Martin had every right to query Zimmerman about being followed.

      What happened when the two met face to face? I have no idea, or rather I have several ideas. Perhaps Martin sucker punched Zimmerman without a word. Perhaps a surprised Zimmerman took a swing at Martin, missed, and Martin then punched him in the face. Perhaps Zimmerman said "I've got a gun and I'll use it." reached for his cell phone, and Martin attacked. For every prejudgment, there's a narrative to fill in the gaps until the moment Zimmerman pulls the trigger.

      If you believe that Zimmerman stalked Martin like a predator determined to bring down a prey animal, you fill in the blanks so Zimmerman is the aggressor. If you believe Martin was drugged out, would-be burglar punk, you fill in the blanks differently.

      TDH will tell you that we humans love to fashion a story. If the facts can't span the gaps in what we know, we'll fill those gaps with narrative to make a seamless and pleasing tale. If the result is pleasing enough, we may even shape the facts and slant the language in the re-telling to make the story a better fit.

    16. "The evidence shows that Martin hit Zimmerman after Zimmerman says he returned to his car. Shortly thereafter Zimmerman shot Martin."

      That is exactly right. The lethal contact happened near the car. Zimmerman had returned to the car after following Martin and somehow Martin followed him there. Sure Martin had a right to follow Zimmerman, because as you say it's a public spot. But when he hit Zimmerman it became an assault. I really don't get your problem with what I am saying. It very clearly follows the evidence.
      What you forget is this was Zimmerman's trial. The burden is on the prosecution to disprove Zimmerman's story and they failed utterly. If there are gaps in the story the benefit of the doubt goes to the defendant. There is no evidence that Zimmerman attacked Martin until the fatal gunshot.

    17. MC,

      No, when M hit Z, it became an assault if the blow was unprovoked. If Z threatened M, and M felt reasonably afraid, M didn't have to wait to strike. What you're saying very clearly follows the evidence, but that doesn't make it anything but a reasonable narrative. There are other reasonable narratives.

      I'm not making any point about the trial. At trial, the reasonable narrative that exonerates the defendant is the one the jury is supposed to go with. It's called reasonable doubt as to the prosecutions's case for unlawful behavior.

      The point I'm making is about narrative. If your believe that M was a violent thug, then you tell a story where M's blow was an assault. If think that Z was a predator, then M's blow was self-defense. We know which story has to operate in court, but not which one is the truth.

  5. Beyond Confused --- Banging Head on DeskJuly 16, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    Good Lord, Zimmerman was told not to continue pursuing Martin. Why this bizarre, inexhaustible obsession with semantics? Zimmerman was politely told NOT TO KEEP PURSUING MARTIN. "we don't need you to do that.” OK, the quote could've been more forceful. So what?

    This is missing the forest for the trees to a clinical, pathological degree. I don't even want to begin to speculate as to what motivates such a feverish obsession.

    1. The point is that when the dispatcher said not to keep following Zimmerman basically did head back to his vehicle where he was attacked by Martin. Could you please explain what Zimmerman did wrong? And the timing and all those other pesky little details are absolutely crucial here.
      Your metaphor is unfortunate considering that this website is about the sins of big picture journalism, those story tellers like Maddow and Dowd who conveniently overlook details that get in the way of a good story.

    2. Beyond Confused --- Banging Head on DeskJuly 16, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      "Could you please explain what Zimmerman did wrong?"

      Oh, I don't know. He was an armed man who needlessly precipitated a conflict that led to the death of a young man and the ruination of his own life?

    3. Beyond Confused --- Banging Head on DeskJuly 16, 2013 at 5:25 PM

      And who ignored the recommendation of a law-enforcement professional not to keep pursuing Martin?

      But as noted elsewhere, I'm clearly lacking the subtlety of mind to grasp the nuance and complexities here.

    4. And who ignored the recommendation of a law-enforcement professional not to keep pursuing Martin?

      Answer: Nobody. More precisely, there's evidence that Z stopped pursuing M after that suggestion and no evidence at all that he did keep pursuing M.

    5. BCHBHD doesn't care about those pesky things called "facts in evidence."

      He lives in a world where it's enough that if you had a gun you were wrong to begin with, no matter the other facts. That's not our world.

      It might even be a better world, one where no one had a gun, but it's not our world. In this one, the facts in evidence do matter.

      The fact that there was no showing at all that Zimmerman ignored the "law enforcement recommendation" BCBHD cites matters in this world.

      It also matters that there has been so much pretending -- pretending that BCBHD either approves of, doesn't care about, or doesn't know about -- so much pretending that Zimmerman did ignore that "law enforcement recommendation.

      Some people are far more upset about Somerby's little blog debunking of that pretending than they are about the mass media that did that pretending, and in some case continues to do it.

    6. David in Cal:
      Answer: Nobody. More precisely, there's evidence that Z stopped pursuing M after that suggestion and no evidence at all that he did keep pursuing M.

      DinC, you're full of shit as usual. I already corrected you on this point once. There most certainly was evidence that he did keep pursuing. The prosecution argued that in their closing argument. There were no objections, because the pros was entitled to argue this based on the foundation of evidence presented during the trial.

      So quit making shit up, OK. You don't want to make up pleasing narratives do you. Bob wouldn't like that, and you're not even a liberal!

    7. No, there was no evidence he kept following. Sorry.

    8. Sorry to you. This constitutes evidence, presented during the trial. This is just one piece.

      ****Both prosecutors and defense attorneys asked Serino about when and whether George Zimmerman was following Trayvon Martin the night of the altercation. De la Rionda replayed a portion of the Feb. 29 interview tape in court, in which Zimmerman says, "They told me not to follow him. I wasn't following him, I was just going in the same direction."

      "That's following," Serino said on the tape.

      O'Mara asked whether Serino had any evidence that Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon Martin after a non-emergency dispatcher told him not to.

      "I would answer I have information, yes," Serino said. "Just based on where we located Trayvon and the fact that the altercation happened after the confrontation. That's my interpretation. There was some following."****

    9. mm, when Zimmerman told Serino that he was just going in Martin's "general direction" , he was talking about his conduct before the dispatcher said "We don't need you to do that".

      Remember too that the dispatcher asked Zimmerman several questions related to where Martin was and what direction he was traveling.

      "Just let me know if this guy does anything" and "He’s running? Which way is he running?"

      Later, when the following Martin aspect became the gist of the charges of personal animus on GZ's part, Zimmerman would logically think that he wasn't so much following as going in Martin's direction to see where he was (to answer the dispatcher's questions).

      I think anyone should understand how the jurors found it impossible to feel that Martin was being stalked for the kill based upon such flimsy evidence.

    10. CeceliaMc:

      I can read too.

      1. You really are bungling a bunch of facts. This interview with Serino occurred on Feb. 26, the night he murdered Martin. It wasn't "later, when the following Martin aspect became the gist of the charges of personal animus on GZ's part". It was that very friggin night. And he already knew that he shouldn't have been following Martin.

      2. None of those questions the dispatcher asked on the phone implied he wanted Z to follow M. In fact the dispatcher testified that by policy they cannot tell a citizen to do anything.

      Finally, you seem to have missed the key part. Serino also said that he believed Zimmerman continued to follow based on his observation of the scene.

      There is additional evidence that would support a reasonable inference that Z did indeed continue to follow, but what does it matter? If they had a video of Z continuing to follow would it change your opinion?

    11. How does that timeline bungle any of the facts?

      Zimmerman would know that the police weren't keen on him following Martin based upon the dispatcher's words ( words said after the dispatcher had asked him details about TM).

      While the dispatcher was asking Zimmerman the details of Martin's actions and whereabouts it would be entirely rational for GZ'S to answer "yes" to then being asked "are you following him", and to later to term it as going in Martin's direction (in order to answer the dispatcher with real time info) when quizzed by Serino.

      You want to give a man years in jail over this sort of back-and-forth?

    12. Let me add too, mm, that the questions the dispatcher asked about what Martin was doing and where he was running are certainly capable of causing Martin to go and seek up to the minute answers.

      That is not an unreasonable conjecture at all especially as compared to the charge that Martin stalked TM in order to kill him while talking to the police.

    13. CeceliaMc:

      It's useless to respond to you any further. You're all over the place jumping from one conjecture to another. Its useless to respond to your scattershot butchering of facts and the pleasing narrative that you've constructed in your mind.

      I was specifically pointing out to DinC that he is wrong to keep repeating that there's "no evidence at all that he did keep pursuing M." That's all.

      There was evidence presented at the trial. Z's statement to Serino was just one piece.

      Martin lost all chance of justice that night. The cream puff interview by Serino where he wasn't so much grilling a murder suspect as helping develop an acceptable and coherent narrative for Zimmerman. The sloppy almost cavalier collection of evidence. Not a single neighbor even trying to help. But hey, you know, it was just a black kid killed. He wasn't going to amount to much anyway. It's not like he was going to cure cancer some day.

    14. The problem is, mm, is that you've argued nothing that proves this man did not stop following Martin after he was told "we don't need you to that".

      And now you've impugned Serino, whose testimony you're using as the basis of your conjecture that Zimmerman continued to follow Martin after the point where Zimmerman claims to have stopped.

      You've even gone as far as to impugn the whole police dept now!

      Whose next? The jurors?

    15. CeceliaMc:

      No one - NOBODY, not you, not me - can "prove" he stopped or he didn't stop. I never claimed that I could "prove" anything. Got it??? I said there was evidence presented that can be reasonably argued shows that he did not stop. You choose to believe Zimmerman's self-serving claim that he stopped. Good for you.

    16. You're right. Because of due process and the presumption of innocence, defendants need only prove reasonable doubt.

    17. And thank goodness for that, mm.

  6. The most accurate post I've read on this site stated that whomever taught Martin that it's acceptable to slam someone's head into the pavment, are those most responsible for the kid's death.

    The kid seemingly thought he could size up someone weaker than himself, jump on and brutalize them, then jump off with a story to brag about to his buddies. Needless to say he was sadly mistaken.

    1. oh Max, an adult man armed with a loaded weapon is our looking for some teenage hooligans. Right there, you gotta worry. They he starts following a teenager for no reason at all. Predictably, a fight ensues. The adult man gets beat up, so he shoots the kid. And you blame the unarmed kid?

      You're deranged. In my day, you got in a fist fight, you lose, you take your beating and go home with your tail between your legs. It's not a license to kill. Especially if the other person is a kid. Jeez

      Hank Borelli.

    2. Beyond Confused --- Banging Head on DeskJuly 16, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      Hank, as a fellow Brooklynite, I can only say: you possess far too much common sense for this blog. Like me, I imagine you weren't blessed with a Harvard education, and lack the subtlety of mind and nuance that the blogger and many of the commenters exhibit here. You and I are clearly too dim, and we're just missing something here.

    3. That's right. When thugs in your neighborhood force you to monitor your neighborhood and keep an eye on them when police are on the way, you better be prepared to take your beating if you call the cops on the wrong thug and he attacks you.

      Be prepared to end up a vegetable or dead because that's the price you oughta pay as a man for taking action of phone calls and walking when savages start terrorizing young mothers in your neighborhood.

    4. Aw, the mythical "good old days" when jumping someone and slamming their head into the pavement was all considered just good clean fun.

      If you're into hard ass street rhetoric, I've got a good one for you in the here and now: kid acted like a punk, and ended up getting punked. Tough.

    5. Such hard assed streetsters we have here. They think young mothers should be terrorized routinely rather than men who are fed up with it call cops without 100% certainty the person they are reporting is guilty of something.

      Tough guys!

    6. Beyond confused BHOD,

      No, not common sense. What's that other thing?

      Oh, yeah. A talent for narrative.

    7. In my day, when someone was beating your head on the sidewalk, you took it and liked it! That's how tough we were. Not like these pansies who carry a gun! We used to beat our own heads on the sidewalk, just for practice.

    8. OK did anyone not laugh at that ^

  7. I just saw video on TV of New Yorkers marching in the streets for Justice for Trayvon who they believe was racially profiled.

    Guess they have "evolved" in the last year since this poll was taken:


    Today happens to be the tenth anniversary of NYPD Order 11, the bit of police code that specifically prohibits profiling.

    Meanwhile, the department remains embroiled in controversy over its Muslim surveillance program, which many civil liberties advocates have called tantamount to racial profiling.

    And yet ordinary New Yorkers still don't seem terribly concerned. A new poll, reports the WSJ, shows that 82 percent of voters think the NYPD has been effective in dealing with terrorism, and a majority, or 58 percent, approve of the Muslim surveillance program.

    The Muslim spying program was more popular than the department's less clandestine efforts. Stop-and-frisk, yet another Ray Kelly-era program that many looks awfully similar to profiling, has an approval rating of 46 percent and a disapproval rating of 49 percent. Still, Kelly and Bloomberg have a fairly large store of goodwill on which to draw down, and they haven't remotely hit scarcity levels yet: a full 63 percent of voters approve of how the police do their job, even in the midst of a year in which the department has garnered some of the worst headlines in recent memory.

    1. Giuliani was always the Zimmerman of New York and the white liberals marching for "justice" after the Martin verdict were always glad to have him.

    2. Bwahahahahahahahaha! Liberals were always glad to have Giuliani! Good one!

      Oh, wait.

      Were you serious?

      Then never mind.

    3. White liberals were thrilled to have Giuliani just as now they're glad to have the "muslim surveillance program."

    4. "Kelly and Bloomberg have a fairly large store of goodwill on which to draw down, and they haven't remotely hit scarcity levels yet: a full 63 percent of voters approve of how the police do their job, even in the midst of a year in which the department has garnered some of the worst headlines in recent memory."

  8. Based on Rachel Jeantel's interview, there's a very real chance that Martin may have attacked Zimmerman, because he thought Z was gay.

    If identity politics determines your sympathy, what a conundrum. Martin was black, but he may be been gay-bashing.

    1. profiled as gay

    2. So let's look at this "very real chance." Martin wants to go gay-bashing for the first time in his life, so he goes to a convenience store, buys candy and a soft drink, then goes walking back home sure that a gay guy with a gun will be following him.

      That only makes sense to you, David. But then again, lots of things that make no sense in the real world to people who stop and think make perfect sense to you.

    3. Uh, Anon, please check the link. Law Professor Anne Althouse raised this possibility because Rachel Jeantel said in her TV interview that she and Martin specifically discussed whether Z was gay and a potential child rapist shortly before the altercation began. According to Jeantel, she and Martin had this discussion after he was returning home.

    4. There's some serious bigotry it this thread...Rapists and gay men are NOT THE SAME THING, and Rachel did not say that. The bigots just made that up.

    5. Please read the link. It says,

      ...Rachel Jeantel says she warned Trayvon Martin that Zimmerman could be a gay rapist....

      Jeantel said: "I say may be a rapist, for every boy, for every man, every -- who's not that kind of way, seeing a grown man following them, would they be creep out?"

    6. Read your own link, David. She said "rapist," not "gay rapist."

      Even if you want to believe that Martin attacked Zimmerman for no good reason, he was probably more fearful of the "rapist" part than Zimmerman's sexual orientation.

      Which, of course, doesn't make it a case of "gay bashing" that you so much want to turn it into.

  9. Shorter Somerby: Zimmerman was NOT told to stay in his car, so he was justified in killing Martin. And, BTW, I taught at an inner-city school in Baltimore 30 yrs ago.
    The analysts all agree. They told me so as we enjoyed our bagels this past Sunday.
    Additionally, "Zimmerman says...", Zimmerman says...".
    I could write a song:
    "Zimmerman says..., Zimmerman says...;
    Drum and bass to move your waist;
    Lyrics and song to keep you strong;
    Zimmerman says..., Zimmerman says...".

    Life is good for Bob and George. Not to mention George's brother Robert (FOX), his parents (Barbara Walters) and juror B37 who said SYG was a valid reason to find no culpability, even though the defense did not cite SYG in his defense), and she had been planning to write a book about the trial.

    Life is good.
    God bless you all.

    1. "Shorter Somerby: Zimmerman was NOT told to stay in his car, so he was justified in killing Martin."

      My goodness but aren't you the sweetest little scumbag! God bless you.

    2. The truth hurts, eh?
      Sticks and stones, etc.

    3. Nope justified because a thug attacked him

    4. And of course, the lesson here is if you ever are followed by a stranger with a gun, don't defend yourself. That would be so "thuggy" of you.

    5. Not thuggy, but stupid as hell.

      In Martin's defense, he did not act THAT irrationally.

    6. If you have 4 minutes to go home and you fear someone who is "following" you and talking on the phone for the first 2 minutes, get off the phone with your racist homophobe pal, call 911, go home or somewhere else.

      Unless you're in the mood to fight. Then you should be certain your target doesn't have a gun because not doing so could lead to you causing your own death.

  10. "Was Zimmerman told to stay in his car?"

    Yes, Bob. Yes he was.

    “Their duty is to be the eyes and ears. Report crime as they see it,” said Dorival, adding that she provided handouts stressing this and also explained it verbally during the meeting. Zimmerman was there as the neighborhood watch coordinator, a role he told Dorival had been assigned him by the president of the homeowners' association.

    Guy asked Dorival what the handouts and her instructions tell volunteers to do if they begin following a suspicious person.

    “We tell them they don’t do that. That’s the job of law enforcement,” she replied.

    The same instructions apply to confronting a suspicious person, Dorival said. She said her presentation would advise people, “Not to confront, to let … the police department do the job.

    “They’re not supposed to take matters into their own hands. … Let law enforcement take the risk of approaching a suspect,” Dorival said.

    1. "Yes, Bob. Yes he was."

      No mention of any kind of vehicle in your post.

    2. Sanford police also had a neighborhood watch policy where volunteers were not to follow "suspects" (Zimmerman's word)

      Not in a car, not on foot, not no way.

      Still he followed. Then denied it.

    3. Sanford police also had a neighborhood watch policy where volunteers were not to follow "suspects" (Zimmerman's word)

      Not in a car, not on foot, not no way.

      Still he followed. Then denied it.

    4. Nope he admitted it. And if he had done it he would have been within his rights

    5. (Followed further that is)

  11. You know what's frightening to me? The fact that so many people find nothing wrong with a vicious little punk sucker punching and then smashing someone's head into the concrete just because he was following him. That's the reason why Trayvon is dead. Zimmerman had a right to defend himself.

    1. Well, he *was* a "cracker" (sort of, or he might have been) a creepy one. And you know how "crackers" are.

      And he might have been (might really be!) one of those gays too. Gross!

    2. And of course, no kid ever has a right to defending himself against a guy, who by his own admission, grabs his gun and follows the kid.

      That would be "vicious."

    3. Except Trayvon didn't know he had a gun. Facts are stubborn things.

    4. Anonymous on 7/17/13 @ 11:58P,

      Great idea for a script! Perhaps Mamet would be interested. If not, you could shop it around. Call it Pussy Cracker's Got His Gun.

      You're welcome.

    5. Finally some recognition!!

      And from the one guy here who actually seems to understand narrative. I am flattered, honestly.

      The internets being what they are, let me show you I'm not being sarcastic by saying that your 1:00 AM(!) post today in reply to M Carpenter (which quite rightly ended that little sub-thread), was quite convincing.

      It is most appreciated (by me anyway) that you have been one of the few commenters here to appreciate the value of Somerby's work and at the same time understand that "both sides" have been too easily drawn into narratives of their own choosing to "fill in the gaps."

      That you've been able to do this so even-handedly, mostly without vitriol, I frankly envy. I agree fully with you, but as you've seen, I'm often unable to prevent myself lapsing into mockery and parody of others. It's a fault.

  12. I think it's a breakthrough that Zimmerman's online defense team now finally, finally accept the fact that Zimmerman followed Martin.
    First in his car and then on foot.
    If that's true, and it must be, because you're finally admitting it, go read Zimmerman's statements to.police and count how many times he lies or evades on "following"
    Why doesn't he want to admit he followed Martin?

    1. Nope they said two things. That there is no evidence he did not stop following and even if he didn't stop, he didn't have to.

  13. Anonymous on 7/16/13 @ 5:58P,

    juror B37 who said SYG was a valid reason to find no culpability, even though the defense did not cite SYG in his defense)

    To acquit on manslaughter, the jurors had two paths to that finding. The first is that the preponderance of the evidence showed that Z acted in self defense; the second is that the prosecution failed to make its case beyond a reasonable doubt for any element of the crime, including the claim of no justification. B37 may have been using SYG as a short-hand for self-defense or she may have been saying that without a duty to retreat, the decision was a much easier one.

  14. For juror B37 to claim that she was completely uninformed about the news in general and the Zimmerman case in particular, how could she consider "stand your ground" when it wasn't mentioned during the trial.

    B37's husband knew the lead defense attorney for the trial. They belonged to the same club. Why did B37 sound as if she were coached? Why did she believe that there were riots in Sanford when there were not? There was a protest, but no riots. Who did she refer to when she said that "they" are difficult to understand, because of the way they talked? Why did she refer to Zimmerman as George and Georgie rather than the defendant or Mr. Zimmerman?

    1. The worst thing she said was that she relied so heavily on the officer's contention that he believed Zimmerman.
      She was told to disregard that.
      He said/ she said cases are terrible, because it's all about credibility.
      This one was even worse, because it was "he said" ALONE. There was no other side presented.
      That she relied on a credibility measure she was told to ignore is not good.

    2. Because she was a racist, like Trayvon.

    3. Well, no. I didn't say "racist". I said she relied on testimony she was told to ignore. It doesn't matter, of course, the trial is over, but her insistence on broadcasting this probably doesn't help anything.

    4. Because she wasn't influenced by the Al Sharpton lynch mob and drew her own, more accurate conclusions about George from the evidence and from seeing George in court day after day.

    5. Not true that stand your ground wasn't mentioned in the trial. Zimmerman's Crim Law (?) teacher said he covered it extensively. To impeach Zimmerman's Hannity interview where he denied knowing about SYG.

    6. SYG was covered in the jury instructions, even though it wasn't the basis for the defense, so it was covered in the trial, in writing to the jurors.

  15. One would have the right to kick the stuffing out of a yahoo pervert who, for reasons that felt suspicious, followed him.

  16. I'm also interested in how people seem to have drawn some conclusions about how Martin was dressed. Mr. Cohen in the Washington Post has decided he was wearing some sort of "thug" uniform.
    I think this is wildly innacurate. Martin dressed in a way that is quite common here ( I deal with a lot of teenagers in my work) ; "skinny " jeans and a sweatshirt are NOT, actually, the "tough guy" style of dress. The kids who wear that style of clothing are in a different group.

  17. Isn't the tragedy of our court system that we convict too many people? One of our biggest problems we have as a culture is that we think that punishment is so important and effective.

    Why is the outrage here that one man wasn't punished greater than all of the outrage put together for millions of non-violent Americans behind bars.

    We have a blood lust in this country that should be horrifying.

  18. Seems as though Martin was doing what he thought was some Gay Bashing and it cost him his life.

  19. This article accuses a majority for getting it wrong to begin with but is just as misleading. There is nothing in your article that makes Zimmerman any more innocent. When refutes that George was not told to stay in the car boils down to nothing more than semantics relative to George listening to what he was told. So George wasn't told to stay in his car BUT he was told, "We don't need you to do that after pursuing Trayvon Martin. He responded "OK" but remained in the area confused and looking to get his bearings in order to meet up with police in that communty? It was a small gated community he patrolled regularly. He knew where he was and probably continued to pursue Trayvon Martin, who last told his girlfriend he was going to walk fast after she urged him to run. Martin wasn't obviously looking to confront his pursuer or jump Zimmerman on the way back to his SUV.