George Zimmerman, the man charged with second-degree murder in the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Florida, had his bond hearing on Friday morning. Reporting in advance of the hearing, ABC News released an “exclusive photo” that instantly and forever destroyed the “Zimmerman shot Trayvon for no reason” narrative, which news outlets pushed with furious intensity as Sanford was teetering on the verge of riots:
That’s a photo of George Zimmerman’s head covered with blood from the beating Trayvon Martin gave him. The photo was taken three minutes after the Martin shooting. ABC describes the photo as follows:
The exclusive image shows blood trickling down the back of Zimmerman’s head from two cuts. It also shows a possible contusion forming on the crown of his head. The original police report that night notes that the back of Zimmerman’s head was wet, and that he was bleeding from the nose and head.
Zimmerman told police that night that he shot and killed the teenager in self-defense after Martin punched him and pounced on him. Zimmerman told police that Martin then bashed his head into the concrete sidewalk during the altercation that took place in the tidy middle-class development of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Fla.
One of the media outlets that pushed the entirely false “Zimmerman wasn’t injured” meme was… ABC News, which actually doubles down on its own fraudulent reporting in the very same story:
Zimmerman was treated at the scene by paramedics, then cuffed and driven in a police cruiser to the Sanford police station. He was questioned for hours and later released. In police surveillance video obtained last month by ABC News, Zimmerman’s wounds are not apparent, and there were no bandages on his head.
That is a false statement, and ABC News should be compelled to correct it immediately. The head wounds are quite apparent in the video they’re talking about, as everyone who was paying attention swiftly noticed. The only people who believe otherwise are consumers of ABC’s initial “exclusive report,” because the network repeatedly stated the video doesn’t show a wound… and then covered up the wound with a chyron graphic, at the moment in the video where Zimmerman turns, and the security camera can see the back of his head.
And ABC News itself later released another “exclusive video” that had been “specially enhanced” the original film to highlight Zimmerman’s scars! Did the people who wrote the text accompanying the bloody-head photo on Friday forget about that? They might have been able to say the wounds were initially “somewhat difficult to discern,” in order to save face, but the initial report presented the video as an explosive scoop that proved the reverse.
This new photo comes from an anonymous source, who for some reason we’ve never heard about before, even though he exchanged words with the world’s most famous “white Hispanic” on the night one of 2012’s most explosive media obsessions began:
The person who took the photograph of a bloodied Zimmerman, asking not to be identified, told ABC News exclusively that they did not see the scuffle that night, but did hear it. The person recalled seeing Martin’s prostrate body on the wet grass and said the gunpowder burns on Martin’s gray hoodie were clearly visible.
The photographer said that after the shooting, Zimmerman asked the photographer to call his wife. When the photographer asked him what to say, Zimmerman blurted out, “Man, just tell her I shot someone.”
Adding a note of bleak comedy to the new revelations, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump – who was personally thanked for his involvement by special prosecutor Angela Corey when she announced the second-degree murder charge, even though his conduct in this case has been inflammatory and appalling – snorted about the new photo, “How bad could it have been if they didn’t take him to the hospital and didn’t stitch him up?”
At the bond hearing, Zimmerman’s father said that on the morning after his altercation with Martin, his son’s “face was swollen quote a bit. He had a protective cover over his nose. His lip was swollen and cut. And there were two vertical gashes on the back of his head.”
Zimmerman’s wife testified by phone at the hearing, and said “he is absolutely not a violent person.” She also expressed fears for his safety if he is released from jail. According to a report in the Boston Herald, his mother added that Zimmerman joined a mentoring program for children in Orlando, and “both of the children he mentored were African-American like Martin.”
Zimmerman’s two previous documented altercations, with his then-girlfriend and a law-enforcement officer who was trying to arrest his friend, were also discussed.
The bond hearing was an amazing train wreck for the prosecution, which was forced to admit “the state didn’t have evidence to contract Zimmerman’s account that Martin started the fight that led to the shooting,” as CNN’s live blog put it. Crucially, the state attorney’s investigator was compelled to admit there was no evidence to contract Zimmerman’s statements that he was on his way back to his car when Martin approached him and initiated violence.
Based on this, defense attorney Mark O’Mara contended that it was improper for the prosecution to assert that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, and then “confronted” him, in its charging instruments. He also wondered why the only two quotes from Zimmerman included in the affidavit contained expletives.
This calls the prosecution’s judgment in leveling second-degree murder charges into serious question, although they do also claim that evidence “did call into question other parts of Zimmerman’s account.”
George Zimmerman himself testified at the hearing, in a most unusual turn of events. He apologized to the Martin family for Trayvon’s death, and said “I did not know how old he was, I thought he was a bit younger than I am, and I did not know if he was armed or not.”
The prosecutor, perhaps sensing that the defense lawyer had torn his case to shreds, decided to grill Zimmerman over the apology. He accused Zimmerman of grandstanding for the media, and made the kind of unsubstantiated assertions prosecutors aren’t supposed to make: “Tell me, after you committed this crime and you spoke to the police, did you ever make that statement to the police, sir? That you were sorry for what you’d done, or for their loss?”
The judge ended up setting a $150,000 bond for Zimmerman, although he would not be freed immediately. Zimmerman is hoping for permission to reside somewhere outside Florida, for his own safety. He will also be required to wear a GPS monitoring device, obey a curfew, and stay away from alcohol and firearms.
So, to sum up: nearly everything the media told you about this story was wrong. The video clip above might be your first good look at a man who was almost universally described as “white” before his designation was changed to “white Hispanic.” He’s not a towering hulk, Trayvon Martin was not a cherubic 12-year-old boy, and Zimmerman did not randomly gun him down for no reason. There is no shortage of evidence that Martin assaulted Zimmerman, and there never was. George Zimmerman is not a vicious racist – the only documented instance of his referring to Martin’s skin color came in response to a direct questin froma 911 operator, which NBC News edited out of their audio and transcript. The Sanford police might have made mistakes in handling the case, but their decisions, based on the evidence and testimony at hand, were not utterly incomprehensible.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, manslaughter charges might have worked out, but charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder looks to have been a catastrophic overstretch. The Martin shooting remains a tragedy, and it might have been a crime, but the high standards for proving “depraved indifference to human life” on Zimmerman’s part do not appear to have been met. Let’s see what kind of ground the media prepares for the jury verdict.