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Fla. to Review ‘Stand Your Ground’

Fla. to Review ‘Stand Your Ground’ Gary W. Green / AP Photo

17-member task force does not include NRA members.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has created a 17-member task force to review the controversial Stand Your Ground law that many feel played a role in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was shot and killed by self-appointed neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, and Zimmerman has said he acted in self-defense under the Stand Your Ground law. Similar defenses have been used successfully by Floridians 130 times since the law was passed in 2005. The task force includes elected officials and community leaders—but there is no representation from the NRA, which has been a major supporter of the law.

Read it at Miami Herald


Zimmerman Gets $150K Bail

Zimmerman Gets $150K Bail Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel / Pool / AP Photo

Apologizes to Trayvon’s family.

A Florida judge granted bail to George Zimmerman on Friday, but said the accused killer would not be released immediately. The judge set bail at $150,000 for Zimmerman, who faces second-degree murder charges in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman apologized to the teen’s parents for the “loss of their child.” George Zimmerman’s wife, Shellie Zimmerman, testified by phone that her husband is “absolutely not a violent person.” As a condition of his release, Zimmerman will wear GPS monitoring. His release date is unknown.

Read it at The Daily Beast


Zimmerman Seeks Bail

Facing second-degree murder charges, the man who confessed to shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin sought bail Friday. Watch live video of the proceedings.


Martin Family Turned Down Meeting

Martin Family Turned Down Meeting Gary Green, The Orlando Sentinel, Pool / Getty Images

With George Zimmerman, proposed by his lawyer.

The lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family announced Thursday that they turned down a personal meeting with George Zimmerman proposed by his lawyer, Mark O’Mara. Natalie Jackson, the lawyer, said that she received a phone call from Mr. O’Mara but the family opted out, deciding to only discuss the case with officials and the media. Zimmerman could be out of jail as early as Friday if Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. grants his bail request. Zimmerman’s attorneys are expected to argue that the shooter is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, even though he was arrested for assaulting an officer in 2005.

Read it at CNN


Trayvon’s Last Words

In exclusive reporting from Sanford, Fla., Aram Roston offers a new inside account of what Zimmerman told police after the shooting.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the court's decision on Friday, Apr. 20, to release Zimmerman on $150,000 bail.

Last December, George Zimmerman hosted a small gathering at a clubhouse in Lake Mary, Fla. He invited family members and some close friends, and he made a brief speech. He wanted to share with them, he said, the news that he’d earned his associate’s degree in criminal justice.

“He gathered us all together,” said a family friend who lives near Zimmerman’s parents and was present at the clubhouse that night, “to thank us for helping us define his life and what path he was going to take and who he was.”

The friend, who asked not to be identified, told The Daily Beast that he and his wife pulled Zimmerman aside afterward and asked him about his career: what did he want to do with his life? Zimmerman responded that he had a specific goal. First, he would go to law school. After that, the friend said, “his ambition was to be a judge.”

Now Zimmerman is wearing a gray prison jumpsuit instead of black robes, as he faces second-degree murder charges in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was walking home through the housing complex where Zimmerman served as a neighborhood-watch captain.

On Friday, Apr. 20, Zimmerman was granted bail in the amount of $150,000, and will be released shortly, subject to certain conditions including electronic and GPS monitoring.

As the legal case against Zimmerman begins to grind forward, The Daily Beast has learned new details about Zimmerman’s accounts to various police agencies in the moments and days after the shooting. A law-enforcement source familiar with Zimmerman’s account but not directly involved in the case, said that in his statement to police, he said Martin’s final words after being shot were, “Okay, you got it.”



Could Trayvon Decide The Election?

The shooting of Trayvon Martin could wield outsize influence in the 2012 election, writes Amy Green.

Could Trayvon Martin decide the 2012 presidential election?

It’s not as far-fetched as it may sound. After all, Martin’s killing, at the hands of a neighborhood-watch captain, took place in a state where 537 votes determined the outcome of the 2000 race.

NAACP President Ben Jealous speaks out on the Trayvon Martin case

Back then, of course, the country was experiencing a period of relative peace and prosperity. This year couldn’t be more different. We are in the throes of an ongoing financial crisis with near-record levels of unemployment, we’re entering our second decade of war, and our political partisanship is more pitched and vitriolic than at any time in recent memory. Also, we have a black president.

In this context, the shooting of an unarmed black 17-year-old by a half-white, half-Hispanic neighborhood-watch captain named George Zimmerman could wield outsized influence in deciding who runs the country for the next four years.

“Elections [here] are won by very narrow margins,” said Lance deHaven-Smith, professor of public administration at Florida State University and author of The Battle for Florida: An Annotated Compendium of Materials from the 2000 Presidential Election.

“The main thing that determines the outcome is the turnout,” he said. Given the mix of a racially charged killing and the nation’s first black president, deHaven-Smith said, “you automatically have a connection and a parallel to draw. So people, particularly black voters, they registered in very large numbers in 2008, and the big question has been, will they turn out” in 2012?

Martin was killed in central Florida, the swing region of this swing state, where rural and conservative North Florida gives way to urban, more liberal South Florida. Here, cosmopolitan Orlando anchors what is known to politicos as the I-4 corridor, where the highway threads together Tampa, Orlando, and Daytona Beach, as well as communities of commuting suburbanites, citrus farmers, cow and horse ranchers, and Hispanics, especially Puerto Ricans.


Zimmerman Judge to Step Aside

Zimmerman Judge to Step Aside Tom Benitez, Pool / Getty Images

Due to alleged conflict of interest.

Judge Jessica Recksiedler is expected to hand over control of the George Zimmerman trial to another felony judge on Wednesday after admitting to a potential conflict of interest. Recksiedler told attorneys last Friday that her husband is a partner at the firm of reputable Orlando lawyer Mark NeJame, whom CNN hired as a legal analyst to comment on the Trayvon Martin case. Zimmerman’s lawyer then called for a new judge on Monday. Recksiedler will be replaced by one of three remaining felony judges in Seminole County.

Read it at Orlando Sentinel


Zimmerman Case Already a Tangle

The man charged with Trayvon Martin’s murder was arrested just last week, but already there’s confusion over which judge will preside and which records are sealed, reports Aram Roston.

Five days after George Zimmerman was arrested and charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin, the criminal case against him is already tied up in knots.

George Zimmerman

Gary Green, The Orlando Sentinel, Pool / Getty Images

On Monday afternoon, Zimmerman’s lawyers filed a motion asking the trial judge, Jessica Recksiedler, to remove herself from the case due to an alleged conflict of interest. But the contents of that motion are not available from the court, because of a separate judge’s decision last Thursday—the day after Zimmerman’s arrest—to seal virtually every record in the court docket.

At Zimmerman’s first hearing, on April 12, Judge Mark E. Herr ruled that “any documents filed after the probable-cause affidavit are to be sealed.” Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lawyer, had requested the ruling, and it was accepted without objection at the time.

But on Monday, attorneys for a consortium of media outlets—including The New York Times, the Associated Press, CNN and McClatchy—filed a nine-page motion opposing the sealing order, but even that motion itself appeared to be sealed.  (Newsweek and The Daily Beast were not a part of the consortium.) Reporters seeking copies from the Seminole County court clerk were turned down on account of the order.

The five-story criminal court building is just down the road from the large detention center where Zimmerman is currently being held in Sanford.

The Daily Beast obtained the media consortium’s motion to unseal the documents from Holland & Knight, the law firm for the consortium. The motion argues that Zimmerman “must show that the release of such additional information will deprive him of his right to a fair trial, which is a showing he cannot make.”

Scott Ponce, a Holland & Knight partner, said it is not unprecedented to seal a docket, but that it is unusual to do it without giving the public or the media a chance to weigh in. “For an initial hearing,” Ponce said, “for a judge to seal something, having not seen the records, and just say, ‘We are going to seal the records,’ is unusual.”


Media: Open Zimmerman File

Media: Open Zimmerman File Gary W. Green, Orlando Sentinel / AP Photos

Although most evidence has already been reported.

Media outlets including NBC and The New York Times filed Monday to have the court records unsealed in the case against George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder after shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Court files are normally considered public records in the Sunshine State, but a judge sealed Zimmerman’s file last week. In the eight-page motion filed this morning, lawyers for the media outlets argued that there’s no reason to seal the file, especially because much of the evidence in the case has already been reported.

Read it at The Orlando Sentinel


Dad Warned Trayvon of Stereotypes

Dad Warned Trayvon of Stereotypes Alex Wong / Getty Images (FILE)

Before 17-year-old's death.

The father of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman as he walked back from a convenience store, says he used to talk to his son about the dangers of being black. Tracy Martin says he lectured his son on the possibility that his skin color could make him a target for suspicion and violence. “I’ve always let him know we as African-Americans get stereotyped,” he told USA Today. Zimmerman maintains that he acted in self-defense, while Martin’s family claims Trayvon was targeted because of his race. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder and his trial is set for May.

Read it at Detroit Free Press

United by Tragedy

We Are All Trayvon Martin

We must dismantle the fraternity of racism and build an altar of love and justice, writes the pastor of Obama’s former church.

As 5:00 was approaching in Chicago on Wednesday, April 11, and our community was abuzz with the possible announcement of the arrest and formal charges against George Zimmerman, many in the Chicagoland area were hopeful and cynical as television pundits made predictions about the case, as if they were reporting on some unique sporting event. “This tragedy has uncovered and aggravated a deep psychic wound in our country,” my wife stated Wednesday night, on behalf of many Americans.


People along with New York City Council members attend a press conference to call for justice in the February 26 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, on the steps of City Hall March 28, 2012 in New York City. (Allison Joyce / Getty Images)

The ever-present apparition of race in America. I am not speaking of just color, but the social constructions, dynamics of economics, privilege and the peculiar challenge of the promise of democracy juxtaposed against the reality of an unfinished republic.

As a parent, my heart was broken and I wept when I first heard the 911 tapes and watched Mr. Tracy Martin, 17-year old Trayvon’s father, on television attempt to come to grips with his grief and the insanity of a law that claimed deadly force was permissible outside the home, against his son, an “alleged assailant” who was walking home with Skittles and a can of iced tea to his father’s house.  I was stunned, shocked, angry, and then heartbroken.  What must I do to protect my 11-year-old son, whose skin has been kissed by nature’s sun, just as mine?  What must I do to protect my son?  I am raising him to value education, live with integrity, and to have a deep sense of spirituality.  But this moment opened up the psychic scar people of African descent carry in our hearts, on a daily basis.  We can abide by every law, live by all the rules, but the specter of race and racialized opinion and pathology still haunt our democracy. It is not just the death of Trayvon Martin that troubles my soul, but the second death orchestrated by racialized assassins who sought to sully the name of a child who could not speak from the grave.

Trayvon Martin was violated by the cruelty of gun violence, but was violated again by privilege, power, and the cruelty of a system that believes black boys, whether on the honor roll or college bound, are suspect.  Black boys in hoodies are aesthetically and unconsciously calling for violent action.  Black boys who do not “acquiesce” to strange men without “judicial” authority asking for information or a passbook are considered instigators.  Black boys who are late to school, or laugh with friends, and engage in silly teenage behavior are “examples of gangster culture.” 

None of my white friends will ever have to worry about his or her child in the same manner.  My friend, whose child snowboards and wears baggy pants, will always be seen as a bright college-bound young man who loves to dress like Sean White.  My friend, whose son plays football and wears a hoodie, is viewed as a college-bound jock.  My friend whose son is an honor student, who is loud and, at times, irreverent yet bound for college, is viewed as “artistic.”  My son, smart, creative, funny, caring and witty, will be viewed as a threat, suspect or suspicious, by certain sectors of society.

It is in this context, when I send my child to school, when we walk together, play ball together, ride to church together, that I look at him and I must tell him the truth of being a black man in America. We belong to a fraternity created by the dysfunction of history and the immaturity of this democracy.  I will tell him: “Live your life to the fullest and to the highest. But the specter of race still haunts our lives.”

We are all Trayvon Martin. We are all Trayvon Martin’s parents. All of us, whether called black, brown, white, yellow, sprit-filled, agnostic, or atheist must dismantle the fraternity of racism and build an altar of love and justice. We need a democratic environment where children can be children and guns and gun violence will no longer be a part of our national dialogue. We honor Trayvon Martin and his memory when we seek justice and create a country where the grief of the Martin family will be an uncommon occurrence in American democracy.


Zimmerman to Seek Bail

Zimmerman to Seek Bail Gary Green, The Orlando Sentinel, Pool / Getty Images

Hearing will be held April 20th.

George Zimmerman, the man charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, will be seeking bail at an April 20th hearing, Zimmerman’s lawyer said on Friday. Zimmerman was arrested Wednesday for the Feb. 26th fatal shooting, which has caused an international outcry. A judge ruled on Thursday that there was probable cause to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder, and Zimmerman is scheduled to be arraigned on May 29. According to an affidavit revealed on Thursday, Martin’s mother identified the screams heard on Zimmerman’s 911 call as her son’s—Zimmerman has long claimed he acted in self-defense.

Read it at CNN


Trayvon Martin Remembered in Paint

One Los Angeles artist, a favorite of President Obama, has captured the Trayvon Martin tragedy in paint. How Chaz Guest is honoring the teenager’s legacy.

Images of Trayvon Martin have been splashed across the news, along with George Zimmerman’s mugshot, and stories of the teenager walking home with a bag of Skittles and iced tea that fateful night. The president has spoken out, and now Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.


"Run, Trayvon, Run," Chaz Guest, 2012

Now, a Los Angeles-based artist tells the story, with two paintings that depict Martin’s death. Chaz Guest—whose works are owned by Denzel Washington, Tyler Perry, and even President Obama—has produced two large-scale canvases inspired by the tragic shooting: Scream (Heard Across the Nation) and Run, Trayvon, Run. One depicts Martin being shot through the chest, with eyes closed and mouth agape, a kind of eerie death mask that will be etched in the memory of viewers. Skittles fly up behind him, a reminder of the reason Martin went to the store that night. In the background, the Angel Gabriel bears witness. “As I was painting, I was asking the question: Why wasn’t he saved by an angelical force?” Guest told The Daily Beast by phone. “Why has he chosen to scream across the nation?”


"Scream (Heard Across The Nation)," Chaz Guest, 2012

Guest, who is African-American, says he has been haunted by Martin’s story since it surfaced in the news just over a month ago. He has a 17-year-old son himself, and says he’s suffered several sleepless nights thinking about the avoidable tragedy. “My biggest message is that I don’t want us to ever forget this,” he says, explaining that he decided to paint the incident as a form of therapy.  “I wanted to paint something that would probably alter people’s consciousness.”


Chaz Guest gave President Obama his portrait of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, which now hangs in the president’s private study.

Guest says that he plans to use the money from the sale of the works (which he estimates will be priced at around $40,000 each) to support Trayvon Martin’s younger brother, who’s still a three and a half. (According to the Martin’s family lawyer, the boy’s mother does not want to release his name.) Guest says he suspects that the young boy will grow to feel tortured as a result of his brother’s death—since Trayvon went to get him Skittles from the store that night. “I want to let him know that I have his first semester covered,” Guest says of the boy. “I want him to know that the only way around being tortured is that you begin to make a difference.” He pauses. “Maybe he’ll study law.”

Cut a Deal

Plea Out, Zimmerman

If Zimmerman rolls the dice and loses, he’ll face years of such solitude since he won’t be allowed in the general population of any prison he’s sent to for years.

To plead or not to plead, that is the question George Zimmerman is going to have to struggle with in the coming weeks and months as he lies in his rack looking up at the fly droppings on the ceiling of a 67-square-foot cell. Of course he might make bail, but that’s highly unlikely, especially after he gave his own lawyers the slip before turning himself in. And prosecutors knows that accused individuals who have to fight their cases while confined are a lot less likely to win than someone fighting from the streets.

APTOPIX Neighborhood Watch

George Zimmerman, center, is directed by a Seminole County Deputy and his attorney Mark O'Mara during a court hearing Thursday April 12, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Gary W. Green / AP Photo)

Only the hardest of seasoned convicts would be able to reason through a decision of such monumental impact on their life without breaking out in a stone-cold sweat, and isolation certainly doesn’t help the process. At this point even his visitation privileges are being kept under wraps, but no matter how many visitors he gets (or how often is lawyer comes to see him, which won’t be all that often) Zimmerman’s going to be spending some long nights alone, with a million different scenarios playing out in his head over and over again. I’ve been there, done that—never with the kind of time this dude is facing staring me in the face like a double-barreled shotgun, but having some clammy moments nonetheless.

Sure, it’s easy for macho Stand Your Ground supporters and tough-talking bloggers to encourage Zimmerman to man up and take his case all the way to trial—it’s not their asses on the line, facing what could be 30 years in a Southern prison if the verdict comes back guilty.

Even with the best legal advice, which Zimmerman now seems to have in the person of Mark O’Mara, the decision is not going to be an easy one. This is not to say the legal team of Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig (that dropped him like he was on fire at a very public press conference) are not first rate, they are; but they also are pitbulls who realized the media attention focused on the case would have made them household names—which it turn might have made them less eager to convince their client to cop a plea. They wouldn’t want the hot glare of the media to go away, as attested to by how long they answered questions at their press conference. O’Mara was commenting on the case for television before he took it for himself.

When all is said and done, whatever lawyer represents him, that mouthpiece will go home to his own bed after the case is over—but Zimmerman might not. He is going to have to step the number off all by himself if he loses, and a lonely existence it will be. There are a lot of prisoners in America wailing about the bad deal their lawyers talked them into taking.

Currently Zimmerman is being held in what’s known as "administrative segregation," or whatever they call it at the Polk Correctional Facility where he’s being housed. A bit of solitude can be soothing, but after protracted periods lack of regular basic human contact plays tricks on the mind. Even if one of the hacks, or the occasional trustee who’s pushing the food cart three times a day, recognizes his existence and briefly speaks to him, it’s not like the sense of community all human beings need to maintain their sanity. After serving three months in isolation, I discovered deprivation is a real bitch—and I knew that the maximum sentence I was looking at was a deuce.

If Zimmerman rolls the dice and loses, he’ll face years of such solitude since he won’t be allowed in the general population of any prison he’s sent to for years. Just his presence on the prison yard could cause rioting as black convicts sought to take him out and skinheads aimed to protect him as one of their own, or at least their enemy’s enemy. The one place in America where segregation might make sense is in penal institutions—one for whites, one for blacks, and one for Hispanics.

On Message

What Did Trayvon’s Mom Mean?

“I’m not confused about what happened to my child,” Sybrina Fulton tells Allison Samuels after her “Today” show remark sparks a furor.

Sybrina Fulton says she’ll be more careful with her choice of words from here on out. Just one day after the man who shot and killed her 17-year-old son was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, Fulton found herself on the defensive.

Sybrina Fulton

Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, attended a press conference about the arrest of George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering her son. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP Photo)

During an appearance Thursday morning on NBC’s Today, Fulton told Ann Curry that she believed her son Travyon Martin’s “death was an accident.’’ She added “I believed that it just got out of control and he (Zimmerman) couldn’t turn the clock back.’’

Fulton’s remarks set off an Internet and news frenzy with the mere suggestion that 28-year-old George Zimmerman may have mistakenly killed her son on February 26. The theory of an accident is in sharp contrast to what many believe happened that night to Martin as he walked home from the neighborhood store in Sanford, Florida.

“I will have to be more mindful of my words from now on,’’ Fulton tells The Daily Beast. “I’m not used to being under the microscope every day like this. George Zimmerman stalked and killed my son that night. I’m not confused about what happened to my child.’’

Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer, claimed self defense immediately after the shooting death of the unarmed African American teenager. Martin was walking home with Skittles and iced tea in a gated community when Zimmerman deemed him suspicious and began to follow him. He called the Sanford police to report Martin, and minutes later Martin lay dead on the sidewalk from a gunshot wound to his chest.

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous speaks out on the outrage surrounding Trayvon's murder

Fulton explains that she was only offering additional insight into a comment Travyon’s father Tracy made on Today. “Tracy told the reporter that if Trayvon had been a minute earlier walking home or Zimmerman a minute later, this would have never happened.  I just meant it was an accident they ever met in the first place. It wasn’t supposed to be. If Zimmerman had stayed in his car that night, they wouldn’t have met. If he’d just minded his own business, this would not have happened.’’


Neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman said he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed.

The Daily Beast Reports

Zimmerman Blows It

Zimmerman Blows It

The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin has a whole new set of problems after the court found out he lied at his bond hearing, writes Mansfield Frazier.

Stand Your Ground

Shoot First, Learn The Law Later

Law Enforcement

Time to End Racial Profiling?

Zimmerman Apologizes to Trayvon’s Family

George Zimmerman took the stand during his bond hearing Friday, issuing a statement to the Martin family. ‘I’m sorry for the loss of your son,’ he told the court before answering a series of questions about the case.


We Are All Trayvon Martin

We must dismantle the fraternity of racism and build an altar of love and justice, writes the pastor of Obama’s former church.


Trayvon Martin Remembered in Paint

Chaz Guest captures the Trayvon Martin tragedy. He talks about honoring Martin's legacy.

Why the Right Is Smearing Trayvon

Why the Right Is Smearing Trayvon

Conservatives are using the teenager’s tweets, hoodie, and school suspension to blame him for his own death—and to show that racism was not a factor, says Michelle Goldberg.

The Man Who Shot Trayvon Martin

The Man Who Shot Trayvon Martin

George Zimmerman, the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, aspired to enter law enforcement.