I keep trying to stop writing about the case and focus on other things, because there are surely plenty of important ones. But my frustration and anger is actually building rather than letting up, which is a surprise because the verdict was at least the correct one.
I promise myself (and you) I’ll stop writing about this soon and get on to other things, but just one more…just one more. Like potato chips, only nowhere near as tasty—in fact, not tasty at all.
What is it that irks me so very much even at this late date? A lot of things, actually (some of which I’ve written about already)—but in particular it’s the amount of disinformation everywhere, disinformation that’s authoritatively parroted by the left and right alike at times. So much that people “know”—and in fact are righteously, adamantly certain they know—is false.
Like vampires, these memes are hard to kill, and are even repeated by those who are basically behind the verdict and Zimmerman, and who should know better. But apparently there’s a lot of lazy, slipshod thinking and writing out there, as well as purposeful lying.
I’ve already dealt with the “followed” meme, from which so many others flow. And today William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection talks about a related meme, the “Zimmerman was told not to get out of his car” falsehood, here. Of course, there’s also the “Zimmerman the racist” theme, the “open season on black youths” theme, and too many others to list, most of them based on nothing more than the political leanings of the speaker combined with an abysmal ignorance (or feigned ignorance) of the facts of the case and the law. And some of this comes from lawyers as well.
It makes me angry, because although I can tolerate plenty of disagreement, I can’t stand it when people spread lies or misunderstandings that could be cleared up by doing just a minimum of research, and the public swallows it whole. I don’t pretend to know exactly what happened every moment between Zimmerman and Martin that night—there are some things we’ll never know—but I at least try my best to learn as much as I can from the information we do have and not to misstate the facts, and to use logic in analyzing what those facts might mean. I have respect for people on either side of the issue who do the same, but they’re nowhere near as numerous as they should be.
That’s why last night when I happened across the following exchange on Hannity between Juan Williams and someone I’d never heard of before named Leo Terrell, I felt as though Terrell was channeling me in his obvious frustration with Williams’ ignorance and sloppy reasoning. What’s all the more surprising is that it turns out that Terrell, a lawyer, is apparently an extreme liberal who usually disagrees vociferously with all conservative positions. But for some reason, this time he’s in agreement with what is usually thought of as the conservative side, and he seems to know his facts about the case. Watch what he does to Williams:
Curiously satisfying, at least to me.
Now let’s get to another issue—the fact that Zimmerman had called 911 many times before. Our very own commenter “Mitsu” gave particular weight to that fact yesterday, writing about it in comment after comment. I offer a few here:
These facts are quite easy to ascertain: Zimmerman became a member of the neighborhood watch in September 2011, long after most of his eccentric calls to 911 were made. How many times have YOU called 911? To say that his 911 behavior wasn’t odd is to stretch credulity.
You [neo]…make no mention of [Zimmerman's] 46 calls to 911. If you can read the 46 call record and conclude Zimmerman was a completely run of the mill, ordinary, responsible and level-headed member of a neighborhood watch, I have to say I think your judgement of that is at variance with most people’s.
And in this comment of Mitsu’s, he refers to Zimmerman’s “obsessiveness, his paranoia, his incessant calls to 911.”
My response to all of this can be found here, but I’ll just summarize it as saying that we have no idea if Zimmerman’s call numbers were unusual, given the situation in the neighborhood where he lived, since we have nothing to compare it to (such as, for example, calls to 911 by other neighbors).
But the exchange made me curious. Was there indeed something unusual about Zimmerman’s making so many calls? Not that it is relevant to Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence—it is not, at least not in the legal sense. But I wanted to know nevertheless.
So I did some Googling. Until yesterday, I’d never read this in-depth article from Reuters about the Zimmerman family when George was growing up, and (more to the point) what exactly had been happening in Zimmerman’s neighborhood prior to the night he killed Martin.
Please do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. But here’s an especially relevant excerpt (amazing that we have to turn to Reuters for this sort of thing; who would have guessed it?) [Emphasis mine]:
By the summer of 2011, Twin Lakes [where Zimmerman lived] was experiencing a rash of burglaries and break-ins. Previously a family-friendly, first-time homeowner community, it was devastated by the recession that hit the Florida housing market, and transient renters began to occupy some of the 263 town houses in the complex. Vandalism and occasional drug activity were reported, and home values plunged. One resident who bought his home in 2006 for $250,000 said it was worth $80,000 today.
At least eight burglaries were reported within Twin Lakes in the 14 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, according to the Sanford Police Department. Yet in a series of interviews, Twin Lakes residents said dozens of reports of attempted break-ins and would-be burglars casing homes had created an atmosphere of growing fear in the neighborhood.
In several of the incidents, witnesses identified the suspects to police as young black men. Twin Lakes is about 50 percent white, with an African-American and Hispanic population of about 20 percent each, roughly similar to the surrounding city of Sanford, according to U.S. Census data.
One morning in July 2011, a black teenager walked up to Zimmerman’s front porch and stole a bicycle, neighbors told Reuters. A police report was taken, though the bicycle was not recovered.
But it was the August incursion into the home of Olivia Bertalan that really troubled the neighborhood, particularly Zimmerman. [His wife] Shellie was home most days, taking online courses towards certification as a registered nurse.
On August 3, Bertalan was at home with her infant son while her husband, Michael, was at work. She watched from a downstairs window, she said, as two black men repeatedly rang her doorbell and then entered through a sliding door at the back of the house. She ran upstairs, locked herself inside the boy’s bedroom, and called a police dispatcher, whispering frantically.
“I said, ‘What am I supposed to do? I hear them coming up the stairs!’” she told Reuters. Bertalan tried to coo her crying child into silence and armed herself with a pair of rusty scissors.
Police arrived just as the burglars – who had been trying to disconnect the couple’s television – fled out a back door. Shellie Zimmerman saw a black male teen running through her backyard and reported it to police.
After police left Bertalan, George Zimmerman arrived at the front door in a shirt and tie, she said. He gave her his contact numbers on an index card and invited her to visit his wife if she ever felt unsafe. He returned later and gave her a stronger lock to bolster the sliding door that had been forced open.
“He was so mellow and calm, very helpful and very, very sweet,” she said last week. “We didn’t really know George at first, but after the break-in we talked to him on a daily basis. People were freaked out. It wasn’t just George calling police … we were calling police at least once a week.”
In September, a group of neighbors including Zimmerman approached the homeowners association with their concerns, she said. Zimmerman was asked to head up a new neighborhood watch. He agreed.
Less than two weeks later, another Twin Lakes home was burglarized, police reports show. Two weeks after that, a home under construction was vandalized.
The Retreat at Twin Lakes e-newsletter for February 2012 noted: “The Sanford PD has announced an increased patrol within our neighborhood … during peak crime hours.
“If you’ve been a victim of a crime in the community, after calling police, please contact our captain, George Zimmerman.”
On February 2, 2012, Zimmerman placed a call to Sanford police after spotting a young black man he recognized peering into the windows of a neighbor’s empty home, according to several friends and neighbors.
“I don’t know what he’s doing. I don’t want to approach him, personally,” Zimmerman said in the call, which was recorded. The dispatcher advised him that a patrol car was on the way. By the time police arrived, according to the dispatch report, the suspect had fled.
On February 6, the home of another Twin Lakes resident, Tatiana Demeacis, was burglarized. Two roofers working directly across the street said they saw two African-American men lingering in the yard at the time of the break-in. A new laptop and some gold jewelry were stolen. One of the roofers called police the next day after spotting one of the suspects among a group of male teenagers, three black and one white, on bicycles.
Police found Demeacis’s laptop in the backpack of 18-year-old Emmanuel Burgess, police reports show, and charged him with dealing in stolen property. Burgess was the same man Zimmerman had spotted on February 2.
I think I’ll just stop there, although the article doesn’t. I believe I’ve made my point. Paranoid, calling 911 too much? Hardly. And if Zimmerman was reporting a lot of suspicious black men—well, that’s because there were a number of black men that had been wandering around Twin Lakes acting suspiciously.
I said the article doesn’t stop there. It goes on to complete the narrative with a very brief description of the Martin killing, adding the almost-obligatory, “[Zimmerman] disregarded police advice against pursuing Martin.” However, the article was written on April 25, 2012, before too many of the details of that night were known (although the writer should have figured it out properly just from the evidence in the emergency call).
At any rate, we can now piece these things together and get a fuller portrait. That portrait reflects well on Zimmerman, and poorly on those who would torment him and tarnish his name further for propaganda purposes. Too bad they are so numerous.