The shooter, George Zimmerman, is set for trial on second-degree murder charges on June 10.
On this date in 2012, the 28-year-old Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer at a gated housing complex in the central Florida city of Sanford, called the police to report a young man cutting in between houses. Against the advice of the police dispatcher, he then followed Trayvon, became involved in a confrontation, drew his semi-automatic pistol from a holster in his waistband and fired a single shot into the teen's chest. Within minutes, before the police arrived, Martin was dead.
Thus was the stage set for family heartbreak, an explosion of national media attention (a good portion of it inaccurate), accusations of sloppy police work abetted by racist motivations, protests that included the wearing of hoodies (like the one Trayvon was wearing when he was shot) by whole church congregations and by Rep. Bobby Rush on the floor of the House of Representatives, the generating of an array of street art depicting Trayvon in several cities, the appointment of a special prosecutor with a reputation for being hard-nosed, an arrest and indictment for second-degree murder and release of Zimmerman on modest bail, fundraising by him on an in-your-face website, an interview with him by Sean Hannity on Fox News in which he said he had "no regrets" in the shooting, revocation of bail after it was discovered Zimmerman and his wife lied about how much money they had when bail was set the first time, and Zimmerman's release on new bail of a million dollars.
In addition, the shooting of Martin has raised questions about the state's so-called "Stand Your Ground" law that adds protections from prosecution for individuals beyond standard self-defense exemptions. Questions were also raised about Florida's provision of permits to carry concealed firearms. Zimmerman had acquired such a permit and said he carried his 9mm pistol everywhere he went except work after a police officer told him and his wife to get a gun to protect themselves against a pit bull they said had menaced them three times.
The Neighborhood Watch manual that is supposed to be followed by all volunteers specifically states that volunteers "shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles. They should also be cautioned to alert police or deputies when encountering strange activity. Members should never confront suspicious persons who could be armed and dangerous."
No witness saw the actual shooting, although some heard shouts and saw a fight taking place. Zimmerman claims he was attacked by Trayvon, and has a medical report showing he was treated for black eyes and a broken nose. Trayvon, of course, can never tell his side of the story. Please continue reading more about the shooting below the fold.
We know that he walked to a local convenience store and bought Skittles and tea, but that he never got home. We also know that the Sanford police bungled the investigation badly, failing to take more than one photo of Zimmerman's injuries, failing to secure his vehicle after the shooting and failing to test him for drugs or alcohol.
Despite the strong misgivings of one detective that Zimmerman's story didn't make sense, he wasn't initially charged. In fact, he wasn't arrested for 44 days. That didn't happen until the nationwide public outcry pushed Florida Gov. Rick Scott to take the matter out of local hands and appoint a special prosecutor. Three weeks later, she indicted Zimmerman on the second-degree murder charges.
Last month, Zimmerman's attorneys sought a delay in both the "Stand Your Ground" hearing now slated for April 22 and in the June 10 trial until November. They argued that the prosecution has been slow to release evidence. The court rejected both requests. Expectations are that the pool from which the jury will be selected will include 500 potential jurors.
Zimmerman is also seeking more donors to his defense fund at his website. His lawyers claim that the fund has raised some $314,000 since Zimmerman was charged. In addition to bail, much of that money went to pay for living expenses. It also covers the monitoring fees of the GPS ankle tracker the court requires Zimmerman to wear. The lawyers say another million dollars may be needed before the trial is over.
Before that trial, however, Zimmerman has a slim chance of being released without further charges based on the Stand Your Ground statute, called Justifiable Use of Force. That controversial law, and similar laws in 31 other states, extends people's right to self-defense beyond their home or car to anywhere they may be. The judge in the case might look at the evidence and decide to drop the charges based on the provisions of that law. Leading legal analysts see that as unlikely, however.