Un “Till’….The Trayvon Martin Case

July 17, 2013   John Hanno

                                                        Un ‘Till’

Following the decision in the George Zimmerman trial, John Lewis, Congressman from Georgia since 1987, said: “I am deeply disappointed by the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. It seems to justify the stalking and killing of innocent black boys and deny them any avenue of self-defense. … I hope this verdict will serve to open some kind of meaningful dialogue on the issues of race and justice in America.”

Of course Congressman Lewis is correct, but under Florida’s dangerous stand your ground laws, its not just unarmed young black males that are in jeopardy of being blown to kingdom come; its everyone who might end up in the gun sites of these wacko vigilantes. All teenagers, white, black or Latino, 90% of who wear hoodies, should not venture out at night. And, based on the outcome of the Zimmerman trial, anyone is now free to arm themselves, approach and pick a fight with someone or provoke someone they have a beef with or don’t approve of; and as soon as that prey offers some resistance, you’re able to put a bullet through their heart. I see similar stories like this on WE-TV, in reruns of “Gunsmoke” and “The Rifleman”. Who said the Wild West is dead?

As we know, Congressman Lewis was one of the leaders in the civil rights movement and helped lead the March 7, 1965 Bloody Sunday march for voting rights, from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. He was one of the marchers who were confronted and then clubbed, whipped and tear-gassed by more than 150 State Troopers, Sheriff’s police and posse men (vigilantes) on the Edmund Pettis Bridge and then had his skull fractured. I think Mr. Lewis can recognize a vigilante when he sees one.

Mr. Lewis also stated he believes the shooting of Trayvon Martin resembled the Emmett Till case of August 1955, where a 14 year old South Side Chicago boy visiting his cousins for the summer, was dragged from his great uncles home at gun point in the middle of the night for talking to a white women 3 days earlier in Money, Mississippi. Emmett was found 4 days later in the Tallahatchie River, beaten, shot in the head and lashed to a large metal fan with barbed wire. He was so unrecognizable, the only way he was identified was by his fathers initials L.T. on the signet ring given to Emmett by his mother before he left Chicago. Till’s alleged killers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were arrested and charged with his murder. Despite the overwhelming evidence and even though Till’s great uncle Moses courageously put his life in jeopardy by testifying and identifying the two as Till’s kidnappers and killers. both were acquitted of all charges by an all white, all male jury.

The deliberations lasted only 67 minutes. A few months later, the defendants then sold the story of how they kidnapped and murdered Till to Look Magazine for $4,000.  Emmett’s body was shipped back to Chicago. His mother, Mamie Till, decided to display his body at Roberts Temple Church of God in an open casket. Although she said it was very painful seeing her dead son’s body on display, she said: “let the world see what has happened, because there is no way I could describe this. And I needed somebody to help me tell what it was like.”  I remember seeing pictures of thousands of mourners parading by his casket and the graphic pictures of Till in his casket in Jet magazine. It didn’t look like a human body. He’s buried in a nearby South Chicago suburb. He was only about 6 years older than me so we grew up on the South Side of Chicago at the same time. We were both born in July, 2 days apart.

Emmett Till’s death and his mothers efforts to publicize his tragedy, for all the world to see, served as an impetus for the Civil Rights movement. Three months after his death, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and go to the back of the bus. Her actions sparked the yearlong Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. Mamie Till believed her son’s death, and stories, pictures and films of other beatings and lynchings in the south, including those of nonviolent protestors being attacked by police and State troopers with dogs and fire hoses, helped America come to grips with racial inequality and injustice. She said that before her sons murder: “people really didn’t know that things this horrible could take place. And the fact that it happened to a child, that makes all the difference in the world.”

The case that the Zimmerman prosecution team presented leaves a lot of room for criticism. Legal media experts across the country have picked apart their ineffective case. I too, was shouting at my TV during much of the trial, imploring the prosecutors to either ask this question or why in the world would they have asked that question or why not follow up with that question. The biggest mistakes allowed the inclusion of Zimmerman’s many self-serving statements and video’s, without somehow assuring he would have to testify under oath and be subject to cross examination in order to counter the prosecution’s presumed fact based theory of events.

I believe the prosecutors gave the jury too much credit for being able to analyze the evidence and fill in the blanks. Instead of laying out a clear scenario they wholeheartedly believed flowed from the known facts and from Zimmerman’s proven lies and false statements, they somehow believed the jury would base their decision simply on the fact that Zimmerman lied about what really occurred and then refused to testify and face rebuttal.

I would be willing to bet these jurors were not analytical people. They are probably intuitive people of faith and not reason, and consequently swayed more by their biases than by facts and reasoned argument. Defense attorney Don West unfortunately had it right with his knock, knock joke about picking a jury reliably void of knowledge about the case. Unfortunately those usually chosen as jurors are often void of any knowledge or analytical talent concerning anything. The prosecution proffered a timeline without filling in the blanks. The prosecution then helped Zimmerman prove his own case by fully accepting Zimmerman and his defense’s claims that assumed, and consequently established for the jury that Trayvon was clearly the aggressor. I screamed at my TV, all my teachers taught me that: when you assume something, “you make an ass out of u and me.” They allowed the defense to put Trayvon on trial. And he was reliably found guilty.

We don’t know exactly what happened in the dark that night because (1) Trayvon is dead, (2) Zimmerman refused to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, (3) it was too dark for neighbors to see what really transpired, or video what happened (4) no one had the courage to venture out to help someone crying out for help. (5) The police department failed to initially charge or take serious the allegations against Zimmerman.

If young black Trayvon had been the one pulling the trigger, he would have been in a maximum security prison before they served him his first baloney sandwich, and (6) lets face it, Sanford P.D. did not have “The Closer’s” Deputy Chief Brenda Johnson to interrogate Mr. Zimmerman. If they had, she would have wrapped up the case within the hour; and  Zimmerman would have confessed to killing Trayvon, been placed in cuffs and headed to prison for 30 to life.

But I would be willing to bet my check on a few plausible certainties. Trayvon was simply on his way back home to his 12 year old step brother with skittles and a bottle of ice tea, to play video games and to watch the NBA All-star game on TV. He was unarmed. He was not on drugs or acting suspicious as Zimmerman claimed. We saw him on video inside the Convenience Store and he looked like any other merely confused teenager trying to make a decision about what he wanted to buy and how much he had to spend. The store clerk, as he testified to at trial, was obviously not suspicious or threatened.

I’m pretty sure Trayvon was not sticking his hands in his waistband as Zimmerman claimed. He was talking to a friend on his phone with one hand and holding his bag of goodies with the other. Trayvon really believed he was being followed by some crazy ass cracker. And was probably scared shitless. Zimmerman was clearly profiling Trayvon as a suspicious f—ing asshole, a punk that was probably on drugs and some thug about to get away with something.

Zimmerman refused to stay in his vehicle, as he was told to do, until the police arrived a few minutes later. And I firmly believe Zimmerman, who his MMA type trainer testified at trial as soft and a wuss, was not afraid to take off after a suspicious hooded young black man because he probably drew his gun from the holster as soon as he left his vehicle. And finally, Trayvon was intercepted from going home by a vigilante aiming a gun at him.

This is where its gets complicated. Did uncoordinated Zimmerman trip and fall while he was running after Trayvon; did Zimmerman slip and fall in the damp grass or onto the hard sidewalk and hurt himself; did Zimmerman trip or slip and fall, and did the gun then accidentally fire a bullet through Trayvon’s heart; did Zimmerman just get excited and stick a gun into Trayvon’s chest and accidentally or on purpose shoot Trayvon through the heart?

After possibly accidentally shooting Trayvon, did Zimmerman then injure himself on purpose and concoct an unbelievable story so that it would appear that he had to defend himself against an unarmed skinny boy armed with a cell phone and a bag of skittles? We don’t know if there even was a struggle or fight and if there was, who started it. Was Trayvon desperately trying to defend himself against someone (not a police officer) aiming a gun at him? The prosecution proposed none of these possibilities to the jury.

Because I spent my entire life building and repairing things, I necessarily had to be analytical and logical and could not assume anything. So after shaving with a razor for more than 60 years, I realize that all blood vessels in the head and face are numerous and very close to the surface. I know that any little mishap while shaving makes you bleed like a stuck pig, extracts about a half pint of blood from ones facial capillaries and causes you to stick a half roll of toilet paper on the cuts.

I once blew my nose during a cold while I was in the Army, ruptured a blood vessel, lost about a quart of blood, which I spit into a butt can and had to have an Army specialist cauterize the vessel while I passed out. The supposed injuries to Zimmerman were at best, extremely minimal. He could have scratched his own head with a fingernail, a car key or with one of his flashlights; and it would have extracted more blood than was displayed in the photos of his injuries.

If Trayvon had violently slammed Zimmerman’s head onto the sidewalk as Zimmerman’s attorney did to the dummy during trial over and over, Zimmerman would have been knocked out and then rushed to the hospital with a severe concussion and a severe brain injury that would have swelled his brain and forced a neurosurgeon to cut open his scull so that his brain could swell without causing irreparable brain damage.

But most important, if Zimmerman had just waited as directed for 2 or 3 minutes, the police would have shown up, walked up to Trayvon, as uniformed police officers, (something I’m sure Trayvon or any other young black man has experienced multiple times), and simply asked Trayvon what he was doing. Trayvon would have shown the cops his bag of goodies and his receipt from the store. The officers would have patted Trayvon on top of his hoodied head and either sent him or driven him home to his waiting brother. As they dropped him off, they would have told him to be careful because there are some dangerous armed people driving through his neighborhood.

And if heaven forbid, in the extremely unlikely case a cop would have shot an unarmed boy, that officer would have his badge and firearm taken away immediately and would have been subjected to not only an automatic internal investigation, but probably a state or federal use of force investigation. I just can’t believe there is any conceivable way, Trayvon would not be alive today, if only the police had confronted him instead of Zimmerman.

Interesting and informative was Sean Hannity’s interview of Zimmerman. Hannity asked him why he thought Trayvon was on drugs. Zimmerman said because it was raining, Trayvon was walking between houses, cutting through houses and walking very leisurely. That sounded like nonsense, as did much of Zimmerman’s answers during the whole interview. When I was a teen walking through my South Side Chicago neighborhood, we often flipped fences and cut through backyards and alleys. It simply appeared Zimmerman was attempting to keep from tripping himself up on previous lies.

But I think most interesting part of the interview, besides the fact that he claimed he didn’t know anything about or ever heard about Stand Your Ground Laws (Obviously pure bullcrap), was when Hannity asked Zimmerman if he regretted anything that night, regretted getting out of the car to follow Trayvon that night. Zimmerman said no sir. Hannity then said do you regret that you had a gun that night. Zimmerman said no sir. Hannity then asked Zimmerman if he felt that he would not be there tonight if he didn’t have the gun. Zimmerman said no sir. Hannity asked him if he would do anything differently in retrospect, time having passed a bit. Zimmerman said he felt it was all Gods plan and for him to second guess it or judge it…umm and then shakes his head no. Hannity then asks, is there anything you would do differently in retrospect, now that a little bit of time has passed. Zimmerman again said no sir. I think even Hannity was clearly incredulous, but Zimmerman failed to relent.

If I was the prosecutor in the case, I would have played that part of the Hannity interview and then while looking directly at Trayvon’s parents and then at the 6 women jurors, I would say, I believe Trayvon’s parents and family surely believe in God but I know they also don’t believe it was “Gods Will” that some reckless individual should shoot and kill their unarmed boy.

The prosecutors in this case could have presented all these arguments in a more coherent way. If they did, I believe Zimmerman may have had to testify in order to not be convicted of 2nd degree murder and at worse, may have been convicted of manslaughter. Yet if the prosecutors had put on a much more competent case and done everything right, would it have made a difference to this 6 person non representative jury; maybe not?

I’ve seen enough jury trials to believe the idea of a jury of ones peers may have outlived its benefits. Most civilized countries, if not all, don’t rely on that system. I think its time we have jurors trained and paid as professionals. They can still be chosen as representative to a particular case. But Trayvon was in actuality tried, convicted and found guilty, yet he did not have a jury of his peers. How about a 12 person jury, six of which were people of color and who may have been profiled at one time or another. It would also be interesting to hear what Judge Debra Nelson felt about the jury’s decision. We will probably never know. What I do know for sure is that:

If I had felt it necessary to inject myself into community policing, like Zimmerman did and which I definitely wouldn’t, and;

If I had felt it necessary to stick my nose into someone else’s (Trayvon’s) business, like Zimmerman did and which I would never do, and;

If I had owned a gun designed primarily for killing fellow human beings, like Zimmerman did and which I have refused to do for more than 6 decades while living on the South Side of Chicago and South Suburbs, and;

If I had routinely carried a concealed weapon, like Zimmerman does (he told Hannity that he carries his gun everywhere except work) and which I don’t and which I believe is antithetical to a civilized society and unbelievably reckless, and;

If I had routinely targeted young black males in my community, like Zimmerman did time and time again when calling police (he always reported only black males) and which I have never done in more than 60 years, and;

If I routinely profiled young black men by referring to them as “those F—ing assholes”        and “punks that always get away”, like Zimmerman did and which I think is obscene, and proves Zimmerman harbored ill will and malice of forethought, and;

If I decided to get out of my vehicle and follow Trayvon, even thought the police dispatcher told him not to and to stay in his vehicle, like Zimmerman did and which I would never even consider doing, and;

If I decided to un-holster my loaded gun and chase after a young boy who did nothing to me or anyone else, as Zimmerman probably did, and which I would never, ever even consider doing, and;

If for some inconceivable reason, I engaged in such outrageous conduct, like Zimmerman did in this case, I guess I wouldn’t have the guts to testify before a jury of my peers either.

But I just can’t believe a jury would not find a person guilty of manslaughter after refusing to explain or justify the reasons he found it necessary to shoot and kill an unarmed boy. How can juror B37 “reasonably” believe “Zimmerman’s heart was in the right place.”

And how can Juror B29 “reasonably” vote to acquit Zimmerman. She initially voted to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder. After the trial, she told Robin Roberts, during an interview on “Good Morning America” that she believed Zimmerman “got away with murder.” She said “George Zimmerman got away with murder, but you can’t get away from God. And at the end of the day, he’s going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with,” “[But] the law couldn’t prove it.” “You can’t put the man in jail even though in our hearts we felt he was guilty,” “But we had to grab our hearts and put it aside and look at the evidence.” “I was the juror that was going to give them the hung jury. I fought to the end.” She also stated she thought the case was a “publicity stunt” and should not have been brought to trial. “The truth is that there was nothing that we could do about it.” “I feel the verdict was already told.”

She blamed the lack of evidence and Florida’s laws to somehow justify acquitting Zimmerman. She now second guesses her decision to acquit; but of course its too late. She said she owes Trayvon’s parents an apology and believes “like I let them down.” I think she let Trayvon Martin and our jury system down.

I guess it’s too much to ask one 6 person jury to put a dent in America’s race relations problems but I was hoping for just a little common sense. I guess I was waiting for Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) or “Elementary’s” Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu (Sherlock Holmes and Watson) to step in and figure out ‘who done it.’

Conservative media and Bloggers view Zimmerman as a hero. He is not a hero. He’s a “wantabe” cop who was repeatedly determined unfit for police work. He profiled a young person innocently walking through his neighborhood. He refused to stay in his vehicle when told to by the police dispatcher. He refused to wait for just a couple of minutes more for the dispatched trained police officers to arrive. He shot Trayvon, as he told Hannity, 15 or 30 seconds before the police arrived.

He is at best a reckless buffoon who was probably chasing after Trayvon with his finger on the trigger of a loaded high powered weapon that didn’t have a safety (“never run while carrying a scissors”). He either stumbled or otherwise accidentally, or on purpose, shot Trayvon through his heart. He then concocted a story only a mother could believe. I believe Zimmerman then told us a lot about his intensions and state of mind by not trying to save Trayvon’s life by initiating any efforts to help him or perform CPR.

George Zimmerman got away with murder because of (1) a tardy and mediocre investigation of his conduct and the facts of the case by the Sanford P.D.; (2) because of ineffective prosecution; (3) because of Florida’s nonsensical and dangerous Stand Your Ground Laws, and the consequential confusing jury instructions; and (4) because of a 6 person jury that was not representative of both the defendant and the victim, and a jury that was probably not capable of using their common sense to render a just decision.

Un “Till” young black men, especially those wearing hoodies, are not automatically viewed by half of American’s as troublemakers and thugs;

Un “Till” America stops incarcerating young black men at ever increasing rates;

Un “Till” more young black men refuse to join gangs when looking for some semblance of family;

Un “Till” America is able to offer young men of all colors, including and especially Veterans, living wage jobs, instead of a life of fending for themselves on the streets;

Un “Till” more young black men end up graduating from college, than from being released from prison;

Un “Till” we reach a point where the innocent young black victim of a hate crime can’t be proven guilty of his own murder;

Un “Till” all those, including jurors, who say they are not prejudiced, but harbor many subtle and toxic biases, can see themselves for what they are;

Un “Till” Police departments throughout America, view all young men the same regardless of how they walk or talk or what they wear or the hue of their skin;

Un “Till” Legislatures everywhere, including the United States Congress, find some balls, and stand up to the NRA, ALEC and these extreme wacko 2nd Amendment zealots;

Un “Till” America “Stand’s It’s Ground”, and refuses to turn its back on responsible gun laws;

Un “Till” this all happens, we will continue to see, especially on the streets of our South Chicago neighborhoods, innocent children placed in caskets and carried to the cemeteries.

If there are any positives in this case and reason for hope, its that:

A recent Poll said that 62% of American’s believe George Zimmerman unnecessarily killed Trayvon Martin.

At least 450,000 people, and probably much more now, and including myself, signed a petition asking the Department of Justice to go forward with their suspended civil rights investigation of Zimmerman’s conduct.

Peaceful demonstrators across the country were not just African Americans but from every group. Black, white, Latino and Asian; men, women and children, old and young. I would say the demonstrators I saw were an overwhelming white majority.

And, a large majority of Florida’s prosecutors are now asking the legislators to change and correct the flaws in Florida’s current Stand Your Ground Laws.

And, most experts believe a Civil Trial against George Zimmerman probably will be undertaken; a trial where Zimmerman will be forced to testify. At least he may not be able to profit from Trayvon’s murder.

Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture, said he would like Trayvon’s hoodie for its permanent collection. “It became the symbolic way to talk about the Trayvon Martin case.” “It’s rare that you get one artifact that really becomes the symbol.”

Maybe the pictures of Trayvon Martin lying on a slab in the morgue will, like the pictures of Emmett Till lying in his coffin did in 1955 for civil rights, spark change; and in this case, some sensible modification of these egregious and dangerous Stand Your Ground Laws, in at least some of those 24 states. Our own Illinois concealed weapons ban was recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Illinois was the last of the States to have a reasonable ban on concealed weapons. Our legislature is still wrestling with a revision of those laws that would conform with the Constitutions 2nd Amendment. Gentlemen and women, please pay attention.

And as Congressman Lewis implored: “I hope this verdict will serve to open some kind of meaningful dialogue on the issues of race and justice in America.”    John Hanno

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *