Huffington Post BlackVoices will be covering the Trayvon Martin case, as well as the way the news media reports on it, here on our liveblog.
Martin, 17, was headed back to the home of his father's girlfriend shortly after 6 p.m. on Feb. 26 after a trip to the convenience store. George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch member, reported Martin to the police, and told the 911 dispatcher that the teenager looked "suspicious." Zimmerman was told by the dispatcher not to follow Martin, but a few minutes after the police call, Martin lay dead from a gunshot to the chest. Zimmerman admitted to police that he shot Martin, but claimed he acted in self-defense, and he has not been arrested or charged. The case has garnered national attention, with protests and rallies around the country calling for the shooting to be investigated and for Zimmerman to be prosecuted.
You can also follow our reporting on the story on our Trayvon Martin news page.
The defense team for George Zimmerman, the man charged with murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has launched a new website, Facebook and Twitter account designed to dispute misinformation and provide "a voice for Mr. Zimmerman."
"We understand that it is unusual for a legal defense to maintain a social media presence on behalf of a defendant, but we also acknowledge that this is a very unusual case," Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, wrote on the website, gzlegalcase.com.
O’Mara said that "social media in this day and age cannot be ignored," and that it would be “irresponsible to ignore the robust online conversation” around his client's case.
A Florida judge has granted bail for George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester set Zimmerman's bond at 0,000, but said he would not be released today, pending deliberations about the terms of the release.
The bail hearing featured dramatic testimony from Zimmerman, who took the stand and offered an apology to Martin's parents.
"I wanted to say that I am sorry for the loss of your son," Zimmerman said, adding that he did not know how old Martin was or that he was unarmed.
"I thought he was a little bit younger than I am," he said. "I did not know whether he was armed or not."
A new photograph released by ABC News shows a bloodied George Zimmerman with injuries on the back of his head. The photo, which was reportedly taken three minutes after Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin, could serve as possible evidence supporting the neighborhood watch volunteer's claim of his violent confrontation with the teen.
The judge who was set to preside over the trial of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin has stepped aside.
Jessica Reckseidler's recusal from the trial comes after Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, suggested that her husband's job as a partner to Mark NeJame, a CNN legal analyst covering the trial, represented a conflict of interest.
NeJame was initially contacted by Zimmerman's family to represent him, but NeJame suggested O'Mara.
The new judge in the case will be Kenneth R. Lester, Jr., who has presided over several much-covered cases, including ordering the release of a schizophrenic woman from a state mental hospital after she was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting deaths of her parents and sentencing an ax murderer to death after he killed a 71-year-old man. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Lester is popular among attorneys and is known for acting quickly.
The judge who would have been next in line to handle the Zimmerman case after Jessica Reckseidler could not take on the case because he had previously worked with O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney.
First lady Michelle Obama says her "heart goes out to the parents" of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager who was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.
Mrs. Obama says in an interview with NPR that all parents understand "the tragedy of that kind of loss." Martin was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who has claimed self-defense.
The first lady says it's important "not to lose sight of the fact that this is a family that's grieving and there's been a tremendous loss." She says, "we all have to rally around that piece of it."
Police initially didn't charge Zimmerman in the Sanford, Fla., shooting, leading to nationwide protests. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder last week.
As scores of media personnel and activists descended upon the area, residents and businesses found themselves facing very public scrutiny and a growing fear that the community was harboring a racially hostile environment -- which prompted locals to cut back on their normal routines, including shopping. "There was an air that the community was on the verge of bad activity or violence and that is not the case," Nicholas Mcray, Sanford's director of economic development, said. "There was never any kind of trend of violence, but that was the perception put out by the media."
While it's been weeks since the shooting, the small businesses that make up Sanford's historic downtown continue to suffer, with some businesses seeing up to a 50 percent drop in activity. "A few convenience retailers are seeing a 2 to 3 percent increase, but the downtown area is really taking a hit," Mcray said.Read the full story HERE.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, the controversial corporate-sponsored lobbying group whose push for "stand your ground" gun laws and voter ID legislation ignited grassroots protests, announced Tuesday that it is getting out of the social policy field to focus on core economic issues.
Corporations associated with ALEC had been under siege from public interest and civil rights groups who demanded they cut ties with ALEC, most recently because of its successful push to pass "stand your ground" legislation in multiple states. Florida's version of that law has been cited as a reason why neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was not initially charged in the deadly shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Several companies -- including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft and Intuit -- had already distanced themselves from ALEC before Tuesday's surprise announcement.
The Associated Press is reporting that Zimmerman has arrived at jail.
Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.
According to CNN, Zimmerman turned himself in and has a new attorney, Mark O'Mara. During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, he former employees announced that they had lost contact with Zimmerman and would no longer be representing him in the case.
If convicted, Zimmerman could face life in prison.
A day after George Zimmerman's attorneys stepped down because they had lost contact with him, the special prosecutor in the case will bring charges against him, according to reports.
The Washington Post is reporting that special prosecutor Angela Corey will announce charges against Zimmerman for his role in Trayvon Martin's shooting death. Earlier this week, Corey said she would not convene a grand jury in the case. Under Florida law, only grand juries can issue murder charges, which means that Zimmerman will face lesser charges.
Around 4:30 a.m. this morning, an empty police car near the gated community where Trayvon Martin was shot through with bullets several times. The police in Sanford are investigating the crime.
Sanford's police department has come under withering criticism for its handling of the case. Yesterday, a group of student protesters blocked the entrance to the police headquarters, forcing the department to shut down for several hours.
Martin's killing has sparked national outrage. But it is not the first criminal investigation to upset Sanford's black community, whose leaders say police have repeatedly failed to properly investigate crimes involving black victims.
A string of recent scandals involving department personnel has added to community anger. In the past three years, officers have been caught demanding bribes from motorists, fabricating evidence and drawing weapons unlawfully.
"They're notorious for mishandling investigations, not doing any follow-ups on various leads, or saying that they can't get any leads,” said Turner Clayton, president of the local branch of the NAACP. "When a victim's loved one asks for an update, the only thing they can say is, 'We don't have anything now,'" he said. "Seems like they never get anything at all."
The special prosecutor investigating the killing of Trayvon Martin has decided not to convene a grand jury in the case.
Now, the decision to file charges against George Zimmerman, 28, who told police he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense during an altercation in late February, will be totally in the hands of State Attorney Angela B. Corey.
The former state prosecutor on the case, Norman Wolfinger, announced in mid-March that a grand jury would be called to help determine whether Zimmerman would face any charges in Martin’s death. But as public pressure mounted about the case, Wolfinger recused himself from the case, saying that he was stepping away "in the interest of the public safety of the citizens of Seminole County and to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest."
Though he hasn't been formally charged, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed Trayvon Martin is setting up a fundraising campaign to cover his legal fees, NBC News reports.
George Zimmerman said he was acting in self defense when he fatally shot an unarmed 17-year-old who was walking home from a candy store in Sanford, Fla., in February. Zimmerman is protected under the Stand Your Ground Law, but federal officials are currently investigating the case, which has sparked national outrage.
Succumbing to pressure from public interest groups, Coca Cola and Pepsico have severed their ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ultra-conservative lobby group that has pushed so-called Stand Your Ground gun legislation and voter-identification bills through state legislatures across the country.
Public interest groups, including ColorOfChange.org and Campus Progress, have long been trying to break up the powerful alliance between corporations minding their financial interests and conservative activists pursuing a right-wing social agenda.
The shooting of Trayvon Martin, whose assailant has to date avoided charges due in part to Florida's Stand Your Ground law, has brought new attention to the controversial law and the seminal role that ALEC, which is corporate funded, played in getting such bills passed.
One week after Detective Gescard Isnora was fired for unloading the first of 50 bullets that killed her fiance, Sean Bell, in 2006, Nicole Paultre Bell has expressed her anguish over a similar tragedy -- the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
Paultre Bell penned an open letter to Martin's grieving parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., whose own death was remembered yesterday, and calling the family to "fight for the pursuit of justice."
"Yet again an innocent black man has been killed," Paultre Bell wrote, setting up the letter, which was published in full on TheGrio.com. She goes on to describe the "living nightmare" it has been for her and her two daughters, one of which was an infant at the time of Bell's death, "to see another innocent young man's life senselessly taken away over his demeanor."
Paultre Bell draws parallels between the attention her husband's case received and the national outcry that erupted following Martin's death:
Over the past five and a half years, what I have learned throughout protest after protest, rallies, a criminal trial, the independent investigation of the federal Department of Justice, along with civil proceedings and the departmental charges hearing almost six years later of the police officers who killed my husband-to-be back in 2006, faith and endurance are the keys to everything. God will not forsake you, and through his grace and mercy you will find the strength to continue please remember this.
Trayvon's death is not in vain, and yes, I know these words may find you a bit too soon in your mourning process to clearly grasp my intentions.
Like Martin, Sean Bell, then 23, was unarmed when he was gunned down in a barrage of bullets outside a strip club on the night of his bachelor party.
A task force examining Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law was told Thursday that the Trayvon Martin shooting is one example of the law's ambiguity and the potential unintended consequences it has created.
What we've discovered is, in a drug deal gone bad, people die, and this is the defense," Buddy Jacobs, general counsel for the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, told the 18-member panel. "Our conclusion is that this law ought to be repealed. We don't think it's a thing we can tweak."
From the Palm Beach Post:
The night Trayvon Martin was shot to death, George Zimmerman was one of 1,903 residents in his Sanford ZIP code with permits to carry concealed handguns, state records show.
That would be astronomically high in some states, but central Sanford doesn't rank in Central Florida's top 10 ZIP codes with the most concealed-weapons-permit holders. In that Sanford ZIP code, the figure translated to roughly 6 percent of adults 21 and older.
Taking guns to work, church and play in Florida has become so widespread in the past 25 years that the state likely leads the U.S. in the number of residents legally carrying guns. With nearly 920,000 active concealed-weapons permits, the Sunshine State is home to almost as many gun dealers as its 2,300 citrus farms, according to state and federal records.
Clearly, many Floridians have embraced their Second Amendment rights. But the state has come under fire by gun-control groups, which blame Trayvon's death on Florida's stand-your-ground law and lenient firearms rules.
The Congressional Black Caucus unveiled a resolution on Wednesday that honors the life of Trayvon Martin and calls for the repeal of "Stand Your Ground" gun laws in every state that has one, including Florida, where Martin was killed.
"Florida's misguided 'Stand Your Ground' law does not make our streets safer, rather it turns our streets into a showdown at the OK Corral," Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), a sponsor of the resolution, said in a statement. "But this is not the Wild West. We are supposed to be a civilized society. Let Trayvon's death not be for naught. Let us honor his life by righting this wrong, and seeing that justice is served for Trayvon and his family. George Zimmerman must be prosecuted for his admitted shooting of Trayvon Martin and the 'Stand Your Ground' law must be repealed."
The news media are taking on an increasingly police-like role in the Trayvon Martin slaying by using modern forensic techniques to analyze evidence, an approach some legal experts say can lead to a distorted view of the case because a lot of the key evidence is still under wraps.
The public has been whipsawed back and forth as new revelations emerge, appearing to support one version or the other.
CNN's Don Lemon directed viewers not to send him any more incendiary tweets over his coverage of Trayvon Martin's death on Sunday. ...
Speaking to analyst Goldie Taylor, Lemon said he and Taylor were among some of the first journalists covering the tragedy. They agreed that they were obligated to handle the story carefully and "encourage responsibility" from viewers.
Lemon turned to some of the inflammatory tweets he has received over his coverage of Martin. "Please don't send me any more tweets that by having this conversation, I'm a racist or a race-baiter," he said. "This is a conversation we all need to have, so relax on that."Read the whole story HERE.
A major gun control group on Monday launched a nationwide petition to Congress -- "The Freedom To Buy Skittles Without Getting Shot" -- aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of "dangerous people" like George Zimmerman, who told police he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February.
The Brady Campaign petition states that Americans demand basic freedoms in their daily life, including the ability "to go to the store and buy Skittles and an iced tea without getting shot." Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin in what he says was an act of self-defense. Martin was unarmed and carrying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea.
Here are some profiles of the major players in the story.
Banker Jeff Triplett became the part-time mayor of Sanford, Florida, last year. He wanted to improve transportation and attract jobs to the quaint city of brick streets and lakefront views.
Now, he is confronted by any mayor's nightmare: the shooting death of a black teenager under vague circumstances, accusations that someone who volunteered to protect lives unjustifiably took one and questions about the police investigation.
The white mayor, who is a senior vice president at United Legacy Bank, is governing a town of about 54,000, 30 percent of whom are black and have long complained bitterly about police mistreatment.
"I ran for office to make a better Sanford. And this comes on your plate, and it's just amazing," 43-year-old Triplett told Reuters in an interview.
"The decisions I'm trying to make, I could be not only held accountable for them from the city side but from the nation and the world that's watching right now."Full story HERE.
Crump's strategy for making the case international news began with a series of heart-wrenching news conferences in which Martin's parents spoke about their loss. Florida media outlets began to notice. Then, he enlisted U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown to help convince authorities to release 911 tapes, recordings that brought the case to the attention of national media. He's further ratcheted pressure on authorities by organizing a series of rallies and working with national civil rights figures such as Al Sharpton. ...
Crump was first contacted by a cousin of Trayvon Martin's father. The cousin, a Miami attorney, was familiar with Crump's civil rights work in Florida. Before Martin's death, Crump was best known for representing the parents of a teenage boy who died after an encounter with guards at a Florida boot camp in 2006. The videotaped beating of Martin Lee Anderson attracted national attention and led to the closure of the state's boot camps for juvenile offenders.
Crump, 42, and his wife, Genae Angelique Crump, are raising two teenage boys who are the biological sons of Crump's cousin. The oldest is Martin's age.
"Trayvon hits home on many levels," Crump said.
Here's a roundup of some of the stories related to the case this morning.
Trayvon, Inc: Vendors are trying to turn a profit from slaying.
From the T-shirt and hoodie sales to trademarking slogans like "Justice for Trayvon" to the pass-the-hat rallies that bring in thousands, the case of an unarmed black teenager killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer is quickly turning into an Internet-fueled brand.
Websites are hawking key chains bearing Trayvon Martin's likeness. His parents have bought two trademarks, saying they hope to raise money to help other families struck by tragedy. Trayvon clothes, bumper stickers, buttons and posters are up for grabs on eBay.
Vendors selling Martin T-shirts and hoodies have become fixtures at rallies in Sanford, the central Florida town where Martin was shot last month. At one Sanford rally this week, a man had a variety of T-shirts laid out on the ground as marchers went by, yelling out, "I've got every size!"NYT: Skittles sales are up after Martin shooting.
Since the Martin shooting, the colorful candy that Martin was holding when he was shot has become a symbol among protestors marching in solidarity with him. But Skittles' robust sales have become a double-edged sword for the company that makes them, reports the NYT:
Like the hoodie sweatshirt he was wearing, the candy has been transformed into a cultural icon, a symbol of racial injustice that underscores Trayvon’s youth and the circumstances surrounding his death. But in the offices of the company that makes Skittles, Wrigley, and its parent company, Mars, Skittles’ new level of fame has quickly become a kind of marketing crisis that is threatening to hurt the company even as sales improve.Herman Cain: People should be 'just as outraged' by the death threats against Zimmerman.
“You get trained if someone dies eating your product, but I don’t think anyone has been through training for something like this,” said Beth Gallant, a marketing professor at Lehigh University who has worked as a brand manager for Nabisco, Kraft, Pfizer and Crayola.
Fox News host Martha McCallum asked the former presidential candidate for his thoughts on the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Cain said it was "a tragic, unfortunate death of a young man."
He then pivoted to the threats being made against the shooter, George Zimmerman, by the New Black Panthers, who have offered a ,000 bounty for a citizen's arrest of Zimmerman. Cain said that people should be "just as outraged" by the threats as they are about the death of Martin.
George Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, appeared on an Orlando-area news broadcast to defend his son, and told reporters that Trayvon Martin told his son, "you're going to die tonight."
Zimmerman's father outlined the scuffle that was part of Zimmerman's report to the police, which was made public yesterday. The threat the elder Zimmerman attributes to Martin did not appear in that report.
Zimmerman told police that on the night of the shooting that a fight began after Martin sucker-punched him, climbed on top of him, and repeatedly banged his head into the ground.
"After nearly a minute of being beaten, George was trying to get his head off the concrete, trying to move with Trayvon on him into the grass. In doing so, his firearm was shown. Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of 'you're going to die now or you're going to die tonight,' something to that effect. He continued to beat George and at some point, George pulled his pistol and did what he did."
"I never foresaw so much hate coming from the president, the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP," he said. "Every organization imaginable is trying to get some notoriety or profit from this some way. But there's so much hate. I've never been involved in hate and George hasn't. It's really unbelievable."
"I just hope at one point, they're willing to go beyond the hate that they have."
But Robert Zimmerman's detaling of the altercation between his son and Martin aired the same night that ABC News broadcast police surveillance video showing Zimmerman the night of the shooting which seems to contradict his son's story. A handcuffed Zimmerman is shown being led by police into the station, and he has no visible injuries or blood stains on his body.
Yesterday, the special prosecutor in the case said that police at the scene requested a warrant for Zimmerman's arrest, but were rebuffed and told to wait.
Newly released video of George Zimmerman at the Sanford Police Department the night he shot Trayvon Martin to death show the neighborhood watch volunteer without blood on his clothing or bruises on his face or head. His clean-shaven picture seems to contrast with the violent beating he told police he endured at the hands of Martin, 17, who Zimmerman said attacked him from behind.
The video, obtained by ABC News, appears inconsistent with Zimmerman’s recently leaked statement to police that he was in a death struggle with Martin before Zimmerman shot him in the chest in self-defense. Zimmerman told investigators that Martin jumped him from behind, punched him in the nose and pounded his head into a sidewalk, according to a police report first described by the Orlando Sentinal.
In the video, apparently taken by surveillance cameras outside and inside the police station, Zimmerman’s face and head are clearly visible and show no injuries consistent with the kind of fight Zimmerman's statement described.
Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch captain at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community, is seen arriving in a police cruiser. He gets out of the car with his hands cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is clean-shaven and appears several pounds lighter than in ubiquitous mug shot of him taken in 2005 when he was arrested on a charge of assaulting a police officer.
Here are the top stories on the case today.Prosecutor: Cops wanted to arrest Zimmerman
The special prosecutor on the case said that early in the investigation, the police wanted to arrest George Zimmerman, the man shot Trayvon Martin, but were told to hold off by state prosecutors. "The state attorney impaneled a grand jury, but before anything else could be done, the governor stepped in and asked us to pick it up in mid-stream," Angela Corey, the special prosecutor said.
Chris Serino, the lead detective on the case, expressed doubts around Zimmerman's account of the shooting, according to ABC News. Serino filed an affidavit on the night of the shooting in which he said that he was unconvinced Zimmerman's version of events.
This narrative is very different from the one put forward by Bill Lee, the chief of police in Stanford, who said that the police did not have enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman. Lee's handling of the case came under withering criticism, and he temporarily stepped down from his post last week after he said his role in the investigation had become a "distraction."
Norm Wolfinger, the first state prosecutor on the case, removed himself from the case later that same day.Supporters of Zimmerman say they are fearful.
"The family has had death threats, the father and mother, George has had death threats. Anything related to George is a target," said Miguel Meza, who identified himself as Zimmerman's cousin.
George Hall, a retired Presbyterian minister, said he was Zimmerman's neighbor for 20 years in Manassas, Va., until about 2001. Hall said Zimmerman and his brother attended church, and he wrote a recommendation for Zimmerman for a police academy in 2004.
"Their parents taught them to treat everybody with respect. I'm tired of hearing about this race thing," Hall said. "It could be an element in it ... but I never would have thought of him as being a racist. His father was in the Army and was a white American and his mother was Peruvian. That makes him 50 percent Peruvian. A lot of stuff I hear, it irks me because people are drawing their own conclusions with very little evidence."
Joe Oliver, a family friend who has been making the media rounds in an attempt to clear Zimmerman's name, had a testy exchange on MSNBC's The Last Word last night. After being grilled by the panel, which included Lawrence O'Donnell, Charles Blow of the New York Times and Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, Oliver seemed to back away from his being characterized a "close friend" of Zimmerman.
"My role in this just doesn't make sense. But because of the person I know, that I've grown to know over the past years…this is not a bad person, this is a good person who grew from his previous mistakes some seven years ago."
On Monday, dozens gathered at the San Francisco Hall of Justice and Oakland City Hall to protest the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen who was killed in Florida by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman.
National outrage over the incident has sparked protests across the country. On Monday, the one-month anniversary of Martin's death, demonstrators called for a "scream out for justice" at national protests, and the Bay Area joined the demonstration.
According to CBS, speakers at Monday's protest in San Francisco called for Zimmerman's immediate arrest.
"We're tired of saying 'no more stolen lives,'" said Mesha Monge-Irizarry, whose son Idriss Stelley was killed by the San Francisco Police in 2001, to the crowd in San Francisco. "Now it's time for action.
In Oakland, the protest hit especially close to home, as accusations of police violence and racial profiling strike a familiar chord.
"This young teenager was gunned down because of how he looked, because of the color of his skin," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee to the Oakland Tribune. "While this issue has shocked American culture, it hasn't shocked me. The combination of the powerful gun lobby, racial profiling and hate crimes make this local matter one of national attention."
Trayvon Martin's mother is seeking trademarks for two phrases that have become associated with the movement surrounding her son's death.The Smoking Gun reports that Sybrina Fulton filed two applications for trademarks of the phrases, "I Am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon."
Some Smoking Gun commenters seem to think the move is an effort to profit from the outpouring of support for Martin.
But a patent attorney, told The Huffington Post that people can seek trademarks for all sorts of non-economic reasons.
During the "Million Hoodie March" in support of Martin's cause, a HufffPost reporter saw piles of merchandise for sale with Martin's face on it. And a Twitter controversy also erupted over a flyer for a party, allegedly to raise funds for a scholarship in Martin's name.
On Monday night, the Fox News host apologized to those who were offended by the remarks. He tweeted: "Heard petition demands my apology to Trayvon's parents. Save effort: I deeply apologize for any hurt I caused-that is not my goal or intent"
However, he also highlighted what he saw as the merit of his argument — that minority children should not wear hoodies — when he elaborated on the apology on Tuesday. In an email to Politico, he wrote, "I apologize to anyone offended by what one prominent black conservative called my ‘very practical and potentially life-saving campaign urging black and Hispanic parents not to let their children go around wearing hoodies.'"
He said that “by putting responsibility on what kids wear instead of how people react to them I have obscured the main point that someone shot and killed an unarmed teenager,” and that he was offering a “heartfelt apology” to anyone he may have offended in his “crusade to warn minority families of the danger to their young sons inherent in gangsta style clothing; like hoodies.”
Read the whole story HERE.