A Sanford, Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty on all charges late Saturday night in the trial he faced involving the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin.
The trial quickly became a media spectacle after supporters of Martin’s family convinced the left-leaning national press that regional law enforcement authorities had declined to prosecute Zimmerman because Martin was black. Local officials insisted that Zimmerman was unlikely to be convicted of anything based on the evidence they could find. It appears that initial judgment was correct.
A brief news summary via Yahoo:
The six-woman panel signed they had reached a verdict 9:45 pm ET and filed into the courtroom around 10 pm. After the verdict was read, Judge Debra Nelson polled the jurors to make sure each agreed with the decision. She then told Zimmerman he was free to go.
Zimmerman showed little emotion as the verdict was read.
The decision from the jury was expected to spark outrage from Martin family supporters who say the teen’s death was ignored by police and prosecutors for weeks because of his race. Martin was black, and Zimmerman is half white and half Hispanic. Protesters outside the courtroom began chanting for nationwide demonstrations after news of the verdict reached them.
Martin’s father, Tracy, tweeted his thanks to supporters.
“Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY,” he wrote.
At a press conference following the verdict, prosecutors expressed disappointment with the outcome but urged the community to remain calm.
“We’re ecstatic with the results,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara after the verdict. “George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense.”
Another member of his defense team, Don West, said he was pleased the jury “kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty.”
Besides propelling the case into the national spotlight, the biased coverage of some media outlets did apparently have at least one other effect. One witness, Jeannee Manalao, stated that she had mistakenly believed Martin to have been younger than he was at the time of his death because the media had only shown older photos of the Florida teen.
The trial was marred by numerous incidents of sloppy and deliberately unfair reporting. NBC News is currently being sued by Zimmerman for editing the audio of a telephone call that Zimmerman made to 911 during the night of the altercation with Martin. In the NBC-edited recording, Zimmerman is made to sound as if he was following Martin because he was black. The false edit was first exposed by NewsBusters. It is highly likely that Zimmerman’s victory today will increase his ability to win his suit against NBC.
CNN embarrassed itself by falsely claiming that on the 911 call, Zimmerman had used an archaic racial slur to describe black Americans. In fact, as even the prosecution later admitted, he had used the word punks. At least the cable news channel did not resort to fraudulent editing though.
One of the other persistent flaws in the media’s coverage of the case against Zimmerman were reports claiming he was “white” when in fact, he is Hispanic, white, and also part black. For months on end, Zimmerman was repeatedly described as a “white Hispanic” even though other people of mixed race such as President Obama are never described as “white blacks.”
Additionally, left-leaning media were fond of repeating false statements favorable to the prosecution such as the claim that Zimmerman got out of his car despite being instructed to remain in it. In fact, he was already out of his car when the 911 dispatcher told him “we don’t need you to do that.” According to Zimmerman, he turned around and tried to return to his vehicle and was subsequently confronted by Martin. Biased outlets almost always ignored the evidence which clearly suggested that it was Martin who initiated their conversation and Zimmerman’s testimony that Martin initiated the violence. They also rarely reported the fact that Martin circled Zimmerman’s car while he was in it, looking at him menacingly.
Additionally, viewers and readers were repeatedly subjected to hours on end of speculation and hypotheticals about how the fatal confrontation could have been avoided–but only if Zimmerman had acted differently. The speculators never discussed how Martin’s father was providing almost no supervision to him, never talked about how the situation would have been prevented if Martin had not been suspended from school due to his own behavior. They also never discussed how the telephone evidence in the trial clearly indicated that Martin had more than enough time to return to his father’s girlfriend’s residence if he truly had been in fear of his life. Most Americans also likely were unaware of Martin’s admitted love of fighting.
The public was also subjected to countless hours of ignorant pronouncements about if Zimmerman had started the fight, that would determine his guilt or innocence. Rarely were viewers ever told the truth that self-defense law in Florida is about whether the surviving person rightfully feared for his life, regardless of who started the physical confrontation.
While the public couldn’t get away from information about Zimmerman’s run-ins with local criminals who happened to be black, the public was rarely told about other facts about him such as that he fought successfully to get justice for an elderly black man who was beaten by the son of a white police officer, how he mentored black youth, or even that he was a supporter of Barack Obama and not some sort of far-right white nationalist.
The trial of Zimmerman would likely have remained strictly a local news story had it not been for the antics of MSNBC’s Al Sharpton who was advising Martin’s parents on how to gain more publicity (and also calling for Zimmerman’s arrest) while simultaneously serving as a commentator for the Democratic network. Despite criticism from other media outlets, MSNBC never told Sharpton to choose between his dueling roles even though it harmed their overall reputation.
In the end, it is regrettable that Trayvon Martin died that fateful night. What is also regrettable is how America’s elite news media willingly went along with a smear campaign designed by racist frauds like Al Sharpton who were looking to boost their own fortunes at the expense of an innocent man. George Zimmerman is not a perfect man. But he did not deserve to become a real-life version of Emmanuel Goldstein.
Matthew Sheffield is president of Dialog New Media, a techno-marketing company headquarted in the Washington, DC area. Working with the Media Research Center, he created NewsBusters in 2005 as the first-ever collaboration between a major Washington policy group and the blogosphere.