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Geraldo Rivera Gets It Wrong and Racist on Travon Martin’s Murder

The verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the murder (yes, murder) of Trayvon Martin is coming sooner or later, now that closing arguments are winding down. I’m not sure I can hold on to my sanity until then. Listening to the right-wingers chime in on the case "makes me wanna holler." Thanks to these people, a Grandmaster Flash lyric keeps pounding through my head: "Don’t push me, ’cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head."

Today, I got a little close to the edge whenFox News blatherer Geraldo Rivera said member of the jury would have shot Trayvon Martin "a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did."

I’m not kidding.

“This was a case brought because of political pressure – race politics in this country,” the Fox News host opined. “I hate to say it. I hold the Rev. Al Sharpton in much higher regard than many of my colleagues… But I strongly believe that the Rev. Al is the catalyst behind murder two charge six weeks after the incident.”

“I believe the original prosecutor got it right,” he continued. “I think it is a self-defense situation, a classic self defense when you strip it of all of the trappings.”

Rivera said that the all-female jury would imagine themselves “on that rainy night in that housing complex that has just been burglarized by three or four different groups of black youngsters from the adjacent community.”

“So, it’s a dark night. A 6-foot-2-inch, hoodie-wearing stranger is in the immediate housing complex. How would the ladies of the jury have that have reacted? I submit that if they were armed, that they would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did. This is self defense.”

Give me strength.

First of all, Geraldo, get over the hoodie. Like I said before, unless you can convince me that Zimmer would have followed and confronted, let alone shot, any of these guys, you can’t tell me race has nothing to do with it.


Trayvon Martin was not killed because he was wearing a hoodie. Maybe he was shot for "Wearing a Hoodie While Black" (WHWB) or "Walking Home Wearing a Hoodie While Black" (WHWHWB), but you can’t convince me that Zimmerman would have bothered Eminem or Justin Bieber, or any average white guy wearing a hoodie. White guys in hoodies aren’t suspicious. If Trayvon had been white, he’d be above ground today.

Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman decided on site that Martin was a "suspicious person," based on his race.

According to the transcript, Zimmerman described Trayvon’s behavior as “suspicious” because he was “just walking around the area” and “looking at houses. Here is where Zimmerman’s perception of Trayvon’s behavior and intentions comes into play, and appears to depart from reality.

Zimmerman described Trayvon as “suspicious” because “He looks black,” wore a hoodie, and was walking slowly in the rain, “Looking at houses.” At no point does Zimmerman describe Trayvon exhibiting what Neighborhood Watch guidelines define as suspicious behavior warranting call to law enforcement. Zimmerman does not describe Trayvon as looking “peering into cars” or looking into windows. Zimmerman does not describe Trayvon leaving the street or sidewalk at this point. Nor does he describe him as approaching any other houses in the neighborhood. He describes Trayvon as “looking at houses” while walking back home.

Nothing in Zimmerman’s own description of Trayvon’s behavior appears to justify his suspicion that Trayvon was on his way to committing a crime.

Already flouting Neighborhood Watch guidelines by carrying a gun, Zimmerman disregarded them (just as he disregarded the 911 dispatcher’s recommendation) again by following Trayvon in his vehicle.

At this point, Zimmerman already knew the police were on their way.

Second, let’s break down what else Geraldo got wrong. Here, he makes Trayvon Martin out to be a menacing stalker.

“So, it’s a dark night. A 6-foot-2-inch, hoodie-wearing stranger is in the immediate housing complex. How would the ladies of the jury have that have reacted? I submit that if they were armed, that they would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did. This is self defense.”

As I wrote after Trayvon Martin was murdered (yes, murdered), Trayvon Martin was stalked by George Zimmerman. Not the other way around.

Until recently, we could only guess at Trayvon’s side of story. But news that Trayvon was on his cellphone, talking to his girlfriend in Miami, as he walked home. He was on the phone with her for most of the encounter with Zimmerman. The young woman has not been identified, out of concern for her safety. But her story as it has been reported undermines Zimmerman’s story. For reasons I’ll get to a bit later, I don’t see any reason why her story should carry less weight than Zimmerman’s.

If anything, it offers an alternative to Zimmerman’s version. And, as I’ll get to below, it makes more sense in the context of Zimmerman’s choices and actions leading up to the confrontation between him and Trayvon. As it turns out, Next Media Animations (a Taiwanese media company) has created an animation of both versions of what happened.

According to the family’s lawyer, phone records show that Trayvon and his girlfriend had been talking throughout the day. The account of their last phone call, taken from her recorded affidavit, took place at 7:12 pm. During the call Trayvon told his girlfriend that he was being followed.

Crump said that during the final phone call with his girlfriend, who was back home in Miami, Martin told her that a stranger was following him, according to an affidavit she recorded. Martin had then tried unsuccessfully to get away from the stranger.

“He says: ‘Oh, he’s right behind me. He’s right behind me again,’” Crump said the girl told him. “She says: ‘Run.’ He says: ‘I’m not going to run, I’m just going to walk fast.’

Trayvon Martin was not menacing George Zimmerman. It was precisely the other way around.

For just a moment, put yourself in Trayvon’s shoes. You’re walking down a dark street. Maybe you’re walking home. You’re alone. The street is empty, probably because its raining a little. As you walk, you notice someone following you. A strange man car is following youth his car. He follows you for a couple of blocks.

What’s your first reaction? How do you feel? Most people would feel anxious. It’s not a stretch to imagine that a kid like Trayvon might be more than a little afraid. Who wouldn’t? It’s enough to make you think that if anyone had reason to fear for his life that night, it was Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman describes Trayvon turning around and looking at him. probably at this point Zimmerman is still in his car. He describes Trayvon as “checking me out.” At his point Zimmerman has been following Trayvon in his vehicle long enough for Trayvon to notice and become concerned. It reasonable that Trayvon wanted to know who was following him and why, or to at least get a better look at the strange man following him in a truck.

Zimmerman describes Trayvon reaching into his waistband. He suspected that Trayvon was armed, but this is also am extension of his initial classification of Trayvon as a “suspicious” person because of his race. Perhaps Trayvon’s hoodie was part of the equation, but considering that Zimmerman was similarly attired, and actually armed, it’s a reasonable assumption that Trayvon’s race was the deciding factor in Zimmerman’s chosen course of action.

To Trayvon’s credit, he didn’t run. He just picked up his pace. This is probably when Zimmerman says to the 911 dispatcher, “Oh shit. He’s running.” If Trayvon had run, Zimmerman might have considered that sufficient confirmation of his suspicions to open fire. After all, who would run from a strange man who’s following him in a car, unless that person was up to no good? If he wasn’t doing anything wrong, why would he run from a stranger following him down a dark street, in his car?

If anything, the women in the jury might better relate to Trayvon Martin’s position. Who wouldn’t fear for their safety if they were being followed by a strange guy in a truck, while walking home alone, at night? Who wouldn’t perhaps even fear for their lives if this same stranger got out of his truck and started following them on foot.

Think about it. You’re walking home alone, at night. This strange guy in a truck is following you. You have no idea who he is, or what he wants.

He doesn’t identify himself at any point. He just keeps following you.

He gets out of his truck and continues to follow you on foot. You still don’t know who he is, what he wants, or what he intends to do.

He’s getting closer.

He’s right behind you.

It might be better to ask if the women on the jury had been in Trayvon’s position that night and been armed (unlike Trayvon), how soon would they have shot Zimmerman if he did all the same things he did that night? Would they have good reason to fear for their safety? Would they have good reason to fear for their lives? Thanks to Florida’s "stand your ground" law, they’d have reason to shoot Zimmerman. And they probably wouldn’t have seen the inside of a courtroom. Ever.

What’s interesting is that the author of Florida’s "stand your ground" law wrote that the statue doesn’t apply to Zimmerman. (Perhaps that’s why Zimmerman’s lawyers ditched any "stand your ground" argument.) But, as described by David Simmons, it sounds like Trayvon Martin would have been within his rights to "stand his ground."

As the main drafter of Florida’s "stand your ground" law, I put language in the bill that states an innocent victim who is (a) not engaged in an unlawful activity, (b) is where he or she has a lawful right to be, (c) does not provoke the use of force, and (d) acts reasonably in the use of deadly force in defending himself or herself, may stand his or her ground rather than flee.

Trayvon Martin was an innocent victim who was (a) not engaged in an unlawful activity, (b) was where he had a lawful right to be. Based on witness accounts it appears Trayvon (c) did not provoke the use of force, but that forced was used against him when Zimmerman allegedly pushed him, and dislodged his earpiece. If so, the Trayvon (d) and acted reasonably in the use of deadly force, in that he didn’t use any. Thus Zimmerman’s injuries were "insignificant."

If anyone was "standing his ground" that night, and had a right to stand his ground, "it was Trayvon Martin."

Third, every step of the way Zimmerman chose to escalate the situation. Nothing would have happened if Zimmerman had stayed in his truck.

Zimmerman claims the scuffle started when he turned around to return to his vehicle and Trayvon attacked him from behind. That doesn’t ring true to me, based on Zimmerman’s behavior up to that point. Turning around and heading back to his vehicle suggests that Zimmerman suddenly decided to back down. This would be out of character with his behavior and choices up to that point. Based on the 911 recordings alone, at each decision point Zimmerman chooses to escalate the situation.

  • Escalation: Upon seeing Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman calls 911. But he also begins following Trayvon in his vehicle, despite the 911 dispatcher advising him not to do so, thus bringing himself to Trayvon’s attention.
  • Escalation: At some point Zimmerman gets out of his vehicle, and continues following Trayvon on foot. At this point, he knows that Trayvon has seen him and knows he’s being followed.
  • Escalation: I think it’s a reasonable assumption that Zimmerman initiated a verbal confrontation by asking Trayvon “What are you doing here?” Trayvon responded with a bit of verbal self-defense of his right to be there, by answering Zimmerman with a question, “Why are you following me?

Nothing in Zimmerman’s choices and actions from the time he saw Trayvon to the moment before their physical altercation suggests that, having gotten out of his vehicle and started a verbal confrontation, that he would suddenly turn around and go back to his vehicle.

It’s also unclear why he would do so. If he left his phone in the vehicle, was he going back to get it and make another call to 911? If so, to report what? That Trayvon was still just walking down the street?

He wasn’t going back to get his gun. Having a concealed carry permit, he wouldn’t leave his gun in the car. And given that he already thought Trayvon is a “suspicious” person, probably there to commit a crime, it’s unlikely that he would get out of the car and confront him unarmed.

I’ve asked a few of the women in my office what they would do if they were in the safety of their vehicle, and saw a stranger walking down the street who made them uncomfortable, but didn’t approach them. All of them said they would stay in their vehicle and drive away. None of the said they would follow him, and all of them said they would absolutely not get out of their car and approach him.

If George Zimmerman had done the same, Trayvon Martin would be alive today.

Many things contributed to Trayvon Martin’s murder (yes, murder) that night in Sanford, FL. Here are three of them:

  • As a young black male, Trayvon Martin was held suspect based on nothing more than his race. George Zimmerman’s description of Trayvon’s actions do not fit the definition of suspicious behavior. He wasn’t looking into houses, peering into car windows, or trying to get home. Based on Zimmerman’s description, Martin was doing little more than walking down the sidewalk, taking in his surroundings on his way home.
  • Thanks to the spread of concealed-carry laws, George Zimmerman was armed with more than racial bias that night. He had a concealed-carry permit, and thus had a right to conceal and carry his 9M.
  • Florida’s "stand your ground" law, which Zimmerman reportedly studied, removed any responsibility to avoid conflict or any "duty to retreat" on Zimmerman’s part, to avoid injury or death. Thus, Zimmerman was not legally bound not to follow Martin that night, as the dispatcher advised. Even though Zimmerman knew the police were on their way, because he’d called them, he wasn’t required to stay in his truck, or even go home and let the police handle it.

George Zimmerman was the menace that night. George Zimmerman profiled and stalked Trayvon Martin that night solely because he was a young black man. George Zimmerman continued to follow Trayvon Martin, even after being advised not to, even after he knew the police were on their way. George Zimmerman chose to get out of his truck and follow Trayvon Martin on foot, and then chose to confront Martin.

Geraldo Rivera makes it sound like Trayvon Martin was menacing George Zimmerman. It was the other way around. To suggest otherwise is simply wrong. To further suggest that somehow Trayvon Martin "had it coming" is just plain racist.

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