The murder of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, 17 (above), was shot to death on February 26 while walking to his dad's girlfriend's house from a convenience store just north of Orlando, Florida. He was unarmed, wearing a hoodie, and carrying some Skittles and iced tea he purchased at the mini-mart.

George Zimmerman, 28 (inset), is the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon. Zimmerman told police he shot the young man in self-defense. As more information about the incident emerges, this explanation sounds increasingly less plausible.

The case has sparked widespread interest and outrage online, in part because Zimmerman remains free, and Trayvon was an innocent kid doing nothing wrong, who cried out for help as he was attacked. His only threat, it seems, was being a black male.

A roundup of links for further reading and following, as the case evolves:

Mother Jones has an excellent explainer piece here, and ongoing coverage.
A New York Times item today: US Grand Jury opens an investigation into the killing. Related news about FBI involvement at the Miami Herald.
• A phone call from Trayvon to a 16-year-old female friend sparks new demands for Zimmerman's arrest.
• "How we can leverage the anger over individual incidents into a larger restructuring of perceptions and justice," asks journalist Farai Chideya. "It’s easy to work up ire about individual cases, but harder to work on systemic change." She's on Twitter here.
Charles Blow at the New York Times has been on the story. One item is here, but his Twitter feed is well worth a follow for ongoing (and paywall-free) updates.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, senior editor for The Atlantic, has been reporting on the case as well. He's updating on Twitter, too.
• The blog for MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry show is a good source of updates, and the show itself has been covering the case as well.
Think Progress has a "what everyone should know" post here.
• Zimmerman has been variously identified as "White," and "White Hispanic." An NPR opinion piece asks, What if he were black?
• At the Huffington Post, Trymaine Lee has been on the story for weeks, with strong reporting. Worth a Twitter follow. • Farai Chideya points to this Trendsmap of where in the US the #trayvon hashtag is currently trending.

(Thanks to all of my Twitter followers who shared suggestions for good sources of coverage.)


  1. You know, I know it’s not helpful, but the really evil part of my brain wishes that someone would shoot Zimmerman and claim self-defence, because they “saw on the internet that he shoots unarmed people.”

    1. Honestly, I feel where you’re coming from.  But I don’t want any more vigilantes.  I don’t want any more police brutality.  I don’t want anymore thugs, government actions, protests turned violent, rapes, killings, massacres, genocides, hazing deaths, hate crimes, beatings, bashings, bruisings, bullyings.  I would like it all to just stop.  I know that’s not helpful either, but that’s what I want.

      1. More helpful than suggesting a plan I would say. We have too many saviours as it is. I understand your anger at unnecessary pain, too.

  2. Glad to see BB covering this. The Young Turks have been doing a great job of reporting on this from the beginning. Tonight they discovered something that everyone missed. Zimmerman mutters under his breath “f’ing coons” during the 911 call. This guy belongs in jail… now.

    1. I heard about that, but has that truly been verified? I’ll watch the segment, but am withholding judgement until a forensics expert confirms… if true, it’s horrible and damning of course.

      1.  Horrible and damning indeed. It may be tough to verify without a doubt but it sure needs to be part of the investigation and Zimmerman asked about it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he just disappears. He’s had issues with the police before. I hope someone is watching him.

      2. Zimmerman clearly says “f’ing coons,” but he’ll insist he said “f’ing goons.” Nobody will be able to disprove it and it will go away. The irony in this is that Zimmerman looks like a f’ing goon. And you can quote me on that.

        1. Anyone can listen to it here.

          I want this guy to rot in prison for the rest of his life, and I think  the way he says, “these guys always get away,” (or whatever the exact phrasing of that sentence was) strongly hints that he means “black people,” but I don’t think there is any reasonable way anyone can claim that they “clearly” make out the sound that’s supposedly the racial epithet.  It’s incredibly muffled and distorted.  He very well may have, but you gotta be joking me if you think it’s “clear.”

          There’s enough “clear” evidence that this guy’s actions were really horrible.  There isn’t any need to get into sketchy speculation that only makes the people who are mad at him look like their desperate and reaching for straws.  Stick to the truly “clear” facts. 

          1. It’s totally clear to me on that Young Turks clip. 

            Listen again, starting at 2:30. I doubt they’re distorting it in such a way to make it say what Zimmerman says at that moment.

  3. I think that should be “killing,” not murder. The fact that Trayvon was murdered, a term with significant legal meaning with respect to the intent of Mr. Zimmerman, has not been established. 

      1.  But when Boing Boing writes a post entitled “The Murder of Trayvon” it’s a statement of fact. That fact can’t be established until Mr Zimmerman has his day in court. Unless you actually saw him chase Trayvon down. You didn’t. Neither did Xeni. Therefore, it’s only a speculation at this point. Even though it looks really, really bad.

        1.  No, it was murder. A court of law may at some point apply some other appellation to the act in accordance with regional legislation, but it was murder than occurred.

        2. Herbie is right. I would rather BB act as a reporter here, not an editorializer. It may be the authors’ conclusion that Martin was murdered, but no such fact has been established. IMO, you can’t even call it “alleged murder,” because he hasn’t been charged. At this point, it’s a killing or a homicide.

          1. you can’t even call it “alleged murder,” because he hasn’t been charged.

            Reality continues to exist outside the courtroom whether you like it or not. Multiple people, including BB, have called for this murder to be investigated. Xeni hasn’t demanded that he be hanged in the public square.

          2. So the contention is that this was a lawful killing or that he acted without malice aforethought?  Or are you claiming he was justified?  Or are you arguing that a murderer must be processed by the legal system before they are a murderer?  If I torture and kill my brother and don’t get caught I’m not a murderer?  What exactly is your contention or are you just pointlessly splitting hairs?

      2. You don’t know if that’s actually what happened though.  I’m not defending Zimmerman.

    1.  By your definition, there would be no such thing as a murder investigation, ever.  There would not be a murder until someone was convicted. 

      A dead hooker with 3 stab wounds would not hit the news papers as a murder because maybe the “murderer” would be found not guilty due to insanity. 

    2. I agree.  Due Process of Law is literally the only way we (the community) can determine guilt of an individual.  It’s a good thing when our government follows its own rules.

      That being said, Zimmerman seems like he just wanted to shoot a black kid.  But I’m not going to declare guilt until the facts are established.

      Facts may arise which truly establish a reasonable fear for Zimmerman’s life/great bodily harm.  All we’ve heard about Martin is a story from his dad about how he went the store to buy candy.  That’s heresay, and it does not establish innocence or “goodness” of character.

      I’m just pointing things out which will be hashed out by a jury.

        1. What the hell is it with people who think the victims are the ones on trial?

          I think that we both know that it’s an -ism.

      1. And if the police and court don’t bother to do anything, not only would the murder never result in consequences, but we shouldn’t even be allowed to say it was a murder. Excellent rule.

        Simply saying something is a murder is a very different thing from the courts ruling it one and applying legal penalties. Nobody here is asking for anyone to skip due process, we’re the ones calling for it. Who does it help to act like it’s under threat from anyone except than the vigilante and his enablers?

      2. Are you taking into account that literally the only establishment of the innocence of Zimmerman is Zimmerman’s own account that he was getting brutally beaten by a significantly smaller 17 year-old so badly he was unable to threaten him with a gun before discharging it into his chest.

    3. SF Herbie is right. No one here witnessed this and even if we had, it’s all alleged until he’s charged by police and convicted by a court.

      I don’t understand why there isn’t more outcry about the local (Keystone Cop) police force. Zimmerman is still free. That fact is one we should all be upset about. The fact that this has been bumped up to the Justice Department means the local police force is no doubt incompetent and probably racist with a breadcrumb trail of enabling Zimmerman.

  4. And if the information on the linked sites is accurate, the police actively tried to cover this up by not testing Zimmerman for drugs and alcohol and “correcting” witness statements to make Zimmerman look like he was threatened. Whatever happens to Zimmerman, I somehow doubt the police will be punished for their reprehensible behavior. And as long as they have zero accountability, this sort of thing will be allowed to keep happening- either because they cover for people like Zimmerman, or because they themselves kill people without justification.

  5. With assumption here that Zimmerman’s  father is truthful  on the ethnic issue (its rather easy to check this)

    The real interesting party of this story is how the racial  angle  is being played as “the Angry White Guy”  or if they must “White Hispanic” when in reality its just as possible they guy is Spanish Speaking Latino with a  Jewish surname (could be a White  one true)

    I guess fact checking is too hard or Hispanic vs. Black doesn’t fit the prevailing narrative.
    Honestly if we want real racial progress we have to have a little honesty to start with and stop thinking B vs. W , its n0t 1968 anymore and race is far more complex

    1. While I kind of agree with some of this sentiment, I have a HUGE census data base that I’m working on right now and race is answered in one question, and ethnicity in the other, and the amount of people self-reporting as both Hispanic and white is pretty large.  Lot’s of people consider themselves both Hispanic and white.  They aren’t mutually exclusive, but I do get your point that a lot of people/reports are trying to make him sound like he’s some sort of blue eyed aryan or something.

    2. How about racist who has a history of hating black people and defenseless black kid, is that better?

    3. “Zimmermann” is German for carpenter, an occupational surname not likely to be Jewish. 
      (I know, Jesus was a carpenter… )  

      George Zimmerman a White Hispanic, as opposed to, like, a Colored Hispanic? 
      Are they trying to say Mestizo?

      1. “Zimmermann” is German for carpenter, an occupational surname not likely to be Jewish.

        Bob Dylan?

  6. Apparently this guy was some sort of crank who had called the cops dozens of times a year, so the content of his character may be revealed.

    Also the neighbors 911 clearly record someone screaming over and over for help, which I guess was the kid and not the guy with the gun. Then there is a loud gunshot.  

    If this story  is what it seems and the guy gets off, it practically legalizes lynching. Under these “no retreat” laws  you could just chase some random person down the street and shoot them because you feel “threatened,” I mean assuming you were white.

  7. I’ve participated in a neighborhood watch program, and I speak from experience.  Zimmerman was wrong the minute he decided to get out of his car, no matter what the reason for it.  A properly run neighborhood watch has standing orders to observe and report, nothing else.  Unfortunately, anything with even the illusion of authority attracts a certain personality type.  If Zimmerman was part of an HOA organized patrol, then the Board needs to get slapped for letting him on the team.  And if not, then the police need to be slapped for letting him run around loose.  

    1.  He was instructed not to follow or engage, but completely ignored it.  He was clearly a man on a mission for confrontation.

  8. Racial overtones aside for a moment, can anyone see the larger picture at play here?
    Speaking about America, I don’t claim to know the rest of the world and am not implying America is the center of the universe, this society feeds on blaming the other.

    Hideous examples follow, they are not my views but illustrative.

    Homosexuals are destroying marriage!
    Homosexuals are infiltrating the church to make the church look bad!
    Muslims all want to stone women!
    Muslims are all terrorists!
    Occupy hippies want to take all your money!
    Blacks just want you to pay for their babies!
    Sluts want the government to pay for birth control!
    Illegals stole YOUR JOB!

    What do these all have in common?  They cast someone as the “other”.

    Sometimes it is easy to assign it, race is a useful for this stunt.
    After 9-11 some bright citizens decided to teach them damn Muslim’s a lesson, they attacked (and I believe murdered) followers of the sikh faith.  They wore “turbans” and were brown and that was enough for them to be attacked.

    People want someone to blame for all of lifes problems.  One need only look at the current political contenders to find that blame being doled on on “the other”.  It is all of the fault of people who are not god fearing people like us.  If people would just follow us exactly, everything would be fine.

    We have our Government falling into lock step with this.  If you see something, say something.  Spy on peoples screens in coffee shops, if they block your view – they might be a terrorist.  How many times can you blame all of the ills of society on a nebulous “other” before someone decides to not wait for the authorities.  Terrorists almost got the Pentagon with a bomb… the FBI gave them the plan and the fake bomb to get headlines but people only see if you don’t do something IMMEDIATELY the lives lost will be their fault.

    You keep everyone on edge in anxiety, and then are surprised when something happens.  I do not know if this child killer is a racist or not.  What it looks like is he had views that were propped up by society complaining about how the “other” ruined everything, and he seems to have picked who would be his “other”.

    Instead of blaming the “other” for all of the problems in your life, neighborhood, city, state, etc… why not require the use of personal responsibility.  You skipped voting for mayor because Jersey Shore was on, it is not the fault of a secret conspiracy that he got elected and did things you don’t like.  It is your fault and the fault of others like you who expect others to fix it for you.

    As a society we failed this young man.  Not because he was black, young, or anything other than fitting the definition of “other”.  Racism is a big problem still, but to blame all of this strictly on racism I think does all of us a disservice. 

    We need to be responsible for the world view we are creating and allowing to flourish.

    I think this case needs to be a wakeup call about a long list of problems with race, society, police, corruption, coverups, and much more… but if we don’t address the core problem of it is easier and better to blame the “other” than to accept it is sometimes our own fault we will see this again.  And it will continue to eat at our society.

        1. Here’s the short version of what Fascist political parties sound like:

           Blaming the “liberal media”   
          Attacking unions   
          Promoting marriage, discouraging contraception   
          Racial purity 
          Purging immigrants   
          Military fetishism   
          Eternal war   
          Promising state religion   
          Downgrading teaching  
          Promising to prevent class struggle 
          Claiming their opponents are part of a vast leftist conspiracy 
          Promising to save the country feom “socialism” and slavery 
          Accusing their opponents of “envy” 
          Censorship of pornography and art 
          An offical language 
          Attacking multiculturalism 

          1.  I guess its OK if you just make up definitions for words.

            Fascism is government control of culture, economy and people, and both the dems and the repubs endlessly engage in it.  All those things you listed fall under one of the criteria I listed.

    1. ‘The Other’ – jeez, I’ve been thinking this for a while now. With my girlfriend’s racist uncles and aunties exploding their racist views on my facebook, claiming vital values and resources are being taken away from us. It’s all a horrible fucking cycle.

      It’s even in the recent over use of the word ‘hipster’ even. Always a group to hate, always a group to ridicule. Before hipster it was emo, before emo it was rappers, before rappers it was technos and hippies and probably mods and whatever.

      1. People like that so want to kill OWS members. The blogs are full of fantasies of how they are somehow about to be overwhelmed by OWS members but they will make a last stand where the real patriots will mow them down.

      2. I’m one of the historical hold overs of being an “other”.
        I can pass some scrutiny with ease.
        I’m white and my appearance is within social “norms”.
        But I am the entire reason marriage is under attack, even if I don’t leave a trail of fairy dust behind me when I walk.

        How allowing me to marry (someday, hopefully) the person I love can destroy the entire fabric of society really is beyond me.
        The only justification for it seems to be some people find it “icky” and their religious text has a couple lines to support it.  Right close to the ones that tattoos mean your going to hell just as fast as if you ate a cheeseburger, and the NFL is an abomination onto god for handling pig.

        “The Bible contains six admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.”

        I live in a society that hates “me” but knows not a damn thing about me, just the lies others tell them.

        I carry years of being blamed for all that is wrong and ruining the country, but to be really blunt – No one can explain how I destroyed the economy, gave Iran the bomb, caused an earthquake, caused a forest fire because I suck dick.

        There will always be groups who try to blame “the other”, our duty is to not let them win.  Imagine all of the hate of “the other” instead focused on fixing whats broken instead of trying to just assign blame.

  9. it is fact that Zimmerman killed Trayvon.  The outrage has been very misdirected.  The stupid laws that the stupid lawmakers in my stupid state, are going to make this a circus.  Our local rag, the Orlando Sentinel has a great article that explains how the stand your ground law goes too far.

    The local stations initially reported that Zimmerman was the one calling for help from his neighbors, and when none arrived, pulled his gun and shot his assailant.  The stupid laws in Florida make me so mad, because that is all it will take for him to get off, not 2nd degree murder, not manslaughter.  It’s happened time and time again.

    I did not vote for the lawmakers who bowed to the NRA to pass this legislation.    Unfortunately, a lot of people in Florida do vote that way.

    And Sanford, is a really nice place.  I’d like to share this from a proprietor of one of the finest german restaurants in Central Florida, and he also has a market and a brew store in Sanford:

    “since I live and work here in Sanford I am deeply disturbed about the killing of Trayvon Martin. Yes it is wrong and I wish it would never have happened or ever happen again. I also wish the news media would stop using inflamontory words about our community of Sanford. Sanford is a great place to live and work, I am proud to be a member of this town and that is because we locals care about each other and want to make our lives and those of our neighbors better. We don’t need the News Media to put labels on us that are not true. 53000 people live here. so what if our median income is around 20000 dollars a year that means we have to be more resourceful in making ends meet. Most of us are hard working people who want to take care of families and homes and want to make our town of Sanford better. lets focus on the majority of what we do right not on the minority of what we do wrong.”

    1. And I’d like to share this with the proprietor of that restaurant:  “Fuck you, you worthless piece of shit.  A teenager is dead and you want us to feel sorry for you?”

      1. I didn’t quote everything:

        ” Yes it is wrong and I wish it would never have happened or ever happen again.”

        I thought that it was implied that everyone feels this way. 

    2. Just a quick note about the no doubt lovely town-

      Sanford was originally an all White town.  When the owner of a large citrus grove in the area tried to bring in Black “workers” after the Civil War, they and he were attack violently by the town members who wanted the town to remain all White.  So the Black folks set up their own town next door called Goldsboro.  

      A few decades later, Sanford expanded around Goldsboro and took the Black town’s charter away, unincorporating it, stripping the town of it’s name and removing all the Black city founder’s names from it’s streets and such.

          1. It would certainly be a very interesting documentary on the phenomenon of municipal subsumption. For all I know there’s already been one but I don’t live in your country, so …

    3.  Really, restaurant proprietor? Because the section of your city where a black teenager was murdered for Being Black At Night sounds a lot like a fucking Sundown Town.

  10. The people who I feel really bad for are Trayvon’s family. I can’t imagine what it would be like to hear that your son had been shot. I may not have experienced that kind of loss (and I hope I never do), but my heart goes out to them.

  11. Part of me wants to give the guy a benefit of the doubt. But:

    1) Hes made many calls to the police before this. I realize that is probably part of being on the neighborhood watch. But really – how much crime is REALLY in a gated community?

    2) According to witnesses and on the 911 tape it sounds like the kid yelling. Assuming it is, I don’t see how that is self defense.

    3) There is NO reason to approach the kid. If you think he looks shady – call the cops. That is your right. Let them sort it out. I wouldn’t follow him for the very reason it just puts yourself in more potential danger.

    He sounds like he’s overzealous to be a hero, like a caricature of a neighborhood watch captain on the A-Team.

    I fully support lethal force to protect your life – but if you decide to carry you have to live up to the responsibility and deal with any consequences of your mistakes.

    1. I was captain of my neighborhood watch. If you’re calling the cops more than once or twice a year and you don’t live in some Road Warrior, post-apocalyptic landscape, there’s something wrong with you.

      1. Probably one of those ass clowns who wanted to be a cop but couldn’t make the grade, did some security guard work, never got over it. 

        1.  You have to make a grade to become a cop? I thought the only requirements were having a pulse and getting Authority Boners.

      2.  The desert out where you live doesn’t qualify as a Road Warrior post-apocalyptic landscape? :)

  12. Seeing this story from all the way over here in the UK, it surprises me that this sort of thing doesn’t happen all the time.  The problem appears to be “asshole with a gun”.   The world is full of assholes, and in the US it’s pretty easy for any of them to get a gun.

    So, the salient question for me is: does this happen all the time and I don’t get to here about it?  If so, why not?  Not newsworthy?   If not, and this is the big question, why?

    1. The outrage in this case is not that a racist asshole shot a kid — that happens too often, as you say — but that the police did not arrest him. That’s what all the fuss is about.

  13. This law sounds weird. You can murder someone in cold blood, claim self-defense, and the law can’t touch you? No need to make it plausible that you were indeed being threatened?

    How can he, big guy with a gun, and apparently a history of watching and confronting people on the street, claim that an unarmed teenager was a credible threat to him?

  14.  Maggie just posted a quiz that mentions murders but doesn’t qualify with an “alleged”.  You *genuinely concerned* guys better get over their and take BB to task! 

  15. I heard one of the 911 calls a few days ago.  You can hear this kid screaming and begging for help… desperately pleading for his life.  One of the more chilling things I’ve ever heard.

    The racist Florida police are scum and should rot in hell.  They should have reviewed the 911 tapes and other evidence and arrested Zimmerman.  Instead, they walked away from a murder.

    And they wonder why some black people don’t trust them, huh?  People in the department need to be fired.  It’s time to clean house there.

  16. It really says a lot about how bad racism is in the US when you can have a story like this and people will “defend” the shooter with statistics about the “average” black man being more violent etc. You know that when you judge a black person by “averages” about their race, which are often questionable sources in and of their own right, rather than anything about that specific black person then that is actually called “racist prejudice” right? 

  17. this jerk shot the boy bcuz he was black??? For God’s sake, what the hell he is?? An awful murder PIG??? Self-defense??? don’t tell me the little boy was going to rape him ! Maybe this MF was who wanted to rape the boy, the boy rejected this monster and then he killed’m. Death Sentece, now !

  18. So, what we have here is that a man:

    1. While driving around, saw another, unarmed man walking in a neighborhood.
    2. Got out of his car, while carrying a gun.
    3. Confronted the second man for no reason other than the first didn’t like the look of him.
    4. And then shot him.

    None of these facts are in dispute. If this were a civil case, you could get a summary judgment against the first man.

    In no universe with even the most microscopic sense of justice can this possibly, in any way, be anything than first-degree murder. I guess we’ll see what the current justice-particle count of our universe is.

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