for my brother, part 1


One of the wonders of genetics is that two parents can provide an abundance in variety of code to make curiously diverse offspring develop under similar environmental conditions. My brother and I have red hair in common and also a propensity to get involved in spirited discussions (or arguments, depending on your point of view) in areas where we hold strong opinions. But beyond that, we seem to have very little in common. In fact, I would struggle to find any subjects where we hold even similar opinions.

He recently asked me if I was planning on writing a post about Zimmerman, as he was outraged by the coverage the case received in his resident nation of Denmark, which he claimed consistently lacked context, only presenting the notion that an innocent black kid had been shot dead. So, I thought it would be nice to present some of the context.

  • Martin was a 17 year old school boy walking back from the shops (with some sweets and an iced tea) to his father’s house within a gated community.
  • Zimmerman was head of the neighbourhood watch scheme, and was looking out for criminals. He decided by looking at Martin that he was probably a criminal.
  • Zimmerman contacted the police and was instructed not to follow Martin, they were sending a patrol. He went against police advice, continued to follow Martin, carrying a concealed firearm. You can listen to his call here.
  • Neighbours heard screaming that stopped when the firearm went off, but, as it was in the dark, there are confused eye-witness accounts, and the description of what happened rests on Zimmerman’s version of events.
  • Zimmerman didn’t testify at the trial. You can listen to his statement to the police after the shooting here. He claimed that he fired the shot after Martin jumped out from bushes on him, punched him to the ground, threatened to kill him, was smashing his head off the pavement and seemed to be going for his gun.
  • There is contradictory medical testimony – one expert claiming there was evidence of severe force used in at least six blows to Zimmerman’s head, and one claiming that the injuries were minor and likely to be from one blow.
  • You can see Zimmerman arriving at the police station following the shooting here – there appears to be no sign of having been in any kind of struggle. A photo was later released showing quite shocking damage to his nose – you can read an analysis of the photo on this post.
  • Zimmerman has a history of violence and aggression – against his ex-girlfriend and the police (here), in the workplace (here), and in his neighbourhood (here). Martin’s history is difficult to track down, as it was ruled not admissible in court.

Well, I don’t know about you, but for me this story is about an innocent black kid getting shot dead. The context of Martin being assumed to be a criminal only because of the colour of his skin, of Zimmerman stalking him through the neighbourhood against police advice, of Zimmerman having a history of violence and aggression, and of untrained citizens fancying themselves as active crime-stoppers AND being allowed to carry concealed firearms while doing so, just makes the whole story more horrifying. I’d like to dedicate this post to my brother and thank him for helping me seek out the context of this shocking case.