On February 16, 2012, the lives of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman changed for the worst. Martin lost his life while Zimmerman, the overzealous neighborhood watch vigilante, is due to stand trial for killing Martin. Following Martin’s death there were rallies held across major American cities, celebrities, athletes, and everyday citizens wore their hoodies to show support to Martin’s family, but that was 16 months and like everything in our hyperactive society, Martin’s story soon faded out of the spotlight. Martin’s story took another turn last week when Zimmerman was found not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter.
The following is a timeline of events leading up to this point courtesy of CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/12/justice/florida-zimmerman-timeline):
About 7 p.m.: George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain, calls 911 to report “a suspicious person” in the gated community Retreat at Twin Lakes. Zimmerman says he is following Martin after the teen started to run, prompting the dispatcher to tell him, “We don’t need you to do that.” Zimmerman pursues Martin anyway, but then says he lost sight of him.
About 7:10 p.m.: Phone records show Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend around the time he saw Zimmerman while returning on foot from a convenience store to the home of his father’s fiancee.
According to an Orlando Sentinel story later confirmed by Sanford police, Zimmerman tells authorities that after Zimmerman briefly lost track of Martin, the teen approached him. After the two exchange words, Zimmerman says, he reaches for his cell phone, and then Martin punches him in the nose. Zimmerman says Martin pins him to the ground and begins slamming his head into the sidewalk.
At the time of his death, the teenager is unarmed and carrying a small amount of cash, a bag of Skittles candy and a can of iced tea.
Several neighbors of the gated community call 911, with authorities eventually releasing the contents of seven such calls. In one, a man whispers, “Hurry, please. … There’s someone screaming outside. There’s a gunshot. Hurry up. … There’s someone screaming. I just heard a gunshot.”
Another neighbor says, “There were gunshots right outside my house. There’s someone screaming. I just heard a guy shot. Hurry up. They are right outside my house.”
In another call, a woman begs dispatchers to send help, saying someone is “screaming and hollering” for help. Moments later, she describes a light at the scene of the shooting. “Oh, my God,” she says. “There’s still somebody out there walking with a flashlight.”
About 7:30 p.m.: Zimmerman tells police he shot Martin in self-defense. In a police report, Officer Timothy Smith writes that Zimmerman is bleeding from the nose and back of the head.
March 15: In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, George Zimmerman’s father writes that his son has been unfairly portrayed as a racist. Robert Zimmerman writes that his son is Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family.
March 16: Authorities release seven calls to police from the night of the shooting. In one of the 911 recordings, Zimmerman says he is following Martin. Also in one of the recordings, a voice can be heard in the background screaming “Help, help!” followed by the sound of a gunshot.
March 19: The Justice Department announces that it has launched an investigation into Martin’s death. Florida Gov. Rick Scott asks state officials to assist in the investigation.
March 23: President Barack Obama speaks publicly for the first time on the growing controversy, saying the incident requires national “soul-searching.”
April 11: Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin, says special prosecutor Angela Corey.
“This is a very, very major charge,” says CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “It carries the potential of life in prison. The jury instructions that the jury will receive is he can only be convicted if he showed a depraved attitude toward Trayvon Martin’s life. That’s a tough burden for a prosecutor to meet. But she has access to facts that we don’t.”
April 12: An affidavit of probable cause in Florida’s case against Zimmerman says he “profiled” Martin and disregarded a police dispatcher’s request that he await the arrival of police. Zimmerman’s relatives say that he did not profile Martin and that he shot him in self-defense. They say Zimmerman killed Martin after the teen punched him and slammed his head on the sidewalk.
April 20: Speaking during a court hearing, Zimmerman apologizes to Martin’s family. Moments later, a Florida judge sets bond at $150,000, allowing Zimmerman the chance to get out of jail while he awaits trial. Prosecutors had asked for a bond of $1 million, but Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. made it $150,000 after Zimmerman’s family testified they did not have the resources necessary to meet the higher level.
April 23: Zimmerman enters a written not-guilty plea after being released on bail shortly after midnight. He has been fitted with a GPS monitoring device that allows authorities to track his location, the sheriff’s department says. Lee resigns as Sanford police chief, but city commissioners vote against accepting his resignation.
June 24, 2013: Opening statements in the George Zimmerman trial begin with profanity by the persecution and a terrible knock-knock joke from the defense
July, 13, 2013: A Jury of 6 white women finds George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter.
Before the trial began Trayvon’s father Tracy Martin said the following: “Had Trayvon pulled the trigger and killed George Zimmerman, I’m sure he would have been convicted, and we’re looking for justice for our son’s killer.” We now know that the justice Tracy and Trayvon’s mother Sabrina Martin was looking for, they did not find. Following the verdict many people posted this quote on social media sites: “A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect”. The most powerful tool in a democracy is the vote! It is not enough to wear Martin shirts, post his pictures on social media sites, complain about the system, or march in the streets to bring about the social change we seek. If we want to adequately honor the memory of Martin we have to make our voices heard at the ballot box and support candidates and laws that will benefit our community.