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July 19, 2013


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A guy follows teenagers around his community and calls 911 only to report suspicious black teenage men.

Excuse me, but he is guilty of what?


One thing about the transcript that hasn't gotten any attention is that Zimmerman apparently couldn't originally tell Martin's race, saying "he looks black," rather than "he' is black," which to me suggests that Zimmerman wasn't sure of his race. Remember that he was observing him from afar and it was pretty dark outside. Only later when Martin comes back towards his car, does Zimmerman declare his race definitively: "He's got his hand in his waistband. And he's a black male." (If Zimmerman had thought that he had definitively identified Martin's race earlier, this would be totally redundant.) This interpretation undercuts the theory that Zimmerman originally noticed Martin because of his race as opposed to his behavior because it suggests that Zimmerman wasn't certain of his race when he called the non-emergency line.

(Also undercutting the theory that Zimmerman was race-obsessed is the fact that Zimmerman only tells the dispatcher the race after he's specifically asked about race. If he was totally race-obsessed, wouldn't that be the first thing out of his mouth or wouldn't he at least volunteer the information?)

Steven W.

"illustrative of how we know memory works (I wondered, in fact, why the defense didn’t bring a memory expert in to testify)."

The defense did present several witnesses including the use of force expert and the (competent) medical examiner that testified to such tangentially when explaining how to interpret + evaluate conflicting testimony & evidence.


Jimbino makes a fantastic point and its' the first time I'm seen anyone make it. The defense didn't even mention it that I can recall.

Mr.Common Sense

This article does a great job of trying to hide what really happened. I say that because the article stops at the beginning of the 911 call. During the 911 call he says "The F'n coons always get away with it" but I guess that doesn't mean he's racist right? If thats true, then Trayvon's girlfriend was right about the term "cracka" not being racist as well. You can't have it both ways (unless your white in America)

Mr.Common Sense

You can actually listen to it on youtube btw. But here's the part from the link...


Okay. These (expletive) they always get away. Yep. When you come to the clubhouse you come straight in and make a left. Actually you would go past the clubhouse.

Also, if you look at the court documents they talk about 2 black eyes and a broken nose. Go look up Zimmerman injuries and tell me what you see? One pic with a broken nose, the other without a broken nose. I don't have to spell it out for you, we all know whats really going on here. Thats if you look at the evidence objectionably w/out any racial biases.

Shag from Brookline

Perhaps there should be a comparison of Zimmerman's calls while on vigilante duty with other vigilantes in this same community, which community I understand included 24% people of color. And it would be interesting to determine the extent to which arrests resulted from the efforts of these vigilantes. It would be of particular interest determining whether any of the other vigilantes followed on foot suspicious persons - and confronted them.

Michelle Meyer

@Mr. Common Sense: The reason why I hadn't heard about GZ using the slur "coon" (I assure you that I was not trying to "hide" my knowledge of it) is because, per the transcript and audio that were entered into evidence by the state (and used prominently by the state in its opening and closing statements), GZ said "fuckin' punks," not "fuckin' coons."

The "coon" myth appears to have originated with CNN early in the investigation, when it hired an audio analyst to "try to get ahead of the audio tape" and decided that was what GZ had said. CNN then had to walk back that claim when another of their analysts listening to the audio with "state-of-the-art" equipment, GZ had said "[it's] fuckin' cold." Jeffrey Toobin, too, had changed his mind, noting “This is also a good example of why it's important to take your time." Indeed. (See Eventually, the FBI got its hands on the tape and determined that, as GZ had said all along, he had said "fuckin' punks" that night. And that was the evidence admitted into evidence at trial, as 10 seconds of Googling will show, e.g.,

But, as you say, the audio is available online and readers can listen and make up their own minds: I myself hear "fuckin' punks" at 2:22 pretty clearly.

As for "[o]ne pic with a broken nose, the other without a broken nose," I'm not sure what you're suggesting. The photo taken by a police officer on his cell phone at the scene shows swelling and blood. The photos taken at the police station after the EMTs had cleaned him up and some four hours later show that most of the swelling had subsided. (See photos at, e.g., The state's own witness (Rao) testified on July 2 that the swelling would have subsided during that time.


When you're being pummeled it's not the last blow you fear as fatal, but the next.

Michelle Meyer

@G: I noticed the same thing about GZ saying "he looks black" (and if you listen to the 911 audio, you'll hear that he emphasizes his uncertainty, e.g., "he *looks* black." And I agree that his uncertainty about TM being black is buttressed somewhat by the fact that he re-reports TM's race to the operator a second time, with definitiveness. That said, this observation is consistent with a theory that GZ was racially profiling all non-whites, rather than blacks in particular. Indeed, the only direct evidence of GZ's racism of which I'm aware is his MySpace comments from several years ago disparaging Mexicans and/or Mexican-Americans.

As for your second point, I agree that if GZ were a racist on the model of Archie Bunker, that the fact that he didn't mentioned race (or the hoodie) until he was asked to do so by the operator would be *some* evidence that he isn't a raging bigot. But I think that most people (at least at this point in time) have settled on a theory of implicit racial bias/racial profiling rather than overt racism/racial animus. And on that theory, I'm not sure that the fact that he didn't volunteer TM's race is probative, especially if he, unlike an Archie Bunker type, has internalized the strong social norms against making race salient when reporting suspicious persons.

Wayne Dickson

You are familiar with how the jury instructions were changed by the "stand your ground" law, right? In Florida every trial involving self-defense will be significantly affected by "stand your ground," regardless of whether it's explicitly invoked by the defendant.

The police said that the reason they could not arrest Zimmerman initially was that they couldn't justify it because of the SYG changes to the law. 90+% of the FL jury pool knows about the law. (Remember Lakoff's "Don't think of an elephant" thing?)

They probably don't know much, which is to the defendant's advantage. Very few of the "pundits" and broadcast "personalities" seem to know much about it. If this were a significant element of a major story, shouldn't a responsible journalist read before/after versions of the law and jury instructions before pontificating?

One of my email signatures is this variously phrased and attributed aphorism: "It ain't what you don't know that worries me. It's what you do know that just ain't so."


Mr. Common Sense, you got that wrong (as did the cross-examining attorney and many others). Trayvon's girlfriend did not use the term "cracka." She used the term "ass-cracker," and explained at trial that she did not consider this a racial term. Instead it meant "pervert." As she further explained in subsequent interviews, Trayvon called Zimmerman an ass-cracker, meaning homosexual, and she then advised Trayvon that Zimmerman was likely a homosexual rapist, who was going to follow Trayvon home and kidnap/rape his little brother. A minute later, Trayvon confronted Zimmerman, assaulted him, and got himself shot. The Justice Department will not prosecute Zimmerman because, at this point, there would be no way for them to do so without confronting the overwhelming evidence that is was Trayvon who (inaccurately) profiled and assaulted Zimmerman.

Dan Bongard

A guy who calls the cops to report potholes and open garage doors would have called in countless "suspicious black men" if he actually thought of black men as inherently suspicious. If he only called in a couple, that says to me that he's not predisposed to profile.


From a psychology course taken 40+ years ago; calls 34, 36, 37, 39, 42, and 43 shows a 'possible' slowly evolving resentment and anger at "these fuking punks", always getting away with something that he feels is untoward in the vicinity of his home territory (lair?) and he intends to make an example of one of them. He lies on Hannity (who shows his shocking disbelief)about knowing anything about SYG, taken a course including that very subject. It seems to me, that he has written in his own mind, a scenario of just how to approach a confrontation where he can actually be forced to kill a suspected black person, going so far as to ask the dispatcher to call him back so he can describe to the arriving law enforcement officer exactly where to meet him, instead of remaining in his vehicle. There's no dispatcher listening in to the activity, only neighbors to hear the confrontation, to scared to even look outside to visually witness anything. My opinion; he got away with murder.


I've taken calculus 1,2 and 3. Got a's. No way I could work a problem now. I see yebby61 prefers speculation to actual evidence in deciding what happened.


Yebby, you have your opinion; and the jury listened to the facts, and decided Not Guilty, on all counts.
There's is the final opinion.



Toby anderson

Thank you for the work. Will be checking out Prawfs.


I had a class in kinder garden and the teacher said it was not right to make up stories about other people. I think yebby61 missed that day in kinder garden.


This is an excellent article.

What is striking is the difference in the comments between well thought out reasonable responses versus those expressing thinly veiled hate.

That pattern seems to have followed this case, even to a Legal Site where the expectation would be for above average readers. To see lies repeated as facts even here makes one fear for our Country. Six women got it right. But it seems America is currently walking the fine line between rationality and Mob rule.

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