Monday, April 2, 2012

George Zimmerman and The Experts; Desperation, Assumptions and The Lone Ranger Syndrome

George Zimmerman says this is what happened on that rainy night in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated, condominium community. He was following Trayvon Martin because he seemed suspicious. That Martin began to run and although he had been cautioned not to follow him by Sanford 911 he did just that. Zimmerman maintains that he lost the hooded figure and began to walk back to his vehicle. Suddenly out of the night loomed Trayvon Martin who then initiated a confrontation. He says that the six foot one inch, 140 pound Martin decked him with one punch then began to pound the back of his head against the pavement. Zimmerman says he repeatedly yelled for help, but none was forthcoming. The attack ceased only when the captain of the watch took the Florida "Stand your ground" statutes to heart and shot Martin to death.

He does not offer an explanation for why Martin, who was admittedly running from him, suddenly turned into the pursuer and aggressor.

Police have released tape of a 911 call made by an unidentified resident of the condo community. In it you can clearly hear someone yelling for help. The pleas cease abruptly with a very loud and distinct gun shot. The person who was screaming sounds young, but then I'm no expert.

Unfortunately for Mr. Zimmerman a couple of other people who have listened to the same tape are. Both have reached the conclusion that it wasn't his voice that was calling for help.

The Orlando Sentinel has reported that Ed Primeau, a Michigan audio engineer and forensics expert used audio enhancement and human analysis to come to this conclusion. I have no idea what human analysis entails. It sounds a little vague. However Tom Owen, owner of, Owen Forensic Services and chair emeritus of the American Board of Recorded Evidence comes to the same conclusion. Using computer software called Voice Biometrics that Owen claims is better than 99% accurate he says the results returned a 48% match with Zimmerman's voice. Given the quality of the audio and samples of Zimmerman's voice the match should have been over 90%. To quote Owen, "The tests conclude that it is not the voice of Mr. Zimmerman." He also added that he can't say whether or not it was Martin, because he had no sample of the young man's voice to compare it to.

Of course Zimmerman and Martin were the only ones  involved in this horrid scene and since Martin was the only one shot it doesn't take a great leap of faith to believe it is him you hear.

The more that you look at this incident the uglier it gets. According to the New York Times, late last summer Zimmerman organized the neighborhood watch because of a string of burglaries in the struggling housing addition. The Sanford police came out and told a meeting of residents that the watch should be their eyes and ears. To observe and report. They were told that they had no police authority and shouldn't carry weapons. But, as we now know, just about anyone in Florida can carry a piece and they can use them with apparent impunity.

The article paints a picture of Zimmerman as a seemingly decent guy, but one obsessed with law enforcement and a frequent caller to the Sanford 911 center. In other words a cop wanna be.  In the 911 tape of Zimmerman's call before the shooting he asks if they (the police) are sending someone out, then complains that "these guys always get away."

A quick glance at an on line property advertisement for The Retreat at Twin Lakes shows a tan colored, two story condo with dark brown and white trim The listing says it is 1295 square feet and has three bed rooms and two and a half baths. It brags about a community pool and in that breathless sort of enthusiasm all such ads have, it claims it is "close to shopping malls and much more." The place rents for $1195 a month with a year's lease.

It doesn't mention that  the reason many of the condos are up for rent is that there has been a rash of foreclosures. That the purchase price for units when they were initially built was around $250,000 and in today's market they are worth barely half that.  It also doesn't mention that in 2011 there were seven reported burglaries and even though it was "gated" the residents perceived a growing problem with strangers wandering through the complex. And darkly as, Retreat at Twin Lakes home owner, Frank Taaffe was quoted as saying, "They were Trayvon-like dudes with their pants down."  

What you see is a picture of a place sliding slowly down hill and the home owners feeling trapped, desperate, and finally besieged. Enter George Zimmerman, benevolent protector, armed and ready to defend life and property. The only things missing from his wardrobe were a mask and a native American sidekick.

Given all the circumstances it seems inevitable that some kid was going to get shot. Unfortunately for Trayvon Martin he is the one who drew the short straw.

That, of course, doesn't make it right. Zimmerman made assumptions based on race and appearance. Assumptions echoed by Frank Taaffe. They aren't the only ones out there. There are tens of millions who make the same assumptions for the same reasons. It is a disease that eats at our society like a cancer.  Sadly, it is one that we seem to have no cure for.

In the final analysis Trayvon Martin was killed not because of what he did, or even might do, but because of who he was and what he was wearing.

Shame on George Zimmerman and shame on all of us for allowing this vicious lunacy to continue.



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