The defense team of George Zimmerman has just released a police video of him trying to explain what happened the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman, of course, claimed then and now the whole thing was a case of self defense. That he was viciously attacked by the unarmed Martin and that under the Florida stand your ground statutes he was completely justified in shooting him.
As always it depends on who you believe, or rather what you believe when it comes to reading the transcript of Zimmerman's account of the affair.
He says that as he was driving by that night he saw Martin, "leisurely looking" at a residence that had recently been burglarized. According to Zimmerman since it was raining he didn't understand why Martin wasn't rushing home. In his words, "I just felt like something was off about him." To put it another way, here was a black kid, hoodie up wandering at his own pace through a neighborhood that he didn't look like he belonged in. One that had suffered a string a recent break ins.
That is when things got complicated. According to Zimmerman he lost sight of Martin, drove around the block, got out to give the police an address and then was confronted by a particularly aggressive young black man.
He said to me, "Yo, you got a problem?" I said to him, "No, I don't have a problem, man."
In his words, "I reached into my pocket and I was looking for my phone and he punched me in the nose. And I fell backward, to the side, somehow I ended up on my back. He ended up on top of me and he just kept punching my face and head."
Zimmerman says that when Martin saw his gun he told him, a bit melodramatically, "You're going to die tonight."
"I just pinched his arm, grabbed my gun, I aimed it at him and fired one shot." After shooting the seventeen year old in the chest Zimmerman told police Martin said, "You got me here. You got me, you got it, something like that."
Zimmerman claims he was screaming for help while all this was occurring, but no one came to his aid.
Every poll taken in regard to the incident has shown that the majority of white people who read the MSNBC report and or actually take the time to watch the video, will believe George Zimmerman. The majority of black people will think it is all so much bull shit.
Here is what we know according to the police tapes of the conversations with Mr. Zimmerman that night. He refers to Martin and those who look like him as "punks" and complains that, "they always get away." He tells the police that Martin is running. The dispatcher, stunned and concerned asks him "are you following him." When Zimmerman tells him yes he is advised, "we don't need you to do that."
We also know that two separate audio experts analyzed the screams for help recorded over a neighbor's phone. Both concluded that it was not George Zimmerman's voice.
Beyond that, what Zimmerman didn't know was that Martin was on the phone himself that night, talking to a girl friend. He was complaining that some stranger was following him. She told Martin he should run and he responded that he was going to start walking faster.
There is no evidence that Zimmerman ever identified himself to Martin.
Much has been made in the conservative media about traces of marijuana found in Martin's blood stream that night. They have studiously avoided mentioning that Zimmerman also tested positive for a drug. It was the prescription med, Restoril which is used to ease insomnia and anxiety. As with every drug there has to be a listing of possible side effects. With, Restoril it goes like this, "rare side effects include back aches, hallucinations, memory loss, mental or mood problems such as anxiety, agitation, aggression and unusual behavior."
Finally we know Zimmerman and his family is a little fast and loose with the truth, at least when it comes to money. They played the indigent while concealing well over one hundred grand from the court, shuffling it back and forth between different accounts to avoid detection.
Unfortunately the only two people who know what really happened that night are George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. Martin can't speak for himself. What a jury is going to have to decide is whether the evidence supports, or contradicts George Zimmerman's version of the events.
No matter what the outcome the ugly fact remains that George Zimmerman's actions, his feeling that "something was off with him," his assumption that Trayvon Martin was a "punk," triggered the entire tragedy.
And make no mistake, it is a tragedy and, sadly, a uniquely American one.
We just can't get beyond it. I'm not sure we ever will.