Trayvon, Dee-Dee, and D.J.
Dee-Dee, Trayvon Martin's girlfriend, told a very short story, but a compelling one. It's how we first learned about the now iconic hoodie. But above all, it's the main source for the media's narrative of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Before Dee-Dee, we had only the unarmed teenager on an errand to buy Skittles and tea for the son of his dad's girlfriend. After March 20, we had some drama. Trayvon was chased by George Zimmerman. He was frightened and tried to get away. He thought he'd succeeded. But the racist cop-wannabe tracked him down and shot him.
Shortly after he took on the case, attorney Benjamin Crump decided to launch a media campaign on behalf of his client. Crump could never have imagined what a success this would be. A story appeared in Reuters on March 7. "Wow!" said the producer of CBS This Morning after he was approached, "this has to be told." And so the shooting was featured on his program the next morning. It was picked up by ABC two days later.
On March 16, when interest was flagging, the Sanford mayor was pressured to overrule the police and release the 911 tapes and Zimmerman's recorded call. Now the media had screams. Never mind that the one eyewitness had said it was Zimmerman screaming and that he himself had yelled at Martin to stop pounding the watch captain. Never mind that Zimmerman had injuries to his nose, his face, and the back of his head. The media convinced themselves that it was Martin who was screaming, and convinced those who get their news from Brian, Diane, and Scott.
Four days later, Dee-Dee's tape was released, a phone interview with ABC. Now the media had its narrative. On the 23rd, President Obama was moved to declare, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." "All of these things worked perfectly," said Ryan Julison, in charge of publicity for Crump's law firm. "They came out in just the right sequence for us."
Dee-Dee had called Martin at around 7:12 p.m. on February 26, approximately 3 minutes after George Zimmerman had contacted the police about the suspicious stranger. Crump would not disclose the girl's identity because "her parents are gravely concerned about her health and her safety."
Dee-Dee's story raises two sets of questions. The first concerns what happened during the time between when the phone call ended on the night Martin was shot and when she described it to ABC 23 days later. The second set of questions concerns the content of the call.
If you were on the phone with a friend who was being chased by someone and the line suddenly went dead and your calls back weren't returned, you'd be alarmed and probably call 911. But if she had this impulse, the sixteen-year-old Miami girl might not have known what town Martin was staying in. It's not likely she knew the names of his parents. Did she try to find out where Martin was from friends of his? In any event, she never wound up calling the Sanford police that night.
Tracy Martin identified his son's body the next morning, and probably by that afternoon rumors of Trayvon's death were circulating at Dr. Michael Krop High School. Dee-Dee would naturally have been distraught. The day after his wake, she was so upset, according to Crump, that her mother brought her to an ER. She received "a battery of tests," including an EKG, and stayed there 12 hours. If she had not mentioned it earlier, Dee-Dee must have told her mother after the wake that she had been speaking with Martin moments before he was killed.
The mother chose not to pass this news along to the Sanford police. The obligations of good citizenship might not have counted for much with Dee-Dee's mom, but if she had information that would indicate that her daughter's friend had been pursued and killed, you'd think that she would have come forward with the details for Trayvon's sake and for the sake of his parents. The killer of her daughter's boyfriend, after all, was not sitting in jail, where he belonged.
But what if Dee-Dee's account of the phone call differed from what she subsequently reported? What if she told her mom that Trayvon had said something like, "I'm gonna check out this dude" and later "This m***** f***** is gonna be sorry he messed with me"? There would be less incentive to call the police or Martin's family. Such a response would not have been out of character for the Trayvon Martin who emerges from his Twitter, My Space, and Facebook accounts.
The Crump team places the onus of responsibility on the police for failing to contact the girl. It's true they had Martin's cell. Incoming calls are stored on most phones, but not always. On February 27 it would not have mattered much to the police who Martin was talking to before he took a swing at Zimmerman. If they could do it again, no doubt they would call the number. By March 2, they had returned the phone to Tracy Martin; a mysterious call to 911 was made on that date.
So it was only when Tracy Martin was looking over his son's phone bill about three weeks after Trayvon's death that he noticed the call. He didn't dial the number, according to Julison, the Crump spokesman, but turned the phone over to the lawyer, who contacted the girl. Crump, needless to say, did not inform the police. Instead he went to Matt Gutman of ABC. According to Julison, Gutman was chosen because he'd done some good -- i.e., sympathetic -- reporting, but the spokesman insisted there was no special reason to select him.
After giving her brief phone interview, Dee-Dee refused to speak with reporters or with the Sanford police. The concern about the girl's safety -- repeated by Julison -- is implausible. No "white supremacist" has threatened a member of Team Trayvon. If Dee-Dee had come forward, any of the "Justice for Trayvon" rallies across the country would have been delighted to feature her. However, fifteen minutes of fame does not appeal to everyone, and it's understandable that she might not wish to sign on, or to be interviewed on camera. But why not talk to the police or FBI? If what you're telling investigators is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, you should have no worries. If you're concealing something, talking to authorities is a more dicey proposition. In any event, 35 days after the shooting and 12 days after the ABC interview, the girl complied with a subpoena and spoke with two district attorneys working for the Special Prosecutor.
The portion of the phone interview that was released takes just a few seconds to listen to. It was broadcast on ABC's Young Turks and then on World News with Diane Sawyer. Dee-Dee's actual words are
"he say this man was watching him so he put his hoodie on. Trayvon say what you are following me for. Then the man say what you doin' round here. Someone push Trayvon because the headset just fell." After the first sentence a reporter interpolates: "Suddenly Martin was cornered."
A different version, though credited to ABC, was broadcast on CNN. This is the interview featured on the Parks and Crump website.
"He was walkin' fast when he say this man behind him again. He come an say this look like he about to do somethin' to him. And then Trayvon come an say the man was still behind him and then I come an say run."
In its printed rendition, ABC provided still a third version:
"He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he lost the man. I asked Trayvon to run, and he said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run, but he said he was not going to run."
"Trayvon said, 'What are you following me for,' and the man said, 'What are you doing here.' Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again, and he didn't answer the phone."
The printed ABC version has been edited and cleaned up to emphasize two things: 1) that a frightened Martin was pursued, escaped, and then caught by George Zimmerman and 2) that Zimmerman started the fight.
A few problems with each claim:
We know from Zimmerman's phone call that Martin was aware of him at most 40 seconds into the call, or by around 7:10. He was shot at about 7:16. From where Zimmerman was standing, it was about 850 feet to the townhouse Martin was staying in. Had he walked fast, the seventeen-year-old could have been back home in less than a minute. There would have been no conversation and no fight.
No guy will admit he's lost, but Dee-Dee does not report Martin saying anything like "these @#$% buildings all look alike." If Martin was not disoriented, the only reason he did not return directly to the townhouse was because he chose not to.
As for the final words Dee-Dee reported hearing:
1. They don't sound anything like the immediate prelude to a fight. Two questions are asked: Why are you following me? and What are you doing here? Without knowing anything about the individuals who asked them, it's difficult to believe these words would provoke a fight without any further exchanges.
2. Zimmerman had called the police 5 minutes earlier. He expected an officer to arrive at any moment. The last thing he wanted to do is get into a fight with the guy he's called them about. If he got out of his truck a second time -- and this seems to be the key piece of evidence in the prosecutor's case -- common sense says that he was attempting to locate the suspicious stranger so he could point the officer in the right direction.
3. Among the six individuals making 911 calls, at least one reported hearing an argument before the fight broke out. The woman's account was presented as a rebuttal to the eyewitness who had seen Martin on top, beating Zimmerman. Unfortunately, she had seen nothing. But she did hear loud voices, that of a "man," deeper and more aggressive, and a quieter "boy." There was not merely an exchange of questions.
4. What does pushing sound like? Even the media does not insist that the fight began with Zimmerman pushing Martin, though this now seems to be widely believed.
5. If Zimmerman did in fact ask Martin what he was doing here, there was a perfectly good answer: "I happen to be staying with my dad and his girlfriend, a**hole." And he could have given the address. This was not how Martin responded.
6. You have every right to approach a suspicious stranger walking in your community and ask him what he's doing there. This is not chasing or stalking. The stranger in this case was 6' 2" or 6' 3" and weighed about 160 pounds. It was a little after 7 p.m. in a gated community. If he was simply returning from an errand (though we know now he was not), he had no reason to be frightened. Perhaps the little twelve-year-old in the hoodie might have been scared, but it says something about the veracity of Dee-Dee's story that it needs this dishonest illustration to make it stick.
So what did happen in the final moments before the fight? According to Zimmerman, he was headed back to his truck for the second time when he was surprised by Martin, who was waiting for him between two buildings. The teenager said, "Do you have a f***ing problem?," and when Zimmerman replied "no," said, "You do now," and decked him. Zimmerman told police that he reached for his cell as he said "no."
If in fact he was not challenged as he reported -- the "do you have a f***ing problem?" being a purely rhetorical question -- the possibility exists that Martin thought Zimmerman was reaching for a weapon, and struck him in self-defense. But if Zimmerman is telling the truth, it was he who was waylaid by the teenager, not the other way around, and that Martin's attack on him was premeditated.
Julison, the spokesman for the Crump law firm, said that there were no plans to release a fuller version of the phone interview with Dee-Dee, and that the girl would not be speaking to the media again. The next time we hear from her, he said, will be in court, if she's asked to testify.
Bloggers and people leaving comments on websites have compared Dee-Dee to Tawana Brawley and Crystal Mangum. Though Al Sharpton has graced all three cases with his presence, the comparison is unfair. Brawley and Mangum were world-class hoaxers, making false accusations of rape against innocent white men. Dee-Dee's story -- at least the fragments released by ABC -- simply give an impression of her boyfriend's actions which is not consistent with the evidence from Zimmerman's recorded call and other evidence, and not consistent with common sense.
Still, the three cases have something in common: they reveal bottomless credulity of the left.
Some of Zimmerman's supporters were dismayed when he replaced the savvy, aggressive ex-cop Hal Uhrig with lanky, mild-mannered Mark O'Mara, a specialist in marital and family law. But if Dee-Dee does testify, the gentle O'Mara may cross-examine her more effectively than his predecessor would have.
Posters in the blogosphere have called attention to several particularly grisly murders of whites by blacks since the Trayvon Martin story broke -- murders that would not normally have attracted national attention: Nancy Strait, an 85-year-old woman raped and beaten to death in Tulsa, and her 90-year-old ex-paratrooper husband badly beaten as well, the shooting of a young mother in Houston by a woman who then kidnapped her three-day-old daughter, and more.
But a more relevant story has gotten less coverage. A homeowner, trying to enforce the regulations of his community, got into an argument with a younger man. That man attacked him, he claimed, and had him pinned to the ground. The older man was armed, and fearing his life was in danger, shot and killed the man on top of him. The incident took place in another Florida town, Valrico, about a two-hour drive from Sanford. Ironically, the neighborhood, just like George Zimmerman's, is called Twin Lakes.
There are a couple of differences in this story. The older man was 69, the younger 41. And the shooter was African-American, his victim white.
Trevor Dooley, a school bus driver, spotted a boy skateboarding on the basketball court in the park across the street from his house. He yelled at him to stop, saying skateboarding was prohibited. D. J. James, an Air Force veteran who served in Iraq, was shooting hoops with his eight-year-old daughter and had given the boy permission to skateboard. He yelled back, "Show me the sign." According to eyewitnesses, Dooley went back into his garage, got a gun, and crossed over to the park. He and James argued until Dooley pulled up his shirt to expose the gun and said, "f*** you." He then headed back home. James followed and reprimanded him. "Don't flash a weapon," he said. Dooley then pulled out the gun, James reached for it, and the two men struggled for the gun and fell to the ground. Lying on his side, Dooley shot James through the heart.
After several days, Dooley was charged with manslaughter. The case is still before the judge. Dooley's lawyers have filed a motion asking that the charges be dismissed, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. The prosecution will argue that it doesn't apply, as James was defending himself and posing no threat to Dooley.
This is not the kind of story that makes anyone in the media say "Wow!" The trial has barely been covered even in Tampa Bay's two papers and its TV stations since the testimony of James's daughter on February 23rd. And no one is interested in Trevor Dooley's feelings about whites.