Trayvon, George, and the Homeless Man
At a pre-trial hearing on May 28, the attorney for accused murderer George Zimmerman, Mark O'Mara, slipped a time bomb into the public record that no one in the major media seemed to notice. It had to do with a homeless man, and the relationship between that man and the victim of Zimmerman's alleged crime, Trayvon Martin.
O'Mara's allusion had particular resonance in this case because Zimmerman first surfaced publicly in Sanford, Florida, in a case involving a homeless man. As it happened, in December 2010, a police lieutenant's son named Justin Collison sucker-punched a black homeless man named Sherman Ware outside a Sanford bar, with seeming impunity.
Although Ware suffered a concussion, and there was video evidence of Collison's action, no action was taken against Collison for nearly a month. Upset at the lack of media attention, Zimmerman and his wife Shellie printed fliers demanding that the community "hold accountable" officers responsible for any misconduct.
They then drove the fliers around to area churches and passed them out on a Sunday morning. Later, at a public meeting in January 2011, Zimmerman took the floor and said, "I would just like to state that the law is written in black and white. It should not and cannot be enforced in the gray for those that are in the thin blue line."
This meeting was recorded on video. As a result of the publicity, Police Chief Brian Tooley, whom Zimmerman blasted for his "illegal cover-up and corruption," was forced to resign.
Ironically, perhaps, Zimmerman headlined his fliers with a famous quote from Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." He would have been better off quoting another Anglo-Irishman, Oscar Wilde: "No good deed goes unpunished."
The local NAACP, with whom Zimmerman worked on the Sherman Ware case, instinctively turned its back on him as soon as he was accused of racist profiling in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. On March 26, a month after the shooting, George's older brother Robert sent an impassioned letter to local NAACP head Turner Clayton asking him to "call off the dogs. Period. Publicly and swiftly."
As Robert reminded Clayton, Zimmerman's "was the only non-black face in the meetings for justice" in the Ware case. "It's time for you to end the race issue in this matter and call for cooler heads to prevail," Robert pleaded -- but without success, or even the expectation of it.
Ware's attorney, in fact, was Natalie Jackson, now a key player on Team Trayvon. When the Zimmerman family talked publicly about George's involvement in the Ware case, Jackson denied that Zimmerman had handed out any fliers and dismissed the family's attempt to establish Zimmerman's commitment to racial justice. "It's a PR strategy, a propaganda campaign," said Jackson. "His friends and family are doing him a big disservice by race-baiting."
Although Judge Debra Nelson ruled against the inclusion of almost any negative information about Martin in the upcoming trial, the defense had managed to get much of that information into the public sphere. CNN, for instance, headlined its article on the May 28 ruling "Marijuana, fights, guns: Zimmerman loses key pretrial battles." Below the headline was a photo of the young Martin, a near-saint only months back, recycling a lungful of marijuana smoke. If nothing else, the media were catching on to Martin's less than saintly behavior.
The media missed, however, O'Mara's reference to homelessness and Martin's attitude towards it. O'Mara informed Judge Nelson that Martin had a keen interest in fighting and that he had video proof of the same. The charmless Nelson made one of her rare stabs at humor by implying that if attendance at a fight were proof of criminality, half of America would be in jail.
O'Mara countered by saying that Martin not only attended fights, but that he also recorded them on video, including "one where two buddies of his are beating up a homeless guy." The video recorded a crime. The State of Florida had had this video in possession for months and took no follow-up action. As O'Mara made clear at the most recent hearing, the State had concealed critical evidence all along. He even produced a whistleblower from the state attorney's office to hammer home his point.
Judge Nelson made no comment on the beating of the homeless man. She had a case to misdirect, and she wasn't about to quibble over something as insignificant as justice.