A year ago today, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in an incident that spurred debate on racial profiling, gun control and the Sunshine State’s controversial Stand Your Ground Law.
It took nearly a month for the national media to grab hold of the story – that Martin, a black 17-year-old visiting his father in Sanford, Fla., was killed Feb. 26, 2012, by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman after Zimmerman believed the hoodie-wearing teen was up to no good in his gated community. But once it did, the differing narratives of what happened that day (was it self-defense? or murder?) gripped the country.
Aftr much protest, Florida prosecutors eventually charged Zimmerman, the son of a Latina mother and white father, with second-degree murder. Zimmerman contended that he acted in self-defense and his gun went off during a struggle with Trayvon.
Public attention over the case has waned in the days since the incident provoked both outrage and controversy.
What’s the status of Zimmerman, his defense and the trial?
Zimmerman is currently living somewhere in Seminole County, Fla., as he awaits trial while out on bail, according to the website for his defense fund.
The defense fund reported that $61,747 has been spent so far on “household/living expenses,” which it justified.
“The defense team worked hard to find someone willing to rent to George Zimmerman because there was a perceived liability associated with renting to him, and there was a concern that George would have to abandon that residence too, if circumstances were to change,” the website states. “During this time, George and [wife] Shellie lived in a series of modest hotels -- mostly two-room extended stay suites. This cost the defense fund several thousands per month.”
In all, Zimmerman’s defense fund has spent roughly $300,000 since it began in May and raised more than $314,000.
Meanwhile, Trayvon’s family has been in mourning and expressed outrage over the incident, focusing on the fact that he was unarmed during the confrontation with Zimemrman. The teen would have celebrated his 18th birthday on Feb. 13.
The slain teenager’s supporters took to Twitter to memorialize Trayvon, either by donning hoodies or posting photos of packages of Skittles, which the 17-year-old was carrying when he died.
The Justice For Trayvon Martin website had appealed for donations, but funds “are no longer being accepted.”
The website and its eponymous foundation was created by the family “to advocate for all victims of injustice and senseless crimes throughout the world.”
While the case put the spotlight on Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which states that a person can use deadly force if they perceive their life to be in danger, Zimmerman is not using the provision as part of his defense. Instead, Zimmerman is expected to argue that he acted in self-defense.
"In this particular case, George did not have an ability to retreat because he was on the ground with Trayvon Martin mounting him, striking blows, therefore the Stand Your Ground 'benefit' given by the statute simply does not apply to the facts of George's case: it is traditional self-defense," the defense fund website states.
Expect media attention of the case to intensify as the trial date approaches. The trial is scheduled for June 10. The jury pool is expected to initially include 500 potential jurors, according to the Associated Press.
The defense attempted to get the trial date postponed to a further date during a Feb. 5 court hearing, but Florida Circuit Judge Debra Nelson did not acquiesce to Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara’s request for more time.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued that the defense should not be granted the postponement because she said pre-trial delays were caused by Zimmerman’s lawyers.
“Sometimes we set aside days of depositions, and they're canceled ... that's frustrating,” De la Rionda said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We are four months away from a trial date,” the judge said. “I don’t see any of your issues to be insurmountable.”
Interest may also renew in the case around late April, which the judge penciled in for Zimmerman’s immunity hearing. The hearing is where O’Mara would try to make his case that Zimmerman used self-defense and is therefore immune from prosecution.
But the judge may also decide to hold the hearing shortly before the June 10 trial date, the AP reported.
While the case has been out of the spotlight, Zimmerman’s brother and spokesman, Robert Zimmerman, has been courting the media as he attempts to get public opinion on his brother’s side.
During a Feb. 15 appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” Robert Zimmerman acknowledged that his brother believed Trayvon was “up to no good” because the black teenager was looking into windows. He also granted that his brother didn’t help his cause by saying “these a-------, they always get away with everything.”
Robert Zimmerman was asked if his brother would have given the same characterization if, instead of a black teenager, he had seen “Mitt Romney in mom jeans and a cardigan.”
“George knew one thing: He knew that he had never seen this person before. He knew it was raining and he knew that it was suspicious and warranted investigation by the police,” Robert Zimmerman responded. “Unfortunately, he got in the situation … where you kind of end up being the eyes and ears of the police on the ground. They ask you things and prompt you in certain ways” and made mistakes on the 911 call.
“It happened, not because George was racist, [but] because he really had a problem with crime,” he continued. “And that community was victimized constantly by crime.”
To contact the editor, e-mail: