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Entries in Sanford (11)

Tuesday
Jun262012

Trayvon Martin Case: New Documents Offer Insight Into Case

ABC News; Orange County Jail(SANFORD, Fla.) -- The lead homicide investigator in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin voiced strong skepticism of George Zimmerman's account of the shooting, describing Zimmerman's injuries as "marginally consistent with a life threatening violent encounter," according to documents released today by prosecutors.

The investigator also wrote in his report that Zimmerman's fear of the man he was following was minimal.

The report by lead homicide detective Chris Serino became public the same day that it was revealed the Sanford, Fla., officer has been reassigned to the midnight patrol shift. The change came at his own request, ABC News has learned.

Serino's report is the latest in the see-saw of information released alternately by the state and the defense, with chunks of it seemingly damning for Zimmerman, while other parts appear to support his claim of shooting Martin, 17, in self defense on Feb. 26.

This latest release includes the March 13 police statement of probable cause for arrest by Serino.

After interviewing Zimmerman, 28, and having Zimmerman reenact the shooting, Serino cast doubt on Zimmerman's version of events saying the "actions are inconsistent with those of a person who has stated he was in fear of another subject."

Significantly, in his 13-page report, Serino adds that twice during Zimmerman and Martin's 6-minute-long direct and indirect interaction, Zimmerman could have avoided conflict.

"On a least two occasions George Zimmerman failed to identify himself to Trayvon Benjamin Martin as a concerned citizen or a neighborhood watch member," the detective wrote. That led to Serino's conclusion that Martin's death had been avoidable.

"He states he was attacked by Martin but only after Martin inquires to Zimmerman 'What's your problem?' Zimmerman, instead of attempting to inform Martin of the reason he was following him, stated to Martin 'I don't have a problem.'" Serino said in his report.

Based on the sizes of the two individuals police concluded Zimmerman was not "in an extraordinary or exceptional disadvantage of apparent physical ability or defensive capacity."

Martin was about 6-feet tall. The police report said Zimmerman was 5-foot-7 and 200 pounds.

Nor did the detective seem impressed with Zimmerman's injuries, writing they "are marginally consistent with a life threatening violent episode."

Zimmerman had told officers both at the scene the night of the shooting and afterwards that Martin knocked him down with a punch to his face and then banged his head against the pavement with such force he felt his "head was exploding." He had also stated Martin had punched him up to 25 times, something Serino said was inconsistent with Zimmerman's injuries.

A doctor's report later said Zimmerman had a broken nose and photos of Zimmerman the following day show that he had abrasions on the back of his head.

Serino's request for arrest was authored nearly three weeks after Trayvon Martin's death, as his shooting snowballed into a national story, accompanied by a flurry of misinformation about both the victim and the shooter.

The court also released two telephone calls between Zimmerman and Serino from late March.

"This has become a lot bigger than either one of us," Serino tells Zimmerman.

Zimmerman tells the detective he hasn't hired a lawyer, but is willing to talk to prosecutors.

On the second call Zimmerman says he's "doing well," and Serino says the prosecutors want to talk to him and says he will accompany him.

"You been watching the news," Serino asks. When Zimmerman says no, the detective replies, "Probably a good idea."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun042012

George Zimmerman Returns to Jail After Bail Revoked

Seminole County Sheriff's Office(SANFORD, Fla.) -- George Zimmerman arrived at the Seminole County Jail in Sanford, Fla., early Sunday afternoon to turn himself in after a judge revoked his bail in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Sheriff's office officials brought Zimmerman into jail in full view of the media, unlike his release, when he was whisked away in secrecy.

Looking a little heavier than he did after his arrest and with his formerly short-cropped hair growing out, Zimmerman wore a plaid shirt and jeans.  He arrived at the jail less than one hour before the 2:30 p.m. deadline for his surrender.

Zimmerman was met by officers off I-4 and was driven into custody about 20 minutes later, authorities said.

After he arrived, Zimmerman was to be booked again and placed into isolation in administrative confinement for his own protection, according to a law enforcement official.

Less than six weeks ago, Zimmerman walked out of Seminole County Courthouse a free man on bail, preparing to live the next year or two of his life in hiding as he awaited the beginning of his high-profile murder trial for the death of Martin.

But following a contentious hearing Friday in which the court learned Zimmerman and his wife Shelly had allegedly tried to hide from the court the more than $135,000 in cash they had amassed in donated legal funds, Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Lester ordered him back in jail with 48 hours.

Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said Zimmerman's credibility will now be a major issue which he will have to address.

O'Mara also hinted Zimmerman may not testify at a bond hearing.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jun032012

UPDATE: George Zimmerman Turn Himself in to Seminole County Jail

Roberto Gonzalez/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- UPDATE: George Zimmerman has turned himself in to the Seminole County Jail in Sanford, Florida. Wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, he appeared heavier and his previously buzz cut hair was grown out. The Sheriff's Office did not let Zimmerman hide from the cameras this time, and instead, paraded him in front of the cameras.

 

Law enforcement officials say George Zimmerman is expected to make the court imposed deadline to surrender himself at the Seminole County Jail in Sanford, Fla. early this afternoon.

Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said his client is back in the state and the deadline for his surrender is 2:30 p.m., according to a news release on his website.

"While out on bond, Mr. Zimmerman has been living in a secure, undisclosed location as there are significant threats against his life," the release said.

Once he arrives, Zimmerman will be booked again and will be placed into isolation in administrative confinement for his own protection, according to a law enforcement official.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Monday
Apr232012

Sanford Police Chief Resigns; George Zimmerman Back in Hiding

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee offered his resignation Monday, but the city council refused to accept it. Lee temporarily withdrew as chief last month in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Martin's family released a statement seeming to object to the city council's action.

"Sanford residents deserve quality leadership in law enforcement who will handle investigations fairly for all people," the family said. "If Chief Bill Lee recognized that his resignation would help start the healing process in Sanford, city leadership should have accepted it in an effort to move the city forward."

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George Zimmerman, wearing a bulletproof vest, walked out of a Florida jail shortly after midnight Monday and slipped back into hiding, where his lawyer says he will likely stay until his trial next year.

Zimmerman was able to leave jail after posting $150,000 bond as he awaits trial on a second-degree murder charge in Trayvon Martin's killing.

He left the John E. Polk Correctional Facility at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office accompanied by a man ABC News identified as his bail bondsman.

Zimmerman was fitted with an electronic monitoring device prior to release, according to a statement from the sheriff's office. The GPS device, which can give immediate identification of an offender's whereabouts anywhere in the U.S., suggests that the defense's request that he be allowed to wait out the trial out of Florida may have been granted.

The terms of his release require him to report his whereabouts every three days, according to court documents.

Out of concern for his safety, Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara says that he will waive Zimmerman's appearance at his arraignment May 8. When asked if Zimmerman will be seen in public again anytime soon, O'Mara said, "I don't think so," and added that Zimmerman may not be seen in public until he testifies.

Zimmerman stunned a Florida court Friday by taking the stand and apologizing to the parents of Trayvon Martin, who were sitting in the courtroom during Zimmerman's bond hearing.

"I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said, addressing Martin's family directly.

Zimmerman told police the night he shot and killed Martin that he acted in self-defense after Martin punched him and pounced on him. Zimmerman told police that Martin then bashed his head into the concrete sidewalk during the altercation that took place in the tidy middle-class development of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Fla.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr102012

Police Car Shot Up in Trayvon Martin's Neighborhood

Sanford Police Department(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Six shots were fired into an empty police cruiser early Tuesday in the Florida neighborhood where black teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.

The police cruiser was stationed outside of the Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, Fla., the town that has been wracked with tension since the Feb. 26 shooting.  No one was injured.

It was not clear what prompted the shooting.  Police removed the vehicle and have begun an investigation.

Martin, 17, was unarmed when he was shot by George Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch captain.

The shooting has spawned outrage in the black community, with protests and demands that Zimmerman be arrested for murder.

But Zimmerman claims the shooting had nothing to do with race, and that he shot Martin in self defense after the teenager knocked him down, slammed his head into the ground and went for Zimmerman's gun.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar302012

George Zimmerman's Brother Defends Sibling's Actions

Orange County Jail(NEW YORK) -- The brother of Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman claimed Thursday night that the shooting of Trayvon Martin happened because his sibling "prevented his firearm from being taken away from him."

Appearing on CNN, Robert Zimmerman Jr. told Piers Morgan that his brother had stopped Martin because he was walking around a gated community where recent break-ins had occurred.  He insisted George Zimmerman was not profiling Martin because he was black.

According to Robert Zimmerman, his brother never chased the 17-year-old and was reaching for his cellphone after confronting Martin when the teenager allegedly attacked him.

He added that the screams heard on a 911 recording were probably from his brother, not Martin, and that he wished that people in the neighborhood would have come out to stop the fight, adding that George Zimmerman was left with no choice but to shoot his alleged assailant to save his own life.

Robert Zimmerman said the shooting was a tragedy, acknowledging the pain Martin's parents are going through.

However, the younger brother also defended his sibling's character, maintaining that George Zimmerman is "a neighbor everyone would want to have."

As for a video tape obtained by ABC News that seems to dispute George Zimmerman's claim that he was bloodied while fighting Martin, Robert Zimmerman said that the medical examiner's report should verify his brother's injuries.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar272012

Trayvon Martin Dogged by School Suspensions

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot dead during a scuffle with a neighborhood watchman, was suspended from his Miami school three times over the past year, according to his family's attorney.

The revelation that Martin, 17, was dogged by disciplinary problems at school was the latest salvo in a war of leaks meant to bolster each side amid rising tension over the Feb. 26 shooting.

Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, will appear before a House panel on Tuesday, and rallies continue around the country demanding that George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old watchman who shot Martin, be arrested.

Family attorney Benjamin Crump confirmed to ABC News that Martin had been slapped with a 10-day school suspension after a bag with suspected marijuana was found in his backpack.

Last year, Martin was also suspended for spraying graffiti on school grounds.  The Miami Herald reported that the school guard who stopped him searched his backpack and found 12 items of women's jewelry and a flathead screw driver that the guard believed to be a "burglary implement."  But Martin was never charged or specifically disciplined for the incident.

Crump alleged that Sanford police had leaked damaging information about Martin in order to muddy the case, calling it a "conspiracy."  The attorney called the school disciplinary problems "irrelevant" to the case that "an unarmed 17-year-old kid was killed."

The case has triggered national interest, with pro-Martin rallies erupting in cities from coast to coast.  Martin's mother has moved to trademark two popular rallying cries, "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon."  The family said it does not want other people printing memorabilia.

"Sybrina Fulton has no desire to profit from her son's death, but wants to protect her son's name legacy," said family representative Ryan Julison.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar252012

Trayvon Martin's Death Puts Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' Law Under New Scrutiny

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Police in Sanford, Fla., have become the target of anger and protest around the country for failing to arrest George Zimmerman after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

But Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law may have given them little choice.

That law grants immunity to anyone who uses deadly force, inside or outside his home, if he can reasonably claim he was defending himself.

When police arrived at the scene, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, had grass stains on his back and an injury to his head. He said he'd gotten them fighting Martin off. Recordings of 911calls would later raise questions about his claim of self-defense, but with only one survivor from that deadly encounter, police at the time had only Zimmerman's story to go by.

Stand Your Ground "really ties law enforcement's hands," says Florida law professor Elizabeth Megale, "because immunity is defined so broadly." Immunity, she says, does not just mean you can't be prosecuted. It means you can't be detained.

For defense attorneys, Megale says, Stand Your Ground "is a dream."

Not surprisingly, Florida State Attorney William Meggs sees it differently. "It is a dream alright, a bad one. It's a nightmare," he says.

Florida in 2005 became the first state to pass a Stand Your Ground law. It was backed by the National Rifle Association, supported by legislators from both parties and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. Twenty other states have followed with similar laws of their own.

The laws expand on the so-called Castle Doctrine, which allow a person to defend himself with deadly force inside his own home (or castle) without first having to retreat. Stand Your Ground eliminates the need to retreat, even outside your own home, so long as you reasonably believe you are in danger.

Combing press reports and state records, The Tampa Bay Times found 130 cases in Florida in which Stand Your Ground was invoked. In more than 70 percent of the cases, someone was killed. But only 28 of the cases went to trial, and only 19 resulted in a guilty verdict.

State Attorney Meggs says because of Stand Your Ground he just lost a case in which a young man was shot to death and the killer went free. "This was a totally unnecessary shooting," he says. It began with a drunken argument in a bar which was resumed later that night on the side of the road. One man was walking, and the other was a passenger in a car. The car stopped, the argument began again, and the man on the side of the road leaned into the car window and was shot to death. The Florida Supreme Court ruled the shooter was "standing his ground."

"We have solved a problem with the Stand Your Ground Law that didn't exist," says Meggs. "The people who are using this law are not law abiding citizens. The people who are using this law are thugs and gangs and drug dealers."

At least one Florida legislator has called for a reexamination of Stand Your Ground. But the law's author, State Rep. Dennis Baxley, says the problem is not with the law, but with how it's being applied.

Baxley says George Zimmerman "is on very thin ice" using Stand Your Ground as a defense in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. "There was nothing in this statute ever intended to protect somebody who was pursuing or confronting other people."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar232012

Trayvon Martin Shooting: Key Investigator, Police Chief Step Down

Mario Tama/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he is temporarily stepping down amid accusations that his department bungled the investigation into the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

Lee's announcement came shortly before Florida Gov. Rick Scott said another key investigator tied to the case, State Attorney Norman Wolfinger, also had agreed to withdraw.  Angela B. Corey of the 4th Judicial Circuit Court was appointed to replace Wolfinger.

Scott added that Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll would lead a special new task force to prevent future tragedies like Martin's death that would "conduct public hearings, take testimony and recommend actions -- legislative and otherwise -- to both protect our citizens and safeguard our rights."

In a press conference, Lee said he was stepping aside because he "hopes to restore semblance of calm to the city."  He added, "My hope is that the investigation process will move forth swiftly."

Lee said he stands by his department's investigation and the officers involved, but he acknowledges that he has become "a distraction from the investigation."

"It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process," he said.

City Manager Norton Bonaparte, who had earlier said he would defer any decision on Lee's fate until after a thorough investigation had been completed, said, "What the city of Sanford wants more than anything else for the family of Trayvon Martin is justice."

"We are looking for a complete, thorough review," he said.  "Justice will prevail."

Martin, a 17-year-old black youth, was carrying only a bag of Skittles, iced tea and his cellphone, when Zimmerman allegedly killed him on Feb. 26.

While Martin's family has repeatedly called for Zimmerman's arrest, Sanford police accepted Zimmerman's claim that the shooting was in self defense.

Lee's resignation comes as the Sanford police department has come under increased scrutiny for an investigation that some say they botched from the very start.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar222012

Trayvon Martin's Family to Meet With Justice Department Officials

Trayvon Martin's parents address supporters in New York City. John Moore/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- The U.S. Attorney in Central Florida and officials from the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division will be meeting with Trayvon Martin’s family in Florida Thursday as they investigate the death of the 17-year-old.

The unarmed teenager was allegedly shot and killed by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman on Feb. 26 as Martin was walking back to his father's fiancé's home after stepping out to buy Skittles and iced tea during the NBA All-Star Game.  Just moments before Martin was gunned down, Zimmerman can be heard muttering something in a call to a police dispatcher, which many believe was a racial epithet.

Attorneys in the justice department are likely looking into whether or not Martin's rights were deprived by Zimmerman during the altercation that led to the teen's death.  They are also looking into whether he was the victim of a hate crime.

The meeting comes amid calls that the man leading the investigation into Martin's shooting death step down.  Sanford, Fla., commissioners conducted a vote of "no confidence" Wednesday night against embattled Police Chief Billy Lee.  Three of five commissioners voted against the chief, and one demanded that he resign. 

It is now up to the city manager to decide whether or not to let Lee go.

Meanwhile, the Martin family took their fight to the streets of New York City Wednesday night as they linked with around 2,000 protesters who marched through Manhattan, demanding justice for the slain 17-year-old.

"We will not go politely in the night," said the teen's father Tracy Martin.  "We will tell people in Florida that we are not alone." 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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