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Trayvon Martin case

The latest developments in the investigation into the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

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Zimmerman blackface halloween costume

(CNN) — A pair of Florida men and their female friend are experiencing a backlash over their controversial Halloween costumes after a picture of them went viral online over the weekend.

The two men in the picture, whom we will not name here, appear to be at a Halloween gathering dressed as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman — two central figures in one of the year’s most high-profile court cases. Martin, 17, was shot and killed by Zimmerman in Florida in February 2012. Zimmerman, a leader of his neighborhood watch, claimed self-defense and was acquitted of the teen’s murder in July.

Brooklyn assemblyman Dov Hikind wears black face to party

Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind started a firestorm by wearing blackface to a Purim party.

In the photograph, the man on the left is wearing a gray hoodie stained with fake blood and what appears to be a black mask or black face paint. The man on the right is wearing a shirt that bears the words “Neighborhood Watch,” and his fingers — simulating a gun shape — are pointed at the first man’s head.


The photo, posted by the woman standing between them, was shared on Facebook and Instagram on Saturday with the caption, “Happy Halloween from Zimmerman and trayvon :)”

The picture was picked up by website The Smoking Gun and other outlets, including several CNN iReporters who sent in screenshots, some saying the costumes took the spirit of Halloween “too far.”

“As a nation that claims to be so full of diversity and unity, race is still a raging issue,” wrote one iReporter. “So I ask when you look at this photo that you put race a side [sic], and focus on the lack of respect for not only human life but a child’s life.”

Zimmerman with comments

(Image/Screen grab via

The picture has inspired anger for two reasons: First, because the costumes portray a tragedy. News One claims the stunt “revictimizes” Martin. A Chicago Now blogger questioned the intent of the costumes: “I further wonder why they feel that the tragic death of a teenage boy deserves to be mocked in such a nonchalant manner?”

Another reason people are so disturbed by the costumes is the use of “blackface” in one of the costumes. Blackface, a term used when a non-black person paints their face a darker color, has a long history of being considered offensive, even when the intent isn’t specifically to ridicule or shame.

Actress was criticized recently after stepping out at a Halloween party in blackface to portray a character from the show “Orange is the New Black.”

Actress Julianne Hough wears blackface for ‘Orange is the New Black’ costume

Hough was chastised on Twitter, and eventually apologized. “It certainly was never my intention to be disrespectful or demeaning to anyone in any way. I realize my costume hurt and offended people and I truly apologize,” Hough tweeted in response to the controversy.


The Utah Jazz also tweeted out a picture Sunday night of two young men, one of whom was dressed as famous power-forward Karl Malone — complete with blackface. Soon after, the team erased the tweet and apologized for the “insensitive” post.

The outrage sparked by the Martin-Zimmerman costumes has inspired acts of retribution. Posters on several websites have dug in to the identities of the three people in the picture and posted personal information about them, including their phone numbers, arrest records and past activity on social media.

Since the photo gained attention, the three individuals in question have made their Facebook accounts private and the picture itself appears to be scrubbed from their profiles.

(PIX11) — In what appears to be a classic case of old news served as new, a video that purportedly shows the New Black Panther party offering $10,000 for the capture of George Zimmerman – dead or alive – was filmed in 2012.

A video obtained by CNN shows several members of the NBPP including spokesperson Mikhail Muhammad,  offering the large sum for Zimmerman’s capture.

Several reports this week claimed the group targeted Zimmerman in wake of his acquittal in the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. However, the video was in fact from March 2012 when the case garnered national attention after authorities did not arrest or charge Zimmerman for the shooting.

“We’re going to force our government to do their job properly, and if they don’t, we will,” Muhammad said, expressing outrage toward the Sanford Police Department’s decision to not arrest Zimmerman.

“So white America, we have given you 400 years to get it right and you still have failed black people. We’re not even citizens in this country. We’re still third class citizens.”

“Today as black men, we must stand up. We must say to white America, ‘Your time is up.’”

The dated story calling for a bounty on Zimmerman has caused national outcry — prompting many to call it outrageous and racist.

YouTube comments on CNN’s video include ones like user AAnt’s — “Most blacks, 90%, are killed BY OTHER BLACKS; funny how so-called “Black Panthers” aren’t offering a reward for all blacks killed by other blacks. I guess that’s OK as far as Black Panthers are concerned …”

Many media outlets have since retracted the story, citing confusion with the date of the video’s original release.

Web produced by Allison Yang

NEW YORK (PIX11) - To say its an emotional issue would be an understatement, hundreds gathered in Union Square to protest the acquittal of George Zinmerman. Despite the sweltering heat, the crowd then marched from union square down the the federal courthouse steps in Foley Square.

Many are calling on the Justice Department to pursue George Zimmerman on the grounds he violated the civil rights of Trayvon Martin when he shot and killed the unarmed teen.

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke forcefully about the case for the first time since the verdict insinuating stereotyping played a role in the ‘incident,’ tho strong words may be all Zimmerman will get from the Justice Department which carried out an investigation after the shooting last year but found no civil rights violations.

NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) - “Race was not taken into consideration in this trial, so now it should be.”

These were the sentiments by Congressman Gregory Meeks less than 48 hours after George Zimmerman was found not guilty.

Meeks, along with several members of the New York City congressional delegation, stood their ground on the steps of the Federal Courthouse on Monday in response to the news that the Justice Department was relaunching its investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin and examining the potential of hate crime charges against George Zimmerman.

As the news conference played out, blocks away at Union Square Park workers were washing away the chalk marks drawn up 24 hours earlier in memory of Trayvon Martin. By 2:40 p.m. the NYPD showed up in force preparing for what a six o’clock rally may present.

This all comes after what took place on Sunday in cities across the nation.  Martin supporters came out in force in New York City quickly transforming Times Square into a sea of humanity. While In Los Angeles, the I-10 freeway was overtaken and traffic came to a standstill.

However, as the pivot is now to the future, what happens if the Justice Department does go through the process all over again only to see the same result emerge?

“If the outcome is the same we will continue to urge calm and respect for our nation’s laws but at the same time demand meaningful legislative action to change the injustice that has resulted in the decisions such as the acquittal of George Zimmerman,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

So how challenging is this case from the Justice Department standpoint?

Ephraim Savitt, a defense attorney with hundreds of cases under his belt in Federal court feels it a daunting case to win, “There is nothing that really comes out at you shouting that this a racial profiling case. There are a lot of inferences that can be drawn either way and for that reason it’s a challenge. You know a lot of it is also politically motivated as we understand many of these cases are.”

The White House on Monday refused to comment on the Justice Department and it’s movement regarding a new investigation.

(CNN) — Taking the stand on Wednesday, the third day of the George Zimmerman trial, a friend of Trayvon Martin’s testified Wednesday about the final moments of the teenager’s life, saying that Martin told her someone was following him.

“A man was watching him,” said Rachel Jeantel, 19, who was on the phone with Martin just before he was fatally shot. “He said the man kept watching him. He kept complaining that a man was just watching him.”

That man was Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012. He told police he was pursuing the teenager because there had been a rash of crime in the area. A confrontation ensued, and Zimmerman said he was forced to kill Martin in self-defense.

Jeantel testified that as he neared the home of his father’s girlfriend, Martin tried to lose Zimmerman.

Rachel Jeantel2

The prosecution’s star witness in the Zimmerman trial, Rachel Jeantel, was the last person to speak with Trayvon Martin and is quickly becoming a media darling of sorts, after giving expletive-filled testimony of that night.

“And then he said, ‘That N-word is still following me now,’” said Jeantel. “I asked him how the man looked like. He just told me the man looked ‘creepy.’ ‘Creepy, white’ — excuse my language — ‘cracker. Creepy [expletive] cracker.”

Jeantel says she heard Martin talking to Zimmerman in the background of the call.

“He said, ‘Why are you following me for?’ And I heard a hard-breathing man say, ‘What you doing around here?’” said Jeantel.

Jeantel also said she heard a bump from Martin’s headset hitting something and “wet grass sounds.”

“I start hearing a little bit of Trayvon saying, ‘Get off, get off!’” said Jeantel.

She told the prosecutor that the screams for help heard on the 911 call made by a neighbor belong to Martin. But on cross-examination, defense attorney Don West read part of a transcript from Jeantel’s deposition, in which she said she wasn’t sure if it was Martin’s voice or not.

“It could be. Like I said, I don’t know but it could be,” said Jeantel, according to the transcript. “The dude sound kind of like Trayvon. Trayvon do got that soft voice and that baby voice sometimes, so it could be, I don’t know.”

Jeantel admitted to West that she lied several times to Martin’s family. She said she told them she was 16, not 18, because she wanted to be treated like a minor and have privacy. She also said she lied about not attending Martin’s memorial service because she was in the hospital. The truth, she said, was that she was afraid to see the body.

“You got to understand, you the last person to talk to the person and he died on the phone after you talked to him — you got to understand what I’m trying to tell you,” said Jeantel. “I’m the last person, you don’t know how it felt. You think I really want to go see the body after I just talked to him?” Jeantel said.

Defense Attorney Don West

Defense attorney Don West questioned Martin’s friend about the three weeks it took her to give a statement to police, even though she was the last person to talk to him.

Jeantel appeared to get frustrated several times during the cross-examination, including one time when West suggested they could break until the morning so she’d have more time to review the deposition transcript.

“No, I’m leaving today,” Jeantel told the defense attorney as she looked over the papers.

“Are you refusing to come back tomorrow?” asked West.

The judge stepped in and asked West to keep the questions and answers to Jeantel’s testimony.

Earlier in the afternoon, jurors heard five other non-emergency calls Zimmerman made reporting suspicious people in his neighborhood. The defense wanted the calls to be thrown out, questioning their relevance, but the judge ruled they would be allowed in. Prosecutors had argued that the calls show Zimmerman’s state of mind the night he shot Martin.

In one of the calls, made on February 2, 2012, about three weeks before Martin’s death, Zimmerman told the dispatcher he saw a black man walking around a neighbor’s home. He said he also had seen this man walking around the neighborhood on trash days.

“I don’t know what he’s doing, I don’t want to approach him, personally,” said Zimmerman on the recording.

Rachel Jeantel

“And then he said, ‘That N-word is still following me now,’” said Jeantel. “I asked him how the man looked like. He just told me the man looked ‘creepy.’ ‘Creepy, white’ — excuse my language — ‘cracker. Creepy [expletive] cracker.”

In another call made in October 2011, Zimmerman reported two “suspicious characters” who were “just hanging out, loitering” in his neighborhood. When the dispatcher asked if he can still see the suspects, Zimmerman said no because he “didn’t want to attract attention” to himself.

An eyewitness who also testified on Wednesday said she heard what sounded “like a boy” cry for help during the altercation that ended in Martin’s death.

Jayne Surdyka, Zimmerman’s former neighbor, said she heard screams and opened her window to look out into the courtyard on the night of the shooting.

Defense attorney West challenged Surdyka about what she heard that night, saying it is possible for a teenager to have a deeper voice and for a man to have a higher-pitched voice.

“It sounded more like a boy to me,” said Surdyka.

Multiple times, Surdyka said she saw two men struggling on the ground, one on top of the other, but she couldn’t discern who was on top because it was dark and rainy that night.

Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda played for the jury the 911 call Surdyka made the night of shooting. On the recording, Surdyka is heard crying and becoming hysterical. The 911 operator stayed on the phone with her to calm her down.

Prosecutors also called Jeannee Manalo, another witness, to the stand Wednesday. Manalo testified that from her point of view inside her townhome, she could see two men struggling on the ground. She also said she believes Zimmerman was on top of Martin during the altercation and that she could see his hands moving.

During cross-examination, Manalo said photographs she saw on the news of a younger Martin support her view that Zimmerman was on top during the altercation. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked her if she had ever seen recent photos of Martin. She said no but maintained that based on the photographs, the bigger person was on top, and Zimmerman seemed to be the bigger person.

Before court recessed for the day, the defense told the judge it expects to need a couple more hours to question Martin’s friend, Jeantel. Testimony is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. ET on Thursday.

NEW YORK (PIX11) - Disturbing images and testimony from emergency responders were shared with the jury yesterday and for the first time the public saw the body of unarmed teen, Trayvon Martin.

Today, a shift in gears as prosecutors painted a timeline and picture for jurors of what exactly happened the night neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, shot Martin dead.

Jurors heard testimony directly from witnesses and neighbors of Zimmerman.

One woman was one of several neighbors who called 911 and the call was played for the courtroom.  Martin’s parents were also in the courtroom and were visibly shaken at several moments during the testimony.

Another emotionally charged moment was the testimony from Rachel Jeantel, a friend of Martin’s and apparently the last person to speak to the teen before he was shot and killed.

NEW YORK (PIX11) - Today, the prosecution moved through witnesses and we heard what it was like when first responders first saw Trayvon Martin.

The gun George Zimmerman used to shoot and kill the 17-year-old and Sgt. Anthony Raimondo’s first-hand account of that night. All part of day two of the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman claimed it was self-defense when he shot and killed Martin last February in Sanford, Florida. Prosecutors said he murdered an unarmed teen. A police officer tried to save him.

Adam Thompson is a criminal defense attorney who has tried high profiled cases. He said this emotionally charged case may not be won or lost on what what’s presented in court.


“Cases are won and lost by who’s sitting on the jury. If you have a jury who is predisposed to one point of view you can’t change that in two or three weeks. No matter what the evidence is,” said Thompson.

” The neighborhood watch it was said at that meeting and said at every meeting we had after that. Do not get close to anybody stay at a safe distance, call 9-11 and let the police handle it,” said Donald O’Brian, President of Homeowners Association at Twin Lakes.

Thompson said a lot will be up to what first responders and detectives have to say about that crime scene on that fateful night.

“What did that police officer see other than a young man on the ground that was even dead or dying..
any kind of hair follicles, was there blood?” asked Thompson.

The police officer said he could still feel the cold can of soda that Martin had just bought moments before his life ended.

NEW YORK (PIX11) - First came an opening argument full or profanity from the prosecution. Then a knock-knock joke from the defense that didn’t evoke much of a response.

It was a rough start to a highly-anticipated trial that divided the country after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.  The story was so broadly known, in fact, that the difficulty of finding neutral jurors was the subject of defense attorney Don West’s knock-knock joke.

“Knock knock. Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? Good, you’re on the jury,” he said.  West later apologized, saying, “No more bad jokes, I promise that,” joking, “I was convinced it was the delivery.”

George Zimmerman said he was defending his life against 17-year-old Trayvon Martin when he shot and killed the unarmed teen in Sanford, Florida last year.

Defense opens Zimmerman trial with ‘knock-knock’ joke

The prosecution said this 911 call said it all.

“Listen carefully when the screaming stops. It’s right when the gunshot goes off. Trayvon Martin was silenced immediately,” said John Guy.

The defense said it’s not clear who is yelling for help in that call.  A judge ruled expert testimony on the call, and it cannot be used in court.

“There are no monsters  here. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying,” said Defense Attorney Donald West. “Little did George Zimmerman know at the time that in less than 10 minutes from him first seeing Trayvon Martin that he George Zimmerman would be sucker punched in the face, have his head pounded on concrete,” said West.

“He pressed that gun into Trayvon Martin’s chest, and you will see with your own eyes burn marks on each of his sweatshirts when that hot lead passed through,” said Guy.

The family is asking for justice, but said they will always suffer.



Jury selection has started in the anticipated trial of George Zimmerman.

Six jurors and four alternates will be chosen from a pool of 500 people.

Trayvon martin and George Zimmerman have become house-hold names since Zimmerman shot and killed martin in Florida last year.

Supporters say Trayvon was shot because he wore a hoodie and looked suspicious..

Zimmerman’s family insists the prosecutors do not have a case.

George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder after public outcry.


Let the Zimmerman Trial begin

The Trayvon Martin case begins with Zimmerman on trial.