What is more despicable: the fact that George Zimmerman, the man who tragically shot and killed Trayvon Martin, has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Martin’s family, OR the fact that a lawyer would take this case on?
As always, there’s more to the story.
In 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges related to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed at the time. The acquittal spawned the Black Lives Matter movement and turned hoodie sweatshirts into iconic protest garb. Martin's grieving mother, Sybrina Fulton, filed trademark applications for certain phrases used on clothing.
Fulton became a full-time activist after her son’s death. She co-authored a book called “Rest in Power” about the tragedy which formed the basis for a 6-part docuseries produced by JAY-Z and the Paramount Network. Fulton is now getting into politics, running for a seat on the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners. She has won the endorsement of Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Hillary Clinton.
Zimmerman’s life since the acquittal has been troubled to say the least. In 2015 he was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and domestic violence with a weapon, although those charges were dropped. He caused another public outcry when he attempted to auction off the weapon purportedly used to shoot Martin. And most recently, Zimmerman received a criminal summons for repeatedly threatening and harassing a private investigator who was hired by a production company that was developing a documentary about Martin's life.
But back to the question of what sort of lawyer would take on a $100 million case against Martin’s family? That would be Larry Klayman, Zimmerman’s attorney, who just so happens to be promoting a book and new film called “The Trayvon Hoax” which includes the evidence forming the basis of the $100 million complaint.
According to Klayman’s website:
"The complaint alleges that in March 2012, the Sanford Police Department thoroughly investigated the shooting of Trayvon Martin and closed the case as self-defense. A week later, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump produced a recorded audio tape of "Diamond Eugene" whom he said was Trayvon's 16-year-old girlfriend who was on the phone with Trayvon just before the altercation. However, two weeks later, 18-year-old Rachel Jeantel, the alleged imposter, appeared before prosecutors claiming to be "Diamond Eugene" and provided false statements to incriminate Zimmerman based on coaching from others."
"These allegations are the result of newly discovered evidence just published in a book and film by Hollywood film director Joel Gilbert, called 'The Trayvon Hoax: Unmasking the Witness Fraud that Divided America.' Based on Trayvon's cell phone records, they allegedly show that Rachel Jeantel was not Trayvon's girlfriend, was not on the phone with Trayvon before the altercation, and that she lied repeatedly to cause Zimmerman's arrest and to try to send him to prison for life. The research also allegedly reveals that Trayvon's real girlfriend and legitimate phone witness was in fact Miami resident Brittany Diamond Eugene, who was switched out for Jeantel when Eugene refused to bear false witness against Zimmerman."
The suit alleges defamation by Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, along with Jeantel and Eugene. Also included is several Florida prosecutors, the state of Florida and its law enforcement department. And importantly, the suit includes Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump — along with HarperCollins, which recently published Open Season, Crump's book about violence toward black people.
So let’s see here…We have Zimmerman’s lawyer promoting a book and film about Trayvon’s death. We have Trayvon’s family lawyer promoting a book about his death. And we have Trayvon’s mom promoting her political campaign (after co-writing a book and a docuseries about his death).
It’s just a stinking mess all ‘round. A tragic event such as this was and can be transformative, in that it forces our nation to face uncomfortable issues in our culture.
Racial prejudice, bias in reporting, errors in judgement, mistrust of the judicial system — these are all critical issues that must be addressed and overcome.
But it just really, really stinks when there’s so much money involved.