The George Zimmerman case rocked America, and spawned the Black Lives Matter movement as we know it today. The case is the subject of Oxygen’s The Jury Speaks, premiering Saturday, July 22 at 9/8c, which explores the controversial jury decision to acquit Zimmerman of the murder of unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin. The case was covered extensively in the media at home and abroad, and divided society, leading to outrage and ongoing protests. Here are the most shocking facts from the case.
1. George Zimmerman was obsessed with reporting “suspicious” characters to the police
A neighborhood watch coordinator, in the months leading up to Martin’s shooting, Zimmerman called police on multiple occasions to report suspicious characters in the neighborhood – all of them black males.
2. Zimmerman ignored police instruction
On the night of February 26, 2012, when Zimmerman rang police to report another suspicious character – Trayvon Martin – he was instructed by the police dispatcher not to get out of his car. He got out anyway, and pursued Martin, eventually shooting him dead.
3. Zimmerman was not arrested by police that night
Police took Zimmerman in for questioning, and Zimmerman told them he’d acted in self-defense, calling for help and fearing for his own life. After five hours of questioning Zimmerman was released on the grounds that the police chief believed there was no evidence to suggest he wasn’t acting in self-defense when he killed Martin. This decision was based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which prohibited police from making an arrest in a case where lethal force was used in the administration of self-defense.
4. Trayvon Martin had no visible wounds other than the gunshot
Zimmerman alleged that Martin attacked him, and that he was acting in self defense when he shot the teen. However, autopsy reports showed that Martin died from a single, close range gunshot to the chest, with only one small wound on his left ring finger.
5. Trayvon Martin was unarmed at the time of his death
Further complicating Zimmerman’s story of self-defense was the fact that Martin was unarmed at the time of his death. In his pockets, police found Skittles, Arizona fruit juice, a lighter, some cash, and headphones. The Skittles came to symbolize the injustice and racial profiling many believed Martin was a victim of.
6. Zimmerman’s father wrote a letter suggesting his son was the real victim
In an open letter to the Orlando Sentinel on March 15, 2012, Robert Zimmerman, George Zimmerman’s father, suggested that the media and public were being unfair to his son. He said that because Zimmerman was Hispanic, he could not possibly be a racist.
7. Martin was on the phone to his girlfriend when he was shot
Martin’s 16-year-old girlfriend said she heard someone ask Martin what he was doing, and Martin asked that person why they were following him. She then reported hearing some kind of altercation, before the line went dead.
8. The Sanford Police Chief stepped down as a result of the investigation
As scrutiny of the Sanford Police Department mounted, the Chief, Bill Lee, “temporarily” stepped down amid accusations that the case and investigation were mishandled.
9. It took 44 days months for Zimmerman to be arrested
After the shooting, it took police more than a month to arrest Zimmerman. His trial only began on June 24, 2013, more than a year after the shooting.
10. George Zimmerman was found not guilty
By July 13, 2013, the jury found Zimmerman, to the shock of the nation, not guilty. A Facebook post that went viral included the phrase “black lives matter”, and the three words were picked up to title the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement is still a triggering issue across America today, inspiring protests in the memory of Trayvon Martin and other black citizens believed to have been unjustly killed, their murderers allowed to go free.
[All photos: Getty Images]