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Trayvon Martin's Family Boosts Public Profile


I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are continuing our conversation about this very emotional case that has sparked so much discussion around the country. We're talking about the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin.

A moment ago, we heard from Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy Martin. Next, we will hear from attorney Benjamin Crump, who has been working with the family to bring public attention to this case. We want to assure you again that we have made and will continue to make attempts to reach George Zimmerman's attorney, Craig Sonner.

There are new developments in the case. A newly-released video obtained by ABC News shows George Zimmerman four hours after the killing of Trayvon Martin. The video potentially contradicts Mr. Zimmerman's claim that the teen injured him in a violent altercation. Mr. Zimmerman does not show visible injuries in this video.

This morning on NBC's "Today Show," Mr. Sonner, Mr. Zimmerman's attorney, had this response.


CRAIG SONNER: It's a very grainy video. I do - however if you watch, you'll see one of the officers as he's walking in, looking at something on the back of his head. The video's very grainy and I'm not sure that it has - as far as being able to see the injuries that were recently sustained and then later cleaned up from - you know, clearly, if the report shows that he was cleaned up.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, the lawyer for Trayvon Martin's family, Benjamin Crump, says the video proves that Zimmerman's account of the incident is false.

We spoke with Mr. Crump yesterday while he and Trayvon Martin's family were in Washington, D.C. to meet with congressional leaders and other interested parties and I asked him how he became involved with the case.

BENJAMIN CRUMP: We were called by Tracy and one of his family relatives who's an attorney. They kept calling and they said, hey, Ben, you got to get involved in this case. And I actually got Mr. Martin on the phone and he told me the facts and stuff and I just remember saying to everybody on the phone that a Neighborhood Watch volunteer with a nine millimeter gun and he kills your son who's unarmed, teenager? Of course, they're going to arrest him.

And so, a couple days went by and I said, well, OK. Wow, they haven't arrested him. And so, on that Friday, we started writing letters. We filed some legal documents and such. Nothing. No response from the police. And so, on Monday, we called a press conference and I said this is what they told Mr. Martin. His son had a bag of Skittles. Mr. Zimmerman, this armed vigilante, had a nine millimeter gun and he shot him in cold blood and said self-defense.

As we show the facts, people start saying, yeah. Why isn't this guy arrested?

MARTIN: State attorney Angela Corey, who's been assigned as special prosecutor in this case by the governor, has said she's not promising that this probe will end in arrest.

Have you - without getting into matters of privilege - have you prepared your clients for the possibility that an arrest may not come?

CRUMP: Well, as much as one could, Mr. Martin and Ms. Sabrina Fulton are good people. They want to believe in the system. They want to believe that it works for all of us, that it's equal justice under the law. And, if this guy isn't arrested, what message does that send to America? What message does that send to the world?

You know, as lawyers all joke, you can get probable cause to arrest a ham sandwich. And so they got more than enough evidence to effectuate probable cause to arrest George Zimmerman for shooting this kid in cold blood.

MARTIN: You've brought certain facts to light, Mr. Crump. The fact that young Mr. Martin was on the phone with a friend, reporting that this strange man was following him.

CRUMP: Yeah.

MARTIN: Has Ms. Corey spoken with this young lady? Have you given that information to her?

CRUMP: They have that information, also, and they are scheduling to speak to her as we speak. Look at the phone records of Trayvon Martin. He's like any typical teenager. He and her had talked on the phone throughout the day. He had talked to his friend, and at 7:12, the last call comes in on her record and she's the last person to hear Trayvon Martin alive.

And he tells her, this strange dude is following me. She tells him, run home. Just run home. And that's when he starts running and we know Zimmerman is on with 911 because he said he's taking off running now. And we hear Zimmerman get out of his car. He's breathing hard on that 911 tape and he's pursuing him and Trayvon tells her that he's running after me. And he tries to lose him and he thinks he's lost him and then he's walking and he turns and he says, oh, he's behind me again. And she says, well, run. And he says, no. I'm going to walk fast.

And then she said she hears him say, why are you following me? And then the voice that she hears through the ear phone saying, what are you doing around here? And she hears an altercation. The earplug must have fell out of his ear. And she says she hears a faint sound and then, all of a sudden, the phone goes dead.

What's most important is that's at 7:12. The phone call lasts for four minutes, based on the phone records. At 7:17, the police say they arrived at the scene. Trayvon Martin is shot and killed on the ground and so we have an account from when Zimmerman called, all those people who called 911, and her phone call that connects the dots.

The only one that supports his self-defense claim, pretty much, seems to be George Zimmerman, this armed vigilante who shot this kid in cold blood.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask you, though, a question that I asked Mr. Martin earlier - and just - I do want to emphasize - we do share the same last name, but to my knowledge, we are not related. I just want to clarify that for people who may be wondering.

But, responding to media reports, Angela Corey, the special prosecutor, has disclosed that the lead investigator had wanted to arrest Mr. Zimmerman, but was told, no. How does that change your evaluation of what's going on here, if at all?

CRUMP: Well, what it tells me - this is the lead investigator. The person that night who heard Zimmerman's account and said, he did not find George Zimmerman credible. It shows you that some people higher up in this matter and some other investigators who came to that scene had some reason to believe George Zimmerman's version as the gospel.

And how do we know they believed it as the gospel? They didn't even take a background check of a person who had just shot an unarmed kid. They didn't do a drug and alcohol analysis, anything. But they took a background check of Trayvon Martin, who's dead on the ground. They took a blood/alcohol analysis of Trayvon Martin, who's dead on the ground.

What you have to note is every law enforcement agency who watched this play out have called and said, if somebody shot another person in cold blood and they was unarmed and they said self-defense or what have you, as a police officer, I would document in that first police report every bit of evidence that either supports his claim for self-defense or any piece of evidence that defeats his claim for self-defense because I would want it to all be in this report.

Everything that they've let out has been to support Zimmerman's claim of self-defense and stand your ground so that he can be exonerated for killing Trayvon Martin.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We are continuing our coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting. A moment ago, we heard from Trayvon Martin's father and now we are speaking with Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys who has been assisting the family. We also want to tell you again that we have reached out to the attorney representing George Zimmerman.

The Stand Your Ground Law - I mean, there have been different opinions about whether - even if you support the law, there are those who argue - if Mr. Zimmerman were in pursuit of Mr. Martin, then he's not covered under it. Do you have an opinion about that?

CRUMP: Absolutely. He should not be allowed to assert the Stand Your Ground Law. You can't do it if you're the aggressor and we know from that 911 tape, he is the aggressor when he disobeys the police dispatcher and pursues and stalks Trayvon Martin. And I really believe he thought that he was an extension of the police, so much, in fact, that he had the authority to apprehend and detain Trayvon Martin.

MARTIN: His supporters are suggesting that he, then, had been attacked, that, at some point, the young Mr. Martin, although he had been running away, at some point, turned to confront him and that he was getting the better of the altercation. And that is the point at which Mr. Zimmerman shot him. And do you find that - do you think that that scenario makes sense?

CRUMP: Well, first of all, whatever happened happened because he disobeyed the police dispatcher and pursued him and engaged in what proved to be a fatal altercation.

Now, Trayvon Martin has every right to defend himself. They're trying to elevate this Zimmerman like he has a status above Trayvon Martin. They are both equal citizens. He has on a sweatshirt and jeans. We believe Trayvon Martin went to his death not knowing who this strange man was who was confronting him.

MARTIN: I wanted to ask about - you know, now that there's been kind of some back and forth about Mr. Zimmerman's background and some back and forth about Mr. Martin's background. There's been some criticism that the photos released of Mr. Martin show him at a much younger age than he is now and I wanted to ask about that. Was that intentional?

CRUMP: No, not at all. His parents gave all the photos they had and stuff. This is a blame the victim. Let's demonize the victim. And, if we do that, then maybe we can justify that he was supposed to get killed.

MARTIN: Before we let you go, can I ask - what's your next step here? Is there a civil matter under consideration?

CRUMP: Well, you just - right now - trying to get him arrested. He can make whatever defense he wants in a court of law, but it has to be equal justice under the law. The whole reason we're here talking now is - people say, that's not fair. You can kill my child in cold blood and you don't even get arrested for it?

MARTIN: Benjamin Crump is the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin. That is the 17 year old boy who was shot and killed last month in Sanford, Florida. He has accompanied the parents of Trayvon Martin to Washington, D.C., where they are meeting with congressional leaders and other interested parties and he was kind enough to join us in our Washington, D.C. studio.

Mr. Crump, thank you so much for speaking with us.

CRUMP: Thank you, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.