In Defense of George Zimmerman
How the gun lobby, conservatives, and right-wing media have rallied to defend the man who killed Trayvon Martin.
After the arrest, and as the police work’s come out, it’s gotten easier to defend Zimmerman. Shortly before he turned himself in, Zimmerman created a rudimentary website to raise money for his defense. He showed up for his bail hearing on April 20. Three days later, he made the $150,000 bail. The defense fund had filled up with more than $200,000. It was the least Zimmerman’s supporters could do, to stop the railroading. Among his angels were the founders of Legal Boom, a local gun rights group, who’d been running their own fundraising drive.
“We spoke with George personally, for about 30 minutes,” Legal Boom’s Chris Kossmann told me.* They ended their campaign so he could focus on his, but they proved that there was sympathy and solidarity outside of the court of public opinion. “If we hadn’t done what we did, George wouldn’t have raised that $200,000.”
After the first fundraising burst, the official defense fund has been taking in around $1,000 per day. That’s a steady clip, considering how public interest in the story has faded. The new updates on the case—the new bits of information from the investigation—have so far bolstered Zimmerman’s version of the story. On Friday, Harvard Law professor and incorrigible legal commentator Alan Dershowitz started writing op-eds about how the media and the special prosecutor were “biased against Zimmerman,” and how the charge of second-degree murder would never hold up. On Saturday, he appeared on Fox News’ Huckabee to expand on the theory. Where did the press get off, implying that Zimmerman had racially profiled Martin?
“It was the prosecutor who talked about profiling, in the affidavit itself!” said Dershowitz. “He didn’t have any basis. It was just made up.”
The host was flabbergasted. “White Hispanic?” asked Huckabee. “I’m not even sure what that means.”
Finally, after a public thrashing that made him infamous, Zimmerman was getting his story told. Few people were defending the way that the media had portrayed him—“white Hispanic,” the selectively edited 911 call. If the left thought it was going to turn this into a debate about gun laws, it picked the wrong villain and the wrong victim.
But this could have gone another way. There was one scenario that would have provided some swift justice for the Martin family without making Zimmerman infamous. That option: a timely arrest, and a police investigation. And that’s what the “hustlers” said they wanted in the first place.
Correction, May 22, 2012: This article originally misspelled Chris Kossmann's last name. (Return to corrected sentence.)
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.