Unlike the 1993 shooting death of Vince Foster or the 2016 shooting death of Seth Rich, there was no mystery about the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Before George Zimmerman could even catch his breath on that rainy February night, the police in Sanford, Florida, knew precisely what happened.
Officer Timothy Smith, on the scene within two minutes of the shooting, reported finding Zimmerman standing near Trayvon Martin, who was lying face down in the grass. Zimmerman volunteered to Smith that he had shot Martin.
“I was yelling for help but no one would help me,” he told Smith and complained that his head was hurting.
Jon Good, the closest of the eyewitnesses to the shooting, gave his account of the incident to the Sanford PD minutes after the incident.
“So I open my door,” said Good. “It was a black man with a black hoodie on top of the other, either a white guy or now I found out I think it was a Hispanic guy with a red sweatshirt on the ground yelling out help!”
Good continued, “And I tried to tell them, get out of here, you know, stop or whatever, and then one guy on top in the black hoodie was pretty much just throwing down blows on the guy kind of MMA [mixed martial arts]-style.”
Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, the producer of a six-part documentary series, “Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story,” had no excuse for not knowing this.
Yet Carter and his producers built the first episode in this series, which aired Monday on the Paramount Network, around the preposterous notion that it was Trayvon Martin who was yelling for help.
As it happened, Zimmerman’s yells were captured on one of the 911 calls. His cries for help were loud and desperate, and they lasted for more than 40 seconds before ending with a gunshot.
The first episode detailed how Martin’s parents and their lawyers fought the authorities and eventually forced them to share this 911 call with the public.
To stoke up the drama, the producers played parts of the tape several times. In one of the episode’s myriad smaller lies, they repeated the sound of the gunshot to give the false impression of multiple shots fired.
The episode climaxed with Martin’s biological parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, tearfully recounting how they felt when they first heard the audio from the 911 call.
“I recognized the voice on there,” said Fulton. “It was Trayvon’s voice.” Fulton was said to have run out of the room crying when she first heard it.
Said Martin on camera, “I know my son’s voice. I know it was him.” As Martin explained, the release of the 911 tape “was the game changer,” the one bit of evidence that made Zimmerman’s arrest inevitable.
As Martin knew, and the producers should have, Sanford PD never prevented the parents from listening to the 911 call. Sanford PD investigator Chris Serino played the audio for Martin two days after the shooting.
A few weeks later, just as the story was becoming a national sensation, the Orlando Sentinel asked Serino whose voice the 911 audio captured.
Reported the Sentinel, “It was Zimmerman, Serino said. He said he is certain of that because he played a recording of that voice for Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, and the Miami man said the voice was not his son’s.”
In the episodes to come, the producers may feel obliged to explain what it was that Trayvon could possibly have been screaming about.
For clarification, they will likely turn to NBC’s legal analyst Lisa Bloom. Before Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace, he and then-partner Jay-Z purchased the rights to Bloom’s book, “Suspicion Nation.”
As Bloom tells the story, Zimmerman follows Martin after the officer tells him not to. He confronts Martin. He “grabs or shoves him.” A “frightened” Martin punches Zimmerman.
A “tussle” ensues. It is “not particularly significant” who is on top. Zimmerman pulls the gun, points it at Martin, and continues his “profane insulting rant” for 40 seconds during which time Martin screams “aaah” in fear. An angry, panicky Zimmerman shoots and kills Martin.
Bloom claims to have covered the July 2013 trial of George Zimmerman “gavel to gavel.” She must have been taking a potty break when Jon Good testified at the trial that it was Zimmerman who was “yelling out for help.”
One can only guess which lie will sustain episode II.