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New Claims Cast Trayvon Martin as the Aggressor - SLIDESHOW

By: Mallory Simon, CNN; Associated Press Email
By: Mallory Simon, CNN; Associated Press Email

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) - March 27, 2012 -

The neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed a Florida teenager told police the two exchanged words before the teen punched him in the nose and began banging the man's head on the ground.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that George Zimmerman told police he lost 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in the neighborhood he regularly patrolled and was walking back to his vehicle when the youth approached him from behind and punched him.

Zimmerman says he began crying for help; Martin's family thinks it was their son who was crying out. Witness accounts differ, and 911 tapes in which the voices are heard are not clear.

A statement from Sanford police says the newspaper story is "consistent" with evidence turned over to prosecutors.

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Fight Claims, Pot Put Florida Teen's Side on Defense
by Mike Schneider and Curt Anderson

Sanford, FL -- March 26, 2012 --

The family and supporters of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin found themselves on the defensive Monday following revelations he had been suspended for marijuana before he was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer. Police also confirmed a report that the watchman claimed Martin was the aggressor, punching him in the nose and smacking his head on a sidewalk.

Martin, 17, was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools because traces of marijuana were found in a plastic baggie in his book bag, family spokesman Ryan Julison said. Martin was serving the suspension when he was shot Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, who was patrolling the neighborhood that Martin was visiting with his father.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and family attorneys blamed police for leaking the information about the marijuana and Zimmerman's claim about the attack to the news media in an effort to demonize the teenager.

"They killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation," Fulton told reporters.

The Sanford Police Department insisted there was no authorized release of the new information but acknowledged there may have been a leak. City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said it would be investigated and the person responsible could be fired.

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said the link between the youth and marijuana should have no bearing on the probe into his shooting death. State and federal agencies are investigating, with a grand jury set to convene April 10.

"If he and his friends experimented with marijuana, that is completely irrelevant," Crump said. "What does it have to do with killing their son?"

The state Department of Juvenile Justice confirmed Monday that Martin does not have a juvenile offender record. The information came after a public records request by The Associated Press.

Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense and has not been arrested. Because Martin was black and Zimmerman has a white father and Hispanic mother, the case has become a racial flashpoint that has civil rights leaders and others leading a series of protests in Sanford and around the country.

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that Zimmerman told police he lost Martin in the neighborhood he regularly patrolled and was walking back to his vehicle when the youth approached him from behind. The two exchanged words, Zimmerman said, and Martin then punched him in the nose, jumped on top of him and began banging his head on a sidewalk. Zimmerman said he began crying for help; Martin's family thinks it was their son who was crying out. Witness accounts differ and 911 tapes in which the voices are heard are not clear.

The Sanford police statement said the newspaper story was "consistent" with evidence turned over to prosecutors.

Earlier, city officials named a 23-year veteran of the Sanford police department as acting chief. The appointment of Capt. Darren Scott, who is African-American, came days after Chief Bill Lee, who is white, temporarily stepped down as the agency endured withering criticism over its handling of the case.

"I know each one of you - and everyone watching - would like to have a quick, positive resolution to this recent event," Scott told reporters. "However, I must say we have a system in place, a legal system. It may not be perfect but it's the only one we have. I urge everyone to let the system take its course."

The Sanford City Commission held its first meeting Monday since giving Lee a no confidence vote, which led to his ouster. Martin's parents both addressed the panel, urging them to take steps to arrest Zimmerman. More than 500 people crowded into the meeting, which was moved from City Hall to the Sanford Civil Center.

"We are asking for justice," said Tracy Martin, the teenager's father.

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton warned commissioners that Sanford risked becoming a 21st century version of the civil rights struggle in the South during the 1960s.

Sharpton said Martin's parents endured "insults and lies" Monday over reports that their son attacked Zimmerman.

Outside the commission meeting, several thousand people carried signs, rallied and marched in Martin's support. Organizers said some 2 million signatures had been collected on an online petition demanding Zimmerman's arrest.

"It seems like the police did not do the normal things they should have done. But that's going to have to take its own process now," said the Rev. Marilyn Beecher, a Methodist minister who came from Daytona Beach to attend the rally. "It's important that we all stand for justice and that the community leaders know that this is not going to be overlooked."

Martin's family spoke at the rally attended by at least a thousand people.

Tracy Martin called the crowd his "backbone."

"As I see the crowd here, I see Trayvon all over," Tracy Martin said. "I know he is saying to me, `Dad, I'm proud.'"

Also Monday, an attorney for Martin's mother confirmed that she filed trademark applications for two slogans containing her son's name: "Justice for Trayvon" and "I Am Trayvon." The applications said the trademarks could be used for such things as DVDs and CDs.

The trademark attorney, Kimra Major-Morris, said in an email that Fulton wants to protect intellectual property rights for "projects that will assist other families who experience similar tragedies."

Asked if Fulton had any profit motive, the attorney replied: "None."

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Anderson reported from Miami. Associated Press writer Suzette Laboy contributed from Sanford.

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Mother: Police in Florida Demonizing Slain Son
by Mike Schneider and Curt Anderson

Sanford, FL (AP) - The mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin says authorities are trying to demonize her son by leaking information to the news media that marijuana was the reason for his suspension from school.

Sybrina Fulton said Monday that unnamed investigators were trying to destroy her 17-year-old son's reputation. Sanford police say it's possible the information was leaked to the media, but it was not authorized.

Martin was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools officials after marijuana residue was found in a baggie in his book bag.

The attorney for the Martin family says the suspension has no bearing on whether neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman should be charged for fatally shooting Martin on Feb. 26. The 28-year-old Zimmerman claims Martin attacked him and he fired in self-defense.

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SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- The mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has filed papers seeking to trademark two slogans based on his name.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filings by Sybrina Fulton are for the sayings "I Am Trayvon" and "Justice For Trayvon." The applications were filed last week.

The applications say the trademarks could be used for such things as DVDs and CDs. An attorney who filed the papers says Fulton wants to protect intellectual property rights for use in projects to help other families in similar situations.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman has claimed he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense. Martin's family claims racial profiling was behind the killing, which has become a national racial flashpoint. Martin was black. Zimmerman's father is white and mother Hispanic.

State Senator Gary Siplin Applauds Governor Scott’s Actions in Trayvon Martin Case

State Attorney Angela Corey Appointed To Take Over Investigation
and Special Task Force Created

AP's earlier story is below.:

Sandford, FL (AP) - Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school for marijuana when the unarmed teenager was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer, a family spokesman said Monday.

Martin, 17, was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools because traces of marijuana were found in a plastic baggie in his book bag, family spokesman Ryan Julison said. Martin was shot Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman while he was visiting Sanford with his father.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and family attorneys blamed police for leaking the information about the marijuana to the news media in an effort to demonize the teenager.

"The only comment that I have right now is that they killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation," Fulton told reporters.

The Sanford Police Department insisted there was no authorized release of the suspension information but acknowledged there may have been a leak within the agency. City Manager Norton Bonaparte Jr. said the source of the leak would be investigated and the person responsible could be fired.

"We do not condone these unauthorized leaks of information," Bonaparte said.

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said the link between the youth and marijuana should have no bearing on the probe into his shooting death. State and federal agencies are investigating, with a grand jury set to convene April 10.

"If he and his friends experimented with marijuana, that is completely irrelevant," Crump said. "What does it have to do with killing their son?"

Also Monday, the state Department of Juvenile Justice confirmed that Martin does not have a juvenile offender record. The information came after a public records request by The Associated Press.

Zimmerman, 28, claimed he shot Martin in self-defense and has not been arrested. Because Martin was black and Zimmerman has a white father and Hispanic mother, the case has become a racial flashpoint that has civil rights leaders and others leading a series of protests in Sanford and around the country.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Monday that Zimmerman told police he lost Martin in the neighborhood and was walking back to his vehicle when the youth approached him from behind. The two exchanged words, Zimmerman said, and Martin then punched him in the nose, jumped on top of him and began banging his head on a sidewalk. Zimmerman said he began crying for help; Martin's family thinks it was their son who was crying out. Witness accounts differ.

The Sanford police statement said the newspaper story was "consistent" with evidence turned over to prosecutors.

In another development, city officials named a 23-year veteran of the Sanford police department as acting chief. The appointment of Capt. Darren Scott, who is African-American, came days after Chief Bill Lee, who is white, temporarily stepped down as the agency endured withering criticism over its handling of the case.

"I know each one of you - and everyone watching - would like to have a quick, positive resolution to this recent event," Scott told reporters. "However, I must say we have a system in place, a legal system. It may not be perfect but it's the only one we have. I urge everyone to let the system take its course."

Professional football players Ray Lewis and Santonio Holmes are joining civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at a rally in Sanford later Monday. Also joining the rally are comedian Sinbad and leaders from the Urban League and ACLU.

Commissioners with the city of Sanford will also meet Monday for the first time since they gave Lee a no confidence vote.

Martin's parents plan to address them. The meeting was moved from City Hall to the Sanford Civic Center to accommodate the expected large crowd.

Martin was returning to his father's fiancee's home from a convenience store when Zimmerman started following him, telling police dispatchers he looked suspicious. At some point, the two got into a fight and Zimmerman pulled out his gun.

Zimmerman has not spoken in public about the shooting. His lawyer, Craig Sonner, has denied there was any racial motive in the shooting.

A man identified as a friend of Zimmerman said Monday the neighborhood watch volunteer would tell the teen's parents he's "very, very sorry" if he could.

Speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America," Joe Oliver said George Zimmerman is not a racist and has virtually lost his own life since the shooting.

"This is a guy who thought he was doing the right thing at the time and it's turned out horribly wrong," Oliver said.

On NBC's "Today" show, Oliver said he had spoken with Zimmerman's mother-in-law, who said Zimmerman was remorseful.

"I learned that he couldn't stop crying for days after the shooting," Oliver said.

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Anderson reported from Miami.

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TALLAHASSEE – State Senator Gary Siplin issued the following statement regarding Governor Rick Scott’s decision to appoint State Attorney Angela Corey to preside over the investigation of the recent death of teenager, Trayvon Martin:

“I am pleased that Governor Scott had the wisdom and foresight to listen to the pleas of the thousands of citizens in the City of Sanford who are yearning for justice in the killing of Trayvon Martin. The appointment of State Attorney Angela Corey and the creation of a Special Task Force to conduct hearings after the conclusion of the trial and to report its findings to the Governor is the first step in making sure that Trayvon receives posthumous justice and respect, and that this type of activity is eradicated in not only Central Florida, but statewide.”

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Governor Rick Scott Announces New State Attorney and Task Force in Response to Trayvon Martin Incident

Tallahassee, Fla. – Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi today worked together to appoint Angela B. Corey (of the 4th Judicial Circuit) as the newly Assigned State Attorney in the investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin. The Governor and Attorney General reached out to State Attorney Norman Wolfinger today. After the conversation, Wolfinger decided to step down from this investigation and turn it over to another state attorney. The Governor has also announced the formation of a task force which will convene following the conclusion of the investigation by State Attorney Corey. The Governor and General Bondi have full faith in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice and State Attorney Corey that a full and thorough investigation will be conducted.

See below a statement from Governor Scott regarding the formation of the task force, and attached the Executive Order appointing Angela B. Corey as the Assigned State Attorney and a letter from State Attorney Norman Wolfinger requesting the assignment of another state attorney to the investigation.

Statement from Florida Governor Rick Scott Regarding the Creation of a Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection

“As law enforcement investigates the death of Trayvon Martin, Floridians and others around the country have rightly recognized this as a terrible tragedy. Like all Floridians, I believe we must take steps to ensure tragedies like this are avoided. After listening to many concerned citizens in recent days, I will call for a Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection to investigate how to make sure a tragedy such as this does not occur in the future, while at the same time, protecting the fundamental rights of all of our citizens - especially the right to feel protected and safe in our state.

“To this end, I have asked Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll to lead the Task Force, conduct public hearings, take testimony and recommend actions - legislative and otherwise - to both protect our citizens and safeguard our rights. Reverend R. B. Holmes, Jr., the pastor of the Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee has agreed to be the vice-chair of the Task Force. I have also reached out to Attorney General Pam Bondi, Speaker Dean Cannon, President Mike Haridopolos and incoming presiding officers Don Gaetz and Will Weatherford who all agree that a Task Force needs to be assembled. They will be recommending individuals for me to appoint to the Task Force, which will thoroughly review Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and any other laws, rules, regulations or programs that relate to public safety and citizen protection.

“It is my intention to have the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection convene immediately after the investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin by the newly Assigned State Attorney Angela B. Corey (of the 4th Judicial Circuit) formally ends. At that time they can define their mission and scope as well as set a timetable for a report, with recommendations to be delivered to my office and to the Florida Legislature. The Task Force will hold public hearings, take testimony, solicit ideas and review all matters related to the rights of all Floridians to feel safe and secure in our state. As we exercise our right to be free and secure both in public and in the privacy of our own homes it is important that we have an open and honest discussion on these issues so that we might help avoid such tragedies in the future.”

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[UPDATE] TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - March, 22, 2012

Florida's governor has appointed a new prosecutor to oversee the investigation into last month's shooting death of an unarmed black teenager.

Gov. Rick Scott late Thursday appointed Angela B. Corey to oversee the investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin.

She is the prosecutor for the Jacksonville area. Scott said this came after the local prosecutor for the central Florida county where the shooting happened, Norman Wolfinger, volunteered to recuse himself.

Martin's parents have complained that the 28-year-old shooter, George Zimmerman, has not been charged after he claimed self-defense.

Scott also appointed a task force led by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll to hold hearings about the Feb. 26 shooting and make recommendations for changing state laws and procedures.

The death has sparked nationwide protests.

Parents: Police Chief Stepping Aside Not Enough
by Kyle Hightower, Associated Press

Sanford, FL (AP) -- March 22, 2012 --

The parents of an unarmed black teenager who was shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer say they are not satisfied that the Sanford police chief is temporarily stepping down.

Tracy and Sybrina Martin told hundreds of supporters at a rally Thursday that they want George Zimmerman arrested in the shooting death of their son, Trayvon Martin.

The parents made their remarks just hours after Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said he would step aside to let passions cool. Lee said he stands by his agency's decision not to arrest Zimmerman, who claims the Feb. 26 shooting was self-defense.

Civil rights groups have been holding rallies, saying the shooting was not justified.

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Sanford Police Chief 'Temporarily' Steps Down

Sanford, FL (CNN) -- March 22, 2012 --

Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee said he must "temporarily remove myself" from duty, a day after the City Commission voted 3-2 in favor of a nonbinding measure of no confidence in him.

"My role as the leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation …." Lee said during a news conference.

Lee had come under fire following concerns that his police department did not adequately handle the fatal shooting last month of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Martin was shot February 26 while walking to the house of his father's fiancee after a trip to a convenience store. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader, said he shot the unarmed 17-year-old in self-defense.

Following the shooting, thousands of people tweeted out Lee's photo and phone number asking them to flood him with calls because they believed his department had not properly investigated the case. Many of those people believed Zimmerman should have been arrested for the shooting.

"It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process," Lee said.

Zimmerman has not been arrested. Police say they have not charged Zimmerman because they have no evidence to contradict his story that he shot in self-defense, leading to a new debate over a controversial state law.

Florida's deadly force law, also called "stand your ground," allows people to meet "force with force" if they believe that there is danger of serious harm to themselves or someone else.

Lee said he continued to stand by the police department as well as their investigation into Martin's death.

A Seminole County grand jury will convene on the matter April 10, according to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger.


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