On a day when the Supreme Court of the United States turned back the clock and issued regressive decisions that will greatly harm women and public sector unions, at least one court case offered a glimmer of hope that the US court system isn’t irretrievably broken. In a decision issued Monday, Circuit Court Judge Debra S. Nelson threw out the libel suit that George Zimmerman had filed against NBC Universal. In his libel suit against the network, Zimmerman claimed that the network falsely portrayed him as a racist by airing an edited clip of the 911 call he made before he shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman also claimed that the network defamed him by broadcasting that he used a racial slur during the call.
Judge Nelson issued a 15-page decision, ruling completely in favor of the network. In her ruling, she stated that Zimmerman and his lawyers were unable to prove that the network had any knowledge that the audio clip that they aired was false or deviated from the truth in any way. Zimmerman’s claim is that the edited clip makes it appear that he volunteered Martin’s race to the 911 dispatcher. Judge Nelson said that Zimmerman’s argument fell apart because when one listens to the entire 911 call, Zimmerman actually does volunteer Martin’s race without any prompting from the dispatcher. While the edited clip used a different instance of Zimmerman mentioning Martin’s race, she was unable to find any malicious intent by NBC, especially when taken in context of the full call.
Furthermore, Judge Nelson dismissed Zimmerman’s position that NBC caused emotional distress by framing him as a racist. She pointed out that the network gave quite a bit of airtime to Zimmerman’s friends and family, who all stated that Zimmerman is not a racist. Also, regarding his argument that NBC falsely stated that Zimmerman used a racial slur during the 911 call, the judge said that the FBI examined the call and was unable to decipher a word that was uttered by Zimmerman. Since there is no way to verify the word, Zimmerman cannot prove that NBC wrongly accused him of using a slur. Basically, every claim that Zimmerman made against the network was summarily shot down by the judge. In the end, this judge did not allow Zimmerman to profit off of his vicious killing of an unarmed teenager.
Thankfully, this is just another instance of Zimmerman being blocked from his attempts to cash in on his horribly achieved notoriety. In January, Zimmerman agreed to a celebrity boxing match with rapper DMX. The public outcry, however, led to the event’s promoter canceling the match days later. Zimmerman also tried to make money by signing autographs at a gun show in Florida. However, few people turned out and the autograph session was an embarrassment for all involved. His attempts to be seen as a serious painter have been mocked by art critics who see him in the same vein as notorious serial killers in prison attempting to profit off of their infamy.
In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing, Zimmerman was treated like a misunderstood hero by the conservative media. Fox News’ Sean Hannity propped him up on a nightly basis, giving him and his supporters a platform to speak. Numerous right-wing columnists and websites came to his defense while simultaneously framing Martin as a dangerous thug. Zimmerman rewarded their loyalty to him by proving he really is a violent sociopath. After being found not guilty in July 2013, Zimmerman was involved in two domestic violence incidents, one with his estranged wife and the other with a girlfriend. Both instances involved Zimmerman threatening to shoot others.
It is a shame that Zimmerman is still a free man and loose in our society. At least we can take solace in the fact that he isn’t cashing in from this absurd lawsuit.