Last Updated:December 21 @ 12:51 pm

Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case

By Matt Sedensky

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - When he was shot, Trayvon Martin was not the baby-faced boy in the photo that has been on front pages across the country. And George Zimmerman wasn't the beefy-looking figure in the widely published mugshot.

Both photos are a few years old and no longer entirely accurate. Yet they may have helped shape initial public perceptions of the deadly shooting.

"When you have such a lopsided visual comparison, it just stands to reason that people would rush to judgment," said Kenny Irby, who teaches visual journalism at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The most widely seen picture of Martin, released by his family, was evidently taken a few years ago and shows a smiling, round-cheeked youngster in a red T-shirt. But at his death, Martin was 17 years old, around 6 feet tall and, according to his family's attorney, about 140 pounds.

Zimmerman, 28, is best known from a 7-year-old booking photo of an apparently heavyset figure with an imposing stare, pierced ear and facial hair, the orange collar of his jail uniform visible. The picture, released by police following the deadly shooting, was taken after Zimmerman's 2005 arrest on an assault-on-an-officer charge that was eventually dropped.

In a police video made public this week of Zimmerman being brought in for questioning a half-hour after the shooting, the 5-foot-9 man appears much slimmer.

In a case that has caused a nationwide furor over race and the laws of self-defense, Martin was shot to death by Zimmerman in the city of Sanford on Feb. 26 as the unarmed black teenager was walking back from a convenience store.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, has claimed self-defense, saying he opened fire after Martin punched him in the face, knocked him to the ground and began slamming his head on the sidewalk.

Black leaders and others are demanding Zimmerman's arrest on murder or manslaughter charges, but state and federal authorities are still investigating.

Betsi Grabe, a professor at Indiana University-Bloomington who has studied the effect of news images on public opinion, said photos that gain the most traction play into the desires of both journalists and the public for a story with a distinct victim and aggressor.

"At the center of most stories we tell in our society, cross-culturally and across the centuries, is the struggle between good and evil," she said. "If the ingredients are there, that is what journalists will grab onto and present."

Grabe said it is natural to present the most innocent-looking image of the person believed to be the victim, and the most menacing one of the suspect.

A more complex portrait of the two figures has emerged since then. A photo of a beaming Zimmerman looking sharp in a jacket and tie has come out, along with a more recent picture of Martin, with gold teeth and a white sleeveless undershirt. At the same time, it was learned that Martin had been suspended from school for marijuana residue in his backpack.

The Associated Press has not been able to verify the sources or creators of what are purported to be more recent photographs of Martin circulating online and elsewhere. The family's attorney has not released the photos.

"Everyone's views seem to be gyrating back and forth with each new scrap of evidence that comes out," said David O. Markus, a prominent Miami defense attorney. "This is why we have courts and juries, and why the process is slow. No one should rush to judgment."

Gordon Coonfield, a communications professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, said the early perceptions of Zimmerman as a vigilante may ultimately have no bearing on the case.

He cited the case of Rodney King, the black motorist beaten two decades ago by white Los Angeles police officers in an episode captured on video. The officers were acquitted in state court, though two were later found guilty on federal charges.

"I think the nation felt quite certain it saw the truth of what happened to Rodney King, and the DA tried the case as if the images spoke for themselves," Coonfield said. "Yet the state criminal court decided the images were not self-evidently true. The defense won by offering a more convincing explanation of the images, focusing on what could not be seen - officers' motives, reasoning, and judgment."

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Associated Press writer Curt Anderson contributed to this report from Miami.

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16 Comments

  1. wdjincComment by wdjinc
    April 2, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

    Liberal press at work.

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    Rating: 4.8/5 (26 votes cast)
    • Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
      April 2, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

      Exactly………..twist anything they have to to make the “facts” fit their spurious allegations!

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      April 2, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

      ABC NEWS, did they apply a digital scrub cover over Zimmerman’s head, to NOT show clearly, any injury to the back of the head, when he was being unloaded at the police station? Talk of making the “facts” to fit the narrative!

      Reports, visuals are coming in, that this is the case. A digital scrub, like a digital certificate. Visuals of, The Cherub Trayvon™, shooting the finger are finally arriving… .

      No official release of the police video either, from what I have read. Taken by someone recording the video.

      Please don’t tell me that ABC News would do anything, so outrageous! Or CBS, or…

      The problem that these old Players in media have, is that they think that it is 30 or more years ago, before the net opened the floodgates of information. Obscuring the facts, hiding the facts, well, it takes either minutes, hours, a week or so, for it all to be uncovered. Not like in the past. This is why, Powers that Be, want to control the net.

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    • VeeDubComment by VeeDub
      April 3, 2012 @ 9:53 am

      Socialist press with a socialist agenda!

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      Rating: 5.0/5 (6 votes cast)
  2. prairelivingComment by praireliving
    April 2, 2012 @ 2:47 pm

    When I worked in marketing we often stated, “Perception is reality”. This case certainly shows that perceptions, while they may be vastly unfair and biased, have become the reality for so many people.

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    • Dingbat36Comment by Dingbat36
      April 2, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

      Only the idiots who are mostly in the same racial community as the “victim” are taken in by knee jerk (so called) facts. That and the statements of the two primary race baiting “reverends” who have no churches.

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  3. js86305Comment by js86305
    April 2, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

    Why bother posting this article with no new information. Where are the current pictures of the 17 year old presumed victim? At least reference the pictures are out there if people are interested.

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  4. Jack ReacherComment by Jack Reacher
    April 2, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    I’m doing my best to ignore the entire thing. I feel sorry for the parents. Before an investigation could be concluded, enter the 3 Stooges, (Jackson, Sharpton and that idiot dressed up like a clown claiming he was the head of the New Black Panters), were brought in and ALL credibility went down the drain.

    The parents did not deserve to have this tragedy misrepresented by a willingly biased news media. The entire affair has now been hijacked by the 3 Stooges which has resulted in a 3 Ring Circus.

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  5. fortyshooterComment by fortyshooter
    April 2, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    We are preaching to the choir here. Unless GOPUSA can offer more info then get off the pot.

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  6. RPComment by RP
    April 2, 2012 @ 3:12 pm

    I think that the way to stop Sharpton, Jesse, and the Black Panthers is to do the the same way they did the KKK. You hold these people as well as NBC and ABC for manipulating evidence and inciting a riot, if it comes to that. There has been enough of false information given out by all groups, probably to help Obama in his reelection campaign, to keep the race war stoked.

    What needs to be done is to make these indiduals and news agencies pay restitution to all injured parties. Not only Zimmerman’s family, but to any city that suffers from riots created by these people. It seems if the president doesn’t urge blacks to calm down and let the judgement stand whether or not they like it; hold them all responsible for monetary damages. This will teach them all a lesson. Race baiting will suffer a significant blow to their cause, if they are not allowed to just drum up charges with no evidence.

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  7. Luis L Montemayor SrComment by Luis L Montemayor Sr
    April 2, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    Once again, the Media, printed and TV, make it very easy for Revs.
    Jackson and Sharpton to enter the eternal white/black fight, they
    will loose no time and making it as grave as they can possibly inflate
    in order to help the Adviser/rebel rouser in charge in Washington
    to take advantage of this situation for an election!
    Looks to me like ACORN is back at work and on the payroll!

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  8. bigdtootallComment by bigdtootall
    April 2, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    Responding to these opportunists who politicize these tragedies by crying racism is like getting in a fight with a young girl; if you defend yourself you are a woman beater and if you don’t you get the **** kicked out of you. Our real battle HAS to be with this regime’s total failure.

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  9. krispykritterComment by krispykritter
    April 2, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    Not only have the three stooges,Sharpton,Jackson and the head of the black panthers weighed in on this…Enter the fourth stooge..Barack Hussein Obama.

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  10. jb80538Comment by jb80538
    April 2, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    Theold photos were used intentionally. The old photo of trayvon was used to make him look innocent. Recent photos of him make him look like a drug using thug he became.

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  11. cxComment by genesal
    April 2, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

    Trayvon Martin TAPE EDITING prompts internal probe at NBC as reported by the Washington Post.

    http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/nbc-trayvon-investigation/2012/04/01/id/434455?s=al&promo_code=E92A-1

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  12. Pingback: Old photos may be deceptive in Fla. shooting case | Apparel Online

  13. cxComment by genesal
    April 3, 2012 @ 10:03 am

    Old photos MAY be deceptive??? HaHaHaHaHaHa

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