The former prosecutor assigned to the Trayvon Martin case participated in a “suspicious” meeting with police on the night of the disputed shooting, Martin’s family alleged on Monday.
In a letter sent to sent to the U.S. Department of Justice — which is already reviewing Trayvon’s Feb. 26 death — Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump accused State Attorney Norm Wolfinger of holding a meeting with Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee just hours after Martin had been killed. It was in that meeting, Crump wrote, that the two men “disregarded the lead homicide investigator’s recommendation to arrest George Zimmerman for manslaughter.”
Wolfinger’s response to this new allegation was fast and forceful: the prosecutor insisted that “no such meeting or communication occurred,” and he blasted the Martin family’s letter as “outright lies.”
“I have been encouraging those spreading the irresponsible rhetoric to stop,” Wolfinger said in a written statement.
Wolfinger could not be reached for comment Monday.
On CNN Monday, Crump credited the letter with finally prodding Wolfinger to respond.
“We’re going to keep writing letters,’’ he said. “This family deserves answers.’’
Crump also addressed an police surveillance videotape of Zimmerman arriving at the Sanford Police station - a video that ABC News said it enhanced for improved quality. The enhanced video shows what appear to be injuries to the back of Zimmerman’s head.
Even if Zimmerman was injured in a scuffle with Trayvon, “is that enough to justify killing an unarmed teen?” Crump said.
Prior to Monday’s letter by the Martin family, the Department of Justice had already started an investigation into Trayvon’s death. But this new letter revealed the family wants federal scrutiny to extend beyond the circumstances of the teen’s death, and into the actions of Wolfinger, who two weeks ago recused himself from the case.
A special prosecutor from Jacksonville now is tasked with making the decision of whether to charge Zimmerman criminally, bring the matter before a grand jury, or opt against pressing any charges.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Trayvon to death but has said the shooting was an act of self-defense. Trayvon was unarmed, and the black teen’s death has prompted global calls for Zimmerman to be charged criminally.
Trayvon, who attended Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in North Miami Beach, was in the Central Florida town of Sanford visiting his father when he was shot.
Zimmerman has not commented publicly since the shooting, which has spawned a nationwide protest movement.
He has gone into hiding, though his attorney on Monday told the Reuters News Service that Zimmerman would surrender to police if criminal charges are filed.
“He’s not hiding from the authorities,” attorney Craig Sonner said. “If he is asked, he will turn himself in.”
In the early aftermath of the shooting, Sanford’s Police Chief Bill Lee defended Zimmerman’s actions, but it has become clear in recent days that Sanford investigators closer to the ground wanted to press charges.
Crump, the Martin family attorney, wrote in Monday’s letter that the lead homicide investigator in the case, Chris Serino, has in fact signed an affidavit documenting his opinion that Zimmerman should be arrested on manslaughter charges.
Meanwhile, someone identifying him or herself as “a concerned Zimmerman family member” circulated a letter Monday disputing the media portrait of Zimmerman. The neighborhood watch volunteer, the letter said, spoke out and passed out flyers when a police officer’s son was accused in 2010 of beating a homeless black man.
“He has been called a racist and a bigot and there have been very few that have stood up for him,” the letter said.
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