George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of murder after fatally shooting unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin in a 2012 case that drew attention across the United States, sued Martin’s family and lawyers on Wednesday, claiming they used a fake witness to incriminate him.
Zimmerman is seeking at least $100 million US in damages from Martin’s parents, state prosecutors and two women whom he accused in a Polk County, Florida, lawsuit of helping provide false statements to investigators and during the trial, according to court papers. Plaintiffs can seek any amount they choose in U.S. civil lawsuits.
Zimmerman’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday, said a trial witness pretended to be the last person to talk to Martin by phone before he was killed when the witness was actually the half-sister of the caller.
According to the lawsuit, Brittany Diamond Eugene didn’t want to testify that she had been talking to Martin before he was killed. So her half-sister, Rachel Jeantel, pretended that she was talking to the teen before he was fatally shot. Jeantel ended up testifying at Zimmerman’s 2013 trial in Sanford, Florida.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Zimmerman, who was then a neighbourhood watch captain in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, fatally shot Martin, who was staying in the community. The incident helped spark the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Zimmerman’s trial raised questions about race and Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defence law which allows people to use force without retreating if they feel threatened.
In a statement on Wednesday, Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump called the allegations “unfounded and reckless.”
“This plaintiff continues to display a callous disregard for everyone but himself, re-victimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions. He would have us believe that he is the innocent victim of a deep conspiracy, despite the complete lack of any credible evidence to support his outlandish claims,” Crump’s statement said. “This tale defies all logic, and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.”
During Zimmerman’s 2013 trial, prosecutors argued Zimmerman profiled, pursued and confronted the black youth. Zimmerman claimed he shot Martin in self-defence. He was found not guilty by a jury.