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Fact Checking the George Zimmerman Case


Did the U.S. Department of Justice really have people in Sanford, Florida organizing demonstrations against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with Second Degree murder in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin?

"We rated this claim by "Judicial Watch" mostly false," said Katie Sanders of PolitiFact. "They got tons of records relating to this little agency that sent members to Sanford. But, they weren't there to engage the protestors in a way that was against George Zimmerman."

The truth about the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Zimmerman case is that DOJ did have a team in Sanford, explained Sanders.

What is mostly false is that they were organizing protests.

"The protests were already going to happen," Sanders said. " What this team -- known as the "Community Relations Service" -- does is they try to keep them from escalating out of control. So they do things like tell people who are already going to protest anyway how to do it peacefully."

PolitiFact has done a lot of fact-checking since the night Trayvon Martin was shot right through to the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman.

And, a couple of those stand out.

First, there was the statement from Republic representative Dennis Baxley --  who co-wrote Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Shortly after the Trayvon Martin shooting he said, "we've had a dramatic drop in violent crime since this law has been in  effect.

PolitiFact's ruling? Half true.

"We think his response here clearly indicates that he thinks Stand Your Ground is responsible for a drop in violent crime," Sanders said. "And while violent crime in Florida has dropped, the drop has been in place long before Stand Your Ground came into law in 2005."

And, finally, there was then-representative Arthenia Joyner's statement, again shortly after the Martin shooting, that "when we passed the stand your ground law we said it portends horrific events when people lives are put into these situations."

PoltiFact ruled that true.

"We went back to the videos of the actual house debate and we found a small contingent of democrats who objected to the bill that was being considered and was eventually passed with a lot of support," Sanders explained.  "Joyner herself equated the law with opening Pandora's box, with death for some people inside the box."

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