George Zimmerman Sues NBC, Three Employees Over Altered 911 Tapes

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Was the turmoil after Trayvon Martin’s death caused by NBC’s editing of the 9-1-1 call? Photo credit: Police Handout

George Zimmerman’s Claim for Defamation

Under Florida law, defamation is defined as a statement that is false and has a defamatory effect. It must be published to a third party by a defendant who is acting with malice and ill will. And the actions of the defendant must cause the plaintiff to suffer damages.

The lawsuit states that NBC and its employees reviewed the audio tapes of the 911 calls prior to airing them and knew all references to Martin’s race were in answer to the dispatcher’s question. The claim alleges the tapes were intentionally doctored to make it appear Zimmerman believed Martin was suspicious merely because he was African American.

It is further alleged the alterations were done to portray Zimmerman as a racist and the killing as a hate crime in order to make the shooting of Martin more newsworthy, keep it front and center longer, and therefore boost the ratings of the network.

The suit claims the altered tapes exposed the plaintiff to contempt, ridicule and hatred that resulted in death threats.

It is also alleged Zimmerman suffered emotional distress, mental anguish, embarrassment and humiliation after the shooting was portrayed by NBC and its employees as a racist hate crime.

Zimmerman’s Claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

The claim also seeks damages under this ground for the effect NBC’s portrayal of him as a racist had on him. The suit claims Zimmerman has suffered physically and emotionally and has suffered from insomnia, nausea and extreme anxiety. It is alleged that the actions of the plaintiffs were done wilfully in order to increase their ratings at the expense of Zimmerman.

Although NBC fired two of the three employees named as defendants for altering the tapes, the network maintains the editing of the 911 tapes were just innocent mistakes and lacked the malice and ill will needed for Zimmerman to be successful in his lawsuit.

Resources:

GZ docs. George Zimmerman v. NBC Universal Media LLC et. al.  (2012). Accessed December 8, 2012.

CBS News, Trayvon Martin Shooting: A timeline of events. (2012). Accessed December 8, 2012.

Sharmin & Sharmin. Establishing the elements of Defamation. (2011). Accessed December 8, 2012.

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