A Florida judge has dismissed George Zimmerman‘s defamation lawsuit against NBCUniversal. Judge Debra Nelson said Zimmerman’s camp failed to prove NBC News acted with malice when it aired an edited version of his 911 call after shooting Trayvon Martin, according to press reports.
Zimmerman filed the suit in December 2012, after NBC editors cut out portions of audio recordings of his 911 call, which made it sound as if he had volunteered the race of shooting victim Martin unsolicited; in the call, Zimmerman said “he looks black” in response to a question from the 911 dispatcher, asking, of Martin, “Is he black, white or Hispanic?”
“NBC News is gratified by the court’s dismissal of this lawsuit, which we have always believed to be without merit,” the network said this morning in a statement.
NBC News fired three producers over the incident, apologized, but insisted there was no intent to portray Zimmerman “unfairly.” Attorneys for NBC had argued the reports in question aired about a month after the shooting, by which time Zimmerman was a public figure; the judge agreed and said “actual malice” had to be proven, and was not.
Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Martin. Zimmerman said he shot Martin, in February 2012, in self-defense. In his suit against NBCU, Zimmerman claimed NBC saw the death of Martin “not as a tragedy but as an opportunity to increase ratings, and so set about to create the myth that George Zimmerman was a racist and predatory villain.”