Documentary chronicles work of attorney for Trayvon Martin's family

Ben Crump previously represented family of a teen killed at bootcamp detention center


Ben Crump has stood side by side Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin in every news conference, where they've plead for George Zimmerman to be held accountable for the death of their son, Trayvon Martin.

The pleas for justice echo the cries of another crying mother whose son was killed in 2006.

Gina Jones sought the help of Ben Crump and his team after her son, Martin Lee Anderson, died at a juvenile bootcamp detention center near Panama City.

Jones agreed to have her 14-year-old son spend some time in the facility after he was caught joy-riding in his grandmother's car. She thought he would return a changed man, but just 18 hours later he was dead.

Anderson fell unconscious as guards administered discipline to the teen, and his family decided to take him off life support the next day.

Through the help of Crump, the family and eventually the public were able to see the last moment's of Anderson's life that had been captured on tape by a facility surveillance camera.

The video shows the guards physically restraining Anderson, forcing him up on his feet when he falls down, then kicking him in the chest and forcing ammonia tablets into his mouth.

A nurse can be seen on the tape standing with her hands on her hips as the guards administer the discipline.

Eventually the tape shows Anderson being escorted off on a stretcher.

"What you see in that video still shocks everyone who see it," commented Ben Crump, in an interview on Thursday, "It's very rare that you watch somebody die, much not a kid."

But the video was not enough for a jury.

The guards and nurse were charged with aggravated manslaughter for Anderson's death, but a jury found them not guilty on all charges.

"I really have a very hard time understanding how the jury came to the decision that it did, because the jury had a choice, they had a tiered ballot, and they could've chosen second degree manslaughter all the way down to misdemeanor mistreatment of a child," said Dr. Any Opel, an associate professor at Florida State University who spent the last six years creating a documentary about the Martin Lee Anderson killing.

"Beating Justice: The Martin Lee Anderson Story" chronicles the work of Ben Crump, the NAACP, student protestors, and national civil rights leaders to get the video of Anderson's death released and then have charges brought against the guards.

Opel said he does not believe the world would have ever known about Anderson, had Crump and others not thrust the death into the national spotlight.

"The media attention is the only reason we know about Martin Lee Anderson. There were 6 other students who died in those sheriff's bootcamps during Jeb Bush's administration, and we don't know the names of those children," said Opel.

The camps were closed after the Anderson incident, which Crump said he considered a small victory.

"You have a premise where you are trying to teach juveniles not to be violent but you are disciplining them with violence.  It flew in the face of common sense," said Crump.

But, he said he still cannot understand why the jury decided not to charge anyone in Anderson's death.

"It's one of the things as a lawyer I will go to my grave saying, man it's just not right," he said.

Now he is waiting to see how the process will play out for George Zimmerman.

Zimmerman,28, shot and killed Martin, 17, on February 26 after placing a call to police saying  he had seen a suspicious person in his Sanford neighborhood.  Zimmerman claimed the shooting was in self defense and was not charged in the killing until nearly two months later.

Opel said that is a similar dynamic to how the Anderson story played out because prosecutors were slow to bring about charges until the public was made aware of what was going on.

A Department of Justice investigation into the Anderson case was closed in 2010, citing that no federal civil rights charges would be filed against the 8 people originally criminally charged in the case.

Anderson's family was awarded a $5 million settlement from the state of Florida for wrongful death, even though the jury found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the guards and nurse.

Crump said he is hopeful there can be more accountability for Trayvon Martin's death.

"We hope there is a different result in Trayvon Martin's case then there was in Martin Lee Anderson's case.  We have to have the wheels of justice turn and we'll see what the outcome is going to be," said Crump.

The film, "Beating Justice: The Martin Lee Anderson Story" is being shown as part of the Florida Film Festival at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday at Winter Park Regal Village.