Zimmerman consistent with evidence: Expert

2013-07-10 11:02
George Zimmerman at his trial in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Florida. (Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank/ AP)

George Zimmerman at his trial in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Florida. (Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank/ AP)

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Sanford — An expert on gunshot wounds hired by the defence testified on Tuesday that a neighbourhood watch volunteer's account of how he fatally shot an unarmed black teen is consistent with the forensic evidence.

Dr Vincent Di Maio said that the trajectory of the bullet and gun powder on Trayvon Martin's body support George Zimmerman's version that Martin was on top of him when Zimmerman fired his gun into Martin's chest. The gun's muzzle was against Martin's clothing and it was anywhere from five to 10cms from Martin's skin, he said.

"This is consistent with Mr Zimmerman's account that Mr Martin was over him, leaning forward at the time he was shot," said Di Maio, the former chief medical examiner in San Antonio.

Martin was unarmed when he was fatally shot by Zimmerman in February 2012 in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic; some activists argued that the initial delay in charging Zimmerman was influenced by Martin's race.

The pathologist also said it was likely Martin was conscious for 10 to 15 seconds after the shooting as a reserve supply of oxygen ran out of his body, and during that time it was possible for him to have moved his arms. Zimmerman's account that he had placed Martin's arms out to his sides after the shooting contradicts a photo taken after the shooting that shows Martin's arms under his body. Defence attorneys contend Martin moved his arms.

Di Maio testified that lacerations to the back Zimmerman's head were consistent with his head striking a concrete sidewalk. Later, when looking at photos of Zimmerman's injuries taken the night of the shooting, Di Maio identified six separate impacts to Zimmerman's face and head. He said a nose injury could have come from being punched.

Animation barred

Di Maio also explained that if clothes taken into evidence are wet and packaged in plastic bags, and not paper bags, it can ruin the samples since "bacteria multiplies and you get mould and it stinks to high heaven". Defence attorneys believe DNA evidence found on Martin's hooded sweatshirt and undershirt was degraded since the clothing wasn't packaged properly.

Earlier in the morning, Judge Debra Nelson considered prosecutors' request to bar the defence from showing animation depicting the fight between Martin and Zimmerman. After hearing more than five hours of arguments, Nelson said she would issue a ruling on Wednesday.

Prosecutors object to the animation, saying it's an inaccurate depiction and will confuse jurors.

Defence attorneys called the man who created the animation to testify. To recreate the fight, Daniel Schumaker went to the crime scene and had employees in motion-capture suits re-enact what happened based on coroner photographs, police reports, the coroner's report, witness depositions and photos taken by responding police officers, he said.

The fight took place on a dark, rainy night in February 2012 and there were no eyewitnesses who saw the entire fight. Several witnesses saw and heard parts of the struggle that left Martin dead with a bullet in his heart.

Defence attorneys also tried to get Martin's text messages and a Facebook posting dealing with fighting introduced as evidence.

Text messages

Zimmerman's attorneys called computer analyst Richard Connor to read to the judge text messages he found on Martin's cellphone in which he purportedly recounted a fight he had been in to a friend.

Jurors were out of the courtroom as defence attorneys presented their arguments about the text messages. Nelson had ruled that information about Martin's interest in guns and fighting couldn't be used during opening statements, but she had left open the possibility that they could be introduced later. The judge said she would rule on Wednesday.

Prosecutor John Guy said jurors shouldn't be presented with the text messages and photos of a gun found on Martin's phone, as well as a Facebook posting from a half-brother asking Martin when he was going to teach him how to fight.

"It would mislead the jury and be prejudicial," Guy said. "It doesn't tell us about Trayvon Martin and certainly doesn't tell us what George Zimmerman knew about Trayvon Martin."

However, defence attorney Don West said they were relevant.

"It relates to his physical capabilities, his knowledge of fighting," West said.

Scream for help

Testimony in previous days has focused on a police call that captures screams from the struggle between Martin and Zimmerman.

Convincing the jury of who was screaming for help on the tape has become the primary goal of prosecutors and defence attorneys because it would help jurors evaluate Zimmerman's self-defence claim. Relatives of Martin's and Zimmerman's have offered conflicting opinions about who is heard screaming.

Zimmerman's mother and uncle testified last Friday it was Zimmerman screaming, while Martin's mother and brother also took the witness stand last Friday to say the voice belongs to Martin. Martin's father testified on Monday that he initially couldn't tell if the screams came from his son, but later decided they did.

Zimmerman himself once said during a police interview that the screams didn't sound like him, though he and his family later said the screams were his.

Zimmerman, aged 29, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defence during a scuffle in the housing complex where he lived. Martin was there visiting his father and his father's fiancée.

Prosecutors contend that Zimmerman, who identifies himself as Hispanic, was profiling Martin and perceived the teen as someone suspicious in the neighbourhood, which had been the site of a series of break-ins. The case sparked protests because police did not charge Zimmerman for 44 days and it touched off a nationwide debate about race and self-defence.

Read more on:    george zimmerman  |  trayvon martin  |  us  |  racism

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