New Evidence in Zimmerman Case Undermines Prosecution’s Case on Second Degree Murder Charge

The evidence continues to roll in on the Zimmerman case. While the new evidence is not entirely bad for the prosecution, it does contain some evidence that will likely bolster the defense of George Zimmerman in the second degree murder trial over the killing of Trayvon Martin. Regardless of the ultimate impact, the evidence again shows (in my opinion) that prosecutor Angela Corey over-charged the case in Florida.


Some of the new evidence shows that Martin had traces of THC (the active ingredient of marijuana) in his blood stream and urine. Martin was suspended from school due to a marijuana offense (though it involved an empty marijuana baggie). Another benefit to the defense is that Martin father is shown denying that the voice calling out for help was his son — though he later changed that view when he says he was given a better recording. Other witnesses have indicated that it Zimmerman who was calling for help.

Generally, the existence of drugs in the system of a victim or defendant is admissible. The suspension would appear inadmissible under standard evidentiary rules.

There is also evidence that some neighbors described Zimmerman as a bully and a racist. That would help bolster the reported hate crimes prosecution being considered by the Obama Administration, though I still have reservations based on the evidence as it currently stands. Also the police viewed the shooting as “avoidable” — if Zimmerman had left the matter to the police.

I am not sure how much of the neighbor’s view of Zimmerman as a bully or racist could come into evidence. Such accounts, however, can have the benefit of further discouraging Zimmerman from taking the stand as a witness — always a benefit to the prosecution because (while they are told that a defendant has a right not to testify (jurors expect to hear from defendants).

On the whole, however, I would view the evidence as more positive to the defense. First, I have previously said that I was most interested in the distance of the shot and forensics. It now appears that Martin was shot from an intermediate range (no more than 18 inches and as little as an inch away). That would support the claim of Zimmerman that they were in a wrestling fight when the gun was fired. The greater the distance the stronger the case for the prosecution. The defense will likely present expert testimony to try to reduce the range further on the stand. Also, the report does have people at the scene saying that Zimmerman’s nose appeared broken — supporting the later medical report of the family doctor (though such injuries could occur from Martin defending himself).

Moreover, at least two witnesses appear to support Zimmerman in describing the man in the hoodie at straddling the other man and throwing punches. The report state that the man in the “‘hoodie’ [was] on top of a white or Hispanic male and throwing punches ‘MMA (mixed martial arts) style.’ He then heard a pop. He stated that after hearing the pop, he observed the person he had previously observed on top of the other person (the male wearing the hoodie) laid out on the grass.” One report also says that Zimmerman can be heard yelling for help 14 times on a 911 call recorded during the fight.

While the reports blame Zimmerman for getting out of his vehicle (he says that he was trying to get a house number for the police), that is not itself a crime. Of course, none of this means that Zimmerman was not the aggressor. Given the presumption of innocence and the need to prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt, this evidence presents an added problem for the prosecution in my view. I have expressed skepticism over the way the case has developed and how it has been charged from the outset. As a criminal defense attorney, I would view this as a strong defense case even on the manslaughter charge, particularly given the poor police work at the scene.

What do you think?

Here is the police report.

Source: ABC and NY Daily News

1,444 thoughts on “New Evidence in Zimmerman Case Undermines Prosecution’s Case on Second Degree Murder Charge”

  1. Sling, this is what made me think the killing was motivated by George being angry that his authority was not recognized, rather than by self-defense.

    George apprehends “the suspect”; “the suspect” does not bow to his authority; he has to kill “the suspect.”

  2. Speaking of “Irrelevant” ..
    I added a bit at the top of my Speculation page http://zimmermanscall.blogspot.com/p/speculation.html

    There is an interesting moment in the video of the Voice Stress Test conducted on Febrary 27th, the day after the shooting.
    There is a long section before the test actually begins. Time is being killed, not in interrogation but in “How was your day”. Zimmerman maybe feels that he’s amongst his own. He’s the good guy. He want to be in law enforcement. He’s chatting with a female detective.
    There’s a YouTube of it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjRp-vIvTNg

    Five minutes into that:

    Zimmerman has described his day. He describes visiting his psychologist.
    “And that’s when it really hit me”
    There is a long silence. Clearly he is thinking about the fact that he shot Martin, because

    Zimmerman: Have you ever had to shoot anybody?
    Detective: No
    Zimmerman: Good for you
    –Silence about 8 seconds– ‘Full-time cop – never had to shoot anybody. Hmmm’

    Zimmerman: You’re probably stern enough to get the point
    Detective: Sorry?
    Zimmerman: You’re probably stern enough for it… to get the point…. You got that …authoritative, commanding presence
    ……………
    Zimmerman: I wouldn’t question your authority.

    Perhaps Zimmerman is thinking that he should work on developing a stern authoritative commanding presence, so that people wouldn’t question his authority.
    That way, he wouldn’t have to get involved in a struggle, and end up shooting someone.

  3. NEWS FLASH: Only months after “new evidence [two head scrapes and a nose bump] undermine[d] the prosecution’s case” for second degree murder, even newer evidence undermined the defendants case for any defense whatsoever.

    NEWS FLASH: George Zimmerman is fighting to prevent the subpoena of medical records that come from a doctor’s office some ten miles away from Sanford, Florida. Hmmmm. O’Mara’s argument is that some of it is irrelevant.

    SOME OF IT IS IRRELEVANT?

    You mean — irrelevant — like the following:

    1. That Trayvon Martin did not look like a hard-core athlete?
    2. That Trayvon Martin did not scrape and bow as soon as he saw George?
    3. That Trayvon Martin’s school record was not perfect?
    4. That Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie?
    5. That Trayvon Martin said something after being shot?
    6. That Trayvon Martin said something before being shot?
    7. That Zimmerman “mentors” kids?
    8. That Zimmerman has a “Black” friend?
    9. That Zimmerman has ADD or ADHD?
    10. That Zimmerman prays every day?

  4. So apparently Trayvon Martin did not die instantly when hit by the hollow-point bullet. He lived from half a minute to several minutes.

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-08-17/news/os-trayvon-martin-autopsy-20120817_1_trayvon-martin-george-zimmerman-blood-loss

    Therefore, had George asked someone to call 911 — or had HE called 911 — rather than “holding down” Trayvon Martin face-down on the ground (as two witnesses testified) might he have lived? COuld not massive transfusions and perhaps a transplant have saved him if he got first aid immediately rather than being sat on (and having his “hands spread out”) by a Neighborhood Watch Volunteer who outweighed him by 40 pounds?

    Depraved Indifference.

    A witness (according to George) said he was calling 911 and George told him NO, help me restrain (?) this guy instead. I don’t need you to call 911 I need you to help me restrain this guy.

    Corey did NOT overcharge Zimmerman. Even if Trayvon could not have lived after that hollowpoint burst into his chest, a simple effort on George’s part to save him would have shown a different attitude that might have mitigated the murder charge. ZIMMERMAN WAS ONLY CONCERNED WITH MAKING SURE MARTIN WAS REALLY DEAD.

  5. Sad news: Vincent Taaffe, the son of Frank Taaffe who came out with the information that Taaffe (father) was violent, racist and had violated the law many times, was killed in a car crash.

    The funeral for his brother had to be held separately for paternal and maternal family, because of the protective orders both mother and daughter (and then, son) had out against Frank Taaffe as a result of prior violence. I don’t know if there will be one funeral for Vincent (who publicly disowned his father) or two. Really sad story.

  6. Melsha, Interesting site. About 2-3 threads before the one you linked to there is the NEC with some interesting thoughts. Like the voices in the background and sounds of the gun. I don’t see the analysis as the final word but it gives some interesting possibilities.

  7. An interesting thing occurs when you look at the evidence from George Zimmerman’s college career, and those comments being made about it. ONE: He was not going to get an Associates’ Degree in 2012 as he hoped, although he already had a party to congratulate him for that success. The party was thrown, apparently, by his buddy, the fired ex-sheriff’s employee turned federal airline marshall Mark Osterman, and Osterman’s wife officiated. Then, when Zimmerman was questioned by Serino, Serino asked him if he had a criminal justice degree and Zimmerman answers, without any sign of stress in his voice, “Yes.”

    UNTRUE. Zimmerman did not, on 2/26/2012, or ever, have a criminal justice degree. Zimmerman says whatever makes him feel good and he says whatever he thinks makes him look good to others. At that interview he was trying to impress Serino about HIS cop-like-ness and Trayvon Martin’s criminal-like-ness.

    But about the prosecutor’s interest in George’s college career — what’s THAT about?

    The quote I got on-line was this:

    =============
    “Legal experts said prosecutors probably reviewed Zimmerman’s school records because they could suggest that he had enough knowledge of criminal justice to concoct a self defense claim on the fly.

    “To the extent that he had some knowledge of self defense, he would have been able to put together a story that made some sense,” said Frederick Leatherman, a retired Seattle defense lawyer and legal-issues blogger who has reviewed all the Zimmerman case evidence. “As he conjured up this story, he didn’t know that a lot of the forensics would not match.”

    Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/08/09/2943103/records-show-zimmerman-got-ds.html#storylink=cpy

    ================
    Well, we should remember that “as he conjured up his story” he didn’t know that there would even BE any interest in the real forensics. It seems to me that he already believed, and had reason to believe, that he could tell ANY STORY HE CONJURED UP, because the cops weren’t going to really LOOK for evidence against him.

    As soon as the cops arrived, he had the initial parts of the story in place:

    * He never confronted Martin; Martin attacked him without provocation;
    * There were screams for help but they came from HIM, not from his victim;
    * The reason he fatally shot Martin with a hollow-point bullet was that he feared for his life, while taking a brutal beating.

    He didn’t think there would be any evidence gathered that would make that story non-credible because he knew that Police Chief Lee would protect him; all he had to do was to play the “good guy” and let “his guys” take care of the problem for him.

    What threw a wrench into this plan was the outcry that resulted in REAL investigation of the events of that evening.

  8. And we’re not hearing as much about Zimmerman’s head, anymore, either. To me, there is still something very weird about the two photographs of Zimmerman’s bloody head. THUS: Picture #1 is presumably the back of his head out there by the body on 2/26/2012 in the dark while he talks on a cell phone; Picture #2 is presumably the back of his head against a grey-beige wall showing similar, but not exactly the same, trickles of blood down from two small “capillary type” lacerations. IN BETWEEN the taking of those two photos, presumably, there was (a) a session in the back of the car while an EMT cleans him up; and (b) a video showing him with no blood or bruising anywhere on his head/face, being led into the police station from the parking garage where he got out of the squad car.

    WTF?

    O’Mara does not like to draw attention to the photos. Documents say some cop took photos at the scene and put them on his computer and then forgot to download them or some strange sh*t like that.

    And no trip to the hospital to check for a concussion that night.

    I find it weird and very cross-examinable.

  9. If you were to go to the cops and make a police report that someone broke your nose and you offered for evidence the fact that your doctor wrote “suspected closed fracture” alleged to have been diagnosed the day after the alleged event, even if you had a witness to the fact that you had a scratch on your nose the prior day AND somebody said you had blood on your face that day, do you think “suspected closed fracture,” without an X-ray, would be compelling evidence of a broken nose?

    To me, “suspected closed fracture” is doctor talk for, “who knows; surely we don’t want to take an X-ray and rule it out.”

    1. @Malisha “we don’t want to take an X-ray and rule it out.”

      Excellent point.

  10. I’ve inserted some more information into my SYG page
    http://zimmermanscall.blogspot.com/p/stand-your-ground.html
    Laid it on 🙂

    Zimmerman definitely had it one-handed. He even explains that himself in the interviews.
    He can’t have extended his arm, as he claims that Martin was straddling him and leaning in on him.
    He got whacked – buy his own gun(hand) – at the end of a wrestling match in which the back of his head bumped the ground once or twice.

  11. sling, thanks. Could be Zimmerman forgot about the recoil or he was in too much of a panic. Probably held the gun with one hand, not two, which would make the recoil harder to control. And not at arm’s length.

    The video you have with a demonstration assumes the gun was at arm’s length. I don’t think that’s the case. In the video of Z showing Serino or the voice stress guy, he shows his arm out a ways, but not full out in front, but he wasn’t sure. All things considered, I don’t take his word for it, but at least he isn’t claiming full arm extension (impossible imo under the circumstances). If Martin were prone over Zimmerman his hoodie could be away from his body. Zimmerman pulling on Martin’s hoodie would be necessary only if they were vertical or if Martin were trying to get up and Zimmerman was holding him down so the thug wouldn’t get away.

  12. Bettykath,

    I have mentioned the possibility of the nose being hit by recoil in my blog.
    First in the Stand Your Ground page – with a link the the Struggle page, which has a photo of two guys in the sort of positions as described by Zimmerman.

    I’m going to add a section on the gun, with some videos making the recoil effect clear.
    I’ve started trawling for such material.

    One candidate is
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_0TfUHnJ2M
    This is some 9mm guns recorded by a high speed camera.
    You can see the kick, and how it is caused by the bolt shooting backwards and coming to an abrupt stop.
    Bullet goes one way. Bolt goes the other way. Equal and opposite reaction.

    The guy firing in that video has a good proper grasp on the gun. You can see the effect even so.
    Zimmerman says he’s going for his gun in desperation. He has to get it into a position to fire straight into the chest of someone who is sitting on his stomach and leaning down over him. No real room at all.
    His grip on the gun will not be great. If the gun itself didn’t hit his face, the hard bone at the base of the thumb did.
    .

    Here’s one example of someone getting whacked. I’ll find a better video for a smaller 9mm gun if I can.
    http://www.break.com/usercontent/2010/12/2/recoil-1962066
    I have some review videos for the Kel-Tec PF-9. THe ‘pros’ mention the recoil as being significant.

  13. sling, “From what I have read about the gun, it packs a hefty recoil.
    Zimmerman’s account of the shot, with Martin down over him would have him hold the gun very awkwardly – and close to his face. That’s a recipe for getting ‘a suspected closed fracture’.”

    This could be the explanation for a nagging question I’ve had. How did Zimmerman get a broken nose and scratches on his face?

    There was only one small mark on Martin’s finger. There were no bruises or abrasions to suggest offensive behavior, which is consistent with wrestling. Even a head butt to the face should leave a bruise. Of course, Zimmerman hasn’t said exactly how Martin attacked him, just that he did.

    Could the scratches on Zimmerman’s face be caused the weapon fire? His face and hands were wiped clean by the EMTs and he washed up again at the police station before questioning and evidence gathering.

  14. News headlines now blare: “George Zimmerman is running out of money.”

    This is news? Who cares about George’s money or lack thereof? Here’s what O’Mara said:

    “The donations paid $100,000 for Zimmerman’s bond, about $50,000 for security guards for him and his wife, Shelly, and about $30,000 for rent, utilities and other living expenses, O’Mara said.

    So in less than a year he spent $30,000 for rent, utilities and living expenses for two able-bodied adults. They had a computer in case they wanted to work from home, too. And Brian Beckmann has the nerve to call Trayvon Martin’s parents welfare-dependent pathetic failures? $100,000 for Zimmerman’s bond? Whose fault is that? $50,000 for security guards? Does that include Mark Osterman who was happy to guard Zimmerman for free? Does that include Frank Taaffe who also carries a loaded gun around and scares his own family?

    The boo-hoo game is getting kinda tired. Boo hoo for George who (a) had to kill an unarmed kid and (b) then had to pay for his own expenses out of donated money because he did it; and (c) had no stress in his voice about that stuff either.

  15. Zimmerman’s own lawyer has nullified any chance of SYG now.

    As to self-defense, right, the aggressor cannot avail himself of that defense. And Zimmerman admitted to following Martin, and had uttered words that indicated his intent to do so as well, etc.

    The self-defense thing is not viable in my opinion, but this is about strategy now. Part of the defense strategy is saying things over and over to make them sound “normal” to people in general.

  16. @Sling:

    “Why are you following me?”
    “What are you doing here?”

    At least according to the girlfriend’s testimony, “following” was uppermost in Trayvon’s mind, the last words she heard from him, really, was him asking Zimmerman why he was being followed. Hannity (or O’Mara) won’t erase that; I think it is testimony under oath at this point, isn’t it?

    And Zimmerman did not deny following, but began what I think was a hostile interrogation, which most jurors with American English as their first language will agree confirms Zimmerman’s intent to follow Trayvon in order to confront him.

    If just those two lines of dialogue are repeated to a jury as I have read them, I am quite confident that SYG falls apart completely and self-defense is significantly undermined. It says it all: Zimmerman was the aggressor, not the defender.

  17. I wouldn’t pretend to be some star in the firmament.

    My blog is different to most because I stick to a limited set of easy-to-document factors that I consider central.
    I haven’t even gone through the entirety of the evidence releases. A lot that I have seen do not really add to the knowledge.
    I only have one cat. If I had more cats, maybe I could train them to read the stuff, and let me get on with watching paint dry.
    I avoid the kind of wild speculation I see elsewhere.

    If you remember, it originated around the time of trying to explain mathematically to Manny O and others in a thread here that Zimmerman had to have been in Twin Trees when he said “OK” to “We don’t need you to do that”. I ended/began with a blog back in early June that did nothing but analyse Zimmerman’s NEN call against the maps.

    That sort of stuff is tedious and deadly-deadly boring for some. It’s doesn’t get the pulses racing in the same way as does chanting tribal slogans and making up wild stuff.

    If my blog is making any difference, then it is entirely the fault of some of Zimmerman’s crazed supporters. They *made* me do it! 🙂

    I’m actually more intrigued by Zimmerman’s supporters than I am by the man himself.
    .

    I have no doubt but that defence interns trawl the Net. If they don’t, then somebody needs to be sacked (not necessarily the interns)
    It may be that the prosecution side do the same, but maybe they only do that on TV.

    I don’t think that the Defence case has changed a whole heap with this SYG/Not-SYG thing. What we see now is just another exercise in semantics.
    You seem to say that there is a defined formal procedure for immunity under self-defence. This as completely separate for procures under SYG.

    I look at that press conference and I see O’Mara saying it’s actually a SYG procedure hearing, but that he doesn’t like it being called that.
    .

    Calling the SYG hearing a SYG hearing does not accord with the defence approach.
    The Hannity interview clearly flagged what the bill of goods was going to be.

    They want to erase any term that might hint at Zimmerman doing anything that might have contributed to the conflict.
    So “following” isn’t following. He was asked for an address and went to find one.
    He walked. He did not run.
    Martin did not run. Zimmerman had done absolutely that would cause Martin to run.
    Martin just ‘skipped’. Maybe jumping over a puddle.

    They want to erase any term that might hint at Zimmerman thinking anything that might have contributed to the conflict.
    SYG implies “deciding to stand”
    Zimmerman never heard of SYG. He missed that class in his Criminal Justice courses. He doesn’t read newspapers or watch TV. Despite wanting to be in Law Enforcement, he knows less than the dogs in the street about at least some aspects of it.
    There was absolutely no way that he went searching in the dark (with a gun) for Martin – in the knowledge that he would have protection of SYG is things went badly.
    He didn’t even know much about the laws around self-defence. Why would he need to? He was only looking for a RVC address (150 feet more distant than a RVC address that would have served as good, if not a better, purpose.)

    Why, he didn’t even know that he had a gun.
    He only realised that he had a gun *after* he felt Martin going for it ( in his waistband) and saying “You’re going to die tonight”
    ZOMG! and he was pinned down. He had to shoot before his head exploded and Martin shot him.
    He wasn’t even thinking about his own safety and life.

    Really. His own life was nothing in comparison to his sacred duty to protect the neighbourhood.
    He actually delayed shooting as he didn’t want to hurt Martin, but in the end, his sacred duty kicked in.
    He was thinking that if Martin shot him, then Martin would have a gun. – “The ( Osterman) Gun” – with 7 rounds still in it. The thug would go on a drug-fuelled rampage. He would massacre the neighbours. Zimmerman *had to* act.
    == O’Mara – if you use this, I want payment. K? Even if you lose. ==
    .

    The defence will go on like this. This sort of broadcast stuff they can control.
    They can’t control expert interpretation of the technical evidence. I suspect that the analysis of the shot will be a problem for them.
    There may be something in the phone and communication logs of the Zimmerman cluster.
    All of the physical evidence seems to have been initially examined routinely but not analysed as a whole to reconstruct as far as possible. I would guess that this has now been done. I don’t know if this should be visible under discovery and sunshine laws. My understanding of the Federal investigation was that it was limited to any possibility of pure racial motivation.
    The defence will just have to live with whatever comes up and obfuscate as far as possible. Smearing expert witnesses is always good.

  18. So O’Mara has two paralegals whose job it is to read our stuff (especially Sling T’s stuff I imagine) every day. OK, that won’t change what has already gone down! He is probably seeing that the pro-Zim guys comment aggressively every day carrying on about how unfair it is that George has to face charges just for killing one suspicious “suspect” and all, blah blah — but perhaps on the blogs he also became convinced that if the prosecutor also follows Sling T’s blog, that silly SYG stuff won’t fly.

    See comment here: http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2012/08/zimmerman-didnt-stand-his-ground.html

    Keep ’em flying, Sling!

  19. OK, I was wrong. You CAN get a hearing before trial to ask for immunity based on self-defense without using the SYG model. You’d make a motion to dismiss the indictment or the criminal information (in other words, to dismiss the charges). It would come before the judge. The judge would deny it, and then you’d bring a writ of prohibition up to the District Court of Appeals to ask them to PREVENT the judge from moving forward to trial, and that would also fail.

    Then you’d make self-defense an “affirmative defense” to the jury at trial.

    QUite a bit to go through; they better raise some more money.

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