Expert bolsters Zimmerman account of Trayvon Martin shooting

SANFORD, Florida Tue Jul 9, 2013 7:15pm EDT

1 of 6. Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a forensic pathologist and gunshot wound expert, describes the injuries of George Zimmerman while testifying for the defense in the trial in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Florida, July 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Burbank/Pool

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SANFORD, Florida (Reuters) - A forensic expert backed George Zimmerman's account of his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Tuesday, testifying that evidence showed the neighborhood watchman was under the unarmed black teenager when he fired his gun.

The forensic pathologist testifying for the defense cited the trajectory of the bullet that pierced Martin's chest and gun powder on his body in supporting Zimmerman's version of events of the shooting, in a setback to the prosecution.

"It's consistent with somebody leaning over the person doing the shooting," said Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a former chief medical examiner in Texas, in testimony in the case, which has added to the national debate on race, profiling, gun rights and self defense.

It was the latest in a series of blows to the prosecution, underscoring a widely held view among lawyers following the case that the state aimed too high in charging Zimmerman with murder.

Zimmerman remained free for 45 days after the killing, because police initially declined to arrest him, accepting his claim he shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.

A special prosecutor brought the charge of second-degree murder against Zimmerman, possibly bowing to public pressure, after protests and cries of injustice in Sanford and several major U.S. cities.

DiMaio testified that Martin could have been conscious and able to move for five to 10 seconds after he was shot through the heart, based on the typical reserve oxygen in the brain.

That testimony appeared to bolster Zimmerman's overall credibility and his claim that he placed Martin's arms out to the side after shooting him, despite a photograph taken of Martin after he died that showed his arms under his body.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Zimmerman on Friday after nine days of witness testimony. Lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara said he hopes to rest by Wednesday.

That means the case could go to the jury by this weekend. It is still unclear whether Zimmerman will testify in his own defense.

Lawyers caution that no one knows the single piece of evidence or witness statement that could lead to a conviction or acquittal. But O'Mara certainly seems to have the upper hand as the case heads into closing arguments.

"The trial is not over," said David Weinstein, a former prosecutor and Miami-area defense attorney who is not involved in the case. "However, from where things stand right now, a conviction does not appear likely."

DEFENSE BOLSTERED

The former neighborhood watch volunteer faces up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, although either side can request that the jury also consider the lesser offense of manslaughter, with a maximum penalty of 30 years.

In a setback for the prosecution on Monday, Seminole County Circuit Judge Debra Nelson ruled that defense lawyers could introduce evidence that Martin had the active ingredient of marijuana in his system when he was killed.

Nelson was expected to rule later on Tuesday on whether jurors should see a digital reconstruction of Zimmerman's shooting of Martin, in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012.

DiMaio testified that Zimmerman, 29, had at least six injuries after his clash with Martin - including two on the back of his head that appeared to indicate impacts with concrete - one on each temple, one on his forehead and one on his nose.

Valerie Rao, a medical examiner testifying for the prosecution last week, said Zimmerman suffered "insignificant" injuries in the incident, as the state attempted to undermine Zimmerman's claim he feared for his life.

DiMaio said the injuries could be worse than they appeared. Lacerations to Zimmerman's head suggested the use of "severe force," he said, lending credence to his claim that Martin slammed Zimmerman's head into a concrete walkway after knocking him to the ground with a punch that broke his nose.

Once a verdict is rendered, it seems likely that many Americans will be disappointed however Zimmerman's fate is decided, because they have already made up their minds about the killing, an event became a virtual national obsession last year.

Highlighting fears of racial tensions in Sanford, the Broward County Sheriff's Office in south Florida, the state's largest, said on Monday it was working closely with the Sanford Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies to coordinate "a response plan in anticipation of the verdict."

Sanford's population of 54,000 is about 30 percent black.

"We don't have information about a specific event that might take place at the conclusion of the trial, but we encourage everyone to keep any protests peaceful," Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said in a statement.

(Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Dina Kyriakidou, Paul Thomasch and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (24)
tij123 wrote:
No animation. Animation is the same as MARKETING, a big advertisement. It is a ploy.

Put Zimmerman on the stand.

Jul 09, 2013 2:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAPragmatist wrote:
So who cares if Mr. Martin had THC in his blood? He was not the one commiting a crime here. If anything that shows that Mr. Martin was LESS likely to be violent. THC makes a person ‘calmer’ and less prone to confrontation. Anyone that has ever smoked weed knows this.

And I would sure like to know how you can tell someone is ‘on drugs’ from a distance, unless they are stumbling and falling all over themselves, which of course Mr. Martin was not. Mr. Zimmerman’s story just does not add up in so many different ways.

Jul 09, 2013 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jeffyc wrote:
I think in tennis terms, this becomes GAME. SET, AND MATCH. This trial
should have never happened, but to shut the race-baiters up, we had to
go through the motions.

Jul 09, 2013 3:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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