SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — An expert on gunshot wounds hired by the defense testified Tuesday that George Zimmerman’s account of how he fatally shot Trayvon Martin is consistent with the forensic evidence as defense attorneys started wrapping up their presentation.
Dr. Vincent DiMaio said that the trajectory of the bullet and gun powder on Martin’s body support 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 two to four inches 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 DiMaio, the former chief medical examiner in San Antonio.
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 he could 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. Defense attorneys contend Martin moved his arms.
DiMaio testified that lacerations to the back of 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, DiMaio identified six separate impacts to Zimmerman’s face and head. He said a nose injury could have come from being punched.
DiMaio 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 mold and it stinks to high heaven.” Defense attorneys believe DNA evidence found on Martin’s hooded sweatshirt and undershirt was degraded since the clothing wasn’t packaged properly.
Under cross-examination, DiMaio conceded that the gunshot could also be consistent with Martin pulling away from Zimmerman, and that he didn’t rely on statements from some Zimmerman neighbors who say Zimmerman was on top of Martin to reach his conclusion. The pathologist, who also has testified at the murder trials of Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson and record producer Phil Spector, said he had been paid $2,400 by the defense.
After DiMaio testified, the 911 calls that captured sounds of the fatal encounter were discussed again. Defense attorneys called Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte to the witness stand to describe the circumstances of how Martin’s family came to hear the 911 tapes. Bonaparte said he played the 911 tapes while members of Martin’s family sat together at City Hall. He played them as a courtesy before they were released publicly.
Defense attorneys are trying to show that Martin’s family members may have influenced each other in concluding the screams are those of the Miami teen. Police officers testified for the defense that it’s better for someone who is trying to identify a voice to listen to it alone.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara also told Judge Debra Nelson that the defense would likely finish putting on its case on Wednesday. Zimmerman, so far, hasn’t testified. But jurors saw repeated video recordings of Zimmerman telling his side of the story to police investigators. The defense started its case last Friday, and if it keeps to the schedule anticipated by O’Mara, its presentation will take about half of the time of the prosecution.
Nelson considered prosecutors’ request to bar the defense from showing animation depicting the fight between Martin and Zimmerman. Nelson held an evidence hearing with jurors out of the courtroom, but ultimately postponed her decision and more arguments on the matter until later in the afternoon.
Prosecutors object to the animation, saying it isn’t an accurate depiction.
Defense 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.
Testimony in previous days has focused on a 911 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 defense attorneys because it would help jurors evaluate Zimmerman’s self-defense 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 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 has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defense during a scuffle in the townhome complex where he lived. Martin was there visiting his father and his father’s fiancee.
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