DeeDee’s account: summary and discussion.
Trayvon Martin’s friend “DeeDee” is the only witness (other than GZ, of course) who has anything concrete to report about how the confrontation between the two men began. Her audio interview with SA de la Rionda is difficult to follow, because she speaks softly, is frequently vague, and generally woefully inarticulate. The recording released of her earlier interview with Benjamin Crump is largely (but not completely) worthless, since many of her words are unintelligible, and the person making the recording pauses, then forgets to turn the recorder back on until after she is well into her account.
There are two points of emphasis, though, that are clear and consistent between the two recordings. That does not mean they are true, but that she has no confusion about them.
1. Trayvon took refuge from the rain under the awning covering the mailboxes, next to the clubhouse at The Retreat. While at the mailboxes he noticed George Zimmerman, in his car, observing him and talking on the phone. Trayvon was made uneasy by the way Zimmerman was looking at him, and was fully aware of Zimmerman’s presence as he left the mailbox area.
2. Just before the physical confrontation began, Trayvon was walking, ignoring DeeDee’s pleas to run. Zimmerman was following from behind, and caught up to him. At this point Trayvon turned to him and said “What [are] you following me for?” and Zimmerman replied “What [are] you doing around here?” Then the scuffle broke out. She mentions Zimmerman’s reply several times in both interviews, always in the exact same words, even correcting the interviewer’s paraphrase of them at one point.
I have compiled an edited rendition of the relevant sections of DeeDee’s interview with de la Rionda to make it easier to review. While not a verbatim transcript, I have used DeeDee’s words where possible, and done my best to be faithful to the gist of the conversation. Where I found it important to include de la Rionda’s questions, I have done so in parnetheses. Editorial notes are in brackets.
It started raining. He ran to the mail thing Like a shed. (He was inside the gated area?) Yeah. The phone hung up and I called him back again. he was under the shade of the mail area. A couple minutes later he said a man was watching him. The man was in a car, on the phone. The man was watching him so he started walking, The phone hung up and I called him back again, and I said what you doing and he said he walking and this man was still following him behind the car. He said this man is still watching him, like on a car so he about to run from the back. I told him to go to his dads house, run to his dad’s house, so he said he about to run from the back because it’s more easier, then I hear him running, then he say he lost him, he was breathing hard. his voice changed, he was scared. he said he lost him and he was right by his dad’s house (the man was by his dad’s?) No he say he lost the guy, he ran from the back, he say he lost him, he started walking back again, I told him keep running (So Trayvon started walking because he thought he had lost the guy?) Yeah. I say keep running. He say he ain’t gonna run. Cause he say he right by his father house. And then a couple minutes, he said the man following him again. I say run. He say he not going to run. I know he ain’t gonna run because he out of breath. He tell me the guy getting closer, real close the next thing I hear “Why you following for?” Old man say “What you doin’ around here” in a deep voice. I calling him, “Trayvon Trayvon what’s going on”, what’s going on? he ain’t answer. i hear a sudden like “bump”. You hear that somebody bumped Trayvon. Cause I could hear the grass. (So you could hear there was something going on, like something hitting something?) Yeah. I could hear the grass thing. I was still screaming ‘Trayvon, Trayvon!’ and the next thing [she claps] the phone just shut off. (Could you hear anything else before the phone cut off?) I could hear a little “Get off. Get off.” (It was Trayvon saying that?) Yeah (Is that clear you could hear that or you just think you heard that?) Yeah I could hear it… (When the man talked to Trayvon, how did he sound?) Kinda angry, cause he said it so deep “What you doin’ around here?” You could hear he was tired too, [She indicates he was winded while speaking].
At this point, de la Rionda begins to ask some follow up questions. He ascertains that Trayvon did not tell DeeDee that the man got out of his car, though she was able to infer that eventually. He ascertains that Trayvon did not tell DeeDee he was going to hit the man or confront him. Then he asks [~15:51 into the interview, referencing file W8_SA04 04022012.WAV] if Trayvon said the man was coming to hit him. At this point, DeeDee would appear to drastically undermine her credibility:
DeeDee: [very quietly] Yeah. You could say that.
SA d l R: I don’t want you to guess. Did he ever say that?
DeeDee: [after long pause, still quietly] How he said it, he just…
SA d l R: [interrupting] No, no. Do you understand? Did he say that or not? If he didn’t, that’s alright…
DeeDee: The man, he got problems. Like he crazy.
SA d l R: Trayvon told you that?
DeeDee: Yeah the man lookin crazy. Looking at him crazy.
SA d l R: When did Trayvon tell you that?
DeeDee: …He was walkin, before he say he was gonna run….
SA d l R: He said the guy looks what?
DeeDee: Crazy. And creepy.
[Overall, it’s clear that DeeDee means Trayvon made this remark while GZ was still in his vehicle.]
From the defense point of you, it would seem that DeeDee is on the verge of perjuring herself here, indicating to de la Rionda that she is willing to go on the record as saying Trayvon reported GZ was preparing to attack him. De la Rionda gets quite energized in getting her not to do this, but she still doesn’t provide a simple answer to his question — ‘No Trayvon didn’t say the guy was coming to hit him.’ She insists on saying something disparaging of Zimmerman, going back in time to a remark Trayvon made quite some time earlier in the conversation.
Another point that is sure to come up: back at 11:28 in the recording, when DeeDee says “somebody bumped Trayvon,” she actually stumbles over her words first. More precisely she says, “You could hear that Trayvon b…, somebody bumped Trayvon.” No doubt, Zimmerman’s advocates will claim this is a Freudian slip, that the “truth” that Trayvon bumped Zimmerman almost escaped DeeDee’s lips before she ‘corrected’ herself. However, listening to this young woman struggle to express herself clearly, it’s certainly possible that she just got tongue-tied here….
Except that she also stumbles at this point in her interview with Crump. This is one of the clear soundbites included in the ABC interview. “Somebody pushed… Then somebody pushed Trayvon cause the headset just fell.” So it’s unclear whether she’s talking about one push or two. Put this together with “You could hear that Trayvon b…, somebody bumped Trayvon” and it’s reasonable to suspect that she actually interpreted what she heard as Trayvon making the first physical contact, and is now trying to cover that up.
The previous exchange with de la Rionda is certainly more disturbing. In DeeDee’s ‘defense’ I’d note that she is not at all sophisticated, and this part of the interview sticks out like a sore thumb. She goes all sotto voce and a little coy with “Yeah. You could say that.” which is a marked departure from her tone in the rest of the conversation. If the pauses and tone of voice in this passage are indicative of a willingness to lie, the bulk of the conversation shows no similar calculation or wariness.
But there is one other oddity. In my little summary above, I did not include DeeDee’s mentions of “He said he put his hoodie on,” because they just seem so irrelavant. But she does mention this more than once in each interview, and the more I think about it, the more odd it seems. Why would Trayvon mention this, and why would DeeDee remember it? It was a drizzly day. We see trayvon in the 7-11 with the hoodie on and the hood up. Why would he take the hoodie off? Or if this refers to merely putting the hood down or up without removing or puttin-on the sweatshirt itself, why would it take so prominent a place in DeeDee’s narrative, which leaves out so much other key detail?
One significant difference between her interview with de la Rionda and her interview with Crump is that she tells de la Rionda about hearing Trayvon say “Get off, Get off,” something she did not mention to Crump. But she doesn’t volunteer this detail to de la Rionda, either. He has to ask her specifically, “what did you hear” between the bump and phone cutting off, more than once, before DeeDee mentions hearing “Get off.” This would seem to be why de la Rionda asks the follow up questions as to whether she’s sure she heard it and sure it was Trayvon, to which she replies with a firm affirmative. [This is at ~12:39, well before the “Yeah. You could say that,” part.
So, putting these potential controversies aside for the moment, what can we glean from DeeDee statement, beyond the two main points noted well above? Alas, not much. Her wording is vague, and de la Rionda either fails to press her for details, or is unable to get clarification. It is abundantly clear that she has no sense of time passing, and relates some things out of order. She would appear to place Trayvon putting his hoodie on at at least three different times. But that’s typical of all the witness ataments and 911 calls. People do not recall and relate things in strict chronological order. It’s also clear that she uses the phrase ‘a couple minutes’ to indicate any passage of time, which could have in fact been a few seconds or half an hour. At the beginning of her interview with Crump, he asks her to pick up the story as Trayvon left the 7-11, and to report on what they talked about as he walked home. She replies, in effect ‘it was raining and he went under the awning’ basically skipping over the 15 to 20 minutes it would have taken Trayvon to walk back, enter The Retreat and get to the mailboxes. Likewise, then her references to Trayvon saying he was near his father’s home at some point offer no clear temporal markers.
Nor does her account give us any reliable indication of position or direction of either TM or GZ at any point. The most confounding element of her statetment is the ambiguity of her repeated references to “from the back”, a term she also used with Crump though I cannot make out the context from the poor recording. We do not know if this was Trayvon’s term, or DeeDee’s term for some other way Trayvon would have put things. Shockingly to me, de la Rionda does not ask her what she means by this term. It could mean any number of things, but the two most likely would seem to me, “Trayvon is not going to run until he gets behind the man’s vehicle.” or “Trayvon is going to run down the sidewalk between the backs of the townhomes.” I am leaning toward the former because she also says, “I called him back again, and I said what you doing and he said he walking and this man was still following him behind the car.” The use of “behind the car” here is clearly non-standard English. We know that Zimmerman left his vehicle at 7:11:48, told the operator he was following TM at 7:11:59, and that he had lost sight of Martin by 7:12;12. Martin’s cell log indicates he received the cal from DeeDee at 7:12, which, it is my understanding could indicate any time between 7:12:00 and 7:12;59. So, “following him behind the car” must mean “following him on foot away from the car.” So, on one hand DeeDee is clearly using the language of ‘back and behind’ in relation to the vehicle at one point. But on the other hand, she’s not using the language of ‘back and behind’ in a precise directionally descriptive way.
I have long held that one of the important facts that remains a mystery is whether Trayvon fled from Zimmerman down Twin Trees Lane, or down the sidewalk between TTL and Retreat View Circle. the reference to “from the back” as a “more easier” route home would seem to support the sidewalk hypothesis. However, by her account Trayvon never reaches home, and is still out of breath when Zimmerman re-engages him. Had TM run down the sidewalk, he would have reached the Green’s back porch in between 19-32 seconds, depending on where he started from and how fast he was running. That would put him next to home no later than 7:12:22. That’s a minute and 10 seconds before Zimmerman hangs up with the SPD, which ought to be enough time for a football player to recover his wind after a short sprint, and GZ probably didn’t re-engage TM for at least another minute or so after that anyway. Thus, for TM to have been too winded to run at the point DeeDee reports he says GZ is closing on him, it would be highly probable he had to have been running farther and for a longer time than an escape down the sidewalk would have required.
Of course, I have no idea what actually accounts for this discrepancy. TM could have been lying to DeeDee, mixing bits of truth with bits of BS (perhaps ‘white lies’ to keep her from freaking out), or not telling her the complete truth. DeeDee could be confused about the time and place details. DeeDee could be making stuff-up, mixing bits of truth with bits of BS. Or she could be unable to separate here memories from things she had heard via the media.
There has been a lot of speculation from Team George that Benjamin Crump coached DeeDee, or that the Crump firm and the Martin family somehow poisoned her testimony. As crappy as the audio is, the recording of Crump’s interview pretty effectively dispels that hypothesis. (Though much of DeeDee’s end of the interview is unintelligible, Crump’s words are easily recognizable.) It is, as I noted in the earlier post, a telephone interview. Crump had not met DeeDee in person. He had spoken to her earlier in the day by phone to find out what she had to say, and to arrange a time to call back for the official interview to be recorded. He has considerable difficulty communicating with her, they seem to be quite unfamiliar with one another, and Crump seems to be on pins and needles most of the time. Crump breaks off the interview to switch to another phone because he has difficulty hearing DeeDee. At that point the recording continues for awhile, picking up the conversation in the room. Several voices offer opinion on the poor sound and what to do about it. A voice that appears to be Matt Gutman of ABC News says: “Maybe she’s got a land line.” Crump replies: “No we can’t do that. We strugglin to get this now… [indistinct words] which I got to get recorded. And god bless for doing what we could do so far to get.” I interpret this to mean it took Crump considerable time and effort to locate DeeDee, and to convince her parents to allow her give a statement, and that he is quite fearful that consent will be withdrawn and he will lose DeeDee as a witness altogether. Again, to the limited extent that DeeDee’s words can be made out in the Crump interview, there is no indication of substantial changes between what she told Crump and what she later told de la Rionda, which would indicate that she was not ‘coached’ by any of the parties prior to that interview as well, and that if any non-accidental distortions exist in her remarks they are either of her own design, or due to the influence of her own circle of family and friends, or possibly impressions she absorbed from media accounts.
While I certainly do not have enough information to conclude that DeeDee’s account is distorted, 1) the repeated stumbles on who pushed first, 2) the “Yeah, You could say that.” 3) and the odd emphasis on the hoodie certainly open up a reasonable possibility that she is twisting things. We have to remember that the hoodie was THE meme for the Martin case at one point. ‘The kid got shot because he was wearing a hoodie!’ There was the ‘million hoodie march’ and all the ‘I wear a hoodie’ protests. No criminal investigator, or experienced attorney on any side, would consider Trayvon’s hoodie, however symbolic, to be a significant piece of evidence. But a (frankly not all that bright) 16 year old who’s been watching a lot of TV and reading lots of stuff on the web might think it’s the most important thing in the world.
So, my revised conclusion is that DeeDee will not make a good witness for the prosecution. Not only is she too vague, but she is far too exposed to impeachment. Perhaps the prosecutors can find a way to negotiate around the vulnerabilities I have noted, though I would imagine that would be difficult and very risky. If DeeDee testifies, and the defense effectively undermines her credibility, that will hurt the prosecution case more than her testimony would help it. But if Corey does not call DeeDee to testify, the press will certainly be screaming, “WHERE’S DEEDEE?” though perhaps this would not reach the jury.
I expect that whatever distortions DeeDee may have incorporated into her account will pale before the likely falsehoods and distortions that will be included in George Zimmerman’s statements to the police, once those are revealed. But this is real life, not an episode of House, and we cannot just make the cynical observation that ‘everybody lies’ and go about our business.
On TV and in the movies, especially in CSI-type police procedurals, the more you dig, the more clarity you obtain. But in real life, digging often just makes something you (foolishly) thought was crystal clear just get muddier. If you want clean narrative resolution, you change the channel. If you really do want truth, you hang in there.