Home > Uncategorized > About that photo of George Zimmerman’s bloody and “broken” nose… part 1

About that photo of George Zimmerman’s bloody and “broken” nose… part 1

This photo of George Zimmerman has now been introduced as evidence in his trial. At least two witnesses have already testified that it offers a “fair and accurate” representation of how Zimmerman appeared after Trayvon Martin was shot, but before the paramedics attended to him. This worries me, and I have to wonder if these folks are looking closely, or possibly even lying.


I believe this photo has been altered via digital photo-editing software to make Zimmerman’s injuries appear more serious than they actually were.

In this post, I will discuss the visual elements of the picture that have led to my conclusion. In a follow-up post, I will discuss what may, or may not, happen around this photo at trial. Finally, a third post with deal with more digital photo geek tech stuff relating to evidence of manipulation.

Normally, I don’t engage in conspiracy theories. I mean, history tells us that conspiracies of various sorts do happen often enough, but almost all of the conspiracy theories that float through public discussion are based on wild speculation, wishful thinking, a highly questionable cherry-picking of supporting evidence, and a blind eye to telling counter-evidence… This is especially true of the various CTs that have floated through the blogosphere on both sides of the Martin/Zimmerman case.

Yet I find myself presenting an analysis of this photo that necessarily evokes a very troubling conspiracy. I’ve sat on my thoughts about this for a long time, in the hopes that some authoritative commentary would appear that resolves the questions in my mind. That has not happened.

Let me say up front that I am not a medical professional, and my knowledge of facial injuries is limited to that of a moderately well-educated lay person who has done some additional Internet research on facial anatomy. I would like nothing more than for a physician who really knows this stuff to comment on my analysis, and tell me whether they think I’m on to something, or I’m totally off the mark, and explain why in either case.

On December 3rd, 2012  the Defense in the George Zimmerman case released this color photo of Zimmerman taken the evening the defendant shot and killed Trayvon Martin. According to official State documents, the photo was taken by Officer Michael Wagner of the Sanford Police at  7:31PM on the evening of February 26, 2012. Zimmerman had been taken into custody by SPD officer Timothy Smith, handcuffed and placed in the back seat of Smith’s squad car. Zimmerman had not yet been seen by the paramedics, who would later clean up and dress his wounds. Wagner took the photo with his personal iPhone4. According to the records, he took the phone home, uploaded the photo to his computer, erased it from the phone, and then forgot that he had it. He claims he only remembered having the photo some three weeks later when the investigators on the case mentioned that they had no pictures of Zimmerman’s injuries before he was attended to by the EMTs. On March 18th, 2012, Wagner turned the photo over to the investigators via email.

A poor quality Black and White version of the picture had been included in the Prosecution’s first evidence dump in May of 2012, going by largely without notice.


However, when the color version shown above was released, the blogosphere soon issued forth a good number of comments opining that the picture had been “Photoshopped,”. I was initially more than skeptical of these claims, especially since most of what these posts pointed to as evidence of manipulation could easily be explained by the camera angle, lighting, or the characteristics of the cell-phone camera with which it was taken.

But then a post by Tzar on the Frederick Leatherman Law Blog drew my attention to the contours of Zimmerman’s nose in the photo. There’s something about the nose that just doesn’t look right. I began to look at the appearance of the nose in more detail.  I wound up concluding that it could not appear as it does here without the photo having been doctored.

This is not a trivial matter. Although the photo was released to the public by the Defense, it had been given to them by the Prosecution. Thus, the only persons who had had access to the photo before it’s initial passage from the State to the Defense team, the only persons who would have been in a position to alter it, are members of the Sanford Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the States Attorney’s office. As such, if the photo has indeed been manipulated, then some public official has been tampering with evidence in a criminal investigation, not for the sake of securing an unjust conviction, but in an attempt to aid the accused in beating the rap. Serious shit, to say the least.

To my eye, the primary evidence of falsification comes from comparing this photo to other photos of Zimmerman that were taken by a police photographer at the Sanford Police Station around 11:20PM on the might of the shooting

Here is how Zimmerman appears in one of those photos for comparison.


Below are the noses from the two photos placed side by side. The Wagner nose is on the left, the SPD nose on the right.


The Wagner photo shows swelling on the right side of Zimmerman’s nose (the left side of the nose in the picture). This swelling is not present in the pictures taken at the police station. But let’s say for the moment that a swelling of this nature could have subsided back to normal over the course of almost four hours. But look at the bridge of Zimmerman’s nose, between his eyes and just below.

The structure of the human nose is made up of three different kinds of material.


The bridge, the top of the nose, is a thin layer of skin over the facial bones that form the front of the skull. You can feel this by pressing the bridge of your own nose. It’s solid bone under there. Below that, bone gives way to cartilage, forming the septum and the upper flare of the nostrils. The lower parts of the nostrils are really no more than skin and fat.

My problem with the Wagner photo, in a nutshell, is that it appears to show serious damage to the bones forming the bridge of the nose, and I cannot imagine that any displacement and deformation of actual bone could heal and return to normal appearance within 4 hours, at least not without major medical intervention.

It would be one thing if we were just talking about some sort of swelling here. But the bridge of Zimmerman’s nose is narrower in the Wagner photo than in the SPD photos. This cannot be explained by camera angle or lighting variations. Compare the right side of the nose bridge (again, the left side of the photos as you look at them here) in the side by side photos, starting from the position of the small wound toward the top right of the septum.

You may note that the wound seems to be in a different vertical position in the two photos. This is just a result of the pictures being taken from a different vertical angle in relation to the plane of Zimmerman’s face. What we’re looking for is how the wound relates to the slope of the nose from the top of the bridge down to the corner of the eye, the shape of the nose bridge, and it’s overall width.

The Wagner photo, and the photo on the right, were each taken with Zimmerman’s head turned just slightly to his right in relation to the lens, resulting in a bit of foreshortening on the right side of his face, making the fall-off of the right side of nose shorter than that of the left side. (Again, Zimmerman’s right is the left side of the picture as you look at it.)

Let’s look at the discrepancies one by one:

(1) In the screen-right photo, we can see a decent portion of Zimmerman’s nose ridge to the screen left side of the wound, and also see the side of his nose sloping down towards the corner of his eye. In the Wagner photo, the wound seems to be on the very screen-left of the nose ridge, and there is no visible sloping away towards the eye.


(2) Above the wound, in the Wagner photo, the nose bridge curves INWARD to such a degree that it’s edge is closer to the center line than the wound itself. This results in the bridge being dramatically narrower than it is in the other photo, as I’ve already mentioned.


(3) This curve also leads to the Wagner photo showing two dramatic changes of direction in the line of Zimmerman’s nose ridge, whereas this line is perfectly straight in the other photo.


(4) Note the relationship between the corner of Zimmerman’s right eye and the slope of the nose bridge in the Wagner photo as compared to the photo screen-right. In the right-hand photo, that slope goes right to the corner of the eye. In the Wagner photo, where there is no visible slope to speak of, we see some kind of circular fold of skin between the eye and the rising point of the nose.


Finally, here is a split screen of the two photos, showing the different width of the nose bridge. Due to different camera angles, camera perspectives, and focal lengths, the two heads can not be lined up exactly, but I’ve gotten the nose areas as close as i can, using the uninjured left edge of the nose (frame right edge) and the eyebrows as points of reference.


Again, I’m not a Doctor, but — if only from having had my own nose broken badly enough that I had restricted air flow through one nostril that had to be corrected by surgery — I still have some idea about the malleability (or lack thereof) of facial bones.

When I suffered my own broken nose (taking a charge in a pickup basketball game) I was in extreme pain and my schnoz bled like the proverbial stuck pig. Yet the only visible sign after the bleeding stopped was a small bump on the center of the nose ridgeline — apparent really only if you looked for it. I’ve had several friends suffer broken noses as well — including one guy who was sucker punched in a pickup game, had to go to the hospital, and wound up with a kind of facial cast over his nose as a result. And even this guy had nothing remotely like the degree of change in the shape of his nose depicted in the difference between the two photos above — and Zimmerman received no medical treatment for his nose between it appearing all out of whack at 7:31PM and back to normal at 11:20PM.

In sum, with my lay person’s understanding, I just do not see how these two photos can come from the same universe.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. ic2fools
    June 29, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    Excellent work, I appreciate all what you have done. Thank you! I wish you were an expert witness.

    • June 29, 2013 at 11:35 PM

      Thanks, but I’m not qualified to talk about facial injuries in court. I certainly don’t know enough to say I’m right about this with anything like 100% confidence. I’m just putting my observations out there for what they’re worth. That’s why I hope some real medical expert on facial injuries will see this post and offer a more informed opinion, one way or the other.

      (FWIW, I do think I could offer some useful “expert” testimony about the clubhouse videos, in terms of technical things relating to lenses, resolution, contrast and compression that explain what kinds of things show up in the image, how they appear, what DOESN’T show up, and so on. But I couldn’t really explain how the original light-event analysis was generated at an “expert witness” level. tchoupi would have to do that. Not that we have any indication the State has this stuff on their radar, or that they’ve even bothered to sync all the 911 calls, or even do the basic map-and-stopwatch stuff on GZ’s statements and re-enactments…)

  2. ic2fools
    June 29, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    addition: an expert witness to testify at this trial.

  3. ada4750
    June 29, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    I like very much your introduction about conspiracies and your own. One obvious thing is more a conspiracy theory involves people (or time) less likely it is. So if somebody touched the photo, likely not many persons know it. But, how many people already testify that the picture is authentic? 4-5 6 maybe.

    In an other hand, it is so easy and without any risk to testify the picture is real even is something looks funny. Actually the risk is much greater to say that picture is not authentic.

    I agree that the bridges look different. Would i bet my shirt? No.

    Is there any technical way to tell if a photo (any photo) has been touched? Any informatics way? Any mathematics algorithm? Never heard of any.

    Having said that, i didn’t know a swollen nose can heal so fast. That’s an other question BDLR should have asked the physician assistant. Maybe he will later.

  4. racerrodig
    June 29, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    Well done. I believe it is photo shopped, and even though it was allegedly taken by Wagner and produced by the defense, it has no actual “chain of evidence” documentation and would never be allowed as evidence in a court in NJ. Never….civil or criminal.

    Another obvious gaffe is that there is a scratch above the tip of his nose in the Wagner photo but the same scratch has moved to a point well below the tip of his nose in the police picture.

    Here’s another obvious problem. On the Wagner picture the birthmark on the right side of his face (left on photo) is well above the upper middle peak of his mustache. The birthmark is below this marker on the SPD picture and the angle of the camera will not change that.

    It also looks like the shape of his mustache is different in the two pictures. On the Wagner picture his mustache does not have the upper part trimmed so it is thinner and it is clearly trimmed in the SPD picture.

    • June 29, 2013 at 10:14 PM

      Sorry racer, but I don’t think the things you’ve noted are telling.
      I don’t think the mark above the tip of his nose in the Wagner pic is actually a scratch. It might be a little bit of dried blood, or a spec of some sort of debris.
      The camera angle relative to the plane of the face WILL affect the apparent location of the birthmark, and also the apparent height of his mustache.
      And there’s no reason for anyone to fake any of these things.
      While I can imagine how a genuine photo of GZ taken in Smith’s squad car could be altered, I cannot imagine how such an image could be fabricated from scratch, via compositing of photos taken at some other time and place, which is what you seem to be implying.

      One issue I’ll discuss in part 3 is that the Wagner photo appears to be slightly anamorphic — i.e. in the wrong aspect ratio — stretched about 3% vertically, making Zimmerman’s head seem a bit narrower than it actually is. This, along with the camera angle, would make his mustache appear taller top to bottom than it does in the SPD pic, which is both in the correct aspect ratio and also taken along GZ’s forward eyeline, rather than from well above. This anamorphic distortion is a significant clue for me, since there’s no way it could happen by accident, But that’s a matter for another post (and one I may not finish for awhile…)

  5. Gracie
    June 30, 2013 at 5:32 AM

    Could someone compare these two photos to another photo of GZ taken when his nose was normal? Maybe the bridge swelled up later?

  6. June 30, 2013 at 11:14 AM


  7. June 30, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Hi whonose…I love your work for Trayvon’s Justice. Please look at the sight of the Keltek9. It looks like it could have made the two pinprick holes on gz’s nose.

    • June 30, 2013 at 3:34 PM

      Interesting. The spacing does appear to be quite similar…

  8. June 30, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Absent a subpoena and a search warrant and the actual computer used to make a fake photo, and an expert witness to testify to the forensic evidence I’m doubtful that a fakery could be proved in this court. And I don’t see that happening. The Special prosecutor needs the SPD to appear to be not corrupt in order for the jury to buy the evidence they collected.

  9. July 15, 2013 at 4:40 AM

    Whonoze I commend you for your observations and more so for your willingness to raise awareness concerning these issues. There are thousands of people out there questioning the authenticity of the that photo and other photos entered into evidence in the Zimmerman Trial. I am not sure if you commented on the fact that there is digital residue indicative of photoshop manipulation on the photo along the bridge of the nose. It can be seen by simply zooming in to an aspect that shows the area of the nose minus the eyes and mouth. If you zoom in you can see a linear demarcation (a straight line of raster pixels) along the bridge of the nose along with other unnatural demarcations further above. These types of demarcations are consistent with digital manipulations. In addition the abrupt color change near where the upper nose bridge blends toward the brow line is consistent with digital manipulation. The portion of the nose which is supposed to be a representation of a break appears to have been achieved primarily with the Smear Tool (in photoshop) and then color changed / blended (or composited). One can easily tell that the blood on the lip is photoshopped because it has more detail then the rest of the image. Finally, when comparing your side by side photo, the location of the actual skin break is clearly different. For those who may have trouble seeing the difference in location, simply use the point where the corner of Zimmerman’s right eyelid is located relative to the wound in each picture. There is more that I can say about this photo but I think I said enough. Glad to know there are more and more people raising an issue about this photo. The truth about this photo and who all were involved in arranging to have it created and entered into evidence is going to come out sooner than later. I bet someone involved is going to tell the who and what on this any day now. Keep up the good work.

    • 2dogsonly
      August 6, 2013 at 1:40 PM

      Just heard a UK photoshop expert break down a photo. His name is Dennis Purcell. Whonoze, would you be interested in contacting him? I will also attempt, I just think your credentials may get an actual response.

  10. February 4, 2014 at 12:41 AM

    Reblogged this on Mysterious Observations and commented:

    Yeah, this “broken nose” was supposed to have been the result of 12-20 blows rained down upon him! Maybe in a zero gravity environment. Think Moon or Mercury!

  1. March 18, 2014 at 7:06 PM

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