Thoughts after week 1 of the Zimmerman trial
Trying to put the witness testimony together (and I admit I lost concentration for parts of it and haven’t reviewed the YT videos of the trial) here’s what I have so far:
We can be pretty sure that TM was lying face down with his hands under his body, with GZ on top of him, at some point after the gunshot, and that GZ got up and walked away from this position. We cannot say, from witness testimony, what position the two men were in at the time of the gunshot or in the seconds leading up to it. Jayne Surdyka seems to be the only witness who may have been observing the scene at the moment of the shot, but her memory of that instant is confused. She testified she was on the phone with 911 when the shot went off, and we know she was not. She also testified that TM was lying face down at the moment of the shot, and we know that that is impossible. So she seems to have projected the sight of TM lying face down when GZ got up back in time in her memory. Assuming that John Good is now telling something resembling the truth, it would seem he only saw the beginning of the struggle. If Jenna Lauer was able to clearly hear him yelling at TM and GZ, then his voice ought to be audible in her 911 call if he did so during the call. It’s not, so we can conclude he had already turned away and headed upstairs with his fiance before Lauer’s call connected, meaning Good did not see any of the 45 seconds leading up to the gunshot.
Thus based on witness testimony alone, it would seem that the State has enough to establish GZ’s statements about the shooting are false, but not enough to disprove self-defense BRD. GZ can admit that either Trayvon rolled over after the shot, or that he rolled him over, and that he got on top of the youth’s body believing he still needed to restrain him. However, he could still maintain that he was underneath TM and in fear for his life when he fired. Establishing that he made statements about events after the gunshot does not prove the state of events at the time of the shot. At the same time, Good’s testimony does not help the Defense establish a positive case for self-defense, since the State should be able to argue effectively that whatever he saw was not proximate enough to the shot, or the screams for that matter, to be telling.
Even if the jury accepts Rachel Jeantel’s account that GZ approached TM rather than TM assaulting GZ, that would not in-and-of-itself disprove the self-defense claim. Even if GZ started the physical confrontation, since he had injuries (however small) and TM had none, the Defense can argue that GZ was merely trying to restrain TM until the police arrived, and TM was the physical aggressor once they tumbled to the ground. GZ may be able to morph his story from “He bashed my head into the sidewalk, punched me repeatedly, and tied to smother me,” into “After I fell to the ground I was dazed and it FELT LIKE he was bashing my head into the sidewalk, beating my face, and trying to smother me. If there’s none of my DNA on his hands, maybe he didn’t actually do all that. Maybe he was just flailing his arms out at me, and just banged me around a little bit in doing so. Maybe that’s possible. But I’m telling you THAT’S WHAT IT FELT LIKE AND I WAS TRULY IN MORTAL FEAR! And maybe he wasn’t reaching for my weapon. Maybe he just brushed my side by accident. But I was sure he was going for the gun, and even if I’d thought about it, which I didn’t, that wasn’t a chance I could take, now was it?!” Of course, GZ himself is unlikely to take the stand and say any of this, but surely his attorneys could float such a line of argument in their closing statement.
I’m not saying I think such a tack would necessarily work and GZ will be acquitted. I’m saying there’s a CHANCE that if the State can’t nail the case with forensics it might work well enough to result in a hung jury if not an outright acquittal.
(It’s not easy for the prosecution to meet it’s burden in a big trial. I watched most of the O.J. trial, and when all was said and done I didn’t think the State met it’s burden, and I thought the jury brought back a reasonable verdict. I didn’t follow the Anthony case, but from I read and heard about it afterward I think that verdict was reasonable as well, as in ‘Okay, you proved BRD that Casey is a lying psycho bitch, and I don’t think she’s INNOCENT, but since you didn’t even have a cause of death, and couldn’t prove that the damn duct-tape you went on and on about wasn’t applied post-mortem by the loony-tunes guy that found Caylee’s body in an area that had already been searched, you didn’t prove BRD that Casey did it, and I’m gonna have to hold my nose and vote Not Guilty.’)
A very steep burden of proof still lies with the prosecution, FL law seeming to not have the sort of “affirmative defense” requirements for self-defense claims common in other states. Thus, with the witness testimony as inconclusive as it is regarding the actual gunshot, it seems to me the State’s case for Murder 2, or even Manslaughter, will depend almost entirely on forensics: the trajectory of the bullet through TM’s body and the potential inconsistency of this this with GZ lying on the ground and TM straddled atop him; the bullet holes in the clothing establishing that GZ had a hold of TM’s hoodie at the time of the shot per LLMPapa’s analysis; GZ’s lack of anything resembling life-threatening injuries; the path of the blood trails on the back of his head, and so on. The only non-forensic evidence that seems to definitively belie the claim of self-defense — i.e. GZ’s claim of fear for his life at the moment he pulled the trigger — is the identification of the screams as Trayvon’s by his friends and family, and the marked difference between the screams and GZ’s recorded exemplar. This will, of course, be somewhat offset by everyone who knows GZ claiming the screams belong to him…
Have I missed anything so far? (I mean, folks at the Lounge can think that GZ’s lies and circumstantial evidence alone will bring a sure conviction, but I don’t think they’re capable of putting aside their wishful thinking and seeing this case through a cold objective light reflecting off a real Florida jury in a real Florida courtroom…)
It seems to me that that the evidence of the clubhouse videos, the map-and-watch evidence that proves GZ’s statements and “re-enactment” to be false, the possible evidence of a ‘tip-off’ that may lie in GZ’s phone records… all go to proving ill-will on his part, and mendacity of course, but that these are not elements that establish criminal homicide itself, only that establish the depraved mind necessary for a Murder 2 conviction as opposed to manslaughter once self-defense is dis-proved BRD.
For as vile as I consider George Zimmerman to be, I still cannot imagine him setting out that evening to shoot anyone. My basic theory of the crime remains the same: GZ was alerted to the presence of an unidentified young black male in a hoodie “acting suspiciously” by some other resident of RATL (or possibly Mark Osterman, but unlikely). His judgement clouded and his anger piqued by alcohol, GZ set out to make sure THIS asshole didn’t get away. This time, damnit, he wasn’t going to be passive and wait for the cops to come since they’re always too late. Knowing damn well he wasn’t supposed to, he got out of his car to follow TM through the back walkways of the complex, and knowing damn well Sean Noffke’s “we don’t need you to do that” meant ‘don’t do that!’, he was going to track that fucking coon anyway if he could. He didn’t give up when he lost sight of TM, probably because he knew TM hadn’t reached the back gate, and he kept searching. His adrenaline really started to pump when he spied TM again, and this time… this time the kid didn’t run. The tension built inside GZ’s head and his chest as he got closer and closer. Then the kid turned around and verbally challenged HIM! No sir, that’s not the way it goes, Asshole! YOU answer to ME! So GZ retorted, and not politely, “What are you doing around here!” As I’ve said before, my guess is that GZ probably got up in TM’s face, and TM pushed him away, at which point GZ grabbed him, they went down to the ground and the “wrestling” began. Regardless of exactly what happened, the over-arching driver of the conflict was that GZ expected TM to bend sharply to his will, and TM wasn’t having any of that shit from a pervert Crazy Ass Cracker. But GZ was incapable of imagining how he might have appeared to TM. How dare this Asshole push me! How dare he get me down on the ground and soil my spiffy red jacket in the wet grass! I will show him my bouncer mojo! So GZ grabs one of TM’s flailing limbs, and bends his wrist, elbow, or shoulder into a position of excruciating pain. Surely this will make this asshole coon yield to my authoritah! But no, he struggles still, and he’s screaming like a banshee when he should shut the fuck up and give up! And then, at some point well into the screaming, I think Trayvon gets his left hand free and somehow gets one decent pop onto the right side of GZ’s nose. Nowhere near hard or on target enough to break the nose, or even to skin TM’s knuckles, but just good enough to sting (and cause some swelling). At that point GZ’s rage bubbles over, he pulls his Kel-tec, sticks it right into the chest of Trayvon’s hoodie and pulls the trigger.
Now, I’m sure many of my dozen or so readers on this blog may think events “went down” differently than I’ve hypothesized above. Regardless, the key question seems to me, what can the State establish BRD about Zimmerman’s actions in the 60 seconds leading up to the gunshot? I doubt they can prove my scenario, or any other. If GZ did have TM in a pain inducing hold, there is no forensic evidence of it AFAIK. GZ wasn’t tested for drugs or alcohol. Etc. Etc.
When all is said and done, even if there are holes in the prosecution’s forensic evidence, the jury might well be convinced that GZ is such a conniving sociopathic rotter that they’ll convict him anyway. But it’s hardly a sure thing. I sure hope BDLR and crew have some bitchin’ forensics lined up, because even without SYG, Florida really seems to stack the deck in favor of self-defense claims (and that too traces back to our good friends in the NRA and ALEC, methinks…)