By Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner, Orlando Sentinel
7:21 PM EDT, June 21, 2012
The day after he killed Trayvon Martin, an unflappable George Zimmerman with bandages on his head walked down the sidewalk where he shot the unarmed teen, acting out the night’s events for police.
The video re-enactment is a key piece of show-and-tell evidence in one of the most-watched criminal cases in the country, and one of many elements released by Zimmerman’s lawyer in a surprise move Thursday.
The slew of evidence included hours of recorded interrogations by police, the written statement Zimmerman gave the night of the shooting and a video of a voice stress analysis test — the rough equivalent of a lie detector test.
But what does the evidence tell us about whether Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder?
“There are no bombshells,” said Bill Sheaffer, legal analyst for WFTV-Channel 9. “There is no smoking gun.”
Most of what Zimmerman said had already been made public: Travyon approached him from behind, punched him, knocked him to the ground, began pounding on him and when the teenager reached for the gun Zimmerman wore on his hip, the defendant beat him to it.
“I just grabbed my firearm and shot him one time,” Zimmerman said on the re-enactment video.
But Orlando attorney Diana Tennis says the evidence is helpful to the defense, because it offers a compelling alternative story line other than that Zimmerman is a racist who stalked a teenage boy and killed him.
“He sounds like a pretty reasonable-sounding guy who explained this bad thing that happened,” she said.
If prosecutors cannot produce evidence that Zimmerman initiated the fight – and a state investigator testified on April 20 that it can not – “I think the state’s really in trouble,” Tennis said.
Prosecutors and Sanford police have said there were “inconsistencies” in Zimmerman’s account. On Thursday, Martin family attorney Ben Crump pointed out one: Zimmerman admitted to a police dispatcher that he was following Trayvon but later changed his story.
Sheaffer called that element alone legally insignificant.
Prosecutors, he said, will have to hope that small inconsistencies add up to a credibility problem for jurors. The defense, he said, will attribute any deviations to “the frailty of the human mind.”
One new detail revealed by the re-enactment: Zimmerman said he didn’t know at first that his single shot had struck Trayvon. He said the teen sat up after the blast and said, “You got me,” but Zimmerman took that to mean Trayvon was giving up.
Before the shot, Zimmerman said, Trayvon had overpowered him and was beating his head against the sidewalk.
“It felt like my head was going to explode. I thought I was going to lose consciousness,” Zimmerman said.
The re-enactment is the most dramatic of several pieces of evidence released Thursday by Zimmerman’s lawyers.
They also released video of him taking — and passing — a voice stress test. And they released eight pieces of police-recorded audio, all examples of Zimmerman talking to and cooperating with the authorities.
In one, three days after the shooting, Sanford police Investigator Chris Serino challenged Zimmerman, pointing out several inconsistencies.
Zimmerman’s injuries, the cuts and bruises to his head, were less serious than he would expect, Serino said. There were no significant injuries to Zimmerman’s hands, something you would expect if someone were in a fight. And if Trayvon really had slammed the defendant’s head into the sidewalk several times, Serino said, that would have produced a skull fracture.
Trayvon’s hands also were undamaged, except for one small scrape, Serino pointed out.
One of the biggest inconsistencies was Zimmerman’s change in explanation about why he got out of his Honda Ridgeline.
He told a police dispatcher moments before the confrontation that he was following Trayvon but in later interviews with police, he said something else.
“I walked to find the street name, to find a street sign,” Zimmerman said.
Asked Serino: “How do you not know the three streets in your neighborhood [where] you've been living for three years?”
Zimmerman said he has a bad memory and suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Serino also asked why Zimmerman didn't tell the teen he was with the Neighborhood Watch. If he'd identified himself, Serino said, Zimmerman “probably wouldn't be here right now.”
Arelis Hernandez contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-650-6394. email@example.com or 407-420-5171.
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