Prudential Considerations, Canons of Construction, and Other Mechanisms of Judicial Receivership

In United States v. Windsor, there is one aside from Justica Scalia’s dissent, written in his trademark snarky fashion, which particularly stands out to me. Scalia, describing himself as being “wryly amus[ed]” (and by which he means “impotently furious”) at the majority’s approach to Article III’s case-or-controversy requirement, makes the following observation:

(Relegating a jurisdictional requirement to “prudential” status is a wondrous device, enabling courts to ignore the requirement whenever they believe it “prudent”—which is to say, a good idea.)

How very true. Alas, where was this Scalia in Kiobel? I seem to recall that, in that particular instance, he was quite content to join in with a majority opinion which happily forsook jurisdictional limitations, in favor of a mercurial, and curiously flexible, rule of statutory interpretation. And I can’t help but find this faintly hypocritical. At least when it comes to prudential standing, the Court is being perfectly honest about whose whim it is following. As opposed to the polite fiction now known as the presumption against extraterritoriality, which permits the Court to aver that it is merely following the whims of the legislature — after having ascertained those whims, of course, through the application of its own esoteric art.

But then again, I suppose Scalia always does save the mocking, legal realist jibes for his dissents. It often seems that his formalism is reserved solely for those occasions on which his opinion gets enough votes to be the majority.

-Susan

p.s. Someone should tell Scalia that citing reverently to Justice Taney in a civil rights decision is probably a bad idea.

Closing arguments haven’t been made yet, but after

Aside

Closing arguments haven’t been made yet, but after the close of Zimmerman’s defense, my prediction is a manslaughter conviction, by a slight margin, with acquittal the next most likely option, and Murder 2 trailing as the least likely result. Call it a 45/40/15 split.

As far as I am aware, Zimmerman’s defense didn’t present any testimony or evidence concerning how the fight started. Their entire story of the shooting starts about halfway through the fight — call it the “Zimmerman is a fat and slow Dudley Do-Right who was getting his butt kicked” defense. Which is kind of a double edged sword for Zimmerman, because it means his case didn’t introduce any evidence that Trayvon started the fight. It’s counting on the jury to focus on the fact that, at the moment of the shooting, Zimmerman may have genuinely been in fear for his life — while steering the jury away from closely examining his conflicting police statements. The defense’s story is that Zimmerman is bumbling and quixotic, but too inept to be culpable for any harm that resulted.

So if there’s a conviction, it’s more likely to be manslaughter. The state’s strongest case for Murder 2 was always being able to show that Zimmerman intentionally deceived investigators about how the fight started, and that he used his knowledge of self-defense law to deliberately craft a story about why he was justified in killing Trayvon. But since the defense opted to avoid all together Zimmerman’s statements about who threw the first punch, Zimmerman’s veracity didn’t really come into play. The jury could buy that Zimmerman is a reckless fool, who was oblivious of his own limitations and too in love with the idea of playing the hero, but the state wasn’t able to show Zimmerman as calculating and malicious.

In a nutshell: if the jury believes Rachel Jeantel testified truthfully about what she heard on the phone that night, Zimmerman will be convicted of manslaughter. If they’re unsure of what she heard, then the odds are much less likely.

-Susan

Zimmerman’s Statements are the Defense’s Own Worst Enemy

As I discussed in my previous post, there are two plausible scenarios that fit the undisputed evidence in the Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman’s defense is now presenting their case in support of scenario 1: that Trayvon decided to commit murder and beat Zimmerman to death with his bare hands, as revenge for Zimmerman having “disrespected” Trayvon. In making their case, however, Zimmerman has two problems they face. The first is that there is very little they can do to directly disprove the prosecution’s case, as the prosecution’s evidence is largely circumstantial and based on known parts of the record. The second is that the evidence of their version of events all comes from a single witness, George Zimmerman himself — and there are so many points of question and confusion over his testimony that it is difficult, if not outright impossible, to accept his version as being wholly accurate. The prosecution’s job will therefore be to argue that even if Zimmerman’s story cannot be completely relied upon, it reliable enough to create doubt to prove one central point: that perhaps Zimmerman doesn’t know what happened that night, but the events were so confusing that no one else can know either.

I’ve provided below a run-down of the central points for both problems that the prosecution will face.

Reasons to Believe that Trayvon Did Not Try to Murder Zimmerman:

  • There is substantial circumstantial evidence that Trayvon did not have any intent to harm Zimmerman. We know from Zimmerman’s non-emergency call that Trayvon initially tried to evade Zimmerman, not attack him. (Zimmerman later changed his mind about this, but I find his non-emergency call to be more reliable evidence than his after-the-fact statements.) We know from Chad and from the 7-11 video that Trayvon was doing nothing more than returning from the store with some snacks. We also know that Trayvon was on the phone with a friend at the very moment that the fight broke out, and we have the friend’s testimony that (1) Trayvon did not express any aggressive intent towards Zimmerman, and (2) that she believes it to be “retarded”, and not credible, to think that Trayvon would attack Zimmerman mid-phone call without indicating to her his intent.
  • The DNA evidence is incomplete, but the evidence that does exist is wholly consistent with the prosecution’s version of events, and provides no support for Zimmerman’s version . If Trayvon had been fighting desperately with Zimmerman, and used his hands to simultaneously smother, punch, and pound Zimmerman’s head, then there should have been DNA evidence suggestive of this version of events. There was none. It is possible that, by chance, all of the DNA evidence that would support Zimmerman’s story happened to be washed away — but the idea that Trayvon’s long sleeved hoodie had zero DNA from Zimmerman, even on the cuffs, makes the idea that Trayvon was manually smothering Zimmerman’s allegedly bloody nose improbable. In contrast, Trayvon’s DNA was found on the cuffs of Zimmerman’s jacket. (Zimmerman’s blood and DNA was also found in patches on Trayvon’s under shirt, underneath the hoodie, but I’m willing to assume this was from when Zimmerman was patting Trayvon down after the shooting. If it’s not from that, then it would further discredit Zimmerman’s story.)
  • Trayvon’s story only has a single unexplained inconsistency. Trayvon doesn’t have a story. He is dead. But we have Jeantel’s testimony regarding his intentions that night, and, based on her statements, everything about Trayvon’s story is perfectly consistent with the evidence, with one exception. Assuming Zimmerman’s recounting of the direction that Trayvon ran is accurate, Trayvon had time to run home, but was still outside when the fight occurred. Why didn’t he go back inside the house? We’ll never know. We don’t know what explanation Trayvon would give if asked why he didn’t go back, so we cannot evaluate the consistency of that statement. There is zero evidence to support the “Trayvon decided to commit murder” theory, however, other than Zimmerman’s own explanation. But again, even Zimmerman’s version doesn’t require that conclusion — Zimmerman still has no idea why Trayvon was outside when he encountered him, just that he did. And although it is necessarily speculation, there are many possible explanations for why Trayvon was outside of his house that night. Based on the other available evidence, my guess is it had something to do with his phone call to Jeantel. Significantly, Trayvon was on the phone with her that day, and with other people, for an absurd amount of time. But Chad, the 13 year old at the home with him at the time, never noticed Trayvon on the phone, suggesting that all of Trayvon’s phone calls occurred out of the house. Perhaps because Trayvon was unable to get reception inside — we know reception in the area was poor, with all the dropped phone calls on Trayvon’s phone records. Or perhaps because Trayvon didn’t want Chad to hear his phone calls. But even though we can never know why Trayvon was outside, assuming it was because he intended to commit murder is a wholly unsubstantiated leap.
  • The Trayvon-went-out-to-kill-Zimmerman theory has a major problem. Even assuming the revenge fantasy theory were accurate, how on earth did Trayvon find Zimmerman at the “T”? All the available evidence indicates Trayvon had no idea that Zimmerman ever got out of his car. If Trayvon was trying to find Zimmerman, how would he have known to find Zimmerman walking around at the “T”? Zimmerman claims he was on the east prong of the T, on Retreat View Circle, where it is exceedingly unlikely Trayvon could have seen him, based upon Zimmerman’s claim of where both of them were walking — so how did Trayvon find him there? Zimmerman has also said at various times that Trayvon was “laying in wait” for him, but this is not plausible. Trayvon had no idea that Zimmerman would be on foot, or which direction he would be walking in — Trayvon couldn’t have done it even if he’d wanted to, Trayvon didn’t have the time or knowledge of Zimmerman’s movements to pull it off.

The prosecution’s own story is straightforward: all the evidence in the record (saving Zimmerman’s own testimony) contradicts the claim that Trayvon tried to kill Zimmerman that night. In addition to the physical evidence,  the prosecution in this case has crucial evidence that is almost never present in killings that have been claimed to be self-defense: witness testimony concerning Trayvon’s subjective experience of the lead-up to the flight which, if accepted as true, demonstrate that Zimmerman is guilty of a wrongful killing. And finally, perhaps most importantly of all, the prosecution’s story is not contradicted by any physical evidence, and has only a single unexplained question: why did Trayvon not make it back inside his house that night?

But beyond this one question, the prosecution does not have any worries over the physical evidence and witness testimony. None of that evidence contradicts their version of the fight. Nor is there any physical evidence that contradicts the version of events described by Jeantel, in her testimony. In contrast, Zimmerman’s own version of events has dozens of unexplained inconsistencies, and relies upon many implausible assumptions. If Zimmerman had never given any police statements, or media interviews, or statements to friends about what happened, then it is very likely there would be no case to be brought against him at all. But he did speak — and his statements have become the prosecution’s strongest evidence in disproving the otherwise evidence-less claim that Trayvon was the one who tried to commit murder:

Reasons to Question Zimmerman’s Testimony:

  • Trayvon did not circle Zimmerman’s car. Zimmerman states in both written and verbal statements that, during Zimmerman’s non-emergency call, Trayvon “circled” his car, while it was parked on Twin Trees:

DS: Okay. He comes out from where?

GZ: I don’t know.

DS: Okay. All of a sudden you just notice he’s circling your car.

GZ: Yes, ma’am.

Zimmerman is either lying or bizarrely mistaken, because based on the distances and times involved, it is categorically impossible for Trayvon to have circled Zimmerman’s car as Zimmerman describes. There is simply not enough time for this story to be anything close to correct. Those who believe Trayvon randomly decided to kill Zimmerman that night try to excuse this statement as a mere “inaccuracy” caused by “confusion” and “trauma.” That is absurd. If Zimmerman inaccurately recalls Trayvon aggressively circling his car, Zimmerman cannot be considered a reliable witness regarding his claim that Trayvon acted aggressively in their final encounter, because his perception of events is faulty.

  • The “I was looking for an address” story is, technically speaking, total bullshit. Zimmerman has been inconsistent in whether he was looking for an address or a street sign, but it doesn’t matter. He never ended up getting information from either a street sign or an address. He walked right be several visible street addresses on Twin Trees while he was “not following” Trayvon. In order to “fix” this inconsistency, Zimmerman claims he walked across the “T” to get a street sign instead,  on the other side of the road — but if Zimmerman was looking for a street sign instead of an address, then his explanation is even more false, because Zimmerman knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the name of that road was. Because it was Retreat View Circle, the road he lived on, and the same road he knew well enough to refer to addresses by block number in prior calls and e-mails. So even assuming that Zimmerman genuinely forgot the name of Twin Trees, Zimmerman’s story still cannot be correct. Also, even if he didn’t know the name of his own road, there are zero street signs in the direction he was walking — a fact he also had to have known. Although Zimmerman informed the police that “And then I walked straight through to see a street sign and then when I came back obviously [Trayvon] was waiting somewhere,” this has to be a lie. In the time available, Zimmerman could not have walked to a street sign and back, in the direction he was heading, because there was not a street sign where he said he walked and saw a street sign.
  • Even assuming Zimmerman did not know the name of any road in his neighborhood, Zimmerman had no need to give the police an address of where to meet him, because the club house — the initial meeting location — was in sight of where his truck was parked. Zimmerman’s story — that he needed an address to tell police where to meet him — is not a rational explanation, unless Zimmerman had in fact intended to pursue Trayvon, and did not think he would be at his car when police arrived. Because even assuming Zimmerman did not know the name or address of either Twin Trees or Retreat View Circle, Zimmerman had no need for an address of his location — the dispatcher already had an accurate rendezvous location to give to officers. The dispatcher initially suggested “Okay, do you want to just meet with [the police] right near the mailboxes then?”, which is in the direct line of sight of where Zimmerman’s truck was located. If Zimmerman did not intend to move from his truck, this meeting point did not need to be improved upon in the slightest. The only address the dispatcher ever needed was the address of where his car was located, which had already been satisfactorily established.
  • Zimmerman’s claim that he went to find an address at the direction of the police dispatcher is incorrect, because the dispatcher’s request to Zimmerman could not be interpreted as a request to get an address from a different street entirely . The dispatcher did ask Zimmerman at one point “What address are you parked in front of?” and Zimmerman responded “It’s a cut through, so I don’t know the address.” (As it was a cut through, and not a house, then obviously it had no address to be given.) If the police had gone to the mailboxes, though, they’d have been able to see Zimmerman, as discussed above. But Zimmerman’s story is that he walked to a different street to get an address — when, obviously, that address would be useless for directing police to his car. Why was Zimmerman trying to get an address for the dispatcher of a location that had never been discussed, and had never been of interest? Why would Zimmerman get an address of a street his car was not located on, in order to direct police to his car? (Answer: As everyone who listens to the non-emergency call can tell, Zimmerman left the car to follow a running Trayvon. The idea that he left to get an address is a bad retcon on Zimmerman’s part.)
  • Zimmerman’s decision to leave his car to pursue, on foot,  a suspect who was on drugs, committing a criminal act, and who had only seconds before aggressively circled around Zimmerman’s vehicle,  shows that Zimmerman’s judgment was reckless, unreasonable, and bizarre. Zimmerman, by his own words, thought the kid he was following was “on drugs” and “up to no good” and “had his hand at his waistband,” perhaps holding a gun. So Trayvon was high, committing a criminal act, and indicating he had a gun — and Zimmerman gets out of his car and walks into the dark after him. And then stays in the darkened cut through for nearly four minutes. That is beyond foolhardy, it’s insanity. And people think Zimmerman’s decision that he needed to kill Trayvon can be trusted?
  • Trayvon did not say “You got a problem homie.” He just didn’t — that is not what a 17 year old says to some creepy stranger he is about to try to murder. This is a minor point, sure, but it is very telling about Zimmerman’s perception of the situation. Either Zimmerman’s recollection is tainted by his own beliefs of what a murderous thug would say before trying to kill someone, or else Zimmerman is distorting what happened to make it sound like Trayvon was more threatening than he was. Take away that one word, and Zimmerman’s story and Jeantel’s stories match on how the very first part of the fight started, with Trayvon asking “Why are you following me?” Jeantel’s version of how Zimmerman replied certainly seems plausible enough: “What are you doing around here?” Zimmerman’s own version is that, rather than ask the obvious question to Trayvon, he immediately tried to call 911 — but why? Why call 911 because the person he’d been following asks if there is a problem? It doesn’t make sense. Zimmerman wasn’t trying to call 911 when he was punched — because (1) it makes no sense that he’d do that, and (2) the phone was safely in Zimmerman’s pocket after the fight, as discussed in more detail below.
  • Trayvon could not both have sucker punched Zimmerman, and also have had a conversation with him first. Zimmerman has said at various times that Trayvon came out of the “darkness” or “out of the bushes” and punched him with zero warning. Zimmerman also says he didn’t see the punch coming in almost all of his stories. But they had a full three-sentence exchange before the first punch was thrown, according to Zimmerman — that is not a surprise attack. Did Trayvon just politely stand there while Zimmerman said “I don’t have a problem,” and wait for Zimmerman to pull out his phone? And then Trayvon had the presence of mind to get out a glib response, “Well you do now,” before taking a swing? That didn’t happen. And if it didn’t happen, then Zimmerman’s claim that Trayvon ‘came out of the darkness to punch him’ is false.
  • Zimmerman’s claim that he pulled out his cell phone before being punched cannot be accurate. Zimmerman said he pulled his phone out when Trayvon punched him. Zimmerman also says he was pinned on the ground immediately after the first punch. But the phone was still in Zimmerman’s pocket after the shooting. How on earth did Zimmerman manage to put his phone back in his pocket, in the middle of a beat-down? Zimmerman had his phone with him at the police station (along with his gun, which he was given possession of), with the phone apparently in working order, in direct contradiction with this claim:

“I was walking back through to where my car was and he jumped out from the bushes. And he said, “WTF’s your problem, homey?” And I got my cell phone out… to call 911 this time. And I say, hey man, I don’t have a problem. And he was, “No, now you have a problem” and he punched me in the nose. At that point, I fell down[.]“

  • Zimmerman believed Trayvon punched him because “I guess [Trayvon] was upset that I called the police.” Under the version of events Zimmerman provides, there is no possible reason that Zimmerman should believe that Trayvon knew that Zimmerman had called the police. Zimmerman is either making up explanations about why Trayvon allegedly attacked, or there’s something in Zimmerman’s story he’s leaving out. Or else he is completely illogical and has no idea what was going on. (Not to mention — if Trayvon knew Zimmerman had just called the police, why on earth would Trayvon decide to attack him? Knowing that police would be there in moments?)
  • Zimmerman was holding a flashlight in his hands when the fight started, and carried it for forty feet during the course of the fight, but failed to use this weapon to defend himself against an unarmed assailant. Actually, Zimmerman was holding two flashlights — the larger, difficult to turn on flashlight, and the keychain flashlight. (How he managed to pull out a phone to call 911, while standing at the T, when he was holding two flashlights already, is yet another question that is unanswered…) Although the small flashlight was dropped near the T, the larger one was carried nearly forty feet from where Zimmerman says he was first punched. But despite having in his hands a flashlight that he could have used as a weapon, when Zimmerman was attacked by someone only using fists, Zimmerman neither dropped the flashlight to defend himself, nor did he try to use the flashlight as a weapon. This is not a credible story. How does Zimmerman forget he was holding a potential weapon in his hands for at least the first ten seconds of the fight?
  • Zimmerman’s failure to fight back is inexplicable. Zimmerman describes that, during the fight, Trayvon (1) used both hands to cover Zimmerman’s mouth, (2) punched Zimmerman with both hands, and (3) held Zimmerman’s head and slammed it to the ground. Zimmerman does not describe doing anything at all to protect himself through any of this — something he was unquestionably physically capable of. Most bizarrely of all, Zimmerman never even tried to put his hands over his face to stop either the beatings or the smothering .  That is absurd. Instinctively, Zimmerman would have done so, as he was physically able to do so according to his version of events. So why did Zimmerman just lay there and allow the punches to rain down on him, without making even a token effort to prevent them?
  • Zimmerman had no defensive injuries, and Trayvon had no offensive injuries. That’s not possible, if an 80 second near-fatal beat down had actually just occurred, as Zimmerman claims. Unless of course the “fight” was more of a stand-off, with Zimmerman trying to grab the gun and Trayvon trying to prevent it. If there had really been a to-the-death fight going on for that long of duration, both Zimmerman and Trayvon should have had more serious injuries, regardless of who was the aggressor. Zimmerman’s arms and hands should have been bruised, battered, and scratched. Trayvon’s fists should’ve been bloody and ragged. Zimmerman was a physically capable man who had worked as a bouncer — and he was unable to injure the lighter and skinnier Trayvon in the tiniest bit, even in a fight for his life? Zimmerman didn’t even manage to bruise Trayvon with the flashlight he was holding? Or to land a single scratch anywhere on Trayvon’s hands or face or sides? He couldn’t even tear Trayvon’s hoodie, or bite a finger, or punch him in the leg? Dent Trayvon’s knuckle with a tooth? Over a minute of fighting, and Zimmerman just lays there and takes it, and does nothing to protect himself but to “squirm”? Why does Zimmerman fail to react instinctually, by bringing his hands and arms up to cover his face? Why doesn’t Zimmerman ever try to push Trayvon off? Zimmerman was a grown ass man. He’d been a bouncer, wanted to be a police officer, had substantial weight/muscle advantage over his “assailant”. He was calm and collected in his police statements that night. So why did he lay on the ground and accept the beating while only “squirming” to resist?
  • Zimmerman’s injuries are not consistent with having been in a prolonged fist-fight — let alone at the losing end of the fight. Ultimately, Zimmerman’s total lack of defensive injuries is a far more severe problem to Zimmerman’s story, but Zimmerman also lacked the sort of blunt force injuries that he should have sustained, according to his version of events.  The head “wounds” were described by police who saw him that night as “abrasions, not lacerations,” and they were shallow. Medical evidence introduced by the prosecution has stated that Zimmerman’s injuries were insignificant, and the result of no more than a handful of contact injuries. Although Zimmerman has not yet had a chance to introduce his own medical evidence, it is doubtful that Zimmerman will be able to introduce anything particularly dramatic. The swelling on the right side of his nose is entirely gone by the time Zimmerman has his picture taken at the police station, showing it was the result of a mild blow, and the blood on his nose was from two tiny cuts on the nose tip, not a bloody nose. Zimmerman’s facial injuries are consistent with him having received a single punch to the face, and also a single smack to the back of the head. It is possible — if not likely — that Zimmerman’s injuries were caused by as many as four separate blows, but in no event did he receive the dozens of potentially fatal wounds that he claims. The fact Zimmerman was injured is not surprising — there is no doubt that there was a prolonged physical struggle between Trayvon and Zimmerman. But the utter inconsequentiality of those injures shows that Zimmerman’s recounting of the fight is either a deliberate lie, or else the result of Zimmerman’s being completely unable to recall what transpired in the fight.
  • Zimmerman claims that, after he shot Trayvon, he checked Trayvon’s hands because he “thought Trayvon was holding something” — but if Trayvon had actually tried to smother Zimmerman with both hands, Zimmerman would have known for a fact that Trayvon’s hands were empty. Zimmerman was either lying about being smothered, or lying about checking Trayvon’s hands after Trayvon was shot. Or, if Zimmerman is telling the truth as he remembers it, his understanding of the situation was objectively unreasonable and cannot be trusted. Remember, Zimmerman also says he was holding hands with Trayvon at the moment he fired the shot. How could Zimmerman have thought Trayvon was holding anything? Zimmerman is, at best, paranoid and illogical, based on his story of how the fight occurred.
  • Zimmerman probably isn’t dumb enough to forget that he was armed, and only remember that he had a gun when his assailant tried to grab the weapon from him. Zimmerman’s statements to police allege that he was afraid for his life for over 80 seconds, but that he did not remember that he had a weapon until mere seconds before he fired it. Zimmerman claims that he only remembered he had a weapon at all because his assailant became aware of the gun’s presence, and then tried to grab it.  But come on now — does anyone actually think Zimmerman is that stupid? Zimmerman was in a fight for his life. He  had followed a criminal suspect on foot, in the dark, while armed.  But when that suspect attacked him, Zimmerman forgot he had the gun for a minute and a half? And that it didn’t even occur to Zimmerman to defend himself with his gun? ….. People actually believe this?
  • If the screaming on the 911 call was Zimmerman, then there should not have been yelling that could be heard in the seconds before the shot, at a period in time that Zimmerman alleges Trayvon was “smothering” him. Zimmerman’s story on this point is obviously incorrect. It’s possible that Zimmerman genuinely has no accurate memory of the fight, but if that’s the case, then there is no reason that the rest of his memory of events can be trusted to be accurate.
  • If the screaming on the 911 call was Zimmerman, then the yelling should not have stopped simultaneously with the weapon firing. Zimmerman says that he did “not know” that he hit Trayvon, and that he “thought he missed.” If that is the case, then Zimmerman’s yelling had no reason to stop at the split second of the gun shot. Because if Zimmerman thought he missed his shot, then Zimmerman would still have believed he was in mortal peril. But the yelling ceases, ending absolutely, precisely when the gun was fired. If the yelling was Zimmerman, then his fear stopped the second he fired, and his story that he “thought he missed” is extremely implausible.
  • Zimmerman says that after the gun shot, Trayvon said “you got me,” and that Zimmerman thought that Trayvon was indicating to him “okay, I see you have a gun, and I’m giving up now.” This is not consistent with Zimmerman’s story, which is that when Trayvon saw the gun, Trayvon’s reaction was not to ‘give up’ but to say ‘you die tonight motherfucker,’ and try to steal it. And more importantly, why did Zimmerman assume that the fact that he had a gun was news to Trayvon? According to Zimmerman, Trayvon had just tried to steal it from him.
  • Zimmerman says that right before he fired a shot, Trayvon was in the middle of pounding his head into concrete — but the location of Trayvon’s body indicates that, if the two were locked in a struggle at the time of the shooting, it is impossible for Zimmerman’s head to have been in contact with concrete. Trayvon’s body was approximately 5 to 6 feet from the sidewalk. In order for Zimmerman’s story to be true, then after the shooting, Trayvon’s body would have had to have been rolled over three or four times away from where he was actually shot. However, the gun casing was found inches from Trayvon’s head, suggesting he was shot in or close to the location where he was found. There is also no testimony or evidence that suggests, even under a very generous interpretation, that Trayvon was moved more than 2 to 3 feet after his death.
  • Zimmerman isn’t even sure if it was concrete or a sign that Trayvon was bashing his head against. Zimmerman is either lying or is so confused about what happened during the fight that he doesn’t even know what his head was hitting against.  There is in fact a sign, regarding poop scooping, that is located near the “T” and that Zimmerman’s head could have hit during a struggle. And it is easily possible that, if the two were engaged in a moving struggle while both were upright, Zimmerman’s head could have been pushed into the sign, thus explaining the abrasion injuries. This version of events would actually be consistent with all the physical evidence, and it also explains why Zimmerman says it could have been a sign that he was hitting. But the idea that you could confuse being bashed against an upright sign or against a sidewalk is nonsensical. Zimmerman likely dropped the fact that his injuries were received in part by contact with a sign, because it is inconsistent with his “I fell down in one punch” theory.
  • Zimmerman says he went down in one punch, but multiple witnesses saw two figures chasing one another. Either Zimmerman is lying, or multiple witnesses who lived within feet of where the fight occurred — and who gave statements before they even knew who had been killed — are telling the same lie. Given that Zimmerman has stated that the fight traveled at least 40 feet, which necessarily means the fighting involved running and fighting between standing individuals, Zimmerman’s claim that he went down in one punch can be disregarded. This is either a lie, or yet another example that Zimmerman has no reliable knowledge of how the fight occurred.
  • Zimmerman claimed he had no knowledge of Florida’s self-defense ‘Stand Your Ground’ law until after the shooting, but available evidence from teachers, friends, and firearm instructors strongly contradicts this claim.  In addition to the testimony of Zimmerman’s instructors that, contrary to Zimmerman’s claims on Hannity that he had no knowledge of self-defense law, Zimmerman’s initial written statement to police is pretty strong evidence, by itself, that he’d been trained in the legal requirements of self-defense. His statement is pretty much a textbook example of what to say. How convenient, that Trayvon should have “assured” Zimmerman of his intent to kill him, mere moments before Zimmerman made the calculated decision to fire his weapon. Apparently, even though Zimmerman subjectively thought he was about to die from having his head pounded in and having his airway cut off, Zimmerman didn’t even think to use his gun until Trayvon also gave his verbal assurance that he was, in fact, intending to kill Zimmerman.

As I slid the suspect covered my mouth and nose and stopped my breathing. At this point, I felt the suspect reach for my now exposed firearm and said “you gonna die tonight motha fucker.” I unholstered my firearm in fear for my life as he had assured he was going to kill me and fired one shot into his torso.

  • Zimmerman is unsure of when exactly it was that Trayvon said “you’re going to die tonight motherfucker.” Zimmerman was careful to note, in all of his statements, that Trayvon directly informed Zimmerman that Trayvon intended to commit homicide. But Zimmerman is inconsistent about when exactly Trayvon said the magic words. Sometimes, Zimmerman says it’s while Trayvon was smothering him. Sometimes, Zimmerman says it’s while Trayvon has one hand on Zimmerman’s mouth and one hand on the gun. And sometimes, it’s while Zimmerman is holding Trayvon’s hands while Trayvon is touching the holster. Zimmerman’s changing stories about when it was said suggest that it is either a deliberate insertion into the narrative, or that, once again, nothing that Zimmerman says about the fight is reliable:

And he puts his hand on my nose and on my mouth and he says, “You’re gonna die tonight.” And I don’t remember much after that. I just remember, I couldn’t breathe, and then he still kept trying to hit my head against the pavement or…I don’t know if there was a sign or what it was.

  • Zimmerman has never provided a complete explanation of his actions that night. Zimmerman has told his version of the fight many times, but he has never provided a version that can explain for the known timing and duration of the relevant events. Specifically, Zimmerman will not explain: (1) what he did for the two minutes between the end of his non-emergency phone call and the start of the fight, or (2) how the fight covered forty feet between the first punch and the gun shot. Zimmerman’s story (or at least his final version of it) lacks all details on these two points. It is deliberately generic: ‘he punched me, I went down, he bashed my head against concrete, he prevented me from breathing with his hands, I shot him.’ But when even these simple details get contradicted in retellings, or when physical evidence is not consistent with his version, Zimmerman’s defense falls back to the explanation that “his memory is fuzzy” or “he had head trauma” or “he can’t be expected to remember details.” This isn’t a sufficient answer — Zimmerman’s memory is pretty great concerning a lot of details that night, so why is it only the crucial ones he cannot recall? And that is probably the most decisive point, for me: if Zimmerman cannot explain, or cannot remember, how the fight transpired, then Zimmerman’s self-reported belief that he killed Trayvon in self-defense is not reliable evidence for reconstructing the events actually took place that night. And since Zimmerman is known to have acted irrationally in following Trayvon on foot,  and all other evidence suggests that Trayvon did not act in a manner justifying his killing, Zimmerman’s story is not entitled to belief.

Any of these points, taken alone, would not be sufficient to discredit Zimmerman’s descriptions of how the fight occurred. If there were one or two anomalies anomalies in his story, or perhaps only three or four, then the rest of Zimmerman’s story might be taken as roughly reliable, with some allowances made for a reasonably inexact recounting of a fight. But taken all together, with the outright contradictions combined with the weight of the many implausible claims, the veracity of Zimmerman’s story as a whole cannot be accepted, and the parts that are not directly contradicted by the evidence cannot be assumed reliable. It may be that Zimmerman is lying, or it may be that Zimmerman simply does not have in his own head an objective and accurate understanding of what occurred on the night that he shot Trayvon Martin. If you believe that Zimmerman is lying, then the case for murder 2 is plain; if you believe that he is hopelessly confused and reckless, then only a charge of manslaughter would be appropriate. As such, the defense’s goal in its case must be to avoid that question all together, by shifting the jury’s attention away from Zimmerman’s police statements and have then focus instead on the complicated morass of physical evidence. Because without Zimmerman’s self-impeachment, the case for guilt beyond a reasonable doubt becomes much, much harder.

-Susan

The Undisputed Facts in the Zimmerman Trial, and the Competing Scenarios of the Prosecution and the Defense

The prosecution is wrapping up its case against George Zimmerman today, after presenting nearly forty witnesses in total, and having provided the jury with a fairly comprehensive overview of the available evidence. The defense has not gotten a chance to make its own case yet. From the trial so far, we have a rough idea of the facts that are agreed to by both parties. And, based only on the agreed-upon facts, there appear to be two possible scenarios for what occurred on the night Trayvon died.

The first, the defense’s scenario, is that Trayvon, while walking home from the store, decided to kill Zimmerman in order to defend his honor, after Zimmerman offended Trayvon by following him. And the second, the prosecution’s scenario, is that, when Zimmerman followed Trayvon and encountered him in the grassy area between the houses, Zimmerman tried to detain Trayvon, and Trayvon resisted, resulting in the fight that lead to Trayvon’s death.

By my reckoning, these are the facts that both the prosecution and the defense would agree to:

  1. On the night of the shooting, Trayvon stated that he was going to walk to the store to get skittles and a drink. Trayvon did in fact get those items from the store, and he was walking directly home from the store at the time that Zimmerman first saw him. There is no evidence to indicate that, prior to the moment of the fight, Trayvon was engaged in any form of unlawful behavior. Zimmerman was correct in that he did not recognize Trayvon as being a resident of the community, as Trayvon had only been there one week at the time of his death.
  2. Zimmerman pursued Trayvon for a period of approximately four minutes, while Zimmerman was in his car and Trayvon was moving on foot. Trayvon and Zimmerman did not speak or attempt to speak to each other at any point during this time period.
  3. Based on the fact that Trayvon was walking in the rain, and that Zimmerman did not recognize him, Zimmerman believed that Trayvon was either on drugs or in the middle of committing a criminal act. Concerned that Trayvon was a criminal, Zimmerman called the non-emergency number to request that police be dispatched to investigate Trayvon.
  4. Trayvon was on the phone with a friend, Rachel Jeantel, for the duration of his walk home from the store. Call records show that the phone call began before Zimmerman first observed Trayvon. The records also show that, at approximately 7:12pm, the call’s connection was dropped unexpectedly, but that the call was resumed 20 seconds later.
  5. At some point during the four minute period that Zimmerman was following Trayvon by car, Trayvon became aware that he was being followed. After realizing he was being followed, Trayvon continued to walk in the direction of the house where he was staying.
  6. After Zimmerman had watched Trayvon walk for approximately four minutes, Trayvon’s pace changed. Trayvon had previously been walking, but at approximately 7:11:42, Trayvon began either to run, or to skip. Zimmerman, who was on the phone with the police dispatcher, stated “shit he’s running” while opening his car door. Zimmerman, now on foot, moved out into the “dog walk” area, moving in the same direction that Trayvon had ran or skipped away a few moments before.
  7. After Zimmerman exited his vehicle, he could not see Trayvon, who had started running before Zimmerman could get out of his car. There is no evidence that Trayvon saw that Zimmerman had left his vehicle. Both Zimmerman and Trayvon state in their respective phone calls, to dispatch and to Jeantel, that they have lost the other individual. Zimmerman ended his call with the police dispatcher two minutes after he got out of his car, and he remained on foot in the “dog walk” area. Trayvon remained on the phone with Jeantel while continuing to walk through the neighborhood, on an unknown path, and he did not return to his house.
  8. At approximately 7:15:40pm, Trayvon and Zimmerman came into close proximity with one another, while both were moving on foot in the “dog walk” area. Trayvon was still on the phone with Jeantel, but after an initial exchange of words between Trayvon and Zimmerman, the call was dropped.
  9. The fight between Trayvon and Zimmerman lasted between a minimum of 60 and a maximum of 100 seconds. For the last 45 seconds of the fight, there is a continual yelling of “help,” in a desperate and panicked manner, from one of the two individuals involved.
  10. All witnesses and parties agree that, at some point prior to the gunshot, the fight involved both participants on the ground, with one on top of the other.
  11. At 7:16:56pm, Zimmerman fired a single  round into Trayvon’s chest, immediately incapacitating him and leading to his death shortly thereafter.
  12. Approximately one* to three minutes later, the first law enforcement officers arrived at the scene. Trayvon was face down in the grass. Zimmerman was standing nearby, with his gun in his holster. Zimmerman identified himself as the shooter, and was taken into custody.

Based on the above facts, then, either of the following scenarios is plausible:

Scenario 1: Zimmerman sees Trayvon walking home from the store. Zimmerman is a concerned neighbor, and because he does not recognize Trayvon, he comes to the possibly mistaken — but understandable and well-intentioned — conclusion that Trayvon is “on drugs” and “up to no good.” Zimmerman follows Trayvon, and calls the police to come question Trayvon and investigate the situation. When Trayvon skips away and out of sight from Zimmerman, Zimmerman leaves his car. Zimmerman does not intend to follow Trayvon after he loses sight of him, but Zimmerman believes he can gather better information for the police if he is on foot.

After Trayvon observes that a man in a car is following him through the neighborhood, Trayvon decides to skip away from the car, and he heads into the “dog walk” area behind the house where he is staying. Approximately four minutes after having skipping away from Zimmerman, Trayvon makes a decision to go back and find the man in the car. Trayvon does not know who his pursuer is, but he feels “disrespected” that the man followed him. Trayvon decides that he will attack the man, in revenge for being followed. Trayvon either announces this intention to Jeantel, and Jeantel later lies about it, or else Trayvon decides to attack Zimmerman without informing Jeantel of this plan. Although Zimmerman is no longer where Trayvon last saw him, Trayvon eventually manages to find Zimmerman at the “T” junction. Trayvon goes in to attack Zimmerman, while angrily demanding “Do you have a problem?” Zimmerman tries to back away, because Zimmerman did not want to encounter Trayvon. As Zimmerman is trying to avoid confrontation, Zimmerman does not identify himself to Trayvon, and responds only that “I don’t have a problem.” Although Trayvon does not at first take any action against Zimmerman, Zimmerman believes that he is in danger, and immediately attempts to call 911 when he sees Trayvon.

Seeing that Zimmerman is trying to call the police, Trayvon punches Zimmerman in the face. After getting punched, Zimmerman stumbles 40 feet southwards until falling to the ground, and Trayvon straddles him. For at least 60 seconds, Trayvon punches Zimmerman between 20 and 30 times, attempts to bash Zimmerman’s skull in with the sidewalk, and uses his hands to suffocate Zimmerman, who is unable to breathe and about to black out. Zimmerman does not fight back, but does try to protect his head from the concrete by repeatedly squirming away. Zimmerman also yells continuously for “help.” Witnesses on the scene ask what’s going on, during the course of the fight. When Zimmerman begs for assistance, they tell Zimmerman they are calling for help, but refuse to intervene in the fight themselves. After a minute or so of punching Zimmerman in the face, and otherwise attempting to kill Zimmerman with his bare hands but being unsuccessful in the attempt, Trayvon notices that Zimmerman has a gun. Trayvon tries to grab the weapon, and he informs Zimmerman that he intends to kill him with it. Zimmerman manages to draw the gun first, and fires once into Trayvon’s chest, killing him. * * *

Scenario 2: Zimmerman sees Trayvon walking home from the store, and comes to the mistaken conclusion that Trayvon is “on drugs” and “up to no good.” Zimmerman pursues Trayvon, from his car, and calls for police to come investigate. Zimmerman frequently calls police when he observes strangers walking through his neighborhood; on the five prior occasions when he has done so, it has always been to report unknown black males who are walking through the gated community. Recently, a skinny black teenager is believed to have committed a crime in the neighborhood, and Trayvon matches that description. While following Trayvon, Zimmerman expresses his frustration  to the dispatcher that assholes like Trayvon always “get away.” When the “fucking punk” then decides to run from him, Zimmerman, who is armed, leaves his car to follow Trayvon on foot.

After Trayvon observes that a man in a car is following him through the neighborhood, Trayvon is initially apprehensive. He is on a phone call with a friend, and he informs her that a “creepy ass cracker” is following him. The friend, either as a joke or as a warning, says to be careful, because the stranger might try and rape him. Trayvon tells her not to joke about that, and expresses nervousness. Trayvon’s friend then tells him to run when the man keeps watching him, and at first Trayvon says he is only going to “walk fast.” The man continues to pursue Trayvon in his car, however, and eventually Trayvon agrees with the suggestion to get away. He heads back through a cut-through, where the car cannot go, and Trayvon believes that he has lost the man in the car. Trayvon’s precise direction is unknown, but he does not  make it inside his home. Thinking that he lost Zimmerman back on the street, Trayvon remains outside in the “dog walk”, talking on the phone with his friend.

After Zimmerman loses sight of Trayvon, Zimmerman leaves his car, and continues to keep a lookout for Trayvon while walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman is searching for Trayvon, hoping to be able to find Trayvon’s location so that the police will be able to apprehend him when they arrive in the neighborhood. A couple minutes later, Trayvon and Zimmerman run into each other in the “dog walk” area. Trayvon says, “Why are you following me?” Zimmerman says, “What are you doing here?” Zimmerman moves to question Trayvon, hoping to keep him there until police show up. Trayvon doesn’t know Zimmerman, and in fact minutes earlier Trayvon had been discussing with a friend how creepy this guy was, and how he might be a rapist, or have other bad intentions. Trayvon freaks out and resists Zimmerman’s attempts to detain him. A fight then breaks out in earnest, initially with both parties upright and moving around through the grassy area, and then with both parties wrestling on the ground. Neither Trayvon or Zimmerman sustain significant injuries, but Trayvon, having seen Zimmerman’s gun during the struggle, screams in terror, trying to prevent Zimmerman from getting off a shot. The two are locked in place on the ground for nearly a minute, until Zimmerman finally overpowers Trayvon and draws the gun, firing once into Trayvon’s chest, killing him. * * *

In order to prove scenario 2, the prosecution’s job, in addition to familiarizing the jury with the known facts of the case, was to convince the jury of two basic facts: the only evidence that Trayvon tried to kill Zimmerman is Zimmerman’s own words, and that nothing Zimmerman says about that night can be believed. To bolster this case, the prosecution also tried to demonstrate Zimmerman’s vigilante, hero-wannabe tendencies, thus explaining both his skewed perception of events, and the likelihood that he would try to detain Trayvon.

If the prosecution succeeded, the defense has a big problem on its hands, as Zimmerman has few available options for rebutting the prosecution’s case — because there is no way that he can take the stand to present that evidence himself, and there is no one else who can present it for him. Meanwhile, the prosecution has already presented a witness that was, quite literally, in the middle of a conversation with Trayvon at the time the fight occurred. Rachel Jeantel was, indisputably, a witness to Trayvon’s descriptions of what he subjectively experienced in the moments leading up to the fight. Her testimony is consistent with all the available physical evidence, and she provides direct evidence that, at the time the fight occurred, Trayvon did not have the slightest intention of committing homicide.

The doesn’t leave much middle ground: either Rachel Jeantel is lying, or George Zimmerman is lying. They cannot both be telling the truth. But Zimmerman’s defense won’t focus on Jeantel, because there is nothing more to be covered there. Jeantel’s testimony is itself wholly consistent with the available physical evidence, and the defense won’t gain any ground by trying to contradict it that way. Jeantel may have been lying, but the defense has no way of disproving her words, other than by attacking her credibility in general. And for better or for worse, that part of the trial is done with.

Which means Zimmerman’s defense — assuming, that is, that it is not based on trying to destroy Trayvon’s character — a defense that would be unlikely, because it would open the door for the prosecution to try to do the same to him — has the job of trying to convince the jury that it is at least possible that Zimmerman isn’t lying about Trayvon attacking him.

This post is long enough for now, but in my next post I’ll give a run through of all the problems with Zimmerman’s testimony that the prosecution has tried to highlight. It will be interesting to see how the defense is going to try to rebut those attacks on Zimmerman’s credibility, without introducing either character evidence or Zimmerman’s own testimony.

-Susan

The Attempted Impeachment of Selene Bahadoor/Witness 1: What Part of Her Testimony was Zimmerman’s Defense Truly Worried About?

The highlight of today’s round of witness testimony in the Zimmerman trial appears to have been the defense’s attempted impeachment of Selene Bahadoor — a.k.a., Witness 1, or W01. Her testimony was that, on the night Trayvon was killed, she was at home cooking when she heard screaming or yelling from the ‘dog run’ behind her townhouse. W01 was to the east and slightly south of where Trayvon’s body eventually ended up, and prior to the shooting, she could see figures in the dark outside her porch window, with arms flailing. She initially thought the shouting came from children squabbling, and heard shouts of either “no” or “yo.”

On cross, Zimmerman’s counsel attempted to impeach W01 by asking why she had not previously stated, on the record, that she thought the noises of the fight had moved from south to north. The defense also attempted to show her as biased for “liking” a Justice for Trayvon status on Facebook. Although the claims of bias were easy targets for the defense to pick up, I’m left somewhat confused about the defense’s aim in attempting to impeach W01 over inconsistent (or at least previously left unspecified) testimony.

From reports of her testimony at trial, it does not seem that she said anything inconsistent with her police interviews. And her testimony could hardly come as a surprise: W01′s sister, W02, who watched the altercation from upstairs, stated in her initial interviews with police that she saw a chase that occurred from south to north outside their townhouse. (March 9, 2012 interview: Q: “The direction in which you saw these two individuals running, was it towards your house or away from your house — towards the “T” or towards the street?” A: “Towards the T.”)

So the fact that the witnesses at 2841 Retreat View Circle describe the sounds as moving from south to north isn’t some new and previously unknown revelation. It was known within two weeks of the killing (although the Sanford PD failed to immediately interview W01 and W02 as they should have, a fact that Zimmerman’s defense will now benefit from). But it is not clear precisely why Zimmerman’s defense so stridently attacked that specific portion of her testimony. Because the fact that running noises were going from south to north is not damaging to Zimmerman’s defense, and in fact supports his claim that Trayvon ambused him. Zimmerman claims he was attacked after Trayvon headed north from outside W01′s house towards the “T.” If anything, W01′s testimony is consistent with Zimmerman’s story, in that regard.

But the part of W01′s testimony that is hugely inconsistent with Zimmerman’s story is her statement that, after hearing the start of the altercation, W01 saw flailing arms from two standing figures. W01 was consistent in that part of her story at all times, and Zimmerman’s defense did not actually challenge that part of her testimony. But perhaps the defense is hoping that, by pseudo-impeaching W01′s claims regarding the direction of the fight, the jury will also disregard the rest of her testimony.

To me, though, the biggest question regarding W01′s testimony is why on earth did no one think to ask her in depositions which direction she heard the noises going in? Sheesh. It’s hardly W01′s fault if the attorneys deposing her failed to ask such basic questions.

-Susan

The Defense’s Opening Statement Fails to Address George Zimmerman’s Contradicting Claims of How the Altercation with Trayvon Martin Started

Today was the start of the George Zimmerman trial, and what I have seen so far of the recaps from the defense’s opening arguments have been painful to watch. Even ignoring Don West’s cringe-inducing “knock knock” joke, the defense appears to have done little more than offer the jury a rambling and incoherent summary of the case. West’s attempts to recount a timeline of events leading up to the shooting was, in particular, a confusing mess. He managed to both overload the jury with a torrent of disconnected facts, but also failed to provide the jury with the specific bits of information that would allow the jury to understand the narrative that the defense is trying to sell to them.

One particular item that stood out to me, however, was the defense’s failure to outline the specifics of Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. In his opening statement, West provided the jury with an aerial view of the infamous “T” junction where Trayvon died, and a timeline of various phone calls made by witnesses, the victim, and the defendant. But in describing where exactly the shooting occurred, West can only vaguely gesture to the general area, circling an approximately 1600 square foot area to indicate the location:

The reason for this vagueness is obvious: the precise location of where the altercation between Zimmerman and Trayvon began is going to be a significant problem for Zimmerman’s defense, as Zimmerman’s statements concerning how the fight began are not reconcilable with the actual crime scene.

I have included full excerpts and links to the relevant transcripts below the jump, but Zimmerman’s initial police statements and interviews are all clear, direct, and consistent with one another. Zimmerman states, in three separate statements given in the days following the shooting, that after Trayvon punched him in the nose he “immediately” “fell backwards.” Those statements were Zimmerman’s 2/26 written statement, (“the suspect punched me in the face. I fell backwards onto my back. The suspect got on top of me”), the 2/26 Singleton interview (“And he punched me in the nose. At that point I fell down.”; “I fell to the ground when he punched me the first time.”; “As soon as he punched me, I fell backwards, um, into the grass”; “He punched me in the face and I fell backwards”), and the 2/27 Serino interview (Zimmerman: “… And then he punched me in the face.” Serino: “Oh, so he said, OK, you have a problem now. OK, he punched and you fell?” Zimmerman: “Yes, sir.”; “He punched me in the face and I fell backwards.”).

On the afternoon of February 27, after the interview that occurred that morning, Zimmerman then performed a walkthrough with police. During that walkthrough, Zimmerman started to describe the altercation with Trayvon in the same way as in his first three statements. Zimmerman describes that he was on the west prong of the “T” junction, walking west towards his car, having hung up with the non-emergency number approximately 1.5 minutes prior. Zimmerman then describes that Trayvon was to the south of him, and walking north along the path towards the junction, towards Zimmerman.

Also of interest is the fact that this description directly contradicts Zimmerman’s prior claims that “[Trayvon] jumped out from the bushes.” There are no bushes Trayvon could have come out from, and Zimmerman never mentions the bushes again. But there is a bigger inconsistency with Zimmerman’s statement: as seen in the walkthrough video, Zimmerman’s claim that he “fell backwards” after Trayvon “sucker punched him” cannot be true.

This is where Zimmerman claims to have been standing when he was punched and fell backwards:

There’s a problem here. Trayvon’s body was found 40 feet south of where Zimmerman is standing in this screenshot – and in front of him, not behind him. Shown below (and please forgive the MS Paint diagramming) are two pictures of the “T” junction, demonstrating how Zimmerman claims he was punched. The blue block is where Zimmerman says Trayvon came from, and the direction he approached in. The red blocks are where Zimmerman says he was standing. In his statements, Zimmerman states that he was facing Trayvon when the punch occurred, and therefore facing south. The red arrows thus indicate the direction that Zimmerman alleges to have “fallen back,” in his prior interviews. Also marked in both photos is the location where Trayvon’s body was found, face down in the grass, several feet away from any concrete:

So in Zimmerman’s walkthrough interview on 2/27, when he started to repeat the same version of events he’d given in his earlier statements, it quickly became apparent to Zimmerman that he could not actually have fallen backwards, as he previously claimed. Zimmerman tries to compensate for this newly apparent discrepancy, and for the first time, Zimmerman changes his story of how Trayvon punched him. No longer does Zimmerman claim to have been punched, and then to have immediately fallen onto his back. Instead, confronted with the actual geographical setting of where Trayvon was killed, Zimmerman tells a new version of events: he was punched, and then he stumbled forward 40 feet, at which point he fell on his back (after having stumbled forward) and Trayvon then got on top of him. Significantly, even with this new version of events, Zimmerman’s walkthrough of the altercation still comes up 20 feet short of where Trayvon was actually shot.

Following the walkthrough interview, Zimmerman stops telling his initial version of events, given in the first three days following the shooting. Zimmerman instead switches to an amended, and much vaguer, story. In the 2/29 interview, the only interview to take place after the walkthrough, Zimmerman describes a version of events that is inconsistent with the version he gave the first three times he told the story. In describing what happened after Trayvon sucker punched him, Zimmerman states the following:

When he first punched me. I don’t know if I immediately fell down, he threw me down. I was stumbling, I ended up on my back.

The reason for the sudden change is obvious: after performing the walkthrough with the police, Zimmerman had realized it was impossible for his first version of events to be correct. He could not have “fallen backwards” after he was punched, so instead he claims that after he was punched, he fell down, was thrown down, or stumbled forward 40 feet. Zimmerman is unable to provide specifics as to how he was transported forty feet from where the first punch occurred — or whether he fell, was thrown, or stumbled to get there — but unlike his prior statements, it is vague enough to not be demonstrably impossible.

-Susan

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How to Put a Computer in a Picture Frame

My home computer died last week, as a result of what appears to have been a suicide pact between my CPU and my motherboard. That’s my excuse for the lack of recent updates, anyway.

But while I didn’t have a chance to do any blogging, I did have a good excuse to rebuild my computer. Here’s the result:

Picture Frame Build 2

Space-saving, plenty of airflow, and no more reaching down to plug or unplug USBs. Also economical — it saves you from the expense of having to buy both a computer case, and also a picture to hang over your desk.

Of course, if I tried to make another one, there are definitely a few things I would do differently. Like use something other than a box cutter to cut out an opening for the front panel:

Picture Frame Build

A box cutter can cut through wood, as it turns out. It just takes a really, really long time.

There is one small problem with having a wall-mounted computer that I didn’t consider before I put it up, though. And that’s the fact that my cat is convinced the computer fan and the wires were intended to be fascinating new toys for him to play with.

Picture Frame Cat

Maybe I’ll get some pigeon spikes for the top of my desk, that should fix the issue. Otherwise I’m pretty happy with it, as a prototype. There’s even room left over on the board for a new graphics card if I want to upgrade later.

-Susan