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.