What Does Zimmerman’s Blood Tell Us?

September 23, 2012

We need to focus today on the information available to us regarding the fatal shot in order to determine as best we can the respective positions of Zimmerman and Martin when Zimmerman fired the fatal shot.

As we do so, we have to keep in mind that there are two bloodstains on Martin’s shirt, which he was wearing under the hooded sweatshirt. DNA analyst Anthony Gorgogne has identified Zimmerman as the source of Stain A. He also concluded that Stain D is a mixed sample of Zimmerman and Martin.

In yesterday’s article on the DNA results, I mentioned that those are the only bloodstains on Martin’s clothing that contain Zimmerman’s DNA. Depending on their location, I concluded that the bloodstains may be the result of dripped blood from Zimmerman’s head as he leaned forward over Martin’s body while he was dead or alive, or transferred blood from his hands as he touched Martin’s shirt.

Note that if we assume the fingers and palms of Zimmerman’s hands were bloody with his own blood, we would expect to see his blood on Martin’s hooded sweatshirt, if he grabbed Martin’s two sweatshirts together with his left hand and pulled them down and slightly to his left as he fired the fatal shot.

Gorgogne did not find Zimmerman’s blood or DNA on the hooded sweatshirt. That probably means he did not have any blood on the underside of his left hand and fingers when he gripped the shirt and sweatshirt or, if he did, he did not transfer it to the sweatshirt.

It also may mean that he did not grip the sweatshirts, although I still believe he did.

Recall that Gorgogne did not detect any of Zimmerman’s blood on Martin’s sweatshirt. Witnesses Mary Cutcher and her friend Selma saw him straddling Martin’s back and leaning forward touching his back and neck with his hands after the shot. Therefore, I do not believe he had any blood on his hands.

No blood is visible on his hands in the photographs taken by police at the station house after the shooting.

That does not mean that blood was not on his hands earlier, however, because the police incredibly permitted Zimmerman to wash up in the washroom at the station house before the photographs were taken. That is inexcusable. It is what it is, however, and we cannot change it.

We do know that Gorgogne identified Zimmerman’s blood on the grip of his Kel Tec 9 semiautomatic handgun. Could that bloodstain have been already present before the incident that resulted in Martin’s death?

For example, DNA preserves indefinitely in a dried bloodstain, so Zimmerman might have deposited his blood via transfer to the grip sometime before the incident with Martin on February 26th. He might not have known it was there. I do not recall seeing any blood on the grip of his gun in the photographs that were recently released. Given PCR’s exquisite sensitivity, not much blood would have to have been present to yield a complete DNA profile.

Now let us take a look at Amy Siewert’s lab report. She is a firearms expert and her report was in the first document dump. She described the locations of the two holes in the sweatshirts and I compared what she wrote to Dr. Bao’s description in the autopsy report regarding the location of the entry wound.

Siewert said the holes in the sweatshirts aligned with each other and were 7 inches below the shoulder/neck seam.

Dr. Bao said the entry wound was 1 inch to the left of the midline and 1/2 inch below the nipple.

I am 1-inch taller and the same weight as Trayvon. I placed a mark on my chest corresponding to the location of the entry wound and then I took one of my white tee-shirts and placed a mark 7 inches below the shoulder/neck seam. I put on the tee-shirt and, using the marl on my chest, I marked the location of the entry wound on the tee-shirt.

I took off the tee-shirt and measured the distance between the two marks.

The two marks are a little over 3 and 1/2 inches apart. The mark representing the hole in the sweatshirts is above and slightly displaced toward the left shoulder.

To perform this comparison with precision, one would need to place the sweatshirts on Trayvon’s body and precisely measure the distance between the holes and the entry wound and determine the angle of their displacement from the vertical.

I could not do that, so I approximated the distance at 3 inches with a displacement toward the left shoulder.

Could my conclusion have been mistaken? I do not think so, but I have to admit that it is certainly possible. Fabrics stretch and there was only so much that I could do to reproduce the state of the State’s evidence.

I hope someone on the prosecution team followed up with Siewert and Dr. Bao to nail down this point as well as the apparent discrepancy between her characterization of the hole as having been caused by the muzzle of the gun in contact with the fabric and his characterization of the shot having been fired from an intermediate range (i.e., 0.5 centimeters to 1 meter).

I note for the record that Dr. Bao described the entry wound as 3/8 inch in diameter with a 2 X 2 area of stippling around the wound.

Stippling is caused by unburned gun powder that enbeds in the wound and its periphery. The farther away the muzzle of the gun, the larger the area of stippling. With handguns there is no stippling apparent when the muzzle of the gun exceeds 1 meter from the entry wound at the time the shot is fired..

Contact wounds characteristically cause the skin to tear. This condition is called starring and it’s caused by the expanding gasses released by the burning gunpowder.

Siewert observed torn fabric that spread out from the holes caused by the shot. She prepared some cutouts using fabric from the two sweatshirts (actually the interior one has been redesignated as a shirt by the DNA analyst) and test fired Zimmerman’s gun using the same ammo from several different distances, including a contact shot. The tearing in the result from the experimental contact shot matched the tearing in the hole in the sweatshirt and that is why she concluded that it was a contact shot.

Dr. Bao did not note any tearing or starring around the entry wound.

D. Vincent di Maio, a respected forensic pathologist and the former Medical Examiner for Bexar County, Texas (San Antonio) reviewed Dr. Bao’s autopsy Report and estimated the muzzle of the gun was 2 to 4 inches from the entry wound when Zimmerman fired the fatal shot.

Dr. Bao characterized the fatal shot as “Directly, front to back.”

That is all the evidence we have.

Consider these questions:

(1) Did Zimmerman grip Martin’s sweatshirt and shirt with his left hand?

(2) If he did not (or even if he did) how did he immobilize Martin so that he could aim and squeeze off the perfect shot to the heart, or was it just a lucky shot?

(3) How and when did Zimmerman sustain the injuries to his nose and the back of his head?

(4) Do you believe the injury to his nose was caused by the recoil of his gun when he fired the fatal shot?

(5) What do you believe explains the presence of Zimmerman’s blood on Martin’s shirt?

(6) What do you believe explains the presence of Zimmerman’s blood on the grip of his gun?

As I said, I hope the prosecution has figured out the significance of the evidence as it is important to the outcome of the case.

I still believe that the agonizing shriek that abruptly ended with the shot and the interrogation and begging that preceded it establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was not in imminent danger of being killed or suffering serious bodily injury when he shot and killed an unarmed Martin “evincing a depraved indifference to human life.”


%d bloggers like this: