Was Trayvon Martin Attempting to get Away when George Zimmerman killed Him?

July 15, 2012

Amy L. Siewert is a Crime Laboratory Analyst employed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Laboratory. She examined TM’s Fruit of the Loom dark gray hooded sweatshirt (Exhibit ME 12) and the light gray Nike sweatshirt (Exhibit ME 8) that he was wearing underneath the hoodie when GZ shot and killed him

In her report dated March 22, 2012, she concluded:

The sweatshirts each display a hole located in the upper chest area. The areas around these holes were microscopically examined and chemically processed for the presence of gunshot residues. Both holes displayed residues and physical effects consistent with a contact shot.

In her bench notes, which the prosecution released in the recent document dump last Thursday, she specifically noted that her microscopic examination of the the light gray sweatshirt (ME 8) “shows results consistent with a contact shot (tearing a hole, sooting around the hole, burning/singeing, no powder pattern, vaporous Pb surrounding the hole). She also noted that the hole exhibited “stellate” tearing. She described the hole in the hooded sweatshirt (ME 12) identically, but noted L-shaped tearing.

These are the classic signs of a contact shot. That is, the muzzle of the gun was in contact with the outer hooded sweatshirt with the light gray sweatshirt immediately behind, or in contact with it.

She also test fired GZ’s gun into squares of cloth cut from both sweatshirts and verified that the muzzle of the gun was in contact with the sweatshirts.

She also noted that the holes in the sweatshirts align with each other.

She also measured the vertical distance from the hole up to to the neck seam at approximately 7 inches. The horizontal distance to the shoulder seam was approximately 7 1/2 inches.

Although these holes align with each other, they do not align with the entry wound in TM’s chest. According to the autopsy report, the entry wound is 1 inch left of the midline and 1/2 inch below the left nipple.

Therefore, the entry wound is approximately 3 1/2 inches below and 2 1/2 inches closer to the midline than the holes in the sweatshirts.

Also significant is that the entry wound was caused by a gunshot in which the muzzle of the gun was at an intermediate range of 2-4 inches.

What does this mean?

I believe it means the sweatshirts were being pulled down or being held by GZ as TM was pulling back or attempting to stand up (and probably screaming for help as he did so) when GZ pressed the muzzle of his gun against the hooded sweatshirt and pulled the trigger. The two sweatshirts were in contact with each other (i.e., gripped together) and approximately 2-4 inches from his chest.

The trajectory of the shot would have been straight through neither varying up or down nor left or right, if TM were leaning forward while attempting to get away, but restrained from escaping by GZ’s grip on his sweatshirts.

Forensic Firearm Evidence May Solve Zimmerman Case

May 17, 2012

George Zimmerman

By Donkey Hotey
Creative Commons @ Flickr

For reasons that follow, I believe the forensic firearm evidence will solve the Zimmerman case.

Many of you have focused instead on Zimmerman’s decision to follow Martin contrary to the dispatcher’s request and concluded that he was the aggressor. I do not believe that conclusion is supported by the evidence.

If I were representing Zimmerman, I would argue that he was not ordered to stop pursuing Martin. The specific admonition from the dispatcher, after Zimmerman admitted that he was following Martin, was, “We don’t need you to do that.”

Plus, the dispatcher was not a police officer with a badge. He did not have the authority of a badge.

Therefore, I do not believe Zimmerman ignored an explicit police order and I do not see any unlawful conduct in carrying his cell phone while following Martin at a respectful distance to keep an eye on him in order to inform the police officer where he was after the police officer arrived in the neighborhood. Recall that he suggested the dispatcher tell the officer to call him on his cell phone when he arrived.

He had a license to carry so he did not violate any law by doing that.

Of course, a neighborhood watch coordinator from the Sanford Police Department had previously advised Zimmerman and others not to carry guns and not to contact suspects to avoid tragedies like the one that ended in Trayvon Martin’s death. This warning and the dispatcher’s admonition are relevant to consider in determining Zimmerman’s intent when he followed Martin. A jury might well reach the same conclusion that many readers have reached; namely, that Zimmerman was the aggressor because he knew he was not supposed to follow Martin.

Then again, it might not.

Zimmerman’s version of what happened is that he lost Martin and decided to return to his vehicle. As he was walking toward it, Martin approached him from behind his left shoulder and asked, “Why are you following me?”

Zimmerman said he responded, “What are you doing here?”

He claims Martin punched him in the nose, knocking him down on his back, and then jumped on top of him and started slamming his head into the sidewalk.

He also claims he yelled for help but no one responded.

Zimmerman says Martin saw his holstered gun as he was reaching for it and said, “One of us is going to die tonight.”

They struggled for the gun. Zimmerman won and shot him once in the chest.

This would be self-defense, if true.

Martin’s girlfriend says when she called him at 7:12 pm, which is verified by cell phone records, Martin told her that some guy was following him. She told him to run. Then she heard Martin say, “Why are you following me?”

She heard someone else say, “Why are you here?

Then she heard sounds that sounded like a struggle with Martin’s headset being ripped off his head and the phone went dead. She called him back but got no answer.

She confirms the two statements that Zimmerman said were made. Her opinion of what was going on after that may or may not be accurate.

A neighbor named John told the police that he saw two people struggling on the ground. The man on top was hitting the man lying on his back. The man lying on his back was wearing a red sweater and calling for help. Zimmerman was wearing a jacket with red sleeves.

John closed and locked his patio door. Then he went upstairs to a bedroom and looked out the window. The man who had been on his back yelling for help was standing and the man who had been hitting him was lying face down in the grass, apparently dead.

Therefore, he neither saw who threw the first punch, nor the relative positions of the two individuals and what they were doing when Zimmerman fired the fatal shot. We do not know how much time passed after he closed and locked the patio door until he looked out the upstairs bedroom window and we do not know how the struggle progressed. Apparently, he did not even hear the shot.

During a 911 call by another neighbor to report a fight between two men in her backyard, a loud terrified scream for help can be heard in the backyard. The scream ends suddenly with a loud gunshot that is followed by silence.

Without knowing how much time passed before John looked out his upstairs bedroom window, we cannot conclude if this scream is the same yell for help that John heard. Moreover, without questioning John, I cannot say with any confidence that he correctly identified Zimmerman as the person calling for help, even though Zimmerman claimed to have called for help.

I am inclined to believe that it is not the same scream, due to the time lapse and because Martin’s mother has identified her son as the person screaming for help.

Also, two independent forensic audiologists using different methodologies to clean-up the recorded 911 call (i.e., filter out static and background noise) have compared the scream to Zimmerman’s voice on his call to the police. To a reasonable scientific certainty, they excluded him as the source of the scream for help.

Nevertheless, Zimmerman and his father have identified him as the person calling for help.

Let’s temporarily disregard what everyone said and focus on that 911 call with the scream for help in the background.

I have three questions:

1. How could a mother not know her son’s terrified scream for help?

2. Why would a man with a gun in his hand be desperately screaming for help and suddenly stop screaming at the precise instant the shot is fired?

3. How could two experts working independently of each other using different forensic methodologies and reaching the same conclusion to a reasonable scientific certainty be wrong?

Finally, consider the shot itself. It was fired from an intermediate distance, which is anywhere from 0.5 centimeters to 1 meter. I am confident the forensic firearm experts have already performed the standard experiments that I have described elsewhere in a comment on my previous article, but we do not yet know the results.

They will be able to say to a reasonable scientific certainty where within that range the gun was when the fatal shot was fired.

Using a steel rod and a photograph, the Assistant Medical Examiner who performed the autopsy will be able demonstrate the path of the bullet after it entered the body. The firearms expert will be able make a mark on the steel rod in that photograph showing the location of the muzzle when Zimmerman fired the fatal shot.

When we see that demonstration, we will likely know if Zimmerman lied or told the truth.

Given what he said, I was expecting a contact or near contact wound. Depending on the fine tuning, an intermediate or close range wound is consistent with a scenario in which the two individuals have separated.

That contradicts Zimmerman’s story because in that situation his use of deadly force would not be necessary since he would not be in imminent danger of death or grievous bodily injury.

Stay tuned.

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