Unfinished forensics in Trayvon Martin case

August 2, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

Good morning to all of our friends:

I write this morning regarding unfinished forensics with Trayvon’s case and to urge Benjamin Crump to consult with someone who is knowledgeable about forensics before he decides whether to sue George Zimmerman for wrongful death.

Piranha Mom’s comment at 12:09 am inspired me to write this post.

If a civil claim is filed against Zimmerman by Trayvon’s family, Professor Fred and all of us must put together the DEFINITIVE narrative, citing each movement with justification and evidence, and supply it to Trayvon’s family and attorneys.

We know what happened.

We have had the forensic evidence at our fingertips — and we know it all by heart. We were open in our analysis.

We DIDN’T expect we had to provide this to the prosecution.

But they were so full of hubris and the big award Bernie was to receive, and paid little attention to evidence. Bernie even thinks Trayvon took part in the battle, not that he was struggling to get away. If the prosecutor has no faith in the victim, or in the chief witness for the prosecution, what could we expect to get?

The verdict we got.

Won’t make THAT mistake again!

Yes, Piranha Mom is right and here are three glaring examples.

Amy Siewart, the crime lab firearms analyst who examined Trayvon’s sweatshirts, apparently never read the autopsy report or conferred with Dr. Bao regarding whether the bullet holes in the sweatshirts aligned with the entry wound in Trayvon’s chest. Evidently, no one at FDLE or any member of the prosecution team thought about that possibility either.

Yet, that was the first thought that occurred to me when I read that first document dump and LLMPapa was all over that issue too. I wrote about it and he made several videos about it. Both of us discussed the implications.

We even argued with the self-described crime scene expert from Jacksonville, Michael Knox, about the proper conclusions to draw from that evidence.

Massive and inexcusable failure of LE and the prosecutor’s office not to see and comprehend the significance of that evidence.

Massive and inexcusable failure by BDLR not to use the State’s DNA expert, Anthony Gorgone, to clear-up the confusion created by the defense regarding whether rain can wash away DNA and whether packaging Trayvon’s sweatshirt in a plastic biohazard bag would degrade all DNA present, such that it could not be detected with STR/PCR.

Siewart also should have been questioned regarding (1) the unusually strong kickback of a KelTec 9 semiautomatic handgun when fired with one hand, and (2) whether the distance between the two spires on the rear gunsight match the distance between the two pinholes on the tip of Zimmerman’s nose that bled so copiously.

I believe those distances match and Siewart could testify that the gun could have caused the injuries to Zimmerman’s nose, if he fired the fatal shot within a few feet of his face while holding the gun with one hand as Zimmerman described.

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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.”


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.


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