SANFORD, Fla. - Evidence supports George Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon Martin was on top of him when Zimmerman fired the shot that claimed Trayvon's life, a forensic pathologist testified Tuesday at Zimmerman's murder trial.
"The medical evidence is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's statement," said Vincent Di Maio, an expert witness for the defense. The pathologist also found that Trayvon lived no more than three minutes after the shooting and probably was conscious for at least 10 to15 seconds.
Di Maio also testified that Zimmerman's head injuries could have been caused by coming into contact with concrete and that such injuries can be very dangerous. That testimony supported Zimmerman's claim that Trayvon was slamming his head into a sidewalk.
Di Maio said Zimmerman had at least six injuries from the struggle: two head lacerations, two wounds to his temples and wounds on his nose and forehead. Those injuries were consistent with having his head banged into a sidewalk, Di Maio said.
Under questioning from prosecutors, however, Di Maio admitted he primarily focused on a statement Zimmerman gave police - and a statement by Zimmerman neighbor John Good that Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman.
Di Maio testified that he did not take into account several witnesses who said Zimmerman was the aggressor in the struggle. He also said, when pressed, that Zimmerman's injuries could have been caused by rolling around on concrete with Trayvon.
Zimmerman's attorney, Mark O'Mara, later grilled Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte about his decision to play 911 calls from the night of shooting for Trayvon's family in a group setting. A day earlier, former Sanford police chief Bill Lee testified that he recommended the tapes be played to family members individually to avoid improper influences.
At issue was whether it was Trayvon or Zimmerman heard screaming for help in one of the tapes.
"We thought it was a courtesy to let the family hear it before it was on the news," Bonaparte said. "We were not looking at them as witnesses. We were looking at them as family members."
Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting. The neighborhood watch volunteer says he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon, 17, minutes after calling police to report that he was following a suspicious person in the gated community.
Speculation that Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, profiled, followed and murdered the black teen sparked racial controversy and protests around the country last year. Zimmerman, who faces life in prison if convicted, has maintained that race did not factor into his actions.
Before the jury entered the courtroom Tuesday, Judge Debra Nelson held a hearing to determine whether jurors will see a computer animation created by a defense witness. She will give her ruling on the matter Wednesday morning.
Mark O'Mara says the animation presents the fact that Trayvon Martin was shot at a 90-degree angle and supports the way the defense believes the shooting happened.
"We know animations are very admissible and often used," O'Mara said.
Daniel Schumaker, who created the animation, testified that he has worked on scores of criminal cases, often creating animated crime scene reconstructions using photographs, measurements and motion capture suits.
Schumaker got involved in the Zimmerman case in April 2012 after a meeting with defense attorneys. Soon after, he visited the community where the shooting occurred, looked at crime scene photos and used police measurements from that night, he testified. He also got witness statements, 911 calls and diagrams drawn by residents who saw parts of the struggle before the shooting.
"I believe I had everything I needed to create the scene," Schumaker said.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei argued that the animation does not "represent a complete or accurate record of the evidence." Mantei wrote in court papers that the state thinks the animation is "speculative and irrelevant." It also doesn't accurately depict the lighting on the night of the shooting, "deliberately fails to show or even symbolize the murder weapon," and relies on Zimmerman's version of events for the positioning of bodies during the struggle, Mantei said.
The state prosecutor argued that the animation, if admitted, would be "prejudicial and confusing to the jury."
Zimmerman's attorneys also want text messages and photos found on Trayvon's phone admitted as evidence. The text messages discuss Trayvon being sore after winning several rounds of a fight, Zimmerman's attorney, Don West said. Trayvon also discussed buying a gun and took pictures of a hand holding a gun, West says.
State prosecutors say there's no way of proving Trayvon sent the text messages or took the photos. They also argue that the information from the cellphone doesn't have anything to do with the shooting and Trayvon's death.
Nelson will also rule on whether cellphone texts and photos can be admitted Wednesday morning.
The announcement came after Nelson and attorneys held court for more than 12 hours Tuesday.
The defense also could present witnesses to discuss the level of marijuana found in Trayvon's system at the time of his death. Nelson ruled Monday that the jury will learn about a toxicology report. State attorneys had tried to keep the information out of trial, arguing that the amount of marijuana was minimal and would prejudice the jury.
However, Zimmerman's attorneys succeeded in arguing that the report was important and would give the jury insight into the night of the shooting.
Shiping Bao, the medical examiner who did the autopsy of Trayvon, said he believes the marijuana may have had some effect on the teen. He initially thought the amount of drugs didn't have an impact but later changed his opinion and now believes the drugs had an effect. Now, Bao, who testified for the state last week, may be called to testify for the defense.
Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY