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Video: Lawyers for Martin kin, Zimmerman speak

  1. Closed captioning of: Lawyers for Martin kin, Zimmerman speak

    >> is an attorney for the family of trayvon martin , mark o'mara is george zimmerman 'sattorney. gentlemen, good morning to both of you.

    >> good morning.

    >> good morning, sir.

    >> mr. crump, let me start with you, you won't have a role in a criminal trial if it results from this case. you do represent trayvon martin 's family. you have seen this evidence. what do you think and what do the martin 's think is the most important piece of new evidence we're seeing in this case?

    >> the most important piece, matt, is what the police determined it was completely avoidable if george zimmerman would have simply stayed in his car. if he wouldn't have profiled trayvon martin and pursued him and confronted him, he wouldn't be in jail, and more importantly, trayvon martin would be living today.

    >> you say if he hadn't profiled trayvon martin . have you seen any piece of evidence in this latest document release, mr. crump,hat proves to you that george zimmerman targeted trayvon martin because of his race?

    >> well, all we know is what he said, that goes to his state of mind , in that 911 call. he said that he looked suspicious. he got out of his car, and he said, these a-holes always get away. and that's going to be important to listen to his words. that's objective evidence that we can judge for ourselves and that's what the family wants. all the evidence out, so it can be vetted and looked at carefully, and he pursues him. we hear him running after trvon. we hear him breathing. and so, there's close in time that we know we can connect the dots with the phone call . all the evidence is out, and a jury can lten to it all like the state attorney.

    >> mr. o'mara let me go to you. you had a chance to pore through this evidence, these documents, as well. what's the most important piece of evidence that you've seen that would back up the idea that george zimmerman shot trayvon martin in self-defense?

    >> well, at the outset i need to say, and i know it's somewhat frustrating to your listeners, that the ethical rules that we have as lawyers connected with the case, and quite honestly my opinion that all lawyershave, prohibits us from talking about the evidence of an active criminal case . so while i might have my opinions on the evidence, it would be improper for me to talk about those. plus, as i've said from the outset of this case, my mantra, if you will, has always been that we really cannot look at these cases, and these pieces of evidence, individually, and we have to look at it as a whole, only when all the evidence is in play. and we -- i don't have but half of it, so i know nobody else has more than that. we really have to wait until the evidence is out.

    >> let me ask you this, and this is not asking you to comment on a specific piece of evidence, but earlier this week prosecutors said that they're going to present george zimmerman 's cell phone text messages as part of their case. these are messages that were recorded in the days and weeks following the shooting of trayvon martin . are you aware of what's in those messages, and are you concerned there's anything in there that will cast mr. zimmerman in a more negative light?

    >> i have been through a majority of them. people make their own decisions concerning what he says. i myself am not concerned about it. but it's incomplete at this point, because i haven't looked at them all.

    >> and mr. crump, this idea of this 911 call that was recorded, this is the call i'm talking about, where we hear a cry from help coming from one of the two people involved in that confrontation. when he was interviewed on february 28th , trayvon martin 's father said that it was not his son's voice calling for help. how big an impact do you think that's going to have on the case? because, if it wasn't trayvon martin , it was george zimmerman .

    >> i don't think that it's going to have that big of an impact. but you have to put everything in full context as attorney o'mara said. this was -- within 48 hours ter his son had been killed and on that day the sanford police said they were not going to arrest george zimmerman . he said that it was distorted, and he couldn't tell anything on the tape, not just that he couldn't tell that it was trayvon. and the biggest thing there is it's not recorded, and so it's a different account. and tracy marn heard that, he broke down and cried like a baby when he heard his son's voice. sabrina always said it was her son's voice. but people can hear it for themselves.

    >> mr. o'mara i want to end with you. can you shed a little light for me on the type of life george zimmerman is living today, and how actively involved is he in creating his own defense?

    >> well, he is actively involved in helping me out. we have to do it remotely. he's living a life and has to live in hiding, he's in fear for his life. again there's been a groundswell of animosity and anger towards him. i don't believe it's properly placed, because the evidence isn't there to support it. but, we'll find out. he's doing okay. one last response, i understand law enforcement perspective that thisas avoidable. but quite honestly in every life event or experience, we can go back to one of the premises, had it nod happened -- had he not been going to the target store, had trayvon martin not been in the neighborhood, had he not got out of his car. we have to deal with what did happen and try to explain that away properly and in courtroom.

    >> mark o'mara --

    >> but he got out of the car. he didn't have to get out of the car.

    >> mr. crump, mr. o'mara, i thank you both for your time this morning. thank you very much. i know you're

By Patrik Jonsson Staff writer
updated 5/18/2012 12:24:17 PM ET 2012-05-18T16:24:17

Image: George Zimmerman
State Attorney's Office via AP
A Feb. 27 photo released by the State Attorney's Office shows George Zimmerman after his arrest.

Newly released details about the night Florida teenager Trayvon Martin died at the hands of a volunteer watchman named George Zimmerman are largely consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s self-defense claims, with one hitch: The shooter could have avoided the fight that led to the Feb. 26 killing in Sanford, Fla.

The trove of evidence, some of which has been redacted to give anonymity to witnesses, sets up the prospect of a difficult trial in which forensic evidence will rub up against questions about Zimmerman’s state of mind, his views on race, and whether the 28-year-old aspiring police officer’s sense of civic duty morphed into reckless malice.

Evidence that Zimmerman was injured after confronting someone he believed to be suspicious, the close proximity of the gun shot to the victim, and eyewitness accounts that had Zimmerman on his back, screaming for help for several seconds before firing, have prompted some critics to suggest that special prosecutor Angela Corey overcharged Zimmerman to quell public unrest over the case – a notion she has denied.

To some legal experts, the new evidence backs up Zimmerman’s original story – that he followed Trayvon, lost him, and was then attacked with “mixed martial arts” blows to a point where he feared for his life. A medical report that was not referenced in the state’s charging affidavit states that Zimmerman sustained a broken nose, two black eyes, and two cuts on the back of his head.

The new forensic facts challenge the second-degree murder charge, which, to stick, requires a jury to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman acted with malicious recklessness in causing Trayvon’s death, says Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor whose criticisms of the prosecution stepped up as the state’s evidence was revealed.

Given the new evidence, “the prosecutor is at least guilty of willful blindness,” says Mr. Dershowitz in a phone interview.

The 200-plus pages of new documents also give more insight into the prosecution’s contention that Zimmerman may have profiled Trayvon in part because of his views of young black men. As one investigator writes, the whole fight could have been avoided if Zimmerman had afforded Trayvon, a fellow citizen who was doing nothing wrong in a place where he had the right to be, some respect.

“The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party's concern," the report said. "There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter."

“The police concluded that none of this would have happened if George Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of his car," Martin family attorney Ben Crump told the Associated Press on Thursday. "If George Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of his car, they say it was completely avoidable. That is the headline."

An anonymous police tipster, meanwhile, suggested that Zimmerman could be confrontational, especially against black people. Zimmerman, who is part-Hispanic, has been described by family members as a social activist who cared about minorities and the downtrodden.

"I don't at all know who this kid was or anything else,” the unnamed caller called told police shortly after the shooting. “But I know George, and I know that he does not like black people. He would start something. He's very confrontational. It's in his blood. We'll just say that.”

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theGrio: Trayvon Martin shooting: New evidence in case released

Moreover, one woman told police she heard no fighting before the gun shot rang out. At that point, she went outside and saw a man, Zimmerman, standing over Martin’s prone, face-down body. “Just call the police,” Zimmerman said, according to the witness.

Another witness told a different tale. According to the report, “He witnessed a black male, wearing a dark colored 'hoodie' on top of a white or Hispanic male who was yelling for help. He elaborated by stating the black male was mounted on the white or Hispanic male and throwing punches 'MMA [mixed martial arts] style.' He stated he yelled out to the two individuals that he was going to call the police. He then heard a 'pop.' He stated that after hearing the 'pop,' he observed the person he had previously observed on top of the other person (the black male wearing the 'hoodie') laid out on the grass."

“Based on this description, it doesn’t appear that Zimmerman ‘executed’ Martin, as some of the inflammatory rhetoric claims,” writes law professor William Jacobson at the Legal Insurrection blog. “It’s legally irrelevant that the encounter could have been avoided.”

Autopsy: Trayvon Martin shot from 'intermediate range'

After the shooting, Sanford police recommended that Zimmerman be charged with negligent manslaughter, but a state prosecutor instead accepted Zimmerman’s invocation of the state’s Stand Your Ground law, which allows a person to defend himself with deadly force in public areas, if he believes his life is in danger.

The failure to charge Zimmerman led to protests in Sanford and around the country, the stepping down of the local police chief, and allegations of racial injustice, causing Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to appoint a special prosecutor to take another look at the case.

In April, six weeks after the shooting, that prosecutor, Ms. Corey, reversed the earlier decision, charging Zimmerman with second-degree murder. He’s currently out on a $150,000 bond and in hiding.

Trove of evidence released in Trayvon Martin shooting

While many of the details of the shooting have already been publicized, the evidence released Thursday revealed new details likely to shade the as-yet-unscheduled trial.

Medical examiners found that Trayvon had THC, the euphoria-inducing compound found in marijuana, in his blood – a potentially salient fact given that Zimmerman told a dispatcher he thought the man he had spotted “was on drugs or something.”

Trayvon, who lived in Miami, was in Sanford with his dad to serve out a 10-day school suspension for possessing a baggie with marijuana residue. He was returning from buying an iced tea and some Skittles from a local convenience store when Zimmerman spotted him, called a nonemergency police dispatcher, and then followed him on foot.

Forensics also found that Trayvon was shot at extremely close range with a single shot, which entered his chest and perforated his heart.

The report also revealed the FBI findings from one of the most controversial tenets of the case: whether a voice that can be heard screaming for help during a 911 recording was Trayvon or Zimmerman. The FBI was unable to conclusively determine whom the voice belonged to, and was also unable to corroborate suggestions that, at one point, Zimmerman uttered a racial slur.

According to police, Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s dad, said he didn’t believe the voice crying for help belonged to his son. When asked, Officer Chris Serino wrote: "Mr. Martin, clearly emotionally impacted by the recording, quietly responded 'no.' "

The stakes in the case are high. It set off national introspection over so-called Stand Your Ground laws, which critics call “shoot first” laws. Zimmerman is likely to argue his use of that law in a special “mini-trial” to precede a jury trial, in which a judge can dismiss the case outright and shield Zimmerman from civil liability.

George Zimmerman photos released from night of Trayvon Martin shooting

Others, meanwhile, worry what impact an acquittal or hung jury could have, sparking columnist Mansfield Frazier at the Daily Beast to suggest that the legal system has a responsibility to help avoid a “large scale racial calamity.”

Corey, the prosecutor, has said that public pressure in the case did not influence her decision to charge Zimmerman with murder.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys pleaded with Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester to allow redaction of witness names in the discovery file, because some of them have feared for their safety.

The redactions are unusual under Florida’s progressive “sunshine” law that constitutionally guarantees the public’s right to inspect prosecutorial evidence against citizens.

“We’re a nation that doesn’t like secret witnesses bringing cases against defendants,” says Charles Davis, a government transparency expert at the University of Missouri. “We wag our fingers at other countries that allow that."

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This article, "Latest evidence in Trayvon Martin case: Does it help George Zimmerman?" first appeared on CSMonitor.com.

© 2012 The Christian Science Monitor

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