New Evidence is Consistent with George Zimmerman’s Self Defense Claim

May 18, 2012 2:12 pm 37 comments

George Zimmerman. Photo: wiki commons.

A medical report by George Zimmerman’s doctor has disclosed that Zimmerman had a fractured nose, two black eyes, two lacerations on the back of his head and a back injury on the day after the fatal shooting.  Moreover, the New York Times has reported that traces of marijuana were found in Trayvon Martin’s body and that Martin’s father initially said that the voice crying for help was not that of his son.  It is also been reported that a bruise was found on Martin’s ring finger that would be consistent with Martin having punched Zimmerman.  No other wounds, aside of course from the fatal bullet hole in the front of Martin’s body, were found.

If this evidence turns out to be valid, the prosecutor will have no choice but to drop the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman — if she wants to act ethically, lawfully and professionally.

There is, of course, no assurance that the special prosecutor handling the case, State Attorney Angela Corey, will do the right thing. Because until now, her actions have been anything but ethical, lawful and professional.

She was aware when she submitted an affidavit that it did not contain the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. She deliberately withheld evidence that supported Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. The New York Times has reported that the police had “a full face picture” of Zimmerman, before paramedics treated him, that showed “a bloodied nose.” The prosecutor also had photographic evidence of bruises to the back of his head.

But none of this was included in any affidavit.

Now there is much more extensive medical and forensic evidence that would tend to support Zimmerman’s version of events. This version, if true, would establish self-defense even if Zimmerman had improperly followed, harassed and provoked Martin.

A defendant, under Florida law, loses his “stand your ground” defense if he provoked the encounter — but he retains traditional self-defense if he reasonably believed his life was in danger and his only recourse was to employ deadly force.

Thus, if Zimmerman verbally provoked Martin, but Martin then got on top of Zimmerman and banged his head into the ground, broke his nose, bloodied his eyes and persisted in attacking Zimmerman — and if Zimmerman couldn’t protect himself from further attack except by shooting Martin — he would have the right to do that. (The prosecution has already admitted that it has no evidence that Zimmerman started the actual fight.)

This is a fact-specific case, in which much turns on what the jury believes beyond a reasonable doubt. It must resolve all such doubts in favor of the defendant, because our system of justice insists that it is better for 10 guilty defendants to go free than for even one innocent to be wrongfully convicted.

You wouldn’t know that from listening to Corey, who announced that her jobs was “to do justice for Trayvon Martin” — not for George Zimmerman.

As many see it, her additional job is to prevent riots of the sort that followed the acquittal of the policemen who beat Rodney King.

Indeed, Mansfield Frazier, a columnist for the Daily Beast, has suggested that it is the responsibility of the legal system to “avert a large scale racial calamity.” He has urged Zimmerman’s defense lawyer to become a “savior” by brokering a deal to plead his client guilty to a crime that “has him back on the streets within this decade.”

But it is not the role of a defense lawyer to save the world or the country. His job — his only job — is to get the best result for his client, by all legal and ethical means.

Listen to the way a famous British barrister put it in 1820:

“An advocate, by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows, in the discharge of that office, but one person in the world, that client and none other . . . Nay, separating even the duties of a patriot from those of an advocate, and casting them, if need be, to the wind, he must go on reckless of the consequences, if his fate it should unhappily be, to involve his country in confusion for his client’s protection.”

The prosecutor’s job is far broader: to do justice to the defendant as well as the alleged victim. As the Supreme Court has said: “The government wins . . . when justice is done.”

Zimmerman’s lawyer is doing his job. It’s about time for the prosecutor to start doing hers.

Speaking of doing their job, the New York Times’ “reporting” on the case has been generally biased against Zimmerman. It has suggested that if the police had done their job properly the evidence would point to Zimmerman’s guilt.  Moreover, it included in its reporting an inflammatory item of uncorroborated gossip.  This is what it said:

“The reports may give rise to other mysteries as well, including the identity of a woman who called another investigator, less than two full days after the shooting.

The woman refused to identify herself or give any callback numbers, but told the investigator that Mr. Zimmerman “has racist ideologies and that he is fully capable of instigating a confrontation that could have escalated to the point of Zimmerman having to use deadly force.”

I think the New York Times should ask itself whether it would have published the contents of a phone call from an unidentified person that made similar inflammatory charges against Trayvon Martin.  I believe that the publication of such unsourced gossip—which would be totally inadmissible in any trial—violates the New York Times’ own policies.  It has some explaining to do.

37 Comments

  • dee anne moore

    Just for the sake of reality…
    Create a different but very relevant scenario. Imagine that Trayvon was a 19 y.o. female drinking a tea and talking on her cell phone. A male in a truck starts going slowly behind her. Eventually, the guy gets out of the truck and starts for her and is asking personal questions…
    I have three daughters and two granddaughters. I assure you what would be going thru their minds. I assure that they would run and if caught or cornered, would struggle like hell.
    If you think that it is any different for a young male, (I also have three grandsons, one son and three sons-in-laws as well as nephew and friends with young males in their families, well…think again.
    A young person who is doing no wrong and who is being pursued and “stalked” by a man in a truck on a rainy street, then is being chased by said man…
    The picture seems quite clear if you simply remove race, past history of the individuals, etc., and change the gender.
    This is a case of a person whose sense of self is way too pompous. I was a crime-watch captain in a neighborhood where crime was actually rampant. I developed a false sense of righteousness and needed to be brought down to size. Fortunately, friends and family were able to remind me that I was not a judge nor a jury and others have rights too.
    Zimmerman unfortunately needed a real hobby that was conducive to being constructive rather than destructive.
    Too much testosterone.

    • Joey Miller

      I believe by saying “pursued” and “stalked” you mean “spoken to”. There is nothing illegal or threatening about speaking to a stranger on a public sidewalk, and even if such behavior might prompt somebody to run in irrational fear it does not justify physical assault.

  • this is really getting to show how small we as americans really are especially when we are a;ways trying to tell the rest of the world how to live their lives and we cant live our own

  • To Alan Dershowitz.
    I have not always agreed with your politics in the past, but I applaud and respect you now, for being an honest lawyer, who is capable of recognizing plain facts and law when you see them. Hopefully there are enough other people on the left, and the MSM, with honesty and good will, to prevent this tragic lynching of an innocent man, just because a bunch of race baiters demand it.

    One thing that really worries me is all this talk about riots in the event of an acquittal. You do not convict an innocent man to avoid riots, you arrest the rioters, and severely criticise the race baiters that egged them on, and perhaps arrest them for incitement to riot.

    Interestingly enough, I initially thought zimmerman might have been guilty as well, but changed my mind when I heard of the confined beating evidence you cited in this article, and the doctored 911 tape, and the bogus story that zimmerman was never seriously injured. So I can undetstand those who initially called for a special prosecutor. But anybody who is still calling for zimmermans blood now is clearly incapable of recognizing plain facts. And in light of this evidence the prosecutor was definitely wrong to charge him with 2nd degree murder, when even manslaughter is a stretch.

  • So let me see if I understand the stand your ground/self defense law correctly:
    I go up to you and say give me your wallet. Instead of giving me your wallet you hit me and knock me down and start to pummel me. I then have the right under the stand your ground law or as self defense, to now pull out my gun and kill you because I am now in fear for my life. Does that sum it up ?

    • To fredw
      You hypothetical has nothing whatsoever to do with the case and reveals your complete ignorance. I have not heard any evidence that zimmerman tried to rob martin, and I doubt if there is any. Demanding somebody’s wallet is a crime, and therefore that person would have already broken the law, and would deserve whatever the other person does to them to prevent the robbery. And if you kill somebody during your attempt at a robbery, it is a felony.

      How about a hyothetical that is relevant. I see you in my neighborhood, and think you might be up to no good, and follow you. Then I meet you and ask what you are doing in the neighborhood. So far my conduct has been perfectly legal. Maybe it is unwise, and even a bit impolite, if it turned out that you were not actually intending to do anything wrong, but it is still not illegal. Maybe my suspicion was based on racism, but even that is not illegal (very wrong but not illegal), unless I physically start the fight, a fact nowhere in evidence in the case. Now you bizarrely take that as some kind of threat, and attack me, pin me to the ground, and start beating me to a pulp, thereby making you guilty of felony assault, while I have done nothing illegal whatsoever. Now, when you are about to beat me senseless, I get my gun and fire. Sounds like ironclad self defense to me. Maybe some leftist idiot, or some race baiter, might not think that, but I do.

      Even if it turned out that zimmerman started the fight (not proven at all), it would still not negate his self defense case, since when he fired his life was threatened, and he could not retreat. The only way martin would be justified in his conduct would be if he knew zimmerman had a weapon, and zimmerman threatened to shoot him, and he attacked zimmerman to defend himself from being shot. But again there is zero evidence this was the case.

      • Zimmerman started the altercation by getting out of his car and confronting Martin after the police told him not to. If he had simply stayed where he was no one would have died.

        • Getting out of your vehicle is not a crime.
          Following someone for a short distance is not a crime.
          Being suspicious of someone is not a crime.
          Asking what someone is doing in your neighborhood is not a crime.
          Carrying a weapon you have a legal permit for is not a crime.
          Shooting someone in self defense when in fear for your life is not a crime.

          • If you have the nerve to get out of your car and get your butt beat for harassing someone that is minding their own business. Be man enough to take the butt kicking and go back home and know better next time. The tables turned on Zimmerman and he couldn’t stand it.

        • So far, George Zimmerman (GZ) says he got out of his truck to determine where he was at. If you remember, prior to that, GZ states he lost contact w/TM and concurrent with that, it is implied from TM’s girlfriend that TM lost contact with GZ. As I understand it, TM/GZ only looked at each other from a distance, then after that, lost contact. When GZ got out of his truck, he did not know where TM was at. That is consistent in how GZ was struck by surprise by TM. TM committed assault, if you accept GZ’s explanation. You are presuming that GZ saw TM when he got out of his vehicle and picked a fight. The prosecution does not know who started the fight. I know some police officers (after, the decision from the special prosecution rendered to pursue the case) say GZ could have avoided this confrontation if he stayed in his truck, but that entertains a lot of other possibilities excluding TM’s conduct. Why did TM approach GZ if the two of them moments ago had lost contact with each other?

      • You complain that the other medias are bent against Zimmerman. I don’t see too much evidence of that as evidenced by the money Mr. Zimmerman has been able to collect and still collects in his defense. Specifically, though, I want to respond to your comment that it would have only been self-defense on Trayvon’s part if he knew that Zimmerman had a gun and was obviously not law enforcement. How did Trayvon know that Zimmerman had a gun to go after if it was not in plain sight? What would you think was about to happen if a strange person of any race, sex, etc. were to jump out of their car and chase you into a dark alley or back yard? Would you imagine that that person was coming just to tell you “hello”? Would you be obligated to wait until he/she strikes or shoots you before defending yourself? Everything you write in George’s defense should have also been available to Trayvon. Why was Trayvon required to wait and see if George was going to hurt him or not but George was perfectly within his rights to question Trayvon’s existence in the neighborhood? No one is more ignorant than the person who thinks they know it all.

    • The way I understand it, if you were to come up to me and throw out an insult/merely say “give me your wallet” (simple assault with no battery implied) and I responded with beating you into submission then continued to beat your head into concrete (which most states would consider deadly force) then you could respond with deadly force and not be prosecuted with any degree of murder. Since you did initiate contact with that assault then you’d probably end up with manslaughter IF the prosecution could prove beyond a doubt you did anything at all.
      Now, I live in Virginia and some of those laws differ state to state.

      • I agree. If it could be proved that zimmerman actually started the fight, like if he threw a punch or tried to physically restrain martin from leaving, or brandished his gun, then he might be guilty of manslaughter, since he would be partly at fault for starting the fatal altercation, but the 2nd degree murder charge is completely rediculous.

        But it has yet to be proven that zimmerman started the fight. Again, following somebody even if you have racist intent (not proven) is not a crime, even confronting somebody and asking them what they are doing in the neighborhood (also not proven) is not a crime, and not justification for martin to attack zimmerman.

  • So a “weird man”, a stranger with a gun is pursuing an American citizen who had a right to be where he was and that citizen is not allowed to fight for his/her/their life?

    Give me a break – you wingnuts are creating a country I no longer recognize. Or one I remember form my childhood in the 1950s and 1960′s, one I want to forget.

    You’re shameful and you are frightening. I am afraid of you people.

    • Remember that the gun was concealed, so martin had no idea zimmerman was armed. In any event, following somebody is not a crime, and does not justify attacking that person. At most it justifies asking them why they are following me. If they then threaten me with the gun, or in some other way, that might justify an attack, but that is nowhere in evidence. And what is your evidence that zimmerman acted like a “wierd man”. Again, following somebody is not a crime, and if your neighborhood had been victimized by burglaries recently, and you are from the neighborhood, and the person you are following is not, and they behaved in a manner you thought suspicious, it might even be justified.

      • But, George purportedly claimed that Martin was going after his gun. How did he know George had one? And, if George was in such mortal danger, how was he able to scoot off of the sidewalk (seeking a more comfortable position) and onto the grass? If he could do that, he could get the slimmer man off of him. He was purportedly being straddled by this skinny young man (who no doubt was fighting like a wildcat for his life). He was able to lift the “assailant” up to get to his gun that was located where if not in his hand? Where was the gun during this? I believe that if he’s punk enough to confront someone and not defend himself hand to hand, then he should have stayed his fat behind in his vehicle and allowed the police to do the job. He was concerned that this “a-hole was going to get away” and he wasn’t going to allow that to happen so he pulled his gun to keep Trayvon there until the police arrived but he did not tell Trayvon who he was. He did not believe he had to explain himself to a Black teenager. I’d bet that all Trayvon saw was a sweaty, panting Hispanic man with a earring in his ear like the Hispanic gangs from his neighborhood, standing in front of him with a gun, hemmed up in other people’s backyards. He did what he could to save his own life. I don’t believe Zimmerman was in fear for his life or he would not have confronted this big black giant in the first place. One more thing: if Trayvon ran past his car to get away, was that not his effort to get away and therefore, his right to stand his ground after the man chased and found him on the path to his home? I guess if it had been me and I had lived, I would have went to jail for assault because I certainly would have done my best to knock that person out and get away AGAIN. I wish Trayvon had thought to call the police on George Zimmerman but as a black teen in Florida or anywhere in the South, I bet he knew it wouldn’t have mattered.

  • whitewash

  • Michael Giles

    Prof. Dershowitz, I fail to see how injuries to Mr. Zimmerman, and to Mr Martin’s hand, prove that Mr. Martin started whatever altercation took place. In the real world it is not unusual for some one to start a fight and end up having the other person end it.

    • Zimmerman does not have to prove martin started the fight, the prosecution has to prove zimmerman did, and so far I have seen no such proof. Once again, following somebody is not a crime, starting a fight is a crime, and so far there has been zero proof zimmerman did that. In fact, the total lack of any fight damage on martin (other than his fists from throwing punches), and the severe damage to zimmerman, gives at least partial support that martin started the fight.

  • Dershowitz is correct. The media has some explaining to do, as they helped incubate a false narrative.

    Let us start with the accusations of “racial profiling,” which were based on segments of the 911 call. Indeed, Zimmerman stated Martin’s race, but he did so because the 911 operator asked him. That part of the call was omitted by the media, thus giving the impression that Zimmerman “profiled” Martin.

    Then there is the assumption that Zimmerman followed Martin, for which there is no compelling evidence. When the 911 operator asks Zimmerman not to follow Martin (“We don’t need you to do that”), he simply acknowledges and replies with “OK.” There is nothing that suggests he ignored that recommendation.

    The affidavit presented by the prosecution contains these assumptions. As Dershowitz said a couple of months ago, any reasonable judge would throw out this case.

    • You are quite correct. There is no evidence that zimmerman continued his pursuit after the 911 operator told him not to, and some indication he stopped, since his conversation after that centered on how he should meet the cops when they arrived, and said nothing about where martin was.

      I assumed the worste case, that zimmerman followed martin after the 911 operator told him not to, and did it for racist reasons. But given the testimony about martin confining and beating him, even that worste case would justify self defense, unless the prosecution could prove zimmerman threw the 1st punch, nowhere in evidence to date.

      I agree that the MSM conduct has been disgusting on this case. Fox reported the evidence about zimmerman being confined and beaten fairly early, and the MSM continued to ignore that, and even falsified evidence from the 911 call to make it appear that Zimmerman racially profiled (which again is not a crime, unless he did something physical to martin as a result), and also falsly reported that martin had no fight wounds.

      • If George accepted the 911 operator’s suggestion to not pursue Trayvon, why wouldn’t he give the 911 operator his location for the police to meet him at but instead told the operator to have the police call him when they arrived? I believe because he had no intention of staying near the mailboxes, the clubhouse or his vehicle. He did not want the police to arrive and all he could do was point in the direction the young male ran in. He wanted the young male there. I don’t think he set out to shoot him but he had the tools to do it and used it.

        George was not as fat as he was in the orange jumpsuit but he was not and is not currently in good enough shape to jump from his car from the location most diagrams show the position of his vehicle to be in, make it all the way to back of the townhouses, be on the sidewalk at the street and end up halfway down the sidewalk to Trayvon’s destination. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason that Trayvon didn’t make it was because when George got off of the phone, he called his friend, Frank Taarpe (sp?) and Frank cut Trayvon off. Frank does not live where he would be able to hear the commotion from this fight and shooting. Perhaps I watch too many mystery and murder shows but I don’t think your Boy George is innocent or blameless. I’m done though responding to your comments. I leave this entire mess to God.

  • A major problem with Prosicutorial Misconduct is, it goes pretty much unpunished. I think a remedy would be in a case over turned for prosicutorial misconduct the prosicutor would be immediately, permanently disbarred, and banned from the legal profession in all capacities. NO Exceptions allowed!

    • Sometimes a prosecutor is sanctioned. I beleive something was done to the rogue prosecutor in the duke rape case. But I agree rogue prosecutors are not sanctioned enough, and that it might be deserved in this case. So far, the only prosecutor under any cloud is the one that originally dropped the case, even though given the fight evidence we know now he was probably correct to drop it.

    • No, the remedy would be legally consider it conspiracy to whatever crimes the defendant is charged with, and apply the same legal penalties the defendant would face to the prosecutor.

  • The wheels of justice grind slowly. But they grind fine.

  • If there is some sort of riot after the second-degree murder charges are dropped against Zimmerman, one wonders whether those who would be responsible for the riot would be those who stoked the flames of racial tension following Martin’s death rather than those within the legal system.

  • They will convict George anyway. The evidence doesn’t matter. It is a political lynching orchestrated by The Criminal Zerobama Regime.

    I am George Zimmerman. I am Matthew Owens.

    Mine is dry.

    • I think you can go on and pull out your party supplies. I don’t think George Zimmerman will be found guilty whether it’s before a trial or after. He’s safe in this world. I would pray for his soul in the next.

  • Good article! This whole matter has been a “lynch mob” effort from the get go! Duke Lacrosse “deja vu.”

    But the NYT will not humble itself by admitting to error.

    I suspect that this incident will contribute to Obama’s shellacking in November. That was foreseeable and the geniuses at the NYT managed to miss it. Too bad!

  • richard schumacher hls 1958

    An excellent article.

  • “Zimmerman’s lawyer is doing his job. It’s about time for the prosecutor to start doing hers.”

    And meanwhile, the Martin family’s lawyer is appearing everywhere he can with an incredibly presumptive, emotive and truncated version of events.

  • swampsniper

    This is becoming a political lynching, our justice system is being derailed by threats of mob violence.
    Any one of us could be in George Zimmerman’s shoes. He deserves a fair hearing based only on evidence, not influenced by political considerations.

  • What a pleasure to read a liberal expressing pure logic. Listen to Alan Combes, Bob Beckel, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Al Gore, John Kerry, Mike Moore, union thugs, Barack Obama. The only time they ever expressed coherent thoughts was in response to Sadam Hussein. And a liberal taking it to the NYTimes, always playing the liberal nonsense game. What is going on here? Thank you sir.

  • Stephen Hunter

    Mr Dershowitz, did the autopsy detail any evidence about bullet trajectory through the body. This is something the media is evidently unaware of, but if the bullet tracked upwards and the bullet hole was ovoid, that is significant forensic evidence that indeed GZ was on his back, firing upward at a perpetrator above and athawrt him. It should be made public by someone who knows what he’s talking about.

    • There has been evidence, from powder burns, that the gun was only a few inches away when it was fired, again supporting zimmermans story that he was confined in close contact when he fired.

    • The forensics test states the distance from the gun to the entry wound was no more than 18 inches. Obama has a political agenda on race and gun control. GZ could have killed TM with a knife. President Obama used race in Massachuttes that cops acting stupidly and anti-gun campaign speech in AZ in explotation of the “political assassination” of a 9 year old girl and attempt on a Senator. It is no surprise that Obama’s indictment speech against GZ (If I had a son….)is indicative of his nature to further divide the country. That TM had no wounds than from his fist in service of beating up GZ, suggests that the 200 lb. GZ either resisted an altercation or unable to hit back until he used his firearm, at point blank range. GZ had in theory the initiative to use his firearm, but fired it only at the most inopportune moment and only once, when he was in physical contact with GZ. It seems that we need to take not only the guns away, but also knives. When does all the hypocrisy end? This case is the very essence of why “stand your ground” is important, once it is established, of course, the culpability of the assailant. GZ did not even get in a punch or in swinging at TM GZ missed. Why would GZ throw a punch, instead of shooting with his firearm at point blank range, if GZ is a cold-blooded, second degree murderer? Now that GZ did not throw a punch, based on this logic, why would GZ draw his firearm at the most inopportune time? If the only opportunity to use his firearm was when he used it, then we are arguing in circles regarding his culpability to starting the actual fight. We have enough facts to draw cirumstantially that TM started the fight. Is it more reasonable to believe that the unscathed TM exercised first strike of physical assault than GZ? Unless GZ struck first or that the first strike is without determination, then the prosecution’s case must fail respectively to the “stand your ground” law, and secondarily under the general common law for self-defense.

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