The Orlando Sentinel has an interesting article about the evolution of witness testimony in the Zimmerman case. Their key insight is on 'John', who saw Martin on top beating Zimmerman, who was calling for help and later waffled on who was screaming. However, I cannot replicate their scorecard:
Evidence released last week in the second-degree-murder case against George Zimmerman shows four key witnesses made major changes in what they say they saw and heard the night he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Three changed their stories in ways that may damage Zimmerman. A fourth abandoned her initial story, that she saw one person chasing another. Now, she says, she saw a single figure running.
I have it as three changes that hurt the defense and the abandoned story helping the defense. Here we go:
A young woman who lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes community, where Trayvon was shot, was interviewed twice by Sanford police and once by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
She told authorities that she had taken out her contact lenses just before the incident. In her first recorded interview with Sanford police four days after the shooting, she told lead Investigator Chris Serino, "I saw two guys running. Couldn't tell you who was in front, who was behind."
"I couldn't tell you if it was a man, a woman, a kid, black or white. I couldn't tell you because it was dark and because I didn't have my contacts on or glasses. … I just know I saw a person out there."
This sounds like the shadow-watcher from the bond hearing, so I guess we may never learn which shadow was black and which was Hispanic:
Gilbreath: "We have a witness statement who observed shadows or figures running by her residence." He says he can't identify who they were.
Hmm, *IF* this is the same person, this witness had more or less invalidated herself by the time of the bail hearing. Even though it was factualy accurate that she had made earlier statement about seeing things, one wonders whether Gilbreath was skirting the line of truth and falsehood here.
Obviously, the non-chase helps Zimmerman.
A young mother who is also a neighbor in the town-home community never gave a recorded interview to Sanford police, according to prosecution records released last week. She first sat down for an audio-recorded interview with an FDLE agent March 20, more than three weeks after the shooting.
During that session, she said she saw two people on the ground immediately after the shooting and was not sure who was on top, Zimmerman or Trayvon.
"I don't know which one. … All I saw when they were on the ground was dark colors," she said.
Six days later, however, she was sure: It was Zimmerman on top, she told trial prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda during a 21/2-minute recorded session.
"I know after seeing the TV of what's happening, comparing their sizes, I think Zimmerman was definitely on top because of his size," she said.
Does that hurt Zimmerman? I suppose it is not helpful, but still - *after* the gunshot Martin ended up on the ground and Zimmerman ended up on his feet. If she witnessed that transition, that tells us nothing abut the prior fight. It's hard to believe the prosecution can hang their hat on this.
Unless I have gotten turned round, Jeralyn Merritt discussed the evolution of Witness 12 over time. Here is her original 911 call ("Why would this man just shoot hinm") and her interview with Anderson Cooper. A TalkLeft commenter provides a useful breakdown, including the detail that she originally described two men arguing and a man screaming for help. Later, youth was served. Or at least, served up to the credulous.
This witness lived a few feet from where Trayvon and Zimmerman had their fight. On the night of the shooting, he told Serino he saw a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man "just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style," a reference to mixed martial arts.
He also said the one calling for help was "the one being beat up," a reference to Zimmerman.
But three weeks later, when he was interviewed by an FDLE agent, the man said he was no longer sure which one called for help.
"I truly can't tell who, after thinking about it, was yelling for help just because it was so dark out on that sidewalk," he said.
He also said he was no longer sure Trayvon was throwing punches. The teenager may have simply been keeping Zimmerman pinned to the ground, he said.
He did not equivocate, though, about who was on top.
"The black guy was on top," he said.
Well, that is 'John', obviously. He is the best 'scream' witness, so losing him on that point hurts the defense. Obviously, the defense will have to raise questions about why the guy on top would be screaming for help; the prosecution will counter that Zimmerman had drawn his gun while lying on the ground, brandished it for forty seconds or so, and then fired.
As to the notion that 'John' saw Martin pinning Zimmerman to the ground, Zimmerman claimed Martin was trying to cover his mouth with his hands. That is an odd way to suffocate someone - why not choke them out? Still, it does tie in to what 'John' may have seen.
He is important because he talked with Zimmerman and watched the way he behaved immediately after the shooting, before police arrived.
After this neighbor heard gunfire, he went outside and spotted Zimmerman standing there with"blood on the back of his head," he told Sanford police the night of the shooting.
Zimmerman told him that Trayvon "was beating up on me, so I had to shoot him," the witness told Serino. The Neighborhood Watch captain then asked the witness to call his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, and tell her what happened.
In two subsequent interviews about a month later — one with an FDLE investigator and one with de la Rionda — the witness described Zimmerman's demeanor in greater detail, adding that he spoke as if the shooting were no big deal.
Zimmerman's tone, the witness said, was "not like 'I can't believe I just shot someone!' — it was more like, 'Just tell my wife I shot somebody …,' like it was nothing."
Those witnesses are likely to be interviewed at least once more before Zimmerman's trial. Defense attorneys in Florida routinely question witnesses under oath as they prepare for trial.
So a month later this witness is an authority on how people ought to react to extreme stress. Stress he was not feeling himself, despite just having come across a homicide scene.
[Maybe we can find a stress expert or two at Wikipedia, the site libs love:
Symptoms of acute stress reaction
The symptoms show great variation but typically include an initial state of "daze", with some constriction of the field of consciousness and narrowing of attention, inability to comprehend stimuli, and disorientation.
This state may be quickly followed by either further withdrawal from the surrounding situation (to the extent of a dissociative stupor), or by agitation and overactivity, anxiety, impaired judgement, confusion, detachment, and depression.
I have no doubt the defense can find an expert to say that Zimmerman's reaction, as described, is well within normal bounds. Still, I can see why the OS chose to score this as 'not helpful to the defense'.]
I LOVE A MYSTERY: Back in the day Zimmerman's weight, originally reported as 250 lbs based on a 2005 arrest report, was a matter of speculation. That speculation was not eased by the orignal police report placed at the City of Sanford website and immortalized here, since Zimmerman's weight (p. 3) was left blank.
However, the new evidence dump (183 page .pdf) reprises that police report on the first couple of pages. Zimmerman appeared at the bottom of p. 2 of 4 in the report printed March 6 2012; in the new report he appears at the top of p. 4 of 18 but his weight is given as 200 lbs. and his height has changed from 509 to 507.
So when was this weight taken or estimated? He hadn't been booked as of April 2; when he was booked on April 12, his 'Intake Sheet' had him at 5' 8" and 185 lbs.
A related factoid - Trayvon Martin is named correctly in the March 6 report even though he came in as a John Doe and was only identified the next day. Dare we infer these reports are updated over time? So what was the basis for updating Zimmerman's height and weight?
Just from counting redactons in the "Persons" area of the report, I see that the March 6 report has six redacted people plus Martin and Zimmerman. The April 2 report has twelve plus Martin and Zimmerman. Obviously, this has been updated. Lest you doubt, the only juvenile in the March 6 report is Trayvon Martin. By April 2 we see a second juvenile immediately after Martin, which ought to be the 3 year old dogwatcher whose name would fit about there alphabetically (I am not mentioning it but it is easily found).