A trove of evidence collected for George Zimmermans second-degree murder trial was made public Thursday, including the report that shows the lead detective originally wanted to file manslaughter charges because he said the whole encounter could have been avoided with better judgment and a little dialogue.
But the cache of forensic evidence, autopsy results, documents, audio tapes and police reports also paints a murky portrait of a fight between two people that left a teenager dead, a man facing life in prison, and a community shaken.
Some witnesses contradicted each other and others were flat wrong. Some heard two shots, when only one was fired. A few people saw the man with a red shirt Zimmerman on top during the fight, while others saw Trayvon Martin straddling Zimmerman and throwing punches. Still others were convinced it was Trayvon who cried for help, although police disagreed.
Ultimately, police, medical and witness accounts verify that Zimmermans nose was broken and that he was punched repeatedly by a scrawny unarmed teenager who straddled him as terrified neighbors called police. Records released by State Attorney Angela B. Corey on Thursday show the lead Sanford police investigator believed it was the neighborhood watch volunteer who was recorded screaming the word help 14 times in 38 seconds.
Other witnesses described Zimmerman as nonchalant after the killing. Two people who said they knew him told police that he was a racist and a bully, once fired from a job for complaining so much about co-workers and bosses.
In mid-March, the Sanford police chief announced that no probable cause existed to make an arrest. In a document dated the next day, the lead detective swore otherwise.Avoidable
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(sic) in an effort to dispel each partys concern, lead investigator Chris Serino swore in a March 13 statement. There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter.
His conclusion: probable cause for manslaughter.
The documents made public Thursday also showed that:
• Trayvon, 5-foot-11 and 158 pounds, tested positive for trace levels of marijuana.
• When Trayvons father first listened to the 911 police tapes, he told detectives that it wasnt his sons voice crying for help. This is a critical aspect of the case, because the state attorneys investigators cited Trayvons mothers testimony that it was her sons voice as part of the probable cause affidavit in support of the charge against Zimmerman. Zimmermans father said it was his son crying, but an FBI analyst said there was no way to tell for sure.
• The autopsy report showed a shot fired from intermediate range pierced Trayvons heart. He also had a small cut on one of his fingers.
• Pictures showed Zimmermans nose was swollen and bloody and he had two cuts on the back of his head. A paramedic thought he needed stitches, and a doctor who saw him the next day said his nose was fractured. Although he complained of back pain and feeling lightheaded, Zimmerman declined to go to a hospital. Zimmerman, the records show, takes medication for ulcers and anxiety.
• The witness statements include one eyewitness who said he saw a man in a red shirt getting hit by someone else. When he returned for a second look, he said the man who had been hitting the other was dead.
The evidence included statements from nearly two dozen witnesses, such as leaders of the homeowners association and other residents at the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhouse development.
I feel in my heart
I honestly do believe
that he intended for this kid to die, one witness said.
One statement came from a Middle Eastern man who said Zimmerman taunted him at work by acting out ventriloquist Jeff Dunhams Achmed the Dead Terrorist character, played by his dummy puppet. Fired from job
He said Zimmerman was fired in 2008 for filing too many complaints about managers and co-workers. Another woman called police to say Zimmerman was confrontational and does not like black people.
Kept from the media were cellphone records for Zimmerman, Trayvon, and a girl Trayvon was chatting with in the moments before his death. Zimmermans full medical records from the doctor who examined him the next day were not made public.
Zimmermans three statements to police and the video-taped reenactment he did for detectives the day after he killed Trayvon were also withheld, because Florida law says confessions are not public record.
The most important piece of evidence is the detective saying that if George Zimmerman would have just stayed in his car, none of this would have happened, said Trayvons family attorney, Benjamin Crump.
If Zimmerman had just stood down, then he wouldnt have to plead protection under the Stand Your Ground law.
In an interview this week with The Miami Herald, Zimmermans father accused the special prosecutor of filing a false probable cause affidavit. He accused her of deliberately ignoring evidence that would corroborate the self-defense claim.
They went with the information they had reasonable belief was untrue, and they swore it was true, Robert Zimmerman said. Someone should go to jail over that affidavit. They will be studying it in criminal justice classes for years to come.
Robert Zimmerman is a retired magistrate from Virginia, and part of his job was to review affidavits and determine whether an arrest was merited.
He said he feared that jurors could find Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter to appease the public. He was torn about whether it would be best to have a trial where all the evidence would be aired out or have the case dismissed by a judge.
Floridas Stand Your Ground law gives Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester the right to throw out the case if he determines that Zimmerman was in reasonable fear for his life. The law also offers immunity from civil action.
The deadly encounter took place Feb. 26, a rainy Sunday night when both the Oscars and the NBA-All Stars game were on TV.
Trayvon was riding out a 10-day suspension at the townhouse development where his fathers girlfriend lives. With the adults out for the evening, Trayvon walked to a nearby 7-Eleven for snacks.
When Zimmerman, a crime watch volunteer, spotted Trayvon as he walked through the development, he called police. The complex had endured several break-ins, which witnesses had attributed to young black men who sneaked into the gated community on foot through a patch of trees in the back.
Sanford police noted that Zimmerman had called police before at least four times in recent months, always about the presence of a black male stranger.
Previously released recorded calls to police show Zimmerman got out of his car that night and started following Trayvon. He was out of breath and muttering profanities about how the criminals always got away.
Zimmerman claimed he was on his way back to his truck when Trayvon attacked him.Store footage
Videos made public as part of the evidence include shots of Trayvon at the convenience store, and footage of the housing developments clubhouse.
The Sanford Police Departments decision to let Zimmerman go and refer to case to the state attorneys office for further review sparked a nationwide outcry. In recent weeks public sentiment has become more divided, as the case grows increasingly contentious and opinions split along racial lines.
Zimmerman had been working in the mortgage industry and studying criminal justice at Seminole State College before the school expelled him after the shooting.
He is now free on bond, hiding at an undisclosed location. Herald staff writers Andres Viglucci and David Smiley contributed to this story.