In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Zimmerman has been star witness against himself

It’s too early in the George Zimmerman murder trial to make any predictions.

But at least one of the prevailing questions arising before the six-woman jury was seated and sequestered — can Zimmerman get a fair trial, given the high-profile status of the case and the excessive publicity surrounding it? — has been answered with a resounding “Yes.”

For one, the neighborhood watchman’s defense team has been exhaustingly aggressive in its cross-examination of every state witness, with enough success, it seems, to plant doubt and drive observers to question the prosecution’s strategy and speculate that a second-degree murder conviction will be impossible for a jury to reach.

On Tuesday, defense attorney Mark O’Mara tried to keep out evidence that portrays Zimmerman as a wannabe cop whose zealotry led him to profile 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was returning on a rainy night from a trip to a 7-Eleven, as a potential criminal.

The evidence — college documents and a request to ride along with police officers — shows that Zimmerman was a criminal justice major who knew enough about Florida law to quickly come up with a self-defense story that would justify his use of deadly force against the unarmed Miami Gardens teen, who was staying with his father in the Sanford gated community where Zimmerman lived.

Judge Debra Nelson is scheduled to rule Wednesday about whether the jury will see the documents, which bolster the prosecution’s contention that Zimmerman acted as a vigilante who profiled and followed Trayvon, provoking the altercation that led to his killing.

But regardless, the star witness against Zimmerman the past two days has been Zimmerman himself.

Not that he has said anything in court — but prosecutors put him on the stand on tape Monday being interviewed by police investigators and again on Tuesday being interviewed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The television celebrity may have asked softball questions, but along with police interviews Zimmerman’s statements have significant inconsistencies.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person puzzled by Zimmerman’s account to Sanford Police investigator Doris Singleton the night of the killing. He seemed to have a clear recollection of how everything occurred, but when asked out of the blue about the position of Trayvon Martin’s body, the way Travyon went down when he was shot, Zimmerman said he couldn’t remember.

In another interview, Zimmerman claimed he spread out Trayvon’s arms after the shooting, but a photo taken immediately after the shooting shows Martin face down with his arms under his body.

Zimmerman told Singleton that Trayvon jumped out at him from bushes, but during the scene walk-through and re-creation the next day, there are only spare bushes and Zimmerman doesn’t mention them. He says Trayvon came up from behind buildings.

None of these are small inconsistencies.

“The truth about the murder of Trayvon Martin is going to come directly from his mouth,” prosecutor John Guy predicted in opening statements.

And so, on Day 17 of a trial expected to last a while longer, the one question that remains unanswered is, will Trayvon Martin get any justice?

It may be difficult, but not impossible.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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