What evidence does Special Prosecutor Angela Corey have that prompted her to charge George Zimmerman with murdering Trayvon Martin? So far, she has refused to say.
Before long, though, she will be required by law to release the evidence — which fills several boxes. What will it show? "It'll be like little bits and pieces that will have to be strung together," said Adam Pollack, an Orlando criminal-trial attorney. "Almost a bunch of little dots. Initially, the little dots don't make much sense, but if you step back, you see a bigger picture." The public could get access in the next few days — although there may be delays — because prosecutors are legally required to share evidence with the defense and, once that happens, the information becomes public through a process called discovery. The most compelling evidence should fall into these categories:
That includes anything found at the scene where the two came into contact and the sidewalk where Zimmerman, a Sanford Neighborhood Watch volunteer, fatally shot the unarmed black teenager Feb. 26. He's charged with second-degree murder. Local lawyers say some of the evidence they're most eager to see are photos or anything else that documents Zimmerman's injuries or their absence. He called Sanford police, describing Trayvon as suspicious and then began following the Miami Gardens teenager on foot. Zimmerman said he shot Trayvon in self-defense after the teen punched him, knocked him to the ground and then began pounding his head on a sidewalk. "I definitely want to know what injuries the defendant suffered, what type of injuries and to what extent they were documented," said Pollack. Sanford police took photos of the defendant that night. They should be in the evidence soon to be released. A security-camera video, shot from long range at Sanford's police headquarters, showed Zimmerman with no obvious signs of injury, but when ABC News enhanced it, there appeared to be a gash on the back of his head. Other important pieces of evidence in this category include the bullet casing from the fatal shot and any markings from the grass or sidewalk that might hint at how violent the fight was and who had the upper hand.
The most important witness in the case may be Zimmerman. According to prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, the defendant gave five statements to authorities. Police described one as a re-enactment. "I want to know," said former Seminole County prosecutor Donna Goerner, "exactly what did he say." "If his statements have a lot of inconsistencies in them," said Orlando criminal-defense attorney David Fussell, "then that can be problematic for the defense." However, he also cautioned that it's not unusual for people in traumatic situations to alter their stories slightly over time, whether intentionally or not. Investigators also interviewed a Miami teenager, thought to be Trayvon's 16-year-old girlfriend, who told them she was on the cellphone with Trayvon just before the shooting and he told her he was frightened because a stranger was following him, according to court records. Also key to the case will be eye-witness statements. Several neighbors saw and heard Trayvon and Zimmerman fighting. If they saw Zimmerman on top, that would damage his self-defense claim.
Trayvon died of a single gunshot wound to the chest, but the results of his autopsy should reveal how close the gun was when it went off and the bullet's trajectory, lawyers said.
Dale Gilbreath, a prosecution investigator, testified there was "stippling" around the entry wound, tiny gunpowder burns that Fussell said can be found only when the muzzle of a gun is close to the victim, usually an arm's length or less. By plotting the bullet's trajectory, experts should be able to estimate the gun's relative position when it was fired, he said. More important, said Goerner, are other marks on Trayvon's body, "signs of a struggle … signs of bruising." If Zimmerman is telling the truth and Trayvon had him pinned to the ground and was beating him, the teenager's body should have cuts or bruises consistent with that, she said. The funeral director who prepared Trayvon's body, Richard Kurtz, told the Orlando Sentinel he saw no such signs of a fight.
Police gathered Trayvon's and Zimmerman's clothes, and they have likely been analyzed for dirt, grass, blood and DNA by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The presence of any of those things would lend credence to Zimmerman's account that there had been a fight and the pair wound up on the ground, said Pollack. If Zimmerman told the truth and Trayvon was on top, there's a strong likelihood that the teenager's blood and DNA would be on Zimmerman's clothes. Likewise, if Zimmerman were bleeding and Trayvon kept punching him, the teenager may have had Zimmerman's blood and DNA on his clothing or skin. "There's only two people who truly know," said Pollack. "Unfortunately, one of them is not able to testify."