Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zimmerman trial: Trayvon's cell phone at issue

Day 11: The Defense Gets Testy

by Clifford F. Thies 

The defense should be happy they were allowed two days to present their case. At 10 pm, the judge in the Zimmerman trial recessed her court, to be re-assembled the next day at 8 am on an investigation of witness misconduct, with the defense arguing that their client is being denied an opportunity to present a defense. 

The specific issue concerns some recently de-coded text messages, hidden inside Trayvon Martin's cell phone, concerning fighting of some kind. The defense argued that these messages were password protected within a device there is no indication that anybody other than Trayvon used; that the messages are in the same style as the many other messages in the device, and that they are corroborated by a deposition of Trayvon's female friend. 

Furthermore, the defense argues that the prosecution withheld information of the hidden and coded messages from them, and mislead the court in this regard, and, that the defense, by reason of not being granted a continuance, has had no opportunity to depose the recipients of the messages to attempt to further corroborate the messages. 

The judge did not give an immediate decision, but indicated she had problems with allowing the text messages into court because, she says, a seven year could have sent the messages. (It was late in a very long day for the judge, as it was for everybody else.) During the day, the defense indicated - in an off-hand remark - that they were calling their final witness. Possibly, the entire case will wrap up tomorrow, with closing statements, a jury instruction and even a verdict. Or else, who knows, the prosecution, which took 9 days to present its case, might need another 5 days to rebut the 2 days used the defense. The key witness for the defense during the day was Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a retired medical examiner now in private practice as a forensic pathologist.

He is perhaps the world's foremost expert in gun shot wounds. In addition to having performed 9,000 autopsies, and supervised another 28,000, he has written four books, contributed 13 chapters to the books of others, and 88 articles to referred journals. He is himself the editor of a leading journal in the field. He has testified in more than a hundred jurisdictions across the United States, including on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice in the murder of several persons by local police officers attempting to flee New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also testified for the United Nations in war crimes tribunals concerning atrocities in Yugoslavia. Dr. Di Maio very persuasively argued that the gunshot was from 2 to 4 inches from Trayvon's body. First, if the gun barrel abutted the young man's body, there would have been no strippling or, as he preferred to call it, body-tattooing. The fact that there was an area of about 2 by 2 inches indicates that the barrel was not against the body, but was not very far away either. Furthermore, the clothing indicates that it was in contract with the gun barrel. 

This indicates that Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman, with his clothes hanging down below him, a few inches below his body and draped over the gun. Conversely, if Zimmerman was above Trayvon at the time of the shot, Trayvon's clothes would have been draped over his body. In this counter-factual case, if the gun was held against Trayvons's body, his clothes would have been singed and there would have been no body-tattooing. Or else, if the gun was held away from Trayvon's body, the clothing would not have been singed and there would have been some body-tattooing. 

The combination of the marks or lack of marks on the clothing and on the body indicates that Trayvon was on top and Zimmerman underneath. As to whether Trayvon could have said, as Zimmerman has stated, "You got me," or something to that effect, and possibly also move his hand underneath him, yes, he could have, said Dr. Di Maio. A person has 10 to 15 seconds of reserve air in the brain, and possibly some blood with new air was pumped for a few more seconds to the brain. So, for a short period of time, Trayvon could have retained conscious and performed some voluntary or involuntary movements. Dr. Di Maio spoke with authority, with clarity sufficient for laymen to understand, and also with pathos. His voice trembled slightly at one point in describing the death of a young man in good health. On the other hand, there was a certain uncomfortable coldness to his testimony. 

How do we know a person could continue to function for a while after being shot in the heart? He gave the example of a man who was shot in the chest at point blank range with a shotgun, with his heart "shredded," who turned and ran 60 feet before collapsing. And, SWAT team members are trained to shoot persons holding hostages at gunpoint in the head, not in the heart, so as achieve an instant kill and save the person being held hostage from being killed during the few seconds a person shot in the heart might still be able to function. And, then there were the animals. Yes, the innocent little animals. How is it that Dr. Di Maio knows so much about gun shot wounds? Experiments on animals. Like Jack Nicholson said, in "A Few Good Men," "Truth? You can't handle the truth."

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