Zimmerman Trial: State Lost From the Start

The prosecution's handling of the case remained a compelling curiosity during the entire trial.

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton (Joe Burbank/Getty); Prosecutors John Guy and Bernie de la Rionda (Joe Burbank/Getty)
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton (Joe Burbank/Getty); Prosecutors John Guy and Bernie de la Rionda (Joe Burbank/Getty)

(The Root) — By the time George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the state of Florida had long since lost its case against him. Possibly several times over.

Maybe it was June 28, the fourth day of testimony, when the prosecution made the risky decision to call to the stand the star witness for the defense. As expected, John Good’s testimony laid the foundation for Zimmerman’s claim that he shot Trayvon in self-defense. He told jurors he saw the 17-year-old on top of Zimmerman, “throwing down blows” with “ground-and-pound” ferocity.

It might have been over the next two days, when Sanford, Fla., police officer Chris Serino became the rare officer to undermine a prosecution. While he confirmed the state’s contention that Zimmerman profiled, followed and showed ill will, hatred and spite toward Trayvon, Serino also said he believed Zimmerman told the truth about Trayvon as the attacker.

The judge ruled that Serino should not have opined about Zimmerman’s truthfulness and ordered jurors to disregard it. But, really, who would pretend to not have heard a judgment spoken unequivocally by the shooting’s initial lead investigator?

Defeat could well have come when the state rested its case on the ruinous testimony July 5 of Shipping Bao, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy of Trayvon. Repeatedly and defiantly, Bao told jurors he remembered “nothing, zero” about the autopsy, at times appearing to read his answers directly from his personal notes (which he refused to share with the defense until the judge forced him). He also shirked responsibility for his subordinates accused by the defense of improperly storing Trayvon’s clothing, which could have degraded the evidence.

The defense possibly ensured Zimmerman’s acquittal after the first full day of putting on its case July 9, with the testimony of Dr. Vincent Di Maio. The renowned expert on bullet wounds said the gunpowder marks on Trayvon’s clothes and chest indicated that the garments were hanging two to four inches from his body.

The clothing was pulled down by gravity, Di Maio said, indicating that Trayvon was on top of Zimmerman when he was shot. Di Maio also said that the bullet’s path into Trayvon’s body was consistent with Zimmerman firing from beneath Trayvon.

Di Maio’s findings bested those of the state’s experts. And the prosecution could not move Di Maio off his conclusions on cross-examination.

As I wrote on Friday, the state never gave jurors a full theory of how the fight between Trayvon and Zimmerman started through to the moment the gun fired.