Report: Trayvon Martin beat, bloodied George Zimmerman. Game-changer?
A medical report showing that Trayvon Martin hit George Zimmerman hard enough to draw blood on his face and head has made a second-degree murder conviction a long shot, say experts.
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The new details of the aftermath of the fight, however, are part of shifting perceptions around the case, which led to a national debate on how race plays into increasingly liberalized US gun and self-defense laws.Skip to next paragraph
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Initial reports of the fight, accompanied by pictures of Martin as a baby-faced 14-year-old, created the perception of an unbalanced fight between a gun-carrier adult and a young teen. But at the time of the fight, Martin stood at 6 feet 3 inches and 150 pounds, towering over, but not outweighing, Zimmerman, who is 5-foot-8, and 185 pounds. Zimmerman told the court on April 27 that he thought Martin was an adult and said he didn’t know if he was armed or not.
The medical report “doesn’t prove that George Zimmerman acted lawfully, but it breaks the narrative that Zimmerman was not injured,” writes William Jacobson, a Cornell University law professor, on his Legal Insurrection blog.
But while the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries could certainly influence a jury, the injuries are only part of a broader calculus that led Corey and her team to charge Zimmerman with murder – including Zimmerman’s mindset as he pursued Martin on foot, which a police dispatcher specifically asked him not to do. Zimmerman spotted Martin as he was returning to where he was staying with an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
The Justice Department is also pondering a federal hate crime charge, if they determine that Zimmerman profiled and shot Martin because he was black. A hate crime charge could put the death penalty into play if Zimmerman is convicted on all counts.
In fact, the prosecutor in the case, legal experts say, isn’t trying to argue that Zimmerman wasn’t hurt, but that he ultimately instigated the fight by getting out of his car and “confronting” Martin, who was “minding his own business,” and then shot him and killed him when the situation slipped out of his control. The fact that Zimmerman used massive and deadly force on a teenager armed only with his fists suggests to prosecutors that he displayed reckless – and thus criminal – indifference to human life, the definition of second degree murder.
"You lose the [self-defense argument] if you are the aggressor or if you do not have a reasonable basis for fear or serious harm or death,” George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told the Guardian newspaper recently. “Even if he is not the aggressor there will remain the question of escalation or confrontation."