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Latest evidence in Trayvon Martin case: Does it help George Zimmerman? (+video)

A trove of evidence from the Trayvon Martin shooting released Thursday may buttress George Zimmerman's claims of self-defense, some analysts say. But one finding undergirds the prosecution: The shooter could have avoided the situation.

By Staff writer / May 18, 2012

This photo released by the Florida State Attorney's Office shows George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin. The photo and reports were among evidence released by prosecutors that also includes calls to police, video, and numerous other documents. The package was received by defense lawyers earlier this week and released to the media May 17.

State Attorney's Office/AP

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Newly released details about the night Florida teenager Trayvon Martin died at the hands of a volunteer watchman named George Zimmerman are largely consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s self-defense claims, with one hitch: The shooter could have avoided the fight that led to the Feb. 26 killing in Sanford, Fla.

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New evidence released could hurt both sides in Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case.

The trove of evidence, some of which has been redacted to give anonymity to witnesses, sets up the prospect of a difficult trial in which forensic evidence will rub up against questions about Zimmerman’s state of mind, his views on race, and whether the 28-year-old aspiring police officer’s sense of civic duty morphed into reckless malice.

Evidence that Zimmerman was injured after confronting someone he believed to be suspicious, the close proximity of the gun shot to the victim, and eyewitness accounts that had Zimmerman on his back, screaming for help for several seconds before firing, have prompted some critics to suggest that special prosecutor Angela Corey overcharged Zimmerman to quell public unrest over the case – a notion she has denied.

To some legal experts, the new evidence backs up Zimmerman’s original story – that he followed Trayvon, lost him, and was then attacked with “mixed martial arts” blows to a point where he feared for his life. A medical report that was not referenced in the state’s charging affidavit states that Zimmerman sustained a broken nose, two black eyes, and two cuts on the back of his head.

The new forensic facts challenge the second-degree murder charge, which, to stick, requires a jury to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman acted with malicious recklessness in causing Trayvon’s death, says Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor whose criticisms of the prosecution stepped up as the state’s evidence was revealed.

Given the new evidence, “the prosecutor is at least guilty of willful blindness,” says Mr. Dershowitz in a phone interview.

The 200-plus pages of new documents also give more insight into the prosecution’s contention that Zimmerman may have profiled Trayvon in part because of his views of young black men. As one investigator writes, the whole fight could have been avoided if Zimmerman had afforded Trayvon, a fellow citizen who was doing nothing wrong in a place where he had the right to be, some respect.

“The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog in an effort to dispel each party's concern," the report said. "There is no indication that Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of the encounter."

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