Trayvon Martin

Defence backed over shooting of Trayvon Martin

Forensics expert says black teen was on top of neighbourhood watchman when gun was fired

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 July, 2013, 3:01am

A forensic expert has backed George Zimmerman's account of his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, testifying in the neighbourhood watchman's US murder trial that evidence showed he was under the unarmed black teenager when he fired his gun.

It was the latest in a series of blows to the prosecution, underscoring a widely held view among lawyers following the case that the state aimed too high in charging Zimmerman with murder.

The forensic pathologist testifying for the defence cited the trajectory of the bullet that pierced Martin's chest and gun powder on his body in supporting Zimmerman's version of events of the shooting.

"It's consistent with somebody leaning over the person doing the shooting," said Dr Vincent DiMaio, a former chief medical examiner in Texas.

Zimmerman remained free for 45 days after the killing of Martin, 17, on February 26 last year because police initially accepted his claim of self-defence.

A special prosecutor brought the charge of second-degree murder against Zimmerman, possibly bowing to public pressure after protests and cries of injustice in Sanford, the small Florida town where the incident occurred.

DiMaio testified that Martin could have been conscious and able to move for five to 10 seconds after he was shot through the heart, based on the typical reserve oxygen in the brain.

That testimony appeared to bolster Zimmerman's overall credibility and his claim that he placed Martin's arms out to the side after shooting him, despite a photograph taken of Martin after he died that showed his arms under his body.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case against Zimmerman on Friday after nine days of witness testimony. Lead defence attorney Mark O'Mara said he hoped to rest his case by yesterday.

That means the case could go to the jury by tomorrow. It is still unclear whether Zimmerman will testify in his own defence.

Lawyers caution that no one knows the single piece of evidence or witness statement that could lead to a conviction or acquittal.

But O'Mara seems to have the upper hand as the case heads into closing arguments.

"The trial is not over," said David Weinstein, a former prosecutor and Miami-area defence attorney who is not involved in the case. "However, from where things stand right now, a conviction does not appear likely."

Zimmerman faces up to life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder, although either side can request that the jury also considers the lesser offence of manslaughter, with a maximum penalty of 30 years.