Zimmerman Defense to Rest Tomorrow

Today was the last full day of testimony in the George Zimmerman trial. The principal witness was Dr. Vincent DiMaio, a pathologist and former medical examiner who testified that the physical evidence was consistent with Zimmerman’s account of his encounter with Trayvon Martin. Specifically, he testified that examination of the effect of the bullet on Martin’s clothing and on his body shows that his sweatshirt was hanging away from his body, which is consistent with Zimmerman’s claim that Martin was on top of him and was leaning over him when he was shot. Obviously, if Zimmerman was on top of Martin and Martin was lying on his back, you wouldn’t have that separation between his sweatshirt and his body. Dr. DiMaio also testified that the gun was against Martin’s sweatshirt and a few inches from his body when it was fired.

The other aspect of DiMaio’s testimony that was helpful to the defense was his discussion of Zimmerman’s injuries. DiMaio testified that Zimmerman’s injuries were consistent with his head being banged into concrete and being punched in the face. That may seem painfully obvious, but one of the things you do in a trial is find opportunities to talk with witnesses about facts that are, or should be, obvious. Any time Zimmerman’s injuries are being discussed, it is a good thing for the defense. In general, DiMaio supported the seriousness of Zimmerman’s injuries and said that the police should have taken him to a hospital, not to the police station.

How effective was DiMaio’s testimony? He showed some of the pros and cons that are typical of experienced expert witnesses. I thought he was impressive, but some jurors could have been put off by the clinical, hard-bitten attitude that you often see in medical examiners. The substance of his testimony certainly helped to create reasonable doubt, especially considering that there is no hard evidence that is inconsistent with Zimmerman’s account.

The last witness today was Eloise Diligard, an intelligent, middle-aged black lady who was a neighbor of Zimmerman’s at the time of the incident. Ms. Diligard is sick, and testified from her home via FaceTime. (Like many modern courts, this Florida state court is strikingly informal, notwithstanding the seriousness of the proceeding.) Ms. Diligard obviously liked and respected Zimmerman, which was probably the main point of her testimony. She described him as a “friendly neighbor.” She came upon the crime scene, identified Zimmerman for police officers who showed her a photograph of him, was concerned about his injuries, and drove to Zimmerman’s house to alert his wife to the incident. She also testified that she has listened to the 911 recording several times, and believes that the voice calling for help on it is Zimmerman’s. She was careful to say that she had never heard Martin speak, but said that Zimmerman has a “light male voice” like the one on the audio recording.

Eloise Diligard testifying via FaceTime

One of the defense lawyers then told the court that the defense has canceled a couple of witnesses and will rest tomorrow. The scope of the remaining testimony depends on the court’s rulings with respect to the witnesses the defense still wants to present. At the moment, the lawyers are arguing about the admissibility of an animation of the fight that the defense wants to show. One way or another, however, it appears that testimony will conclude tomorrow, subject to any rebuttal evidence that the state might be permitted to introduce. Such evidence, if any, presumably will be brief.

This means that Zimmerman will not testify. No surprise there. The fact that the defense has cut a couple of witnesses from the schedule is also not surprising. This often happens, especially when a civil or criminal defendant believes the trial has gone well for it. Sometimes, too, the lawyers conclude that the jury has heard enough and is ready to decide the case, and any further evidence will be cumulative at best.

I assume this means that the case will go to the jury on Thursday. On paper, it shapes up as an easy win for the defense, but you never know. A lot depends on what preconceptions the jurors brought to the case, on whether they have obeyed the court’s repeated injunctions to avoid press coverage of the trial, and on whether they are willing and able to decide the case based on the evidence that was presented in court, as opposed to making some kind of social or political statement. In general, my confidence in jurors is high, and I think they will do their duty. I do wish, however, that there were 12 jurors rather than six.

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