There has been a lot of discussion in the news media about the fact that the George Zimmerman trial is really a story of white on black (white man with a gun, black victim).
It is generally understood by many analysts that the public fascination with the case is really another manifestation of the racial tension and discord that still remains in this country, much as the O.J. Simpson trial was in reverse (black on white)
I am not discounting this view entirely but I want to present an alternative perspective. Rather than race, I believe our fascination has more to do with the mystery of not knowing exactly what happened and the almost palpable fear of death that we all sense is at the heart of this story.
One or both men were afraid for their lives. But who was afraid the most? This is in fact the greatest mystery.
Was it Zimmerman, on the bottom of the scrape, having his head pounded, fearing for his life as he maintains, or was it actually the now forever-silent Martin, fearing for his?
As I wrote in "False Alarm; the Truth About the Epidemic of Fear," fear is a great motivator and it captures our negative imagination; we are petrified of losing control, never more so than when it involves the ultimate loss of control, death.
A gun is walking death, but so is the fear of an unknown stranger pummeling you into submission and then going further.
Which story is true in this case?
We may never know. But there are clues.
The striking photographs of an injured Zimmerman has been used at trial to suggest that he was badly beaten, but I must tell you that they don’t look that way to me nor to Dr. Michael Baden, one the top forensic pathologists in the U.S.
I discussed the photos with Dr. Baden and he agreed that the wounds “appear superficial.”
Earlier in my career I treated hundreds of scrapes and cuts like the ones on the back of George Zimmerman’s head at the Bellevue Hospital Emergency Room.
The scalp is very vascular and bleeds easily, making a cut look worse than it is. The same is true for the nose, and the fact that Zimmerman’s was bloodied doesn’t imply that he was hit hard.
The EMTs’ testimony that Zimmerman was able to answer questions at the scene and was able to stand and walk to the squad car and declined to go to the hospital also go against there having been significant injury.
There appears to be a growing body of evidence that George Zimmerman wasn’t badly hurt by Trayvon Martin, which is not the same thing as saying he wasn’t afraid of him.
Of course, it is also possible that Zimmerman’s fear was racially-tinged and was not in keeping with the actual risk that Martin presented.
If there is to be justice in the George Zimmerman trial then fear must be suppressed and the facts allowed to dominate.
Unfortunately, without Trayvon Martin’s side of the story to help guide the jury, this may never happen. If fear runs rampant there will never be a public consensus even if there is a verdict.
Marc Siegel MD is a professor of medicine and medical director of Doctor Radio at NYU Langone Medical Center. He is a medical analyst and reporter for Fox News since 2008. His upcoming book concerns a mysterious viral outbreak.