Published July 09, 2013
George Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said Tuesday the defense likely would wrap up its case Wednesday -- but gave no indication if the former neighborhood watch volunteer would take the stand at his murder trial.
O'Mara's statement to Judge Debra Nelson means the trial is reaching its final stages before the jury gets the case. While O'Mara did not say if his client would testify on his own behalf, courtroom observers considered it unlikely.
It followed testimony from one of Zimmerman's former Florida neighbors, Eloise Dilligard, that Zimmerman's "nose was very disfigured" and blood covered much of his face immediately after his deadly confrontation with Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman, 29, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, claiming he was acting in self-defense, faces life in prison if convicted.
The defense opened its case last Friday, and if it keeps to the schedule anticipated by O'Mara, its presentation will take about half the time of the prosecution.
Dilligard, whose testimony was beamed into the courtroom via the Web because of an undisclosed health problem, said she went to the crime scene immediately after the Feb. 26, 2012 incident, and saw several residents of the gated community milling around. She said a police officer came up to her and asked for help identifying "someone who may know the people involved in the shooting."
"His nose was very disfigured," testified Dilligard, who also said she believes it was Zimmerman's voice that could be heard screaming on a 911 tape.
Dilligard said she tried to go tell Zimmerman's wife that the neighborhood watch volunteer had been involved in a shooting, but found she was not home.
Earlier, a forensic expert testified Tuesday that Martin's gunshot wound indicated that he was likely on top of Zimmerman when the neighborhood watch volunteer shot him. Forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent DiMaio, an expert on gunshot wounds who has written and co-authored several articles and a book on the subject, said the single shot that killed the Florida teen passed through Martin's clothing as it hung 2-4 inches from his skin, indicating that Martin was over Zimmerman and leaning forward.
"If you’re lying on your back, the clothing is going to be against your chest," DiMaio testified. "So the fact that we know the clothing was 2 to 4 inches away is consistent with someone leaning over the person doing the shooting."
DiMaio also testified that Martin likely remained conscious for 10-15 seconds after the shot, and may have been alive for as long as 3 minutes, according to the forensic evidence.
DiMaio stated that he agreed "100 percent" with the firearms examiner, who concluded the weapon was discharged against Martin's clothing; and he explained the gun was fired 2 to 4 inches away from the skin, according to powder tattooing around the wound.
"My opinion is that that muzzle of the gun was 2 to 4 inches away from the skin," DiMaio testified. "So, the barrel of the gun was against the clothing, but the clothing itself had to be 2 to 4 inches away from the body at the time Mr. Martin was shot."
DiMaio further explained that if the clothing was wet, it would be heavier and would hang more. It was raining heavily on the night of the confrontation.
DiMaio also said that if clothes taken into evidence are wet and packaged in plastic bags, and not paper bags, it can ruin the samples since "bacteria multiplies and you get mold and it stinks to high heaven."
Defense attorneys contend DNA evidence found on Martin's hooded sweatshirt and undershirt was degraded since the clothing wasn't packaged properly.
Under cross-examination, DiMaio conceded that the gunshot could also be consistent with Martin pulling away from Zimmerman, and that he didn't rely on statements from some Zimmerman neighbors who say Zimmerman was on top of Martin to reach his conclusion. The pathologist, who also has testified at the murder trials of Illinois police sergeant Drew Peterson and record producer Phil Spector, said he had been paid $2,400 by the defense.
DiMaio explained that this case is more about determining whether the physical evidence is consistent with Zimmerman's account of the fatal shooting.
"The wound itself, by the gap and the powder tattooing, in the face of contact with the clothing indicates that this is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's account that Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward at the time he was shot," DiMaio said.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda hammered DiMaio over his testimony during cross-examination.
"You can't testify who threw the first punch, or whether there was a first punch thrown," de la Rionda said. DiMaio answered, "That's correct."
DiMaio also testified that lacerations to the back Zimmerman's head were consistent with his head striking a concrete sidewalk. Later, when looking at photos of Zimmerman's injuries taken the night of the shooting, DiMaio identified six separate impacts to Zimmerman's face and head. He said a nose injury could have come from being punched.
Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte was also called to testify for the defense on Tuesday to describe the circumstances of how Martin's family came to hear the 911 tapes that captured screams from the fatal confrontation.
Bonaparte said he played the 911 tapes while members of Martin's family sat together at City Hall. He played them as a courtesy before they were released publicly.
Nelson denied a motion by prosecutors on Monday to keep toxicology results showing THC in Martin's system from the jury, paving the way for Zimmerman's lawyers to argue the drug may have influenced the teen's behavior. Defense attorney Don West noted that in Zimmerman’s statement to the non-emergency 911 dispatcher that it appeared the person he was observing in the Sanford, Fla., community was "on drugs."
Nelson is also postponing a ruling on whether a defense animation that depicts the fight between Martin and Zimmerman can be played before jurors at Zimmerman's murder trial.
After hearing more than five hours of arguments Tuesday, Nelson said she would issue a ruling Wednesday.
The animation depicts Zimmerman's version of his fight with Martin. It shows Martin punching Zimmerman in the face and then straddling him.
Prosecutors are objecting to any use, claiming it's inaccurate and will confuse jurors.
The animation's creator, Daniel Schumaker, testified in court on Tuesday. Schumaker uses advanced technology like drones and motion-capture suits to create the computer animations. For the animation of the struggle between Martin and Zimmerman, Schumaker used information from the coroner reports, police reports and crime scene photos to recreate the scene, and used audio from the 911 calls to determine the timing of events.
Defense attorneys also are trying to get Martin's text messages and phone photos that deal with fighting and guns introduced.
Zimmerman's attorneys late Tuesday called a forensics computer analyst to tell a judge that text messages on Martin's cellphone showed he was trying to buy or sell a gun.
Fox News' Brooke Gard, Joshua Rhett Miller, Serafin Gomez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.