Zimmerman trial: Witnesses describe the fatal fight

George Zimmerman in the courtroom during his trial in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Fla., July  9, 2013.
George Zimmerman in the courtroom during his trial in Seminole Circuit Court, in Sanford, Fla., July 9, 2013.
Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/AP

On Monday George Zimmerman’s defense team tried to convince the jury that their client was a “physically soft” man who didn’t know how to throw a punch. On Tuesday, they tried to convince the jury that their client was fighting for his life.

The 29-year old Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder charges in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, who was killed by Zimmerman following a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, last year. Zimmerman has claimed he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot Martin following a physical confrontation. Prosecutors have argued that Zimmerman was an overzealous neighborhood watchman who “shot Martin for the worst of all reasons–because he wanted to.” As a result, who was prevailing in the fight that occurred when the fatal shot was fired has become central to the case. The prosecution has maintained that Martin was losing the fight, while the defense has offered testimony and evidence that Zimmerman was being beaten by Martin and believed his life was in danger.

The second full day of defense testimony largely centered around the testimony of Dr. Vincent Di Maio, a forensic expert hired by the defense. Di Maio’s testimony bolstered the defense’s version of the case, stating that the angle of Martin’s gunshot wound and the hole in the sweatshirt Martin was wearing when he was killed were consistent with Martin being on top of Zimmerman. Di Maio also testified that the gun was several inches away from Martin’s body when he was shot, lending further credence the defense’s version of the story.

“The muzzle of the gun was against the clothing, but the clothing itself had be two to four inches away from the body at the time Martin was shot,” Di Maio said. The defense has argued that Martin had pinned Zimmerman to the ground and was pummeling him, and that Zimmerman shot Martin only because he feared for his life. Under cross examination however, Di Maio acknowledged to prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda that Martin could also have been pulling away from Zimmerman when he was shot.

A day earlier, Zimmerman’s defense team had brought a parade of witnesses to the stand to assert that it was Zimmerman’s voice screaming for help on a 911 call that ultimately recorded the gunshot that took Martin’s life. The defense also brought on a local gym owner who testified that after almost year of training in grappling and boxing, Zimmerman had failed to learn how to punch properly. A prior witness, John Good, testified that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, striking him.

Di Maio’s testimony could be countered by previous testimony offered by the prosecution, and maybe even by his own words. Medical examiner Shiping Bao testified last week that Martin had few abrasions on his hands, which could cast doubt on the defense’s theory that Zimmerman was being viciously beaten, although Di Maio testified that Martin could have hit Zimmerman without sustaining visible injuries to his hands. When de la Rionda asked Di Maio whether Zimmerman was right- or left-handed, Di Maio said that Zimmerman was right-handed.

Moments later, the court camera cut to Zimmerman, who was quietly taking notes. He was using his left hand.

Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.

Zimmerman trial: Witnesses describe the fatal fight