On June 10, the murder trial of George Zimmerman will begin, 470 days after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin on a rainy evening in Sanford, Florida.
Since that night, Martin’s death has already had a profound impact on Sanford and the nation. But outcome of the trial, which is expected to last between four to eight weeks, is still uncertain. Since Zimmerman does not dispute that he killed Martin, the defense must establish that Zimmerman acted in self defense.
Here is the key evidence that could support a murder conviction.
1. Expert audio analysis. An audio expert says Trayvon Martin screamed “stop” and “I’m begging you” just before shot was fired. Alan Reich, an audio expert retained by the prosecution, says his analysis of 911 calls that night revealed that it was Martin, not Zimmerman, who was crying out for help prior to the shooting. Another expert, Thomas Owens, said he ruled out Zimmerman as the source of the screams. The defense has retained an expert from the United Kingdom who says the kind of analysis performed by the prosecution experts is not reliable.
If Reich’s testimony is admitted at trial and the jury finds it to be reliable, it would seem to undermine Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense. Its unclear if the testimony will ever reach the jury, however. The judge held a hearing on the admissibility of Reich’s analysis over three days but was unable to conclude it prior to the start of jury selection. The prosecution must show Reich’s “conclusions are based on methods ‘commonly accepted within their particular scientific or expert community‘ as reliable.” It will be completed next week.
In a blow to the prosecution, the judge has excluded the testimony of these experts from the trial. The judge believes their methods are not reliable.
2. Witness 8. A woman talking to Martin on the phone just before his death says Martin told her about a man following him and that he was scared. The woman, known as Witness 8, says “she heard Trayvon ask, ‘What are you following me for?’ and heard the man reply, ‘What are you doing around here?’” before the phone went dead. You can listen to a portion of her interviews with the prosecutor here.
The testimony signifiantly bolsters the prosecution’s contention that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who was the aggressor. The defense is aggressively seeking to undermine her credibility, noting that she lied to prosecutors when she said “she was in the hospital on the day of Martin’s funeral.”
3. George Zimmerman’s credibility. During the bail hearing for George Zimmerman, his wife Shellie testified via phone about their finances. She testified that she had not assets when, in fact, they had transferred $74,000 raised online to an account controlled by her. She coordinated the transfers via jailhouse conversations she had with George, apparently in code. Shelly has been charged with perjury. Although George did not testify, he knew his wife was not telling the truth and allowed her to testify without alerting his attorney.
The prosecution has made a motion to compel Shellie to testify at a deposition and may seek to introduce evidence of the deception during the trial. The case rests in no small part on George Zimmerman’s credibility, as he was the only eyewitness to the entire incident.
To support the charge of 2nd Degree Murder the prosecution also must prove that Zimmerman acted with a “depraved mind” when he shot Martin. If the prosecution fails to prove that, the jury can consider a lesser charge of manslaughter.