News Column

More George Zimmerman Evidence Released Today

Sept. 19, 2012

Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner

Prosecutors today released another batch of evidence in the second-degree murder case against George Zimmerman, including more than 200 photos, but a quick review suggests there were no bombshells.

Orlando Sentinel reporters are currently reviewing it. Check back for updates.

Among the new evidence is a series of DNA reports from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They reveal that DNA tests on Zimmerman's gun and holster found evidence of multiple handlers, but none that matched Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old Zimmerman fatally shot in Sanford Feb. 26.

FDLE checked samples from the gun's grip and found no evidence that Trayvon had handled it. Technicians testing other parts of the gun and holster were only able to definitively identify Zimmerman, the records show.

That's important because Zimmerman told police he opened fire only after the teenager reached for the gun that Zimmerman wore in a holster on his waist. The DNA findings suggest there's no evidence that Travyon touched the gun.

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The new evidence also reveals that the local president of the NAACP sent Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee an email three days after the shooting, asking to meet and discuss it.

It's unclear when or whether that meeting with Turner Clayton Jr. happened. The Sentinel is still reviewing hundreds of email received by Lee that are part of today's document release.

Lee and his agency's investigation into the shooting were harshly criticized by local and national civil rights leaders and Trayvon's family. He was fired a few months later.

The new evidence also includes diagrams drawn by some eye-witnesses.

Zimmerman was wearing a red jacket that night and told police that Trayvon, who was wearing a dark gray sweatshirt, pinned him to the ground and was hammering his head into the sidewalk.

One witness diagram shows two stick figures and the words "black shirt top" and "red shirt bottom," an apparent reference to Trayvon being on top and Zimmerman on the bottom.

The new evidence also includes a recorded statement by the 7-Eleven clerk who waited on Trayvon about an hour before Zimmerman fatally shot the teenager.

On March 29, a month later, FDLE agents showed the employee the store's security video of that night and asked him if he recognized Trayvon.

"Did you have any idea you were the 7-Eleven clerk that sold him the famous Skittles?" the agent asked.

"Nah," said the clerk, whose name was erased from the recording.

A written summary of that finding was released by prosecutors earlier.

The new records include more than 200 photos, but they revealed little new evidence. Most are of the Sanford townhouse community where the shooting took place but long after it had been cleared of evidence.

Eight photos were taken by a private investigator hired by Trayvon's family. They, also, show the scene of the shooting, well after the evidence had been cleared away but appear to be taken from the spots where individual witnesses say they were standing when they saw or heard the fight between Zimmerman and Trayvon.

Also released today are records that show that on March 6, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office was poised to release 911 calls made the night of the shooting to CBS news. They are dramatic. In one, Zimmerman describes Trayvon to a dispatcher as a suspicious black man whom he does not recognize and who is loitering in a neighborhoods that's had a great many break-ins.

In another, a voice can be heard screaming for help then a gunshot.

The Sheriff's Office was on the verge of releasing that information but Sanford police on March 6 told the agency not to, saying they were still part of an active criminal investigation. Trayvon's family then sued the city of Sanford, demanding their release, and the city acquiesced, releasing them March 16.

All of today's records were released last month to defense attorneys.

Prosecutors gave Zimmerman's defense 217 photos from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, eight photos taken by a private investigator, Zimmerman's school records from Manassas, Va., eight incident reports prepared by Seminole County Sheriff's Office employees, several crime scene drawings made by witnesses and the cell phone records of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who Zimmerman shot Feb. 26.

It's likely that some of those documents will not be included in today's release because by Florida law, they are protected from public disclosure. Those things include cell phone records and many school records.



Source: (c)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services


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