SANFORD, Fla. — The bullet trajectory and gunpowder on Trayvon Martin’s body support George Zimmerman’s account that the teen was on top of him when the defendant shot and killed Martin, a specialist on gunshot wounds said Tuesday.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Vincent DiMaio also used photographs of Zimmerman, to point out where he appeared to have been struck, during testimony. Defense lawyers, who said they might wrap up their case Wednesday, hope DiMaio’s testimony helps convince jurors of Zimmerman’s claims that he shot Martin in self-defense.
DiMaio, who was hired by the defense, said the muzzle of Zimmerman’s gun was against Martin’s clothing and was 2 to 4 inches from his skin.
“This is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s account that Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward at the time he was shot,” said DiMaio, a former chief medical examiner in San Antonio. DiMaio testified that lacerations to the back of Zimmerman’s head were consistent with it striking a 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 believes Zimmerman’s nose had been broken.
‘‘It’s obvious he’s been punched in the nose and hit in the head,’’ he said.
Under cross-examination, DiMaio conceded that the gunshot could also be consistent with Martin pulling away from Zimmerman, and that he reached his conclusion without factoring in statements from some neighbors who say Zimmerman was on top of Martin. DiMaio, who has testified at high-profile trials including that of record producer Phil Spector, said witness accounts are often unreliable. The pathologist said he had been paid $2,400 by the defense.
DiMaio’s testimony also addressed the difference between Zimmerman’s account that he had placed Martin’s arms out to his sides and a photo taken after the shooting that shows Martin’s arms under his body. The pathologist said Martin would have been conscious for 10 to 15 seconds after the shooting as a reserve supply of oxygen ran out of his body, and during that time he could have moved his arms.
After DiMaio testified, the 911 calls that captured sounds of the fatal encounter were discussed. Defense lawyers called Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte to the witness stand to describe the circumstances of how Martin’s family came to hear the 911 tapes. 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.
Defense lawyers are trying to show that Martin’s family members may have influenced one another in concluding the screams are those of the Miami teen. Police officers testified for the defense that it is better for someone who is trying to identify a voice to listen to it alone.
Convincing the jury of who was screaming for help on the tape has become the primary goal of prosecutors and defense lawyers because it would help jurors evaluate Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. Relatives of Martin and Zimmerman have offered conflicting opinions about who is heard screaming.
Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he shot Martin in self-defense during a scuffle. Martin was there visiting his father and his father’s fiancee.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara also told Judge Debra Nelson that the defense would probably finish putting on its case on Wednesday.