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Forensic expert: Trayvon Martin shot leaning over George Zimmerman

July 09, 2013|By Michael Muskal and Tina Susman

The medical and scientific evidence shows that Trayvon Martin was leaning over George Zimmerman when the neighborhood watch volunteer fired the fatal shot into the unarmed teenager’s chest, a forensic pathologist testified Tuesday.

Dr. Vincent Di Maio, an expert testifying for the defense, gave a version of events that was consistent with the defense’s theory of the deadly confrontation between Zimmerman, 29, and Martin, 17, on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla.

Zimmerman, charged with second-degree murder, maintains he shot Martin in self-defense after the teenager attacked him.

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Di Maio said that he had examined the autopsy, toxicology and photographic evidence and concluded that the evidence was consistent with Zimmerman’s statements to authorities that Martin was straddling him and that Zimmerman fired his gun with his right hand. The path of the bullet ran from Martin’s left side through part of his heart and into a portion of the right lung, Di Maio testified.

“The medical evidence ... is consistent with his statement,” Di Maio said of Zimmerman’s version of events.

Di Maio also testified that the hole in Martin’s shirt showed that the muzzle of Zimmerman’s gun was touching the clothing, and that the wound on Martin’s chest showed that his skin was two to four inches from the muzzle.

Di Maio said he based his conclusions on analysis of debris from the gunshot, including what he called “powder tattoo marks” surrounding the wound, which give the appearance of a reddish, circular rash on the skin. Such marks, he said, would not be present if the muzzle had been held against Martin’s skin.

“So … the muzzle of the gun was against the clothing. But the clothing itself had to be two to four inches away from the body at the time Mr. Martin was shot,” he said.

“This is consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s account – that Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward at the time he was shot,” Di Maio said.

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Di Maio was the first witness on the 11th day of the trial, the second full day of the defense presentation. The defense could finish its case this week. The trial began June 10 with jury selection.

Di Maio also said that there was “definite evidence” of six impacts that caused wounds to Zimmerman’s nose, the back of his head and his forehead. Those injuries were also consistent with Zimmerman’s account of events, Di Maio said.

Di Maio differed with the state’s expert witness on how long Martin was alive after the shot.  Di Maio said Martin lived from one to three minutes. The state’s forensic expert, Dr. Shiping Bao, originally gave a similar estimate, but changed his testimony last week, saying that Martin could have been alive for up to 10 minutes.

Earlier, Judge Debra S. Nelson held an evidentiary hearing on whether to admit a defense animation of the confrontation. The prosecution objects to the animation, saying it isn't accurate.

The judge could rule on admissibility as soon as Tuesday afternoon.

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