MIAMI – Newly released police video of a handcuffed George Zimmerman may be important for what it doesn’t show: No obvious cuts, scrapes, blood or bandages. No clearly broken nose. No plainly visible evidence of a life-and-death struggle with Trayvon Martin.
As the furor over race and self-defense raged on in Florida and around the U.S. on Thursday, Martin’s family and supporters seized on the footage to dispute Zimmerman’s claim that he shot and killed the unarmed black teenager after the young man attacked him.
While cautioning that the video is grainy and far from conclusive, some legal experts agreed it does raise questions about Zimmerman’s story. The video was made about a half-hour after the shooting Feb. 26.
“It could be very significant,” said Daniel Lurvey, a former Miami-Dade County homicide prosecutor. “If I were the prosecutor, it would certainly be Exhibit A that he did not suffer any major injury as a result of a confrontation with Trayvon Martin.”
Zimmerman attorney Craig Sonner said on NBC’s “Today” show the footage appears to support his client’s story in some respects.
“It’s a very grainy video. … However, if you watch, you’ll see one of the officers, as he’s walking in, looking at something on the back of his head,” Sonner said. “Clearly the report shows he was cleaned up before he was taken in the squad car.”
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in the town of Sanford, told police he shot the 17-year-old Martin after the young man punched him in the nose, knocked him down and repeatedly slammed his head against a sidewalk.
“The explanation he is relying on is that there was a physical altercation,” said Kendall Coffey, former U.S. attorney in Miami. “The intensity of the physical conflict is critical to his self-defense claim.” David O. Markus, a prominent Miami defense attorney, said that an actual fight does not need to take place for someone to claim self-defense under Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which gives wide leeway to use deadly force and eliminates a person’s duty to retreat in the face of danger.