The overriding goal of securing the arrest of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin was to get this strange case out of the court of public opinion and into a court of law. All of the conjecture and amateur sleuthing that consumed us for more than a month would give way to real police work and rules of evidence. Yesterday, we got our first look at the evidence that both the prosecution and the defense are examining during the discovery process. They fill in some of the holes in the picture from that rainy night on Feb. 26, but the story remains murky, particularly on one key question.
WFTV in Florida reported last night that the autopsy of Trayvon’s body by the medical examiner revealed only two wounds: broken skin on the knuckles and the gunshot wound. As the station’s legal analyst said, this could be a sign of Trayvon defending himself or trying to get away or it could bolster Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.
Matt Gutman of ABC News got his hands on the medical report filed by Zimmerman’s physician. The neighborhood watch volunteer refused to go to the hospital the night he killed Trayvon, but sought medical attention the day after. According to Gutman, the report showed Zimmerman to have had two black eyes, two cuts on the back of his head, bruising in the upper lip and cheek, lower back pain and a “closed fracture” of his nose.
The report also notes that Zimmerman, who said his head was bashed repeatedly into the sidewalk, was not diagnosed with a concussion. He was also taking Adderall (prescribed for attention deficit disorder) and Temazepam (prescribed for insomnia). But we’ll never know if this played a part in the tragic event because Sanford police didn’t test Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol. They did one on Trayvon, though.
He was clean.
The injuries reported would appear to support Zimmerman’s story that he was defending himself against attack from Trayvon. That they were reported by a family physician and not the result of an independent exam taken at the crime scene gives me pause. Remember the video surveillance of Zimmerman arriving at the police station? Sure, a more enhanced version appeared to show the lacerations on the back of his head, but the lack of the appearance of blood on a man who reportedly had his nose broken and shot someone who was on top of him remains puzzling. And to those who would leap on the Zimmerman medical report to exonerate him, keep in mind that the prosecutor had this information and still charged the killer with second-degree murder.
Neither Zimmerman’s medical report nor Trayvon’s autopsy gets us any closer to resolution of the one question that matters. As ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams put it last night, “Who was the aggressor?” Finding Zimmerman guilty (or not) of the murder charge rests on a jury answering this vital question.
[Correction, May 21, 3:50 p.m.: We’ve long known that Trayvon had been tested for drugs and alcohol. I assumed was that he was clean since no evidence to the contrary had surfaced. The official autopsy now shows that Trayvon had trace amounts of THC, the chemical found in marijuana, in his blood stream. The definitive “He was clean” sentence has been struck to reflect the error.]