The first day of opening statements and formal testimony in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, covered a lot of ground in eight hours on Monday. But the prosecution zeroed in on something that has fascinated me for one day shy of a year: Trayvon’s hands. In his powerful opening statement outlining the “tangled web of lies” in the case against Zimmerman, Florida Assistant State Attorney John Guy told the jury, “He said that after he shot Trayvon Martin, he got on top of Trayvon Martin. On his back. And he took his arms and he spread them out. That didn’t happen.”
Zimmerman told Sanford police officers that tidbit about Trayvon’s arms twice. The first time was when he was interviewed by detectives the night of the shooting. The second time was during a reenactment of the events the day after the killing, which I detailed last year.
“I don’t know if I pushed him off me [or] he fell off me, either way I got on top of him and I pushed his arms apart,” Zimmerman said as he demonstrated how he spread Trayvon’s arms away from his body. He told the officer that he didn’t remember how he got on top of his victim and continued with his version of events. “But I got on his back and moved his arms apart because when he was repeatedly hitting me in the face and the head,” Zimmerman said, “I thought he had something in his hands. So, I moved his hands apart.” Trayvon, he said, was face down. Again, he says the neighbor with the flashlight came out, he asked that person to help him restrain Trayvon. The police arrived perhaps less than a minute later and he stood up, holstered his weapon and put his hands up.
Guy’s confidence in saying “that didn’t happen” about Zimmerman moving Trayvon’s arms rests on two pieces of evidence. One we’ve all known about. Another we didn’t — or at least I didn’t.
“The first two officers to Trayvon Martin’s body found him exactly like the defendant left him — face down, his hands clutching his chest,” Guy told the jury. This is the evidence we’ve known from almost the very beginning. Sanford Police Officer Ricardo Ayala wrote in his report of the scene that he “noticed that there was, what appeared to be a black male…laying face down on the ground. The black male had his hands underneath his body.”
Yesterday, Guy revealed that a neighbor took a cellphone photo of Trayvon’s body before the police arrived that rainy Feb. 26, 2012, night. Trayvon’s arms were underneath his body, Guy told the court.
The defense tried to cast doubt on the prosecution’s focus on Trayvon’s hands. After his knock-knock debacle, Don West attempted to cast doubt on the state’s talk about the lack of Zimmerman’s or Trayvon’s DNA on the victim’s hands or under his fingernails. He said it was because the hands weren’t bagged and the evidence might have been lost to the rain. When your job is to cast reasonable doubt, that’s a novel explanation. And yet, there’s no explanation yet for the discrepancy for Trayvon’s hands.
Don’t think of the Zimmerman case as a whodunit. We know who did it. Instead, think of it as a giant puzzle, one where we know what the complex picture looks like but we don’t know how all the pieces fit together. The biggest pieces for me right now involve Trayvon’s arms and hands. And the state has made it clear that Zimmerman’s statements and the evidence just don’t fit.
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