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Does George Zimmerman's story add up?

  • Mel Robbins is an attorney and HLN contributor
  • She takes a look at the alleged inconsistencies in George Zimmerman's version of events
Does George Zimmerman's story add up?
Mel Robbins

Editor’s note: Mel Robbins is a criminal defense attorney and HLN legal contributor. She is an author, talk radio host and the editor-in-chief of Robbins Rundown. She is on Twitter.

The prosecution made some major mistakes presenting their case on Monday and Tuesday (and I'm still trying to figure out what on Earth they're doing).

In opening statements, the prosecution claimed they would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman profiled Trayvon Martin and chased after him, vigilante-style, rather than wait for the police to arrive. They said they would prove that Zimmerman shot Martin not because "he had to, but because he wanted to."

So far, 26 witnesses into their case, the prosecution has fallen shockingly short of meeting that burden of proof.

First, they called Hirotaka Nakasone, an FBI voice analyst who testified for the defense in the Frye hearing. Nakasone testified that a 911 call "is not fit for the purpose of voice comparison" and that since the pitch of someone screaming is “all over the place," it "was not possible to determine" the age of the person screaming.

This is a critical issue. If it's "not possible" to determine the age or the identity of the person screaming for help, it’s considered reasonable doubt as to who was screaming. Where there's doubt, there is no conviction.  

The prosecution also introduced Zimmerman’s recorded and written statements into evidence, presumably to show the jury that he contradicts himself and is lying about his version of events the night he shot Martin. The problem is, it didn't work. 

If you have a liar on the stand, an inconsistency is like a loose thread: As you pull on it, a liar's story will start to unravel. However, some inconsistencies could be based on poor memory, stress, etc. Without the story unraveling, there's no "proof" that the witness is lying.

Let's walk through Zimmerman’s supposed inconsistencies:

1. In his first taped police interview, Zimmerman said Martin circled his car. In the 911 call, he didn’t describe it as circling. That seems immaterial and the police agreed.

2. Zimmerman told police that he got out of his car because he could not tell police the name of the street where he lost Martin. His neighborhood, the Retreat at Twin Lakes, only has three streets — not remembering the name of one of them is not very believable. Does this detail prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman is a liar? No.

3. Zimmerman also told Sanford Police investigator Doris Singleton that Martin “jumped” out of the bushes. However, the map of the area doesn’t appear to show any bushes near the spot of the fight. This could be a problem, but again, I’m not sure it proves that Zimmerman is lying about the entire encounter or simply doesn’t remember the dark, rainy scene accurately.

4. Zimmerman testified that Martin said “you’re going to die tonight” as he attacked him, but none of the witnesses heard that threat. I wouldn’t expect the witnesses to have heard it: It was raining and most witnesses were indoors and described hearing muffled screams. A threat is probably not going to be as loud as a scream for help.

5. Zimmerman claims that after Martin “jumped” out of the bushes, he sucker-punched him and Zimmerman fell to the ground. Four former neighbors testified that there was a scuffle on that dark, rainy night. Two said they thought Zimmerman was on top at one point, but the other two testified that Martin was on top. Jonathan Good very convincingly said it was Zimmerman yelling for help, pinned down by Martin. Is Zimmerman lying about the sucker-punch and the fall to the ground? I don’t know -- maybe. But even the police agree that someone might not remember every detail about a traumatic event. But remember, it’s the prosecution’s job to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman started the fight and just the act of getting out of his car doesn’t get you there.

6. One of the major inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s statement is that he says he got on top of Martin after shooting him and spread his arms out to make sure there was no weapon. That statement seems to be contradictory, assuming nobody altered the position Martin’s body, which was found face down, with his hands underneath him.

As if the decision to admit all of Zimmerman’s statements into evidence isn't weird enough, the prosecution then brings on more damaging witnesses. Sanford Police Det. Chris Serino did the most damage to the prosecution’s case, testifying that there were "no significant inconsistencies" between the statements and interviews Zimmerman gave.  

During cross-examination, defense attorney Mark O'Mara asked the lead witness for the prosecution if he thought "Zimmerman was telling the truth." At that moment, the jury leaned forward, listening intently, as Serino replied, "Yes."  

The lead witness in the prosecution's case believes Zimmerman is telling the truth…

It's not Zimmerman's story that's unraveling, but rather the prosecution's case against him.

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