Photograph by Gary W. Green/AFP/Getty Images.
It's been nearly a week since Florida prosecutors made public a mountain of court documents, videos, and photographs in the George Zimmerman murder case, and media outlets large and small continue to sift through the 67 CDs worth of evidence. While the original flurry of reporting focused on a handful of headline-ready revelations—the confrontation was "avoidable"; Martin had THC in his system—reporters have now had a little more time to take a step back and provide some more detailed analysis.
The Orlando Sentinel's Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner do just that in an article that went live Tuesday night that looks at the changing stories of four key witnesses who spoke to police in the days and weeks after Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
According to the paper: Three of the four offered significantly different stories to the local Sanford police in the days after the shooting than they did when they spoke with state investigators weeks later, after national protests breathed new life into the investigation. A fourth, meanwhile, changed the account she gave to state police after watching television coverage.
The Sentinel's analysis: Three of the four changed their stories in a way that "may damage" Zimmerman's claim that he shot Martin in self-defense.
(Of course, the fact that the witnesses changed their stories at all likely provides Zimmerman's team with an opening to question their credibility on the stand, so it's probably a little early to declare winners and losers just yet.)
You can check out the full Sentinel article here, but here's a quick breakdown of the changing accounts:
Witness 6: A man who lived near where the shooting took place told Sanford police he saw a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man "just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style," and that the man getting beat up was the one calling for help. But three weeks later when speaking with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, he was no longer sure. "I truly can't tell who, after thinking about it, was yelling for help just because it was so dark out on that sidewalk." he said.
The man also said while he was positive that "the black guy was on top," he could no longer be sure Trayvon was actually throwing punches or simply trying to restrain Zimmerman.
Witness 2: A young woman who lives in the community where the incident took place initially spoke with Sanford police four days after the shooting. "I saw two guys running," she said. "Couldn't tell you who was in front, who was in behind." She said moments later she saw a fistfight: "Just fists. I don't know who was hitting who."
Nearly a month later when interviewed again, this time by the FDLE, her story had changed. She said she remembered only catching a glimpse of a single person running. "I couldn't tell you if it was a man, a woman, a kid, black, or white. I couldn't tell you because it was dark and because I didn't have my contacts on or glasses. … I just know I saw a person out there."
Witness 13: The man who talked with Zimmerman in the moments after the shooting didn't alter his account as much as he added to it. He initially told local police that Zimmerman told him that Martin "was beating up on me, so I had to shoot him," and that Zimmerman asked the man to call his wife and let her know what happened. About a month later, the witness went into much greater detail about Zimmerman's demeanor. The neighborhood watch volunteer's tone, according to the witness, was "'not like 'I can't believe I just shot someone!'—it was more like, 'Just tell my wife I shot somebody …,' like it was nothing."
Witness 12: A young mother who lived in the community where Martin was shot didn't give a recorded interview to Sanford police, but she did sit down with an FDLE agent more than three weeks after the shooting. She said she saw two people on the ground immediately after the shooting but that she couldn't say whether it was Zimmerman or Trayvon on top. Six days later, however, she was sure it was Zimmerman. "I know after seeing the TV of what's happening, comparing their sizes, I think Zimmerman was definitely on top because of his size," she said.