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George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old self appointed Sanford, Florida neighborhood watchman who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 became the subject of widespread speculation after ABC released exclusive surveillance footage captured when Zimmerman was taken into custody and questioned failed to show a bloody, injured, or bruised suspect. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense saying that after spotting Trayvon Martin and fearing he was involved in criminal activity, he called 911, followed him, then turned around to return to his vehicle when Trayvon Martin came up from behind and beat him. Zimmerman states that Trayvon Martin punched him in the nose, knocked him to the ground, and then repeatedly beat him by slamming his head against the concrete. George Zimmerman’s account of self-defense is crucial to his defense, as authorities must believe that he was put in a position where he feared for his life and one where there was no alternative than to use deadly force. George Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman spoke to news media and made a statement, indicating that his son was in fear for his life. Robert Zimmerman stated his son told him, “Trayvon Martin said something to the effect of, you’re going to die now, or you’re going to die tonight.”
On the March 28, 2012 episode of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper interviewed Jose Baez, the criminal defense attorney who stunned the nation after defending Florida mother Casey Anthony and landing her an acquittal in the 2006 death of her daughter, Caylee Marie. Anthony was acquitted on charges of murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter of a child; charges that could have sent her to death row. Weighing in on the case and the impact the surveillance video might have on George Zimmerman’s defense, Jose Baez stated, “I don’t think you could tell much from the tape. And this is an after-the-fact situation where obviously at the scene he was spoken to. He might have been cleaned up there. We don’t know the exact — the extent of what occurred at the scene. Whether he was actually looked at by EMT. If he was, he was cleaned and then put in cuffs and taken away.”
Jose Baez continued, “How often do you see someone get knocked out, perhaps even in a boxing match and then walk back to the dressing room? This after-the- fact doesn’t tell you much.”
Still, the after-the-fact situation Jose Baez described has not stopped talk shows, Trayvon Martin supporters, and media from remarking on the fact that Zimmerman does not look like someone who had been beat within an inch of his life. Yet, Jose Baez continued saying that legally, George Zimmerman did not need to look “beat up” in order to claim self-defense.
Jose Baez stated, “If this is subsequent to him receiving treatment from EMT — what’s really important here is under the law you actually don’t have to sustain these types of injuries. You just have to fear death or great bodily harm. You don’t actually have to have great bodily harm to use deadly force in this scenario.”
Continuing, Jose Baez explained, “So I don’t think first of all, legally it doesn’t seem to be highly relevant. However, it does become relevant if you are trying to prove a circumstantial set of facts. But you have to take it with a grain of salt, that this is well after the incident after he has been cleaned up by EMT and after obviously he’s well enough to go to the police department. But actually sustaining these types of injuries it’s not required under the law.”
It is assumed that Jose Baez is correct that under the law, one doesn’t need to prove injuries to show the fear for his or her life was in place, however, the surveillance video might be used against Zimmerman in other ways. Craig Sonner, George Zimmerman’s attorney, has publicly stated that his client suffered a broken nose. The prosecution may determine if those claims are substantiated. If they are not, that may spell trouble for the defense.
Click the video player to the left to see the exclusive surveillance footage captured by ABC.