aside Review of Some of the Witnesses in the George Zimmerman Case

Stand Your Ground / Trayvon Martin Cartoon
Stand Your Ground / Trayvon Martin Cartoon

I’ve waited to tackle this subject.  There has been too much controversy over the various personalities and the differing testimonies in this case.  What one believes regarding differences in recollections seems to be associated with who you want to believe and who provides the  presentation most suited to one’s ideology or bias.  Unfortunately, from what I have been able to learn from various readings, eye witness testimony is the most unreliable evidence.  You cannot just rely on the testimony of who you want to believe and who you like.  You need to review everyone’s testimony somewhat objectively and see if there is corroboration.  To me, the most revealing interview is not the eye witness accounts but the story from  Witness 22 who was a coworker with George Zimmerman during the years 2008/2009. The testimony from witness 22 demonstrates how George Zimmerman could treat someone negatively he considered vulnerable if he believed he could get away with it and lie about it convincingly to management. On the evening of 2/26/2012,  George Zimmerman looked upon Trayvon Martin as a criminal and as one of those previous young, Black robbers who always got away. Remember George Zimmerman was by himself, upset because his wife left the home and he was armed with a gun.

The problem In this instance is that if  you are so sure of the facts of a case before you start interviewing, then you will discount those you interview who do not support your hypothesis. I believe this is the situation in the case of George Zimmerman.  I’m convinced that early on , the lead Investigator, Chris Serino of the Sanford Police Department became more of an advocate for George Zimmerman than an objective investigator. I suspect that this is where George Zimmerman’s friend, Mark Osterman, the federal air marshal and former Sanford deputy exerted some influence explaining to the police, the FDLE, the FBI,  his friend’s involvement in the neighborhood watch program to curb a pervasive robbery crime problem.  The Sanford Police Officer D. Singleton, on 3/29/2012, reported to FDLE Officer, T.C. O’Steen  that she had been apprised by Officer Smith prior to starting any interviews with George Zimmerman on 2/26/2012, that this was a probable self defense case.  Added to this same report was the list of the clothing and photos of Mr. Zimmerman that the Evidence Technician came and collected. This report indicated that the injuries to the back of the head appeared to be abrasions and not lacerations.  In the report it was noted that Officer Singleton had a colored google map of the complex and she and Mr. Zimmerman went over the details of the shooting using that map. This preconceived notion that this was a probable case of self defense had to have  influenced  how witnesses were interviewed.  Several of the people interviewed have told the FBI and FDLE that they believed they were led to reinforce a certain set of facts by the Sanford Police during the original interviews and if they differed from what they were expected to report, the interviews were simply cut short and they were not interviewed again.  At least four of the witnesses changed their testimony over time and overall their accounts are conflicting.  The common themes in all the reportings from various witnesses are that it was dark and raining outside; that they did not see the start of the confrontation; that that there was a lot of noise and yelling outside; they couldn’t hear what was being said; that there was scuffling; and that there was a shot; and that the yelling stopped.

There are many other indicators that lead me to the conclusion that the Sanford Police Department were treating this case as a self defense case right from the start. On December 4, 2012, the prosecution team released documents including FBI reports regarding an on going civil rights investigation in the 2/26/2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin.  This included an interview with Sanford Police Officer D. Singleton and Sergeant Joseph Santiago about a file detailing messages found in Mr. Zimmerman’s cell phone.  One stored message says, ” I told you everything that has transpired.  Do you think I would omit the fact that a narcotics officer guided me?”  An ABC reporter, Matt Guttman in response to a follower’s twitter did state that that the Sanford Police Officer, Chris Serino was a leaker.  The problem is Matt Guttman, a popular ABC reporter from Miami had a lot of exclusives in the Trayvon Martin case and so one would have to guess what did the lead investigator, Serino leak.  My guess is he leaked which witness had taken photos of Mr. Zimmerman at the scene of the shooting and /or that there were medical records available and who to contact and how to access them.  It was Matt Guttman who first reported on both these two exclusives soon after Officer Chis Serino  became aware of this information.  Also, it was the Prosecution witness, Sanford Police Officer, Chris Serino who volunteered that he believed George Zimmerman’s version of events and the judge had to instruct the jury to ignore his remarks.

In addition there are the comments by Dr. Shipping Boa who performed the autopsy on Trayvon Martin on 2/27/2012.  He has stated that no police or state attorney representative was present at the autopsy which is standard in an on going homicide investigation.  The conclusion can be made that the police department and the state attorney’s office had already written this incident off as a case of self defense and thus were invested in continuing this investigation with this tunnel vision.

Consequently, when I summarize the various witness statements, please just look at the words.  All the witnesses have had their recall tainted to some extent by one side or the other.  Do not judge someone’s truth by their demeanor or their likeability.  The only person that we know who has lied in a significant way with relevance to the trial is Mr. Zimmerman.  Mr. Zimmerman had his original bond revoked due to misleading the court regarding his finances which caused his wife, Shellie to be charged with perjury.  She has pleaded guilty and is serving her sentence.  The witness Rachel Jeantel coming up with an excuse for not going to Trayvon’s funeral which was not truthful is not the moral equivalent of  Mr. Zimmerman misleading a judge while under oath and with jail house recorded interviews proving he lied.

Witness #14, Austin McLendon

Witness Number 14 is Austin McLendon, a 13 year old Black young man.  On the evening of 2/26/2012, he states that he was walking his dog when he saw someone for just a few seconds on the ground crying for help.  It looked to Austin like he had fallen or maybe he had broken his leg.  Austin said he wanted to go over to help but his dog was off the leash and he had to go after the dog.  Then he heard a loud noise and the screaming stopped. He only saw one person. He went home and told his older sister what happened and they both called 911 and he reported what he heard to an officer.  On March 5, 2012, he was interviewed by Sanford Police. They had to wait for the Mom to be present and he told basically the same story.  He confirmed that he could not tell the color of the person because it was too dark outside but what he was wearing was a red color and that he only saw one person.  Later, the Mom, Cheryl Brown in an interview with an CNBC TV host stated that the police were trying to ask her son leading questions before the recording started.  For example, they kept asking if he could tell the race of the person on the ground or if the color of the shirt could have been red, black or white.  Austin had always said it was too dark for him to say for sure the race of the person or the color of the clothing.  He did say he only saw one person for a few seconds and the cries for help were from someone laying on the ground who sounded young and who could not get up. He did not see another person.  What was interesting to me about this interview with the Mom is when she volunteered the  lead investigator, Chris Serino told her, the Sanford Police were not convinced of Mr. Zimmerman’s self defense claim and for her to read between the lines in that they are continuing to investigate. I cannot understand why he would say something like this to her when all his actions and behaviors say something else. Later on 3/27/2012, The Mom had contact with the Florida State Attorney’s Office stating that her son could not say that the person he saw on the ground was wearing a red hoodie.

Witness Jeanee Manalo
Witness Jeanee Manalo

Witness Number 12, Jeanee Manalo interviewed with representatives from FDLE and the Florida State Attorney’s Office on March 20, 2012.  She was living near the vicinity of the shooting and she and her husband first heard a loud yelling which sounded like a dog’s howl on the evening on 2/26/2013.  She said they were in the living room and they originally ignored the sounds. Finally as the noise got louder, she looked out of their sliding glass doors and saw two men arguing.  She turned to tell her husband what she saw when she looked out the back door, she noted that the men had moved further down the walkway. It was so dark outside and she could not tell who they were beyond two shadows.  She then heard someone yelling. followed by one gunshot. She looked out of her back door and saw a big man kneeling over someone laying on the grass.  She viewed out the window while her husband went outside and she saw her husband talking to a man in a jacket.  It was dark outside and the porch light was not working with the time  after 7:15PM.  She said she could not tell who was on top of the other or  the color of the clothes as it was too dark. She could not tell if it was the person on the ground was  the same person who was talking to her husband.  The man on top looked big and she couldn’t tell if the  man on the ground was facing up or down.  She volunteered that another neighbor came out and asked this same man if he needed help and if he wanted someone to call 911.

Witness #13 is Jonathan Manalo whose house’s back yard was near the shooting.  He stated to the police on 2/26/2012 that he was busy assembling furniture when his wife heard yelling when she was looking out of a window and then they heard a couple of pops. His wife said it looks like someone was shot and he went outside.  He told the police that the man he spoke to was covered in blood. The man said he was being beaten up on and he had to shoot to defend himself.  Mr. Manalo said the man looked Puerto Rican. He said that 911 had been called but he asked Mr. Manalo to call his wife.  Mr. Manalo told the police he had never met either the shooter or the victim prior to the shooting Later he was interviewed on 3/20/2012 by FDLE and on 3/26/2012 by Florida State Attorney’s Office.  His information is basically the same in that he went out into his back yard after he heard the shot with a flashlight and a cell phone. The man standing up asked if he had blood and Mr. Manalo answered that he had a lot of blood in the front and the back of his head.  Mr. Manalo said “Zimmerman looked like a man who just had his butt whipped.”  Mr. Manalo did call Zimmerman’s wife at his request to inform her that her husband shot someone.  He informed FDLE that he did take three cell phone pictures of Zimmerman’s injuries on that evening of 2/26/2012 which he did not save but he had stored them on his computer.  He did agree to forward by email to FDLE these same computer photos.

Witness Jayne Surdyka
Witness Jayne Surdyka

Witness Number 10 Jane Surdyka  On April 4, 2012 , Ms., Surdyka had an interview with an FDLE representative, T.C. Osteen in her lawyer’s office, Mr. Brett. The Fdle had reviewed her prior audio interviews and written statements given to the Sanford Police Department. She said she had a clear view of the scene of the shooting from second floor bedroom windows which were originally closed on the evening of 2/26/2012 due to the pouring rain. She describes how she had gotten into bed ready to read a book when she kept hearing these loud voices. She wondered who would be walking their dog in the pouring rain, and then with the continuing loud voices, she opened her bedroom windows.  She said it was about 5 to 8 minutes from when she first heard the loud voices to when she first opened her windows.  She could not understand what was being said but it was not a conversation.  She heard a loud man’s voice who was dominant and that of another man. She said when she first looked out of her window she couldn’t see very much due to the glare and so she turned off her right light.  She then saw two people on the ground on top of each other.  She grabbed her cell phone to dial 911.  She heard normal calls for help, horrifying calls for help; agonizing calls for help.  She could not see colors and she described the one on top wrestling; not arms striking blows.  She said it was more like side to side movement while they were on top of each other.  She could not tell who was yelping and she could not tell the race of the person until later, after the shooting.  She said while she was on the 911 call, she heard the yelp. She saw one man on top of the other man.  Then she heard the “pop” sound more than one time. She said the  bigger person stood up and walked toward her window and it is here that she can tell he is Hispanic. He is putting his hand towards his head. Soon afterwards, a neighbor comes outside with a flashlight and the police are quickly on the scene.

 Jonathan Good
Jonathan Good

Witness number 6 is John Good.  He has given statements to the Sanford Police, FDLE and the Florida State Attorneys Office.  He resides with his fiancee at Twin Trees Lane and he did call 911 on the evening of 2/26/2012.  In general, he stated that he and his finance were watching TV when they heard loud noises outside. At first, they thought it might be neighborhood kids or people just having a good time outside. As they continued to hear the noise, he muted the TV sound.  At first, he didn’t hear anything but soon he heard the noise becoming louder and coming towards him. It was at this time that he looked outside through the blinds of sliding glass doors but there was only a porch light which did not allow him to see well.  He opened the door to lean out and saw what he could only describe as a “dog attack.”  Initially, he could see a person facing away from him who was looking down towards the ground, while in a vertical position.  It was when he heard a male’s voice yelling “help, help, help” that he observed a second guy trying to get out from underneath this person.  The people were struggling or wrestling.  The person on top who had a darker complexion was wearing a black or dark colored shirt or jacket. He described the second person on the bottom as being male with a lighter complexion wearing a lighter colored red or white shirt. He then asked the two men, “what’s going on,” at which time he heard someone yell help a second time.  At no time could he tell who was yelling help.  He then said, “hey cut it out,” to which neither of them responded. While still positioned on the ground, he describes the two individuals turning and moving towards the sidewalk. He said the person wearing the black shirt was still on top of the person wearing red.  He recalls the person on top either forcefully holding the person on the bottom down or hitting the person on the bottom. He then told them he was calling 911.  He went inside, closed and locked his doors and called 911.  While he was on the phone with 911, he heard the gunshot or what sounded like a rock hitting the window.  He immediately ran upstairs to look  out the window to see the person who was originally on top lying motionless on the ground.  He recalls seeing the person who was on the bottom standing with his hands in the air.  He saw someone come from around the corner holding a flashlight.  He then heard the person with his hand up  say, ” the gun is on the ground, I shot the guy in self defense.” He described the police arriving almost immediately.

 Chris Serino
Chris Serino

The Sanford Police Lead Investigator, Chris Serino submitted a Police Report ( Case # 201 250011360) and on page 2 of 13, there is a case synopsis which is as follows:

As Zimmerman followed Martin, Martin apparently became aware of Zimmerman and apparently attempted to confront Zimmerman by walking towards Zimmerman’s vehicle. Zimmerman, instead of informing Martin as to the reason he was following him, raised the windows to his vehicle and did not acknowledge martin or engage him in any conversation. As Martin continued on his way, in a direction which would have led him to the residence of _______ where he was an authorized guest.  Zimmerman continued to follow him in his vehicle when martin arrived at a cut -through, consisting of a walkway between the 1200 block of Twin Trees lane and the 2800 block of Retreat View Circle.  Zimmerman told the dispatcher that martin started to run.  Upon viewing Martin taking flight, Zimmerman exited his vehicle in an attempt to see where Martin was going, in order to relay that information to the dispatcher.  According to Zimmerman’s audio recorded version of events, after he exited his vehicle which he parked on Twin Trees Circle, he walked towards Retreat View Circle. Zimmerman stated he looked generally southward down the walkway and did not see Martin.  During the course of this activity, Zimmerman was still speaking to the call taker, who asked Zimmerman if he was following Martin.  Zimmerman replied that he was, and the police call taker told Zimmerman, “you don’t need to do that.”  .Zimmerman stated that he  terminated his phone call with the dispatcher when he was at the end of the cut through at Retreat View Circle, and he started walking back to his vehicle.  Zimmerman stated that as he was walking back to his vehicle, “out of nowhere” appeared Martin who approached him from his left rear.  Zimmerman stated that he approached him and asked him what his problem was, then with a closed fist he struck Zimmerman in the face causing Zimmerman to fall to the ground.  Once on the ground, Zimmerman stated that Martin struck him multiple times in the facial area and at one point smashed his head into the cement walkway to the point Zimmerman almost lost consciousness.  Zimmerman stated that while being battered by Martin, he felt martin reaching for his firearm, which he had on his person inside the waistband nylon holster, with no safety features.  Zimmerman is licensed in the State of Florida to carry concealed firearms. Zimmerman stated he believed martin was attempting to remove his firearm, at which time, Zimmerman was able to free himself to the point of being able to clear the firearm from its holster, and fired one round at point blank range, which struck Martin in the chest.  Zimmerman stated that after he discharged the firearm, Martin ceased battering him and fell over , which enabled Zimmerman to get back on his feet.  Immediately, after the incident, Officer T. Smith arrived on the scene and placed Zimmerman into custody. Zimmerman claimed a self defense explanation of the encounter which he maintained throughout subsequent investigations.

Witness Jennifer Lauer
Witness Jennifer Lauer

Witness number 11 is Jennifer Lauer who lives in the same neighborhood was watching TV with her fiancée on the evening of 2/26/2012.  When she heard the loud noise, it sounded like 2 to 4 drunk men having a verbose conversation. She did think this was strange as it was raining outside. Her back door was open and so she was able to hear more scuffling, yells for help, and so she decided to call 911.  She was told if she heard or saw anything suspicious, she should call 911 because of recent robberies in the neighborhood. She did hear the shot, the sound which was transmitted on the cell phone. She told the police, the yelling at the beginning was in the nature of an exchange.  She did not see anything regarding the confrontation itself but her next door neighbor did and he said it was George on the bottom. She said has had contact with George Zimmerman at the Homeowner Association meetings as she is a Board member and she described him as laid back and not the type to act crazy or to act the way he did unless the situation required it.

Witness #16 Selma Mora
Witness #16 Selma Mora

Witness Number 16 lives in the same neighborhood.  She had an interview with the Sanford Police on March 1 and March 2, 2012. She said she was in the kitchen with the window halfway open helping her friend make coffee when she heard what sounded like a kid crying and then she heard what sounded like a shot. She thought it was kids playing outside, She went outside on the porch and she saw a guy on top of another. She asked what’s going on here?  There was no answer.  She said , What’s wrong with you, what’s going on? She said this again. The guy on top looked at her, and finally he said ” call the police.”  At that moment , her roommate, Mary Cutcher came out and told her to get inside and the roommate called the police. Selma with the help of her roommate said the fight started down the street but at the time of the shot, there was no fighting occurring. They saw George Zimmerman Straddled on top of Trayvon Martin.  She said he stood up and started walking with his hand toward his head. Soon a neighbor and the police came.  She told The Officer she was worried about her safety from George Zimmerman.  She did hear he was part of the neighborhood watch patrol. but she would not recognize him if he walked by her.  They did not hear prior yelling before the shot.

Witness Number 22 has chosen to keep his identity secret.  He has testified that he and George Zimmerman worked for the same company for a the years 2008/2009.  George Zimmerman was already employed when Witness 22 was hired. At the time George  Zimmerman was not liked by his fellow employees and he chose to pick on Witness 22 who was from a Middle Eastern background to gain brownie points with his coworkers.  George Zimmerman proceeded to make Witness 22 a target of bullying and his life at work became a nightmare on a daily basis. He would make Witness 22 do menial jobs, then embarrass him in front of the other employees by calling him irreverent names and making jokes about him.  Witness 22 overheard George Zimmerman use lines from “Ahmed the Terrorist.”  Witness 22 said the daily harassment was so bad he felt feelings of violence towards George Zimmerman. Witness 22 did file a complaint with Human resources and they did have a talk with George Zimmerman which did nothing.  Witness 22 said that George Zimmerman was so convincing and professional in his demeanor when defending his behavior towards Witness 22  to management that he almost doubted himself.  Eventually, George Zimmerman was fired as he was constantly making complaints against management and how he believed departments should be run.  HR said he was too much trouble.

There was an anonymous witness who was interviewed on CNN’S ANDERSON COOPER and on ABC TV who was present at the scene of the shooting on the evening of 2/26/2012.  He did provide the details of what he saw to the Sanford Police on the evening of the shooting. The two networks took steps to keep the identity of this witness secret.  He said, “I saw two men on the ground, one on top of the other.  I felt they were scuffling and I heard gunshots which to me were more like pops.  I don’t know if it was an echo but it definitely made more than one pop. “After the larger man got off there was a boy, obviously now dead, on the ground facing down.It was dark. I can’t say I watched him get up, but in a couple of seconds or so he was walking towards where I was watching and I could see him a little bit clearer. It was a Hispanic man. He didn’t appear hurt or anything else. He just kind of seemed very worried with his hand up to his forehead.”

The anonymous witness said that before opening his window and looking out, he had heard angry voices outside. “There was a loud, predominant voice. I couldn’t hear the words but this was not a regular conversation,” he said. “This was someone aggressively yelling at someone.” He said there was a lull but the argument resumed and that was when he decided to see what was going on.  “I’m thinking something horrible is happening. I heard the yell for help and another excruciating kind of a yell, it didn’t even sound like a yell, it sounded so painful,” he said.

DEAR FELLOW REPUBLICANS, AFTER REVIEWING THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESS 22, DO YOU STILL LOOK UPON ZIMMERMAN AS A HERO?