George Zimmerman Jury Told His Injuries Were 'Insignificant'

Medical examiner says Zimmerman's injuries "not consistent with grave force."

BySeni Tienabeso and Matt Gutman
July 02, 2013, 9:35 AM

SANFORD, Fla. July 2, 2013 — -- A medical examiner who reviewed video and photographs of George Zimmerman's injuries suffered during his fatal confrontation with Trayvon Martin called the neighborhood watch captain's wounds "insignificant" and "non-life threatening."

Dr. Valerie Rao testified that Zimmerman was struck as few as three times by Martin during the fight that night. She also asserted his head may have only been slammed on the concrete a single time. Zimmerman, who faces second-degree murder charges for the death of the unarmed teenager, said Martin repeatedly slammed his head on the concrete.

"Are the injuries on the back of the defendant's head consistent with one strike against a concrete surface?" asked prosecutor John Guy

"Yes," Rao said.

"And why do you say that?" asked Guy

"Because if you hit the head one time, it is consistent with having gotten those two injuries at that one time," she testified.

Rao's testimony could contradict Zimmerman's assertion that he was involved in a potentially life-threatening struggle with the Florida teenager.

Catch up on all the details from the George Zimmerman murder trial.

Zimmerman, 29, claims he shot Martrin, 17, in self defense on Feb. 26, 2012 as Martin repeatedly banged his head against the pavement and reached for Zimmerman's gun.

"If you look at the injuries they are so minor they are not consistent with grave force," Rao said. "If somebody's head is banged with grave force I would expect a lot of injuries. I don't see that."

During the defense's cross examination of Rao, Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara got Rao to concede that his client's injuries could have been caused by more than three impacts. She also indicated that abrasions on Martin's knuckles were consistent with him striking someone.

The medical examiner's testimony came during a day in which prosecutors attempted to point out several inconsistent statements made by Zimmerman to others outside law enforcement.

Timeline of George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin Case

Mark Osterman, who described Zimmerman as "the best friend he's ever had," testified that Zimmerman told him that Martin grabbed the gun in his holster before he shot him. But in an interview with FOX's Sean Hannity played in court today Zimmerman said he felt Martin's hands go towards the holster.

Martin's DNA was not found on the gun, and in several interviews with law enforcement Zimmerman said Martin reached for the gun, but never got it.

In the Hannity interview Zimmerman said that Martin "was like skipping, and going away quickly" not "out of fear." However, Zimmerman told a police dispatcher that the teen was running on the night of the shooting.

This testimony came after prosecutors asked the judge to strike a comment made by their own witness who told the court that Zimmerman was being truthful when he described his fatal fight with teenager Trayvon Martin.

The testimony by investigator Chris Serino on Monday seemed to bolster the credibility of Zimmerman's claim that he shot Martin in self defense because the teenager was banging his head into the sidewalk.

In commenting on the consistency of Zimmerman's story as well as Zimmerman's apparent relief when falsely told there was a video of the confrontation, Serino said Zimmemran had to be either a pathological liar or telling the truth.

"If we were to take pathological liar off the table…do you think he was telling the truth?" asked defense attorney Mark O'Mara.

"Yes," responded Serino.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda started today's court hearing by asking Judge Debra Nelson to have Serino's comment stricken from the record and the judge agreed.

Nelson ruled that one witness cannot offer an opinion of another and instructed the jury to disregard the exchange.

It remains to be seen if the prosecution's move actually drew more attention to Serino's testimony, or whether jurors will be able to ignore it.

De la Rionda moved to the heart of the state's case by asking Serino if Zimmerman's use of a crude epithet shortly before the shooting Martin showed ill will and spite. Zimmerman is charged with second degree murder and Florida law requires the state to prove a defendant acted with ill will, spite or hatred to convict on second degree murder.

"In your opinion calling somebody and referencing them, pardon my language, as f***ing punks ill will and spite?" asked de la Rionda. Zimmerman muttered the phrase while talking to the Sanford police dispatcher when he called to report Martin as a suspicious person.

"Yes sir, it is," responded Serino.

Courtroom theatrics punctuated the day with de la Rionda approaching Serino and mock punching him while asking Serino if he would have defended himself.

"if somebody is hitting would you have your hands like this or would you be fighting," the prosecutor asked as Serino looked back with some discomfort and answered, "I would be fighting you"

The lawyers took so many turns re-examining Serino, they were reprimanded by the exasperated judge. "You're about to go into re-re-redirect," she told the state.

Prosecutors allege that Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin who was returning to the home in the Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision where he was staying as a guest. Zimmerman maintains that he did not follow Martin after a police dispatcher asked him to not follow the teenager. He said in taped interrogations that he got out of his car to get a house number for police who were en route to the scene.

"Isn't there a numerical address right in the front?" asked de la Rionda.

"Yes there is," responded Serino.

De la Rionda showed the jury images of Zimmerman's video re-enactment, which was filmed during the day, and the numerical address of a home where he got out of his car is visible. However, the incident occurred at night.

O'Mara brought up that there had been other burglaries in the community including the arrest of a young African-American who was arrested about two weeks before Martin's shooting.

But when asked by O'Mara, Serino said that he believed Zimmerman was in fact following Martin.

"Did you think there was anything wrong with following him to see where he was going?" asked O'Mara.

"Legally speaking no," responded Serino.

Tweeting from court, Sybrina Fulton, Martin's mother wrote "Day 17 - Remember God gives His toughest battles to His strongest soldiers. Please know I can't give up now. I've come too far. Continue to keep us lifted in prayer."

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