Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trayvon Martin lawyers intensify call for arrest amid more evidence leaks

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New eyewitness account and police station video further negate George Zimmerman's self-defence claim, family lawyers say

Lawyers from Trayvon Martin's family have stepped up calls for his killer to be arrested after a new eyewitness and leaked CCTV footage from the police station cast doubt on George Zimmerman's claim that he had acted in self-defence.
The new witness claims he saw the neighbourhood watch captain walking away from the fatal altercation with no blood on him, countering Zimmerman's statement that he sustained a broken nose and bloody injuries to the back of his head.
Leaked CCTV footage from the Sanford police department on the night of the shooting, 26 February, also appears to undermine the claim that he had been injured during the altercation.
The new evidence also directly contradicts leaks from police sources that the evidence backed Zimmerman's claim that the teenager had been the aggressor.
Daryl Parks, attorney for the Florida teenager's parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, said that the witness's story and the footage were crucial developments.
"I think Mr Zimmerman will be arrested very, very soon," he said.
"It answers a lot of questions for me. It is clear this witness saw what happened and indicated the person that he saw that did the shooting.
"The other part that really strikes me is that he seems to have not seen the apparent injuries from this altercation that Mr Zimmerman claims that he suffered."
Zimmerman, who is in hiding, has insisted he acted in self-defence when he shot Martin, 17, during a confrontation in a gated community in Sanford, near Orlando. He was questioned but released without charge under Florida's controversial stand-your-ground law, which states a killing is justified if a person uses deadly force fearing his own life or safety to be in jeopardy.
The new witness recounted his version of events on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 in a disguised voice.
"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," he said. "I don't know if 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. I saw no blood."
Officials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which has been leading the protests demanding justice for the Martin family, told the Guardian that the account was damning.
"It adds credence to what we already knew from the 911 calls and the earlier tapes," said Turner Clayton, president of the group's Sanford chapter. "It punches a lot of holes in the claims of self-defence and Zimmerman's claim that Mr Martin punched his nose and battered his head. None of that is apparent on the video."
Zimmerman's family, meanwhile, have launched a strong defence.
"You return force with force when somebody assaults you," said his brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr, in a CNN interview.
"George was out of breath, he was barely conscious. There would have been George dead if he had not acted decisively and instantaneously in that moment when he was being disarmed."
The new developments came as official comment on the five-week-old case dried up. Sanford police are referring all calls to the office of state attorney Angela Corey and city officials have already announced they would no longer hold daily briefings for the media.
Corey, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida governor Rick Scott eight days ago to take over the investigation, appealed to be left alone. "For the sake of all involved, please allow us to do our jobs within the bounds of Florida law," she said in a statement also announcing that official documents, photos and videos relating to the case were now protected under an exemption to public record laws.
She earlier indicated that she might not wait until a grand jury convened for 10 April before deciding if there was enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman.
Derek Turner, national spokesman for the NAACP, told the Guardian: "All we can ask is that the investigation is thorough.
"With everything swirling, our number one priority has always been for Zimmerman's arrest and to have a trial. We are already getting things accomplished and we will keep demanding justice for Trayvon Martin."
More than 3,000 protestors are expected to attend the latest rally in Sanford Saturday morning at which NAACP president Ben Jealous will speak.
But Clayton believed that more pressure would still be needed. "This is not going to go away and nor are we until Mr Zimmerman has been arrested and justice has been served."

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