Late Saturday night, a jury arrived at the unanimous conclusion that George Zimmerman had not committed an act of murder when he shot an unarmed teen named Trayvon Martin. As Jim Schutze noted earlier, Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which allows for the use of deadly force without the retreat requirement, was a bit player, if it figured into the trial at all. Instead, at issue was whether Zimmerman legitimately feared for his life when he pulled the trigger. This came down to self defense.
And there may be no expert witness who did more to convince the jury that it was than Dr. Vincent Di Maio, chair of the Texas Forensic Science Commission and a former chief medical examiner for Dallas County, who led the office for nearly a decade ending in 1981. He's no stranger to consulting in high-profile cases. Think Drew Peterson and Phil Spector. It was his testimony that led to the conviction of two police officers who shot unarmed, wounded people in the chaos following Hurricane Katrina.
Now, in a case similarly fraught with racial tension, his testimony elucidated a use of deadly force that the jury found was justified.
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"I think (the testimony) might have been the final nail in the coffin -- let's put it that way," he told the San Antonio Express-News Sunday. "The physical evidence was all for the defense. The prosecution didn't really have a case."
Zimmerman was described by prosecutors as a neighborhood-watch busybody who profiled and followed a teenager through a gated, Sanford, Florida, community. They say he accosted and killed Martin.
Di Maio, however, testified that the wound and the hole in Martin's T-shirt was consistent with Zimmerman's story, in which he's on his back and Martin is astraddle him. He said the injuries to the back of Zimmerman's head -- there may have been as many as six "impact sites" -- were the result of a "severe force," bolstering claims that the teen bashed it against the concrete sidewalk.
It isn't clear that his testimony tells us anything at all about who the aggressor was. But for all the 911 phone records, eyewitnesses and Rachel Jeantels the prosecution threw at the jury, nothing may have resonated more than well-delivered forensics testimony.