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Friday, May 18, 2012

Zimmerman Discovery Embed And How Washington Post Changed Headline And Spins The Report

By Susan Duclos

The embed below is the 183 pages of documents, witness statements and other material, was released Thursday by special prosecutor Angela Corey’s office, which has charged  George Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. Included was a document explaining what material was withheld.

Below the embed are links to how different media organizations headlined and reported portions of the information contained within the documents. Washington Post actually changed their headline either before or after publishing.

Zimmerman Discovery

ABC News headlines with"Cops, Witnesses Back Up George Zimmerman's Version of Trayvon Martin Shooting."

 CNN headlines with "Autopsy: Drug THC found in Trayvon Martin's system."

USA Today headlines with "Police report: Trayvon Martin's shooting was 'avoidable'."

MSNBC headlines with "Court docs: Trayvon Martin shooting 'ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman'."

Then we get to Washington Post, which the headline now reads "Trayvon Martin documents reveal new details in shooting," but looking at the URL, that headlines was changed at some point because it saved with the words, "trayvon-martin-autospy-report-indicates-struggle."

Full URL:

Note- Headlines are changed all the time, it has been done here to correct spelling errors or to reflect more information that comes up while writing the article. The change in the headline would not be as noteworthy if that is all they did. The change along with their spinning of the evidence is what makes it noteworthy.

Tom Maguire does an excellent job detailing the Wapo report and what they neglected from the documents when writing their document.

Maguire points to how Wapo described the wound from the findings of the Volusia County (Fla.) Medical Examiner's office, but ignores the report the lab tests by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Orlando operations center, which contradicted the other report.

MSNBC mentions the contradiction:

But the documents give contradictory assessments of how far away Zimmerman was when he shot Martin.

Lab tests by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Orlando operations center concluded that residue tests on Martin's sweatshirt were "consistent with a contact shot" — that is, one in which the muzzle of the weapon is physically touching the victim.

But the autopsy report from the Volusia County (Fla.) Medical Examiner's office reached a different conclusion based on examination of the wound itself, saying, "This wound is consistent with a wound of entrance of intermediate range."

Maguire continues:

However, their attempt to create drama and a sense that Zimmerman was brandishing his weapon and threatening Martin is abysmal journalism:

The documents include new details about what witnesses said they heard and saw that dark, rainy night outside their townhouse windows. One witness told police that he heard someone saying, “I’ve got a gun. I’ve got a gun.”

That is what the witness said and we will accept that is reflecting what the witness heard. However, that was *after* Zimmerman fired the fatal shot, when he had his hands up and was identifying himself to the approaching police officer. In fact (p. 41) the full quote is "I've got a gun, I've got a gun. Take my gun from me".  How did the WaPo miss that?

Read the rest of Maguire's takedown of Washington Post where he details how "misleading and incomplete" the Wapo article was.

The ABC News article details the police and witness testimony which makes it difficult to understand how the special prosecutor, Angela Corey, came up with a second degree murder charge that the testimony, contained within her own findings that she just released, creates more than reasonable doubt.

A second witness described a person on the ground with another straddling him and throwing punches. The man on the bottom was yelling for help, the witness told police.

The documents state that Zimmerman can be heard yelling for help 14 times on a 911 call recorded during the fight.

Yet another witness described the confrontation in emotional terms.

The witness heard "someone yelling, almost crying. Then I heard a gunshot." The witness wrote that he or she "saw a man on top of a guy laying on the ground. He was putting his hands on his neck or chest."
The man asked the witness to call 911.

"He stood up and took a couple steps away and put his hands on his head and then walked back over to the guy on the ground. He looked at him for a minute, then started to walk away toward the road. That is when the police walked up," the witness wrote.

The lead investigator on the case, Officer Christopher Serino, wrote that Zimmerman could be heard "yelling for help as he was being battered by Trayvon Martin.

Had Corey gone for manslaughter, voluntary or involuntary, as a police investigator originally recommended,  she may have had a chance at conviction, but the evidence provided in the document above seems to indicate that she overcharged Zimmerman.

(Changes have been made to this post)