While two neighbors gave testimony suggesting that Zimmerman was on top of Martin before the gunshot, the neighbor who seems to have had the best view of the struggle said Martin was on top and appeared to be pummeling Zimmerman. There was also dueling testimony from friends and relatives who claimed to be sure they could hear either Martin or Zimmerman screaming in the background of a 911 call placed during the fight.
Zimmerman's account, which he gave freely without asking for a lawyer, has been essentially consistent over time. The main investigator on the case testified (for the prosecution!) that Zimmerman seemed to be telling the truth and was happy to hear the fight might have been captured on video, suggesting he thought such evidence would vindicate him.
It is still possible that Zimmerman erroneously believed the shooting was justified -- that he feared for his life but not reasonably so, as required for a self-defense claim under Florida law. But instead of making that argument, the prosecution, which rested last week, has implausibly portrayed Zimmerman as an angry vigilante who maliciously tracked Martin down to deliver rough justice after mistaking him for a burglar.
Like the commentators who insist on viewing this case as a lesson about racism or an indictment of "stand your ground" laws, the prosecutors tell a compelling story that does not fit the facts very well.
Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @jacobsullum. To find out more about Jacob Sullum and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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