New Documents Released In Trayvon Martin Case

Documents have been released in the investigation of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot Martin, an unarmed teen. He's claiming self-defense. Robert Siegel talks to Greg Allen.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Hundreds of pages of documents were released today in the investigation of a Florida teen's death. Trayvon Martin, who was 17, was shot to death in February by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman says he saw Martin walking in his neighborhood and thought he was suspicious. An altercation between the two turned deadly. Martin's family contends the teen was a victim of racial profiling. Zimmerman says he acted in self defense.

NPR's Greg Allen has been poring over the documents and joins us now to talk about the information contained in these records. And, Greg, take us first through what witnesses say happened the night of February 26th in Sanford, Florida, when Martin was killed.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, Robert, we're still going through these documents and there, it's voluminous. There's something like 57 compact discs-worth material that's not available to news organizations in this, and they contain many interviews and we're just starting to listen to the interviews. We've gone through a lot of the transcripts of some of the interviews and what we're getting is a little bit, slightly more nuanced picture of what happened on February 26th.

We hear from one witness, the witnesses' names have all been redacted, taken out, so we don't know exactly who they are. We know their gender, generally speaking, just from context. We hear from one witness who says that she saw a fistfight between two men, and she heard a gunshot. But before that happened, she said she observed two men chasing each other, then the fistfight, and then the gunshot.

We've listened to some of the interviews with her that she's done. She doesn't have too much information besides that, but it suggests there was actually a chase. Now, what we don't know, and she was not able to identify who was chasing whom, and that'll be a key factor here because, you know, we know with this stand-your-ground law in Florida, you know, you can stand your ground, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can chase someone. So if, you know, that's what we'll have to determine as this case goes forward.

SIEGEL: Right. Greg, is there anything especially surprising in these documents?

ALLEN: Well, the most interesting witness is a man who says that he saw a black male wearing a dark color hoodie straddling a white or Hispanic male who was on the ground yelling for help. And he said the black male was mounted on the white or Hispanic male throwing punches, as he described it, mixed martial arts style. And then when he yelled out to the individual and said he's going to call the police, he heard a pop, which was the gunshot, and the person who was top, the black male was then laid out on the grass. So that suggests to us that we had Trayvon Martin on top actually beating on George Zimmerman, something that we've heard from Zimmerman and his supporters in the many weeks since the shooting.

SIEGEL: And from what you've seen in these documents, what do we learn about what local police thought about this case?

ALLEN: Well, it's interesting because we have what they call a capias request, which is basically a request from police to the prosecutor to charge George Zimmerman with negligent manslaughter. And they submitted that on March 13th, that was more than a week before the state attorney for Seminole County, Norman Wolfinger, was taken off the case. So he had a request from police to charge Zimmerman with negligent homicide. And what they had to say was fairly interesting in the report, if I can find it here.

They're saying that George Zimmerman had a history of calling them. And when he would call about suspicious people, they always turned out to be black males. So it suggests that the police actually had some suspicion of, that he might have been profiling people. They say in the report, this is from Christopher Serino, who's the investigator. The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and waited the arrival of law enforcement or if he identified himself to Martin as concerned citizen and started to talk instead of actually getting into a confrontation. That's, at least, what Serino said and why they thought they should charge George Zimmerman with negligent manslaughter.

SIEGEL: Greg, briefly, one other point. I understand that THC was found in Trayvon Martin's body. What do the documents say about that?

ALLEN: Right. We have that in a toxicology report. And of course, we know that Trayvon Martin was suspended from school for having traces of marijuana in his backpack. The toxicology report shows that, suggests that he was using that evening. It shows him with levels of THC and cannabinoids in his system. How that plays in this case is another thing that remains to be seen.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Greg.

ALLEN: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Greg Allen.

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