The Last Word | March 28, 2012
>>> breaking news tonight on the killing of trayvon martin . we have new witnesses to hear from tonight, and for the first time we are seeing what the shooter, george zimmerman , looked like immediately after the killing of trayvon martin . this police video obtained by abc news shows zimmerman arriving at the police station in sanford , florida, in handcuffs, after shooting and killing trayvon martin . and in an exclusive report by nbc news, a source with knowledge of the investigation says it was then sanford police chief bill lee along with captain robert o'conner, the investigation supervisor who made the decision to release george zimmerman from those handcuffs on the night of february 26th after consulting with state attorney norman wofinger in person. the state attorney was there. it's not known whether that in-person meeting took place at the scene of the shooting or inside this police station that you're seeing right now where george zimmerman was questioned by police . we are joined now by abc news matt gutman, a reporter who obtaind this video of zimmerman on the night of the shooting. it first aired on abc world news tonight . matt, what do you see as the significance of this video in terms of helping us with the evidence of what happened here?
>> it's the first time we see anything of zimmerman , lawrence , and it's quite remarkable. for weeks now we've been seeing that mug shot of his from 2005 . he looks rather courtly, bearded. and now he looks more chichisled. rather well built. also is his face. in the police report and eyewitnesss said he appeared bloody after the scuffle with trayvon martin . he says trayvon martin cold clocked him, smashed his head on the ground. but you've seen the video. we're watching it. it doesn't seem he was that badly beaten in the face, which raises other questions. what really happened? so i think it serves to contradict, to some extension, his version of being mercilessly attacked by trayvon martin .
>> matt, you've done extraordinary reporting on this. not just tonight but leading up to this. it's fascinating what's going on institutionally between the police department and the state 's attorney office that made the call that night to not go ahead and prosecute, according to the other leaks that are coming out, and it seems as if what might be happening here now, is it your sense that some of what is happening here is the sanford police department has had enough of being criticized about not going forward with charges here, and this actually, this video, helps focus attention on the decision that the state attorney made after the police actually recommended a prosecution?
>> it seems so. it was rather, you know, simple to obtain. all they have to do is ask for it and wait a couple of days. the police were quite helpful. perhaps they want to get rid of this story and show they did do their due diligence. there was significant steps involved in the case as well. apparently zimmerman was never given a toxicology exam. they didn't interview witnesses, like the people we spoke to today, including trayvon's girlfriend who was on the phone with him seconds before he was shot. those people were never spoken to. clearly there was some disconnect between the police department and the prosecutors. we have the source that was telling us that it's simply impossible to get charges on anyone unless the state attorney figures that he had a slam dunk case, and that was clearly what happened here. obviously, this stand your ground law makes it very, very difficult for prosecutors to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that george zimmerman didn't feel threatened, lawrence . and that's really the operative term. as long as he had reason to believe and can prove that, that his life was threatened or he felt felt his life was threatened, this law entitles him essentially to use deadly force .
>> you've just ruined the night of every reporter on site. all you have to do is ask for it. that's not what the other reporters wanted to hear. i want to go to the 16-year-old girlfriend of trayvon martin who you also managed to interview. it's just a week or so that we've known about her existence. attorney benjamin revealed she was on her cell phone with trayvon on his cell phone leading up to this incident. and i want to read a transcript here that we have of some of what she told you. she said he was walking fast. when he said this man was behind him again. he come and say -- said he looked like he was about to do something to him and then trayvon said the man was still behind him. and then i said to him, run. paraphrasing what she said word for word. it's available in your report. it will be widely distributed. what did you make of her contribution to our understanding of this?
>> again, it was another contradiction of zimmerman 's version of events. for minutes it seemed trayvon martin knew he was being followed by this unidentified prn behind him. at one point he said there's this crazy white dude behind me. i don't know why he's following me. this continues. he tries to run, and then he walks. and then he thinks he loses zimmerman . and zimmerman catches up to him. trayvon martin asking zimmerman , why you following me? zimmerman responding what are you doing here? and the next thing this 16-year-old girl heard was a scuffle. trayvon's treasured phone falls to the ground. she hears the rustle in the grass, and then the phone cuts out.
>> not --
>> she was terrified.
>> math, quickly before you go, you talked to her. what's her credibility?
>> i i think she's credible. i don't think she has anything to hide. i have no reason to believe that she's lying. obviously, you know, at some point this may or may not go to court, and she could be subpoenaed. but at the very least i think that it's obvious since her number is in the phone record, which is how we talked the to her, that the police should have talked to her, at least interviewed her, but they never have.
>> they still haven't.
>> that's one of the most surprising things about this case.
>> matt, the police still haven't talked to her?
>> no. i parentally prosecutors plan to meet her next monday, but that's only because the new set of prosecutors just came in.
>> abc news correspondent matt gutman thank you very much for joining us tonight. thank you for sharing your video with us. and keep asking the police what else they have.
>> thanks a lot.
>> thanks, matt. joining me now are eugene oh donald, professor of police studies and of law at the law of criminal justice . and msnbc contributors today. and your story of the prosecutor. not an assistant state attorney. but being on the scene. whether he was in that station where we are nowing george zimmerman was taken.
>> well, the source who i spoke with early is this morning didn't make that clear. but what is clear is that this case was investigated a a very high level . at the highest level . we're talking a sunday night, after dinner time . the chief of police went to this the scene of the shooting, which in it of itself is unusual. but then there was a confrontation between the chief, the guy who's charged with supervising criminal investigation for the department, and according to this source, the state attorney, the guy who would eventually get this case from police and have ultimately recused himself because he wanted to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest. the high level at the decision not to arrest and not to charge zimmerman , that in it of itself is noteworthy.
>> there's usually a special circumstance for that. it involves the shooting of a police officer , the shooting of a notable person. the whole world is wondering now, what about this particular crime? what about this incident, if it was not a crime? it was unintentional, justifiable homicide . what about it would bring out the absolute top level people, the chief of police , bill lee , who has now been, in effect, suspended. and the chief prosecutor who has recused himself from the kals. they george zimmerman 's father is a retired judge. i believe he was a judge in virginia. so it isn't clear to me that he would be connected very well to the system down there. but is there some connection that george zimmerman had, either through his family or through himself, somehow, that would say if he's involved in this shooting, we need the top level deciders to be out there on the street.
>> well, i got to tell you, lawrence , that is a question that has been racking my brain all day. we do know, as you just said, george zimmerman 's father lives in lake mary . sanford , just to give you a lay of the land , is a sort of middle income to lower middle income city to lake mary , where the more affluent people live. zimmerman 's father owns a home there. george zimmerman lived with his father. his name was on the deed to the house for a while. so the question is, that i would have obviously, would be did george zimmerman call his dad? i know my share of police officers . i even know a police chief or two. i don't know too many that come out of their homes on a sunday night to go to the scene of a shooting. and it's not as if this community hasn't had prior crimes, egregious crimes. i was told of a number of really heinous murders where you didn't see the chief of police show up. so i think the combination of that and wofinger getting directly involve saying don't charge him, we don't have enough to hold him, blue the inconsistencies in george zimmerman 's story raise a lot of questions.
>> eugene , o'donnell, what brings out the top level plays for this situation?
>> well, to some extent it's reassuring that they were there. the prosecutor's job is to do justice. it's not to get meshed in legal technicalities and get overwhelmed? what did the evidence show in the case? it does not appear to show a justifiable homicide . and prosecutors have to be courageous in their discharge --
>> what we are seeing as he steps out of the that car, unassisted, by the way, he's handcuffed behind his back in the backseat of a police officer . you know, eugene , i know, it's actually not easy to get out of the backseat of a police car when you're handcuffed or any car handcuffed. go home and try it, people. officers very routinely will assist that person getting out. they were fully confident that this guy can jump out of that backseat by himself with no help whatsoever. when you're looking at this, what are you looking for this in first image we see of george zimmerman after the shooting and killing of trayvon martin ?
>> well, you have george zimmerman 's account, which is definitionly the least reliable piece of evidence. he has a motive to lie. he's facing homicide charges. definitely suspect right off the bat. what you're looking for is object bive, credible evidence that's beyond dispute. this video shows that it's beyond dispute that there are no serious physical injuries. he's not in the hospital. there's no bruising that's observable. if he alleges that he was in a life and death struggle, this video belies that climb. a short time after this video, this in conjunction with the audiotapes, these are objective pieces of evidence that you put great faith in.
>> it would be great if you're on the zimmerman side of the story to look at the video and say there's something that supports my story. doesn't have to prove your story. for example, if he had a bloody nose , sure. the people who responded to the scene as they say in their report could have helped him clean up the bloody nose at the scene. but would there be no blood on his shirt?
>> the red jacket might not show what we're looking for. on the front if he had a bloody nose . if he was at very close quarters shooting someone who he's almost embracing in the chest, would there not be blood splatter onto him? onto his body if he was that the close in an altercation or at least his own bloody nose ? some evidence of his own bloody nose dripping on the front of that shirt.
>> this does not show a life and death struggle. there's no evidence of a life and death struggle. the bottom line is the reasonableness of his conduct. and if he misperceived a danger and took a holy unreasonable decision to shoot, that would be a very obviously important conclusion. from this evidence there's no evidence to this video, there's no evidence of a life or death struggle of serious physical injury , great bodily harm, and certainly no evidence that he had to go to the hospital.
>> now we don't have an accompanying autopsy report on the body of trayvon martin . what we do have, and joining me now, is richard kurtz . he's the director of the kurtz funeral home . he prepared trayvon's body for the funeral. we have him joining us by phone. mr. kurtz , can you tell us what you saw in the condition of trayvon martin 's body that might be consistent with having been in an altercation? any wounds to his knuckles? if you're throwing punches, even hitting flesh, even hitting jaws of other people, when you throw punches, your hands do not come out unscathed.
>> caller: the only thing that i was able to see was the gunshot wound . examining his hand, i could not see any evidence like he had been punching somebody, as the news media say he was punching.
>> i want you to listen to something that trayvon martin 's father said today in an interview with the " washington post ." i want you to listen to this, because he is describing what the police told him about what happened that night in the altercation between trayvon martin and george zimmerman . let's listen to what trayvon martin 's father says here.
>> he reached in his pocket to get his cell phone and that's when trayvon attacked him. he said trayvon hit him, knocked him to the ground, got on top of him, put his knees on his arms, pinned him down. put his left hand over his mouth, told him shot the "f" up, and proceeded beating him with the other hand. zimmerman then says he was able to unholster his weapon and fire one shot, and trayvon fell back and said you got me. that's what the police initially told me.
>> richard kurtz , when you looked at trayvon's body, did you see anything that would in any way support that story.
>> i didn't see anything that would support that story.
>> let me go to specifics. his knees. he said that he had his knees on zimmerman 's arms. that mines at some point zimmerman must have gotten free of that. when you're in those tussles on the ground, as you've dealt with bodies in the aftermath of altercations, the contact points, knees, palms of hands, the knuckles. all those contact points that normally get banged around. any evidence of scrapes of any type or bruising of any kind in those areas?
>> no, sir. i cannot tell there was any bruising. however, a couple of days some of them could. but at least there would have been some evidence of a bruise that would still be visible.
>> and i know you're not a medical examiner, but did you see two wounds on the body? did you see one that would have been an entrance wound and one that would have been an exit wound ?
>> i only saw what i considered the entrance wound . i couldn't tell where the exit wound , no.
>> so you only saw the entrance wound , and was that in the chest, as we've heard?
>> yes, sir.
>> funeral director richard kurtz , i want to thank you very much for helping us with this information tonight. euge euge euge eugene , it may tell you the trajectory of the bullet may be entered here and actually have to travel through a lot of body. it wasn't possible to just go straight through, which is the shortest distance to the body. what are you looking for in the autopsy report when we eventually get it?
>> well, you're trying to see if there's corroboration. if there's a story that's been told is the evidence available. the credible objective evidence, is it consistent with the story? there does not have to be an injury on mr. zimmerman , of course. theoretically you could have a fight without an injury, but there would tend to be, certainly a life and death ferocious struggle.
>> you've heard a lot of peebl people tell you. now we're hearing as trayvon's father just said that the police told him trayvon is on top of this guy. he's got his knees on his arms pinned. he's got him completely pinned and defenseless. both arms are now pinned. and he's holding him down with one of his hands additionally to stabilize him so that he can punch him and punch him and punch him. if that is true, how, if you're listening to someone tell you this story as an investigator, what does that person need to be able to tell you about how he escaped from that complete fizz control that the other person is exerting over him, and got to a gun that's in a holster underneath the body of the other person, who is obviously sitting on that gun. what does he have to tell you to convince you that he actually was able to turn the tables in that situation and then shoot that person dead?
>> and that's the heart of the whole investigation. finding out if it's a believable, plausible story. there was a reinactment. we'll have to see what happened. that's a very good question as to how this could occur. it would be an extraordinary move t it sounds like it would be an extraordinary move to get from out from you should this kind of grip.
>> we are looking at the first meeting of george zimmerman after they shot and killed trayvon martin . we're going to talk to a mother of a 13-year-old witness. she's going to tell us what the chief investigator told her tuscaloosa?