Witnesses who have given evidence that could prove harmful to George Zimmerman, the community watch security guard who shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, apparently changed their stories after the frenzy of media coverage following the event. In a blatant example of how eyewitness testimony is often colored by circumstances after the event in question, the witnesses seem to have altered their stories to fit the prevailing media coverage at the time.
Typically, evidence given immediately after an event is given far more credence, since the witnesses have not been tainted by other sources. In this case, the testimony given has changed substantially. One witness, who initially claimed, although she didn’t have her contacts on or her glasses, she saw “two guys running … couldn’t tell you who was in front, who was behind …” She stepped away from her window, then looked again to see “a fistfight. Just fists. I don’t know who was hitting who.” But roughly three weeks later, she said there was only one running figure, and she heard him more than saw him: “I couldn’t tell you if it was a man, a woman, a kid, black or white. I couldn’t tell you because it was dark and because I didn’t have my contacts on or glasses … I just know I saw a person out there.” This would fit the story concocted by the media that Zimmerman had chased Martin down before he shot him.
Another witness said on March 20 that she saw two people on the ground after the shots were fired and was not sure who was on top: “I don’t know which one … All I saw when they were on the ground was dark colors.” But on March 26, her memory suddenly cleared; she told the trial prosecutor that she was sure it was Zimmerman on top. And how did she suddenly remember with such clarity? “I know after seeing the TV of what’s happening, comparing their sizes, I think Zimmerman was definitely on top because of his size,” she said.
A third witness initially said he saw he saw a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man “just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style,” and the one calling for help was “the one being beat up” — meaning Zimmerman. But three weeks later, he said he was no longer sure which one called for help: “I truly can’t tell who, after thinking about it, was yelling for help just because it was so dark out on that sidewalk.” In addition, he claimed he was no longer sure Martin was throwing punches: Martin may have simply been keeping Zimmerman pinned to the ground, although he admitted that “the black guy was on top.”
The fourth witness started by reporting that Zimmerman had told him Martin was “beating up on me, so I had to shoot him.” Zimmerman then asked the witness to call his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, and tell her what happened. One month later, the witness changed the story to make it seem Zimmerman was indifferent about the shooting: his attitude was not ” ‘I can’t believe I just shot someone!’ it was more like, ‘Just tell my wife I shot somebody …’ like it was nothing.”
With the media frenzy resulting from Martin’s death, including the involvement of President Obama, is it any wonder that witnesses have changed their testimony?