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George Zimmerman trial: Battle continues over defense computer animation of fatal altercation

SANFORD, FL - JULY 03: George Zimmerman, left, and Defense attorney Mark O'Mara chat during an early morning recess in Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court, July 3, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images) Photo by Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images

George Zimmerman, left, and Defense attorney Mark O'Mara chat during an early morning recess in Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court, July 3, 2013 in Sanford, Florida.
Photo by Jacob Langston-Pool/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) SANFORD, Fla. -- After extensive arguments from defense attorneys and prosecutors, a judge has delayed a ruling on whether the defense can introduce an animation of the fatal altercation between accused murderer George Zimmerman and Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

PICTURES: George Zimmerman on trial in death of Fla. teen

PICTURES: George Zimmerman crime scene photos

READ: Trayvon Martin Shooting: A timeline of events

Judge Debra Nelson mulled whether the animation should be introduced in a hearing outside of the presence of the jury after prosecutors asked her to bar it from trial. The hearing began Tuesday morning and began again after a day of testimony late Tuesday afternoon, stretching so late into the evening that the courtroom lights at one point automatically switched off.

Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin during a Feb. 12, 2012 confrontation in a gated Sanford, Fla. gated community. He claims he shot the teen in self-defense.

Prosecutors are claiming the animation is inaccurate and could confuse jurors.

Tuesday evening, prosecutor Richard Mantei grilled Daniel Schumaker, who created the animation, about the methods he used to digitally re-create the events. Schumaker said he went to the crime scene and had employees in motion-capture suits re-enact what happened based on coroner photographs, police reports, the coroner's report, witness depositions and photos taken by responding police officers, he said.

Schumaker said he also used George Zimmerman's video re-enactment of the fatal struggle, and the expertise of defense gunshot expert Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who said that Martin's wound indicated he was leaning over Zimmerman when the fatal shot was fired.

The animation, played in court during the hearing, depicts Trayvon Martin punching George Zimmerman in the face as the struggle begins, and later straddling him, as Zimmerman claimed he did.

"It was something created based on evidence and testimony and written reports, not solely based on what an attorney told me to do," Schumaker said.

Mantei pressed Schumaker as to whether the reconstruction amounted to an "estimation."

"The purpose of the final positioning was to show who was on the top and who was on the bottom," based on DeMaio's opinion, Schumaker said.

Mantei asked whether variables including exact spacing of the bodies, length of arms, and the distance of the gunshot to the clothing was accounted for in the animation.

"You're looking for something that's not in the video and expecting something that wasn't the purpose of the video," Schumaker said.

Arguing before the judge, Mantei said that the animation was a "supposition inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma," and "arguments masquerading as evidence."

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara argued that there were "frailties" to the animation, but that it was consistent with the evidence presented to the jury.

Nelson expressed some concern with allowing the animation to be introduced into evidence and sent back with jurors as they deliberate. She said she would rule on the issue Wednesday.

"To have an animation that goes back to the jury room that they can play over and over again like they can the 911 call and the reenactment and those other things gives a certain weight to certain things this court is not particularly certain that comports with the evidence presented at the trial," Nelson said.

  • Crimesider Staff

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