Evidence in Trayvon Martin tells story of struggle before fatal shot

(CBS News) By now you know the basics: George Zimmerman shot the unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin to death last February in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., where Zimmerman lived and was a neighborhood watch captain, and where Martin was visiting.

Zimmerman says it was self-defense. Prosecutors say it was murder, and late Thursday, for the first time, they released their evidence.

The question is: What happened in the moments before Zimmerman fired the fatal shot?

The case set off a national debate over racial profiling and the right of self-defense.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports the released evidence covers 183 pages. It includes dozens of audio recordings: mostly interviews, surveillance videos, and reports about physical evidence. And it tells the story of a struggle just before the fatal shot.

The last images of Martin were from a surveillance video taken at a 7-11 store in Sanford, where the 17-year-old bought Skittles and a can of iced tea before heading back to the townhouse subdivision where he was staying with family. Twenty minutes later, he would be dead, shot fatally once in the chest by George Zimmerman.

Thursday's document release includes crime scene photos, including one of Zimmerman's 9-millimeter gun, the first time it's been seen.

Trayvon Martin shooting: A timeline of events
Zimmerman: Martin's last words were "it's over"
Autopsy: Evidence of marijuana in Martin's blood

Photos taken by Sanford police shows the injuries Zimmerman says he sustained in a fight with Martin. He had a broken nose and two black eyes and a gash in the back of his head.

The autopsy report also details the gunshot wound in Martin's left chest that killed him. It's surrounded by a gunpowder burn called "stippling." That suggests Zimmerman's gun was fired near point point-blank range. The two men were no more than 18 inches apart.

Diagrams also note Martin had a blood spot on his head, a bruise on his eye, and small scarring on both hands, all suggesting he had been in a fight.

Toxicology reports also reveal Martin had a chemical residue of marijuana in his system. Not surprising: Martin was serving a two-week school suspension for a drug violation when he was killed.

One witness told police he saw a black male mounted on a white male throwing punches "mixed martial arts style." The witness didn't see the shot because he went to call police.

And a Sanford police report stated the confrontation was "ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement."

The special prosecutor has blocked the release of about 10 percent of the state's case. Still under seal are autopsy photos and videos, the names of some witnesses and telephone records.

This is still clearly the best picture yet of the case the state of Florida intends to use against George Zimmerman when it brings him to trial for second-degree murder.

The evidence was released because both sides have finally had a chance to take a look at most of it, and it is safe to assume that each side has now said, "Okay, I'm confident in the release of this kind of video, this kind of document."

There is some sensitive information in the evidence including witness names. That material and information has been redacted. This is the information that both sides apparently are comfortable for all of us to see.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.