George Zimmerman’s defense team continued Wednesday to play up the wimp factor, calling yet another witness to reinforce their claim that the pudgy neighborhood watch volunteer was “by no stretch of the imagination” a match for Trayvon Martin in their fight before Zimmerman shot and killed the teen in a gated Florida community last year.
Dennis Root, a former law enforcement officer who testified as an expert on defensive use of force, said Martin was in superior physical condition, and that Zimmerman was not a competent fighter.
“Mr. Martin was a physically active and capable person,” said Root, who probed both Martin’s and Zimmerman’s physical conditioning and fighting prowess on behalf of the defense team. “Mr. Zimmerman is an individual who is by no stretch of the imagination an athlete, and … he would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin.”
Root’s testimony jibed with prior defense witnesses who have testified that the neighborhood watch volunteer was overweight, in poor shape and not good with his fists. Root said screams heard on a 911 call, which the defense claims are Zimmerman, show “a high level of stress, a high level of fear.”
“…[Zimmerman] would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin.”
– Defense witness Dennis Root
In previous testimony on Monday, Adam Pollock, owner of a kickboxing gym where Zimmerman trained prior to the incident, said Zimmerman was “grossly obese,” and not athletic at all.
“He came to the gym to lose weight and get in shape,” Pollock said.
When defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked him to rate Zimmerman’s athletic ability on a scale of one to 10 when he began training, Pollock replied, “Point-five.”
Meanwhile, chances dimmed Wednesday that Zimmerman would take the stand in his own defense.
Though Zimmerman, 29, has not testified, jurors have seen repeated video recordings of him telling his side of the story to police investigators. While O’Mara did not say if his client would testify on his own behalf, courtroom observers considered it unlikely.
“You have the right to testify if you want to,” Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman on Wednesday. “It’s a decision that you alone can make.”
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin from Miami. Zimmerman claims he shot the teen in self defense. If convicted, Zimmerman could face life in prison.
Earlier Wednesday, Judge Nelson denied two requests by the defense, ruling that a computer animation that depicts the February 2012 confrontation as well as text messages that purportedly deal with fighting sent from Martin’s phone will not be admissible as evidence.
The animation’s creator, Daniel Schumaker, testified in court on Tuesday. Schumaker uses advanced technology like drones and motion-capture suits to create the computer animations. For the animation of the struggle between Martin and Zimmerman, Schumaker used information from the coroner reports, police reports and crime scene photos to recreate the scene, and used audio from the 911 calls to determine the timing of events.
“This is a murder trial. This isn’t ‘Casablanca.’ This isn’t ‘Iron Man,'” prosecutor Richard Mantei said.
The judge seemed concerned about the animation’s accuracy during arguments. While the animation can’t be introduced as evidence that can be reviewed by jurors during their deliberations, defense attorneys may be able to use it during closing arguments, she ruled.
“To have an animation go back into jury room that they can play over and over again gives a certain weight to something that this court isn’t exactly certain comports with the evidence presented at trial,” Nelson said Wednesday night.
The judge also agreed with prosecutors’ concerns about introducing the 17-year-old’s text messages. But defense attorney Don West had argued the texts were relevant since they showed Martin’s interest in fighting and physical capabilities.
Defense attorneys may also call a toxicology expert to testify Wednesday after winning a motion to introduce lab results showing THC in Martin’s system at the time he was killed. Defense attorney Don West noted that in Zimmerman’s statement to the non-emergency 911 dispatcher that it appeared the person he was observing in the Sanford, Fla., community was “on drugs.”
If the defense rests its case Wednesday afternoon, the prosecution will have a chance to rebuttal witnesses, followed by closing arguments as early as Friday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.