In Zimmerman trial, prosecution’s case circling the drain

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“This prosecution is dead in the water,” he added.

The state’s key witness, Trayvon’s longtime friend Rachel Jeantel, was widely criticized for her performance on the stand last week, often coming across as confrontational with defense attorneys and making the now infamous assertion that the term “cracker” isn’t racial in nature. Trayvon was on the phone with Ms. Jeantel shortly before he died and she testified that he told her he was being followed by a “cracker.”

With Detective Serino still on the stand Tuesday, the defense team hammered home physical factors that seem to support the defendant’s version of events.

The bullet wound on Trayvon’s body didn’t line up precisely with the bullet hole on his shirt, perhaps indicating he was on top of Mr. Zimmerman at the time of the shooting.

That would seem to support the defense’s contention that Trayvon was the aggressor and first attacked Mr. Zimmerman, pinning him to the ground and striking his head off the pavement.

The defense argues it was only then, in an act of self-defense, that he drew his gun and shot the teen.

Detective Serino’s testimony, along with that from other witnesses, has offered more confusion to an already cloudy picture of exactly what happened on the night Trayvon was killed.

That confusion was, to a lesser degree, obvious even before the trial began. Because of that, Ms. Carodine and other observers were surprised prosecutors decided to seek a murder conviction, rather than charging Mr. Zimmerman with a lesser offense such as manslaughter.

“What he did doesn’t sound like murder to me. I have a problem with what he did, but I wouldn’t call that murder,” she said.

Horace Cooper, co-chairman of the black conservative group Project 21, said the state has overreached and that media hype is partly to blame.

“The first week of the Zimmerman trial demonstrates the perils of a rush to prosecution,” Mr. Cooper said. “It is remarkable, with the deficiencies in the case, that the state ever chose to bring it.”

Whichever way the case turns out, there’s likely to be a backlash, according to Ms. Carodine.

“This case is going to be one of those watershed moments in our history when it comes to race relations. If there is an acquittal, I do think there will be an outcry from a number not just in the black community but also among people who sympathize with some of the struggles for racial equality in this country,” she said.

“Whichever way it goes, there’s going to be an outcry from the side that loses. I don’t think that’s something we can avoid,” she said.

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