The medical examiner who testified in the George Zimmerman trial says his office, state prosecutors and police had no interest in convicting the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin and set him up to take the blame for a failed prosecution. (Updated with new remarks from The Sanford, FL police department.)
Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter July 14th. The then neighborhood watch volunteer said he shot the unarmed Miami teen in self-defense.
For two years, Shiping Bao, a 33-year veteran medical examiner originally from China, worked in the Volusia County Medical Examiner’s office, which also serves Seminole County, where the shooting took place. He was fired the first week of September. He is suing the department for wrongful termination; a lawsuit his attorney Willie Gary says could seek damages of $100 million.
“They told me that I had a poor performance in the George Zimmerman trial,” Bao told theGrio on Wednesday. “They never give me any reason why they would say that.” He said he was informed of his termination by “a couple of supervisors” working under George Recktenwald, Volusia County’s director of public protection.
Attorney Willie Gary has taken on the case on behalf of Bao. He told theGrio, “Number one, the medical examiner’s office should be liable for the wrongful termination.” Gary said. “They retaliated against [Dr. Bao] because he stood up for what he believed in. He’s the scapegoat because from what he’s telling me, they didn’t want to win the case. They threw the case. But they didn’t expect to get the public backlash.”
And Gary went on to say, “You’ve got professionals in the medical examiner’s department as well as the state attorney’s office, as well as the police department who clearly did not do their job. He gets fired and it’s just not right and because of that I’ve decided that we are gonna take his case and we will be filing a lawsuit against the medical examiner’s office and it could include the police department as well as the state attorney’s office.”
“This is bigger than the money, and $100 million would not be enough to right this wrong,” Gary told theGrio, saying Bao was made to pay the price for a failed prosecution he says the state put little genuine effort into.
When reached for comment, Dave Byron, Volusia County spokesman told theGrio. “As a standard practice, the County of Volusia does not comment on personnel matters,”
Claim of indifference, hostility toward Trayvon Martin
Bao says the attitudes of prosecutors, as well as the police officers investigating Martin’s death, and his own department, reflected an indifference, if not hostility, toward Trayvon Martin. He said his fellow employees in the medical examiner’s office would speak openly about the case.
“People in the office would say, why are they doing this at all? This case shouldn’t have been filed. It was self-defense. Trayvon is [a] criminal, and he was on drugs.”
Bao alleges prosecutors failed to adequately prepare him for his testimony, which sometimes seemed rambling, and for which he relied on handwritten notes on the stand. He said he had given his deposition in November 2012 but was not allowed access to it until July 2013, just four days before he testified at Zimmerman’s trial.
Reached for comment, Jackelyn Barnard, spokesperson for the office of State Attorney Angela Corey, sent an email statement saying: “It is unconscionable for anyone to make such accusations. The prosecution team fought tirelessly for justice in this case.
To further that assertion, the state attorney’s office, forwarded a second email to theGrio that appears to place the onus on not receiving a timely copy of the deposition on Dr. Bao. That email, dated June 27, 2013, said in part, “Dr. Bao mentioned that he didn’t need to review his deposition transcript but I’ve (sic) attached it anyway.”
However, Bao’s attorney, Willie Gary said in response, “It is incumbent upon the lawyer to make sure that the witness is ready for trial. Any first year lawyer would not put a witness on the stand without adequate preparation. To put a witness on the stand unprepared is gross negligence.”
Gary went on to say, “The best prepared lawyer is going to win. Preparation of the witness is not the responsibility of the witness so, to suggest in the email that it was Dr. Bao’s choice [not to receive a timely copy of his deposition], does not make any sense.”
As for Sanford police, Bao and his attorney say the detectives investigating the case failed to show up for the autopsy on Martin’s body, something he called unusual.
“In an autopsy normally, even in the case of suicide, they come to review the results of the autopsy, watch the autopsy, they can ask and answer questions,” Bao said. “They come all the time. But in this case they said, this is a straightforward case of self-defense and they looked at the case as being over, so they never came. So there’s no way we can give them the evidence. They never talked to me, I never talked to them. They don’t know what I did, I don’t know what they did. We never had any interaction.”