Responding by email to questions from theGrio, Sanford Police Department spokesperson Shannon Cordingly obtained a response from the lead investigator in the Zimmerman case, Chris Serino, in which he stated: “Notwithstanding any provisions provided in local policies, the attending of an autopsy in a homicide case is at the discretion of the investigating officer. Autopsies are typically attended when the cause and manner of death are not clearly evident at the crime scene. In the death of Trayvon Martin, the physical appearance of the body clearly indicated the decedent suffered a single gunshot wound to the chest, and the internal injuries associated with that type of injury would conclusively tell that the cause of death stemmed from the gunshot wound. Being that Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin on scene, the manner of death was also conclusively established as ‘homicide.’ Additionally, the Martin autopsy was scheduled for Monday, February 27, 2012, at 9:00 AM and at that time, I was in the process of attempting to obtain a positive identification of the decedent.”
It is important to note that the Sanford Police Department told theGrio they are unaware of any lawsuit being filed by Attorney Willie Gary on behalf of his client Shiping Bao. In addition, the police spokesperson said Bao’s concerns were never presented to the Sanford Police department at any time.
“Bottom line is that most, if not all of the relevant information needed to assist with the investigation that would have been provided by personally attending the forensic autopsy of Trayvon Martin was already known based on the information provided at the crime scene,” stated Cordingly. “Our priority at the time was to positively identify Trayvon Martin in order to make next of kin notification.”
Bao cited other things he called atypical of a homicide case, including the investigator from the medical examiner’s office failing to bag Trayvon Martin’s hands at the crime scene, to preserve any evidence under his fingernails, and police at the scene failing to take photos of Martin’s or Zimmerman’s injuries.
“Those photos of Zimmerman’s injuries were taken by his friend,” he said, referring to the neighbor who took cellphone pictures of Zimmerman’s bloody nose and the scratches on the back of his head. “And they didn’t take toxicology on Zimmerman to determine if he was on drugs. Nobody did it,” Bao added.
“In every homicide case, any suspect should be photographed for the injury and also drug test on urine should be done,” but that in the case of Martin, “They don’t care. They don’t think it’s worthy of trial. This case is over. The black kid’s on the ground, it’s over.”
The Sanford Police spokesperson disputes that claim. Specifically, Cordingly stated, “Martin was photographed numerous times at the crime scene by SPD [Sanford Police Department] Crime Scene Technicians. Zimmerman’s injuries were photographed on scene by an Officer and a Crime Scene Technician.”
And Bao told theGrio that long after that autopsy, as the trial drew closer, he would overhear various Sanford police officers who came to the medical examiner’s office for unrelated cases, make similarly disparaging comments about Martin and about the case. In response police spokesperson Cordingly stated there would be no comment on “hearsay” and that Bao never expressed any concerns related to the Sanford Police Department before or during the trial.
A failure to ask the right questions?
Bao says he was never given the opportunity to share his full conclusions about Martin’s death with the jury in the Zimmerman case, because prosecutors didn’t ask basic questions of him when he was on the stand, including whether he believed it was possible for Trayvon Martin to have been on top of Zimmerman at the time he was shot.
“The state attorney just clearly disregarded a number of points he wanted to make that could have made the difference [in the outcome of the trial] and he feels strongly about that,” Gary said. “After his testimony initially, when the defense took the position that Trayvon Martin was on top of [Zimmerman], he asked the question about rebuttal and told [prosecutors] that’s not true. He told them, ‘I can absolutely prove that.'” But Gary said prosecutors declined to attempt a rebuttal of the defense team’s cross-examination of Bao.
Bao says he believes based on his experience and autopsies he has performed in similar cases, that Martin might have lived for “one to ten minutes” after he was shot and that he would have been in pain. But Gary says that when Bao tried to raise these points with the prosecution team, “the attitude was, ‘why are you doing this? Are you working for Trayvon?’ He said, ‘I’m not working for Trayvon Martin, I’m just trying to get to the truth.’ But their attitude was that you are working for Trayvon.”
Bao is not the first to question the actions of the Duval County prosecutors who have been widely panned for their performance in the Zimmerman trial, or even the first to question whether they threw the case. But he is the first person directly connected with the case to do so.
State Attorney Angela Corey was named special prosecutor in the case by Gov. Rick Scott after protests spread from Sanford to other parts of the state and around the country demanding Zimmerman be arrested. Her team prosecuted the case off their home field, in Seminole County. Corey defended her office’s overall conduct in the Zimmerman case.
In an August interview with theGrio, Corey said, “no matter where I go, people of all races, colors, everything, thank us for the job we’re doing here.”
And regarding perceptions of the conduct of her office she said, “The disconnect is on the part of people who don’t want to believe the truth. The disconnect is not on our part.”
Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.