MIAMI — Trayvon Martin grabbed his killers gun just moments before he died and uttered a profanity-laced threat. In a desperate life-or-death struggle, George Zimmerman clutched Trayvons wrist, broke his grip on the semi-automatic firearm and shot him once in the chest.
That account appears in a new book written by Zimmermans best friend and confidante.
Theres just one problem: Zimmerman never said that to the police.
Now the book, Defending Our Friend: The Most Hated Man in America, and author Mark Ostermans two television interviews have landed on the prosecution evidence list, as more versions of Zimmermans story emerge. A man who wrote a book calling Zimmerman the kindest and most sincere person will wind up in court for the prosecution, experts agree.
It was emotionally draining for George as he relived that awful moment when he managed to control the gun, then fired out of fear for his life, Osterman wrote.
Osterman, U.S. air marshal who lives in a Central Florida, was among the first people Zimmermans wife called on Feb. 26 when she learned her husband had just shot someone. Osterman rushed to the scene that night, and accompanied his best friend every step of the way through the investigation, including his first three interrogations by Sanford police.
Osterman acknowledges that former Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee was his one-time lieutenant in the Seminole County Sheriffs Department whom he held up as a father figure. Osterman says he was quickly recognized by cops on the scene, but insists he never coached his friend on what to tell them after the death of Trayvon, an unarmed Miami Gardens teenager.
Afraid for the Zimmermans safety, Osterman took the couple in from the very first night of the shooting. His 172-page book describes how Zimmerman told the story of the killing over and over again until he was physically drained. When he told it to police, Osterman said, Zimmerman threw up.
But Ostermans account is a sharp deviation from the versions Zimmerman gave, which experts say will undoubtedly be used to try to impeach the defendants credibility and cast doubt on his claim of self-defense if each telling changed or was embellished.
I desperately got both of my hands around the guys one wrist and took his hand off my mouth long enough for me to shout again for help, Osterman quotes Zimmerman as saying.
For a brief moment I had control of the wrist, but I knew when he felt the sidearm at my waist with his leg. He took his hand that was covering my nose and went for the gun, saying, Youre gonna die now, motherf-----. Somehow, I broke his grip on the gun where the guy grabbed it between the rear sight and the hammer. I got the gun in my hand, raised it toward the guys chest and pulled the trigger.
DNA reports released Wednesday showed there was no DNA from Trayvon on the gun.
Even as Zimmerman himself offered slight variations of where Trayvon first appeared or from what direction, none of his written or recorded interviews with police suggested a battle over the firearm. He told police that when he wriggled off the concrete onto the grass, his gun was exposed, and Trayvon reached for it.
In the version Zimmermans brother Robert told CNN, Trayvon said something like, You have a piece? You die tonight.
Osterman has declined to comment. In his book, he blames The Miami Herald for revealing his identity and compromising his position with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also acknowledged that shortly after The Herald revealed his name in July, he wrote the book and went on national TV.
Defense attorney Mark OMara said he had never heard about a struggle for the gun. He said he read a draft of the book before it was published, but felt asking Osterman to change details would amount to witness tampering.
Hes a friend of Georges trying to explain George to be different than the way he was perceived to be. Great thats a story thats not been told, OMara said. I dont like him talking about things George spoke to him about in confidence. I didnt like yet another statement of Georges out there for review. Its more of a headache.
Although he questioned whether Ostermans memory is accurate, OMara admitted that between Zimmermans various interviews to police, his father and brothers accounts to the press and now Ostermans, there are several versions of what happened that night, but he characterized the discrepancies as a surmountable obstacle. If everyones story was exactly the same, OMara said, then it would smack of a lie.
OMara said it took him 10 days to respond to the book draft after he received it, but when he got around to asking Osterman to scrap the book, the publishing contract had already been signed. OMara chalked it up to miscommunication, adding that Zimmerman has taken a courts no contact with witnesses order to heart, and has not spoken to any state witnesses except his parents since he left jail on bond while he awaits trial on a charge of second-degree murder.
We will be able to respond to the six, seven, eight different renditions of the story, how and why there are different statements, OMara said. The jury is going to believe what the jury is going to believe.
Although Zimmerman has said Trayvon jumped him from out of nowhere, the book says he told Osterman that Trayvon first approached Zimmerman from a distance of at least 15 feet and asked him if he had a problem. In a TV interview, Osterman also claimed Zimmerman had a concussion, something that was never noted in medical records or claimed in the statements.
To explain why Zimmerman got out of his car while on the phone with police, he quotes a conversation between his friend and the dispatcher that never took place: If you cant see him do you still need us to send an officer? We need you to get to a place where you can see him, he quotes the dispatcher in an exchange that is not contained on copies of the police call or transcripts widely posted on the Internet.
Trayvons supporters believe Ostermans book proves that Zimmerman cant keep his story straight because none of it is true.
He has done George no favors by writing this book, said attorney Natalie Jackson, who represented Trayvons parents in their mission to get police to make an arrest. This book is huge. It hurts George a lot.
Although second-hand quotes are generally inadmissible in court, Jackson said this is a type of citation that would be exempt from the hearsay rule.
The state would be precluded from directly using any excerpts from the book, as the words on the pages are hearsay, but the Ostermans could be subpoenaed to testify against him to his detriment if Zimmerman embellished, added or changed facts in the version he gave to them, said Miami Beach criminal-defense attorney Michael Grieco, who has been following the case. Any inconsistencies amongst the numerous statements Zimmerman has given will be used against him and his credibility.
Zimmermans credibility is the key to his affirmative defense.