The most unexpected result to come out of day 9 of the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, the day the State finished presenting its witnesses, was not Trayvon Martin’s mother’s claim that it was her son’s screams heard on the 911 call. That was to be expected.
The rambling, occasionally absurd testimony of medical examiner Shiping Bao did not surprise, either. Nor did defense attorney Mark O’Mara’s cogent appeal that Zimmerman be acquitted given the State’s failure to make a convincing case of his guilt.
What was most intriguing, at least from the perspective of how the media corrupted this case, was the State’s failure to call Witness No. 5, Mary Cutcher, the most visible and outspoken of all the eyewitnesses.
The State did call her roommate, a blonde Colombian named Selma Mora. As Mora admitted, she and Cutcher did not see anything until after the shot was fired. When Mora did look out, she saw Zimmerman on top of Martin.
This revelation may have fired up the uninformed, but it only confirmed what Zimmerman told the Sanford PD that first night about the sequence of events.
“At this point,” Zimmerman said about the moment after the shot was fired, “I slid out from underneath him and got on top of the suspect holding his hands away from his body.”
Zimmerman never said otherwise. What made Mora’s testimony worth discussing is not what she said, but that the State chose her to say it. The prosecution did not call Cutcher.
In the 6-week-long hysteria between Martin’s shooting and Zimmerman’s arrest, Cutcher was everywhere. It was she who floated the theme that the police were ignoring those eyewitnesses whose testimony challenged Zimmerman’s innocence.
In early April 2012, Cutcher told David Weigel of Slate that after giving her initial testimony to the Sanford PD, she called them several times and did not hear back. When the police did respond to her calls they had little interest in what she had to say.
“We were told, ‘you guys just need to calm down,’” Cutcher told Weigel. “They never followed up after that.”
Although Cutcher admittedly did not see the struggle that led up to the shooting, in her many national TV interviews she, like at least two other eyewitnesses, fully bought into the Trayvon-as-child message that the family’s advisers had crafted from day 1.
“It sounded young. It didn’t sound like a grown man is my point,” Cutcher told NBC’s Lester Holt of the screaming she heard that night. “It sounded to me like someone was in distress and it wasn’t like a crying, sobbing boo-hoo, it was a definite whine.”
The online version of that “Dateline NBC” piece was headlined, “Witnesses describe Trayvon Martin’s final moments; Parents say ‘He was headed on the right path.’”
No, Martin was headed in the wrong path. The media never admitted it. Cutcher never knew it, and so she spun a tale based on what she was hearing and seeing on TV.
Lost in what Weigel described as Cutcher’s “media tour” was the recognition of what Cutcher originally told the 911 operator on the night of the shooting, namely that there was “a black guy standing up over [the shooting victim].”
If the media took Cutcher seriously, the State could not afford to. Prosecutors don’t even have to acknowledge her absence, and the defense is not allowed to.