Trayvon Martin

Neighbors Give Dueling Accounts of Who Was on Top Before Trayvon Martin Was Shot


Video via The Orlando Sentinel

Several of George Zimmerman's neighbors—all prosecution witnesses—have testified in his murder trial this week, giving conflicting accounts that confirm or contradict his version of the fight that ended in Trayvon Martin's death.

Jayne Surdyka, who testified on Wednesday, said she heard two voices that night, one "louder" and "dominating," the other "higher pitched." She saw two men wrestling, she said, and she heard two cries for help. "In my opinion," she said, "I truly believe especially the second yell for help—it was like a yelp, it was excruciating—I really felt like it was a boy's voice." Somewhat undermining her credibility, Surdyka said she heard three gunshots, when in fact only one was fired. 

Jeannee Manalo, who also testified on Wednesday, said she heard "howling" and a cry for help. Looking outside, she said, she saw two men fighting, with the larger man on top of the smaller man. Based on subsequent news reports, she concluded that the man on top was Zimmerman. "I believe it was Zimmerman," she said, "comparing the size of their bodies." Although Martin was four inches taller than Zimmerman, at the time Zimmerman outweighed Martin by 20 pounds.

Selma Mora, who testified yesterday, said she looked outside after hearing a cry and what sounded like "the thump of a child falling," then saw two men scuffling on the ground. She asked what was going on, she said, and the man on top, who was wearing "some sort of a pattern between blacks and reds" (which sounds like the jacket Zimmerman was wearing), asked her to call the police. She said she heard a gunshot, then saw the man on top get up and pace back and forth, putting a hand to his forehead. The man on the bottom was lying face down. 

Jenna Lauer, who also testified yesterday, said she heard an exchange between two people, followed by a scuffling sound "like sneakers on pavement and grass." Before the gunshot, she heard screams, but she could not say whose they were. "It just sounded like they were desperate," Lauer said. "Whoever it was really needed help."

Video via The Orlando Sentinel

Today the jurors heard from John Good, who said the man on top during the scuffle he saw was wearing dark clothing (Martin was wearing a charcoal-gray hoodie), while the man on the bottom had lighter skin and was wearing "white or red" (Zimmerman's jacket was red and black). Asked if he subsequently concluded that Martin was the man on top, Good said, "Correct…That's what it looked like." He described the man on top as straddling the man on the bottom and punching him, likening it to the "ground and pound" mixed martial arts technique. He said he heard someone cry for help and surmised that it was the man on the bottom.

Of these five accounts, at least two are consistent with Zimmerman's story, two clearly contradict it, and one (Surdyka's) is ambiguous and probably not very reliable. Mora's testmony may be the strongest so far contradicting Zimmerman's account of the fight, although her reference to "the thump of a child falling" is suspect. Even assuming that Zimmerman tackled Martin, it is pretty hard to distinguish the sound of a 17-year-old falling from the sound of an 18-year-old falling. Martin was over six feet tall and weighed 150 pounds—not exactly childlike. But Mora otherwise seemed confident and credible, and Manalo's testimony is consistent with hers (assuming that "larger" means heavier rather than taller).

Good, who may have had the best view of the fight, gave the strongest support to Zimmerman's story. Although he said he did not see the man on top banging the other man's head on the sidewalk (as Zimmerman has described), getting punched in the face while your head is over concrete would have much the same effect. Zimmerman's bloodied face and the wounds on the back of his head suggest that something along those lines happened at some point. Although it is possible that both Martin and Zimmerman were on top for part of the fight, Mora's claim that Zimmerman was on top right before the gunshot cannot be reconciled with Good's claim that Martin was.

We may never know exactly what happened that night, and it is entirely possible that Zimmerman overreacted and shot Martin in a panic. But Good and Mora seem about equally credible, and the clash between them surely leaves a residue of reasonable doubt as to whether the shooting was justified.

You can watch the trial here


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  1. GODDAMMIT! This is getting worse than OJ. I seriously don’t give a fuck about this stupid case.

    1. A guy getting railroaded by a political persecution? Who cares, amirite?

      1. I know I don’t care. This trial is upsetting my normally scheduled television programs. Ice Road Truckers aren’t going to watch themselves.

  2. What if it was doggy-style, and neither was really “on top”?

    1. Ah, at last we get to the meat of the matter. This was a lovers’ quarrel.

    2. Maybe I’m a bad person but that made me laugh.

    3. The back of Zimmerman’s head wasn’t the only thing getting pounded

    4. Then the accurate description would be “the pitcher” or “the catcher”… or the “buttfucker” or “buttfuckee”

      1. This is what Sullum gets for posting a headline with the words “who” and “on top” in it to a chatroom of people with the emotional deveopment of 8-yr olds.

        I still secretly giggle when I hear the words “deep” or “hard”, and I’m over 30.

        1. What about:

          Sperm Whale
          Bowels of the earth
          Lake Titicaca

            1. This is a difficult one when watching basketball. Announcers love saying one player gave another player a “facial” when they get dunked on.

              Haven’t kept a straight face yet.

              1. I remember when I saw this on TV, I’d never watched the show and just caught that segment while flipping through the channels and my first thought was “hmmm, maybe I should give this show a shot”. That was a bad idea as the show was terrible, but that is still a great clip

          1. For some reason “bowels of the earth” doesn’t do it for me, but anytime I see the letters “BM” standing alone for any reason, I laugh.

            1. Hehe, I said, “do it”.

          2. Grand Tetons.

          3. Everybody’s doin’ it
            Doin’ it
            Doin’ it
            Picking their nose
            and chewin’ it
            Chewin’ it

            (immature Irving Berlin)

    5. I don’t know how you do doggy style, but as far as I can tell there’s clearly a person on top.

  3. I’m just going to go ahead and assume the whiter the witness, the more they lean toward the white Hispanic’s version of events, and the darker the witness the more they lean toward, well, I don’t know who else’s version since there’s only the white Hispanic.

    1. I dunno, she looks kind of white to me.

    2. There’s the version that the media came up with during initial reporting on the event. (White Zimmerman had no injuries, Martin was a good kid, …)

    3. If Zimmerman is found guilty, it’s only because the jury will be advised of the likelihood of rioting black mobs.

  4. If the best you have is “I am not sure”, then you have reasonable doubt. My God this case is a joke.

    1. Was the last guy a witness for the defense or prosecution?

      1. Whatever he was, he was not happy about being there.

    2. Right. Zimmerman’s injuries are consistent with Zimmerman’s story. Good’s story is consistent with Zimmerman’s story.

      If the forensics on the gunshot wound are consistent with a man on his back shooting a man sitting on top of him, it won’t matter how many people say Zimmerman was on top for some or all of the confrontation.

      1. No one saw the entire fight. It is entirely possible that Zimmerman was on top for a bit only to have Martin get the upper hand and then put Zimmerman in fear of his life. So even testimony that someone saw Zimmerman on top doesn’t prove the government case beyond a reasonable doubt. The only thing that could do that would be a witness who saw Zimmerman on top and shoot Martin. And no such witness exists to my knowledge.

        1. Agreed.

        2. It is entirely possible that Zimmerman was on top for a bit only to have Martin get the upper hand and then put Zimmerman in fear of his life.

          That’s what it sounds like to me. And this is why everyone who ever thinks they might get in a fight should have enough training to know how to hold the mount.

          1. Tee hee hee, you said, “hold the mount”.

          2. I’ve seen real wrestling, and I think you’re making that up about using your penis to hold the mount. Episiarch is still upset about that.

            1. It’s totally against the rules!!! Cheater!

            2. Are you calling me a liar? Don’t make me come over and check your oil.

              1. I give Episiarch my wrestling proxy. Like, forever.

        3. I watched Mora’s testimony. It was a little difficult to follow it because of the translation but I thought she testified that Zimmerman was on top of Martin AFTER the gunshot, which is entirely plausible and consistent with Zimmerman’s account.

          If my understanding of Mora’s testimony is accurate then there is no discrepancy between her testimony and Goode’s testimony. They simply witnessed the fight at different times. Goode went to call 911 before the gunshot, hence did not witness the actual shooting. Mora came out of her townhome after hearing the gunshot and witnessed the after effects of the shooting.

          1. You’re correct.

            1. If I am correct then Sullum’s write up is wrong. If so, he should correct it.

    3. So when does the CSI agent testify that they found a surveillance camera 800 yards away and they were able to blow up a video image and see the very moment the trigger was pulled.

      1. I’m personally waiting to find out what the semen evidence tells us.

        There is always semen evidence.

        1. I predict stickiness. And a cloying odor. Sex and candy and stuff

        2. I predict stickiness. And a cloying odor. Sex and candy and stuff

          1. The joke so nice, he posted it twice!

        3. That’s SUV. Don’t get your acronymed TV shows mixed up.

      2. Obviously not that. But you think a good CSI agent would at least recognize that, since the bullet penetrated Martin’s body, if Zimmerman was shooting from on top, then the bullet fragments would be embedded in the pavement or ground under Martin’s body?

        All this witness testimony seems pointless, given that forensics should answer the question definitively.

    4. If the best you have is “I am not sure”

      then you’ll get sued for trademark infringement?

      Oh, wait; wrong thread.

  5. the thump of a child falling

    Someone’s been watching the news.

    1. My thoughts exactly.

    2. See? Shit-for-brains “witnesses” come in all races.

  6. So basically, this idiotic case has shit-tons of reasonable doubt. Can we fucking move on to something else incredibly stupid now?

    1. Oh we will. Don’t worry. We will. There is an endless supply of incredible stupidity.

    2. Jut give it a few days.

    3. Wait until they bring out Alison Brie as a surprise witness. She wasn’t actually there, but her show was on during the incident.

      1. Suddenly I’m interested in this case for the first time.

    4. Nah. This is Obama’s last shot at salvaging his Presidency. The hardest question is whether he should be at Nelson Mandela’s bedside to personally receive the mantle of sainthood or whether he should be there to stand with Trayvon Martin’s family in their disappointment while calling for calm and promising justice.

      1. What are the odds the feds go after Zimmerman on ‘civil rights’ charges if he’s acquitted here?

        1. They’ll loudly announce an investigation and quietly close it the next friday at 6pm.

        2. Sadly, quite good.

        3. Double jeopardy is only technically illegal. Not actually illegal. Duh.

        4. What could they possibly charge him with? The case here is already hella weak, a “civil rights” charge would be even weaker. They’ll just look stupid and frankly I’d sue them for malicious prosecution.

        5. The feds already did that, not long after Obama lamented his murdered son. They found no evidence of a hate crime and gave up.

      2. I don’t think Mandela likes BO. He is just not that into him.

      3. Nelson Mandela’s bedside

        Scene: a darkened room. A sick man is in bed, the low beep of an EKG can be heard.

        The door opens. A stream of light reveals Mandela on the bed. His eyes flutter open. Walking towards his is Obama, a halo of light around his perfectly shaped crown.

        “My son,” Mandela croaks out.

        “I have come for you,” Obama says with a gentle but manly whisper.

        1. “No more training do you require. Already know that which you need.”

          “So I am the progressive messaih.”

          *cough* “No! One thing remains. Paul. You must face Paul.”

          1. Man, if only Obama and Krugman would have a sword battle in the parking lot under Madison Square Garden.

            That would be sweet.

        2. More like Caligula’s last meeting with Tiberius. A large pillow was involved.

          1. “Some might say I don’t know how to fluff pillows, but don’t let any naysayer say that Mandela isn’t at peace.”

    5. Can we fucking move on to something else incredibly stupid now?

      Am I alone in thinking the media is breathing a huge sigh of relief that this trial started just in time to take the focus off of the NSA and IRS scandals? Now they’re just waiting for something else stupid to distract the proles with. Most of them would probably give their left nut right now for a nice juicy sex scandal involving a Rethuglican politician.

  7. Does it seem to anyone else that the judge would be justified in dismissing the case? The prosecution really has nothing at all.

    1. He would, maybe even should, but he won’t.

      1. The defense would have to make such a motion first.

        1. DO they? The judge can’t just say “get the fuck out of here and stop wasting people’s time”?

          1. Yeah. They have to file a Motion to Dismiss.

            1. Well, then I’m not becoming a judge.

            2. It’s common practice to Make the Motion even when you know it is going to be denied.

            3. Which they will almost surely do, and it will be denied.

          2. They will undoubtedly do this at the close of the prosecution case. It’s required to preserve certain issues for appeal. It’s malpractice not to do it.

            1. It would be nice to see this go away with a judge yelling at the prosecution for wasting her time. What a joke.

          3. A judge can do it sua sponte. Don’t let these people give you bad legal advice.

      2. Judge is a she.

        1. Should have read all the way down

      3. I think you mean *she* won’t.

  8. Although he said he did not see the man on top banging the other man’s head on the sidewalk (as Zimmerman has described), getting punched in the face while your head is over concrete would have much the same effect.

    I don’t really understand what you are saying here. Construction wise, it appears you are contrasting two possible actions, but what is the other action then? He bumped his head into some concrete above them?

    1. It seems clear to me. Zimmerman said Martin banged his head on the sidewalk, which implies grabbing a head and banging it, but if he was on his back on the sidewalk and trying to get up and Martin was punching him in the face, it would have the same effect of banging the back of his head on the sidewalk.

      1. Ahhh! Okay, my fault then, as I didn’t make the first distinction.

  9. Mora’s testimony doesn’t really contradict Zimmerman. The “sound of a child falling” is how she describes the gunshot. And Zimmerman claimed to have gotten on on top of Martin after shooting him during the walk through .

    1. Correction. “skateboard on concrete” not “sound of a child falling” is how Mora describes the gunshot. Still, I don’t see how her story contradicts Zimmerman as no one is claiming she saw who was on top before the shot.

      1. Someone could have had a pet liarbird in the area.

  10. Awesome. SOunds like a typical police case. Conflicting witness statements, lots of inference, and pop culture making it’s way into testimony (“Ground and pound” – AWESOME).

    And what it definitely sounds like is that fabled concept, right up there with the lovely totality of the circumstances, that lovely protection we call REASONABLE DOUBT.

    Godspeech Mr. Zimmerman. The more testimony and case facts I am presented with in articles etc. the more it appears (as it did from the beginning), that you never should have been charged with murder, that even manslaughter was problematic, and I wish this incident had occurred here in WA, where if you were even charged (doubtful), that you would get both lost backpay and full attorney fees if the jury ruled for self defense.

    1. Um, GodSPEED, not GodSPEECH. Clearly, I have the 1st amendment on my mind.

    2. Yeah? I’ll remember that when Phoenix Jones finally snaps and kills someone.

      1. The Phoenix does not snap!

  11. Ah, the CSI effect. I read a great article once about how 12 angry men probably resulted in a fuckton of guilty as fuck defendants being acquitted in the years after that movie, and that careful analysis of the case in the movie raise serious doubts about whether there was even a modicum of actual reasonable doubt.

    Now, we have the modern equivalent, the CSI effect where some jurors expect all sorts of forensics, even in cases where it would be impractical or even impossible, let alone irrelevant for there to be the type of forensics they expect. It has created unreasonable expectations as well as a belief that we have the sort of technology routinely depicted in the show that we simply don’t have (and hey, I’d love it if we did), and an unreasonable belief in the value of forensics as well as the quality of same and the irrefutable nature of same in many cases where it’s going to be ambiguous at best.

    Ah, the CSI effect. I wish I still had tons of grand jury testimony like I did in Hawaii back in the day, because that’s where you get all the jury questions and conversations and you’d really see it firsthand in their questions

    1. I actually don’t have a problem with the effect 12 angry men had. I’ll take a guilty man going free over an innocent man getting convicted everytime.

      The real problem CSI instigated is juries think DNA evidence is infallible. Flukes and mistakes aside (which are much more common than people percieve), DNA testing centers have been shown to have widespread corruption and negligence, almost to PD levels.

    2. Have you even watched 12 Angry Men? It’s about a trial where all but one juror wants to find a guy guilty of murder without deliberation. As they dig into the evidence and really start scrutinizing the eye witness accounts, they realize there is more to the case than they initially realized. You think that’s a bad thing?

      1. You do realize which team he’s on, right?

        1. my team is one that says it is better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent is convicted.

          my point is that if you look at the ACTUAL case in thAt specific instance (12 guilty men), the argument that there IS reasonable doubt is problematic.

          It is true that the jury initially just wanted to vote guilty and get the fuck out.

          that’s bad. But it doesn’t therefore follow that the guy deserved a not guilty verdict. that’s my point.

          they wanted to convict for the wrong reasons, but the conviction was still the correct choice in that case.

          But again, better that 10 guilty men go free than one innocent onvicted.

          1. But it doesn’t therefore follow that the guy deserved a not guilty verdict. that’s my point.

            But you don’t cite anything ACTUAL that would make your point valid.

            The problem isn’t 12 ANGRY MEN, it’s ELEVEN LAZY JURORS. I don’t know how to solve that problem, and neither do you.

            So, IMO, eleven lazy jurors assuming reasonable doubt is a shitload better than what eleven lazy jurors usually assume.

    3. It would be so much more effective if we just had cops pass judgment and dole out punishment at the scene of the crime. Right to a speedy trial and all, amirite?

      1. Way to completely be whooshed by the point

  12. It’s not self defense still if you shoot some one while in a panic? Overreacting couldn’t still be reasonable?

    1. If it is true that Martin banged Z’s head into the concrete that becomes assault with a deadly weapon which is a forcible felony which makes it legal to use lethal force. I am not a lawyer but this is what I have read about self defense laws here. Panic does not matter one way or another. Oddly if you use only your fist it is not a deadly weapon but if you use your feet it is.

      1. Oh yeah, if you carry a firearm avoid all possible confrontations. That is the easiest way not to end up in court fighting for your life.

        1. It is not possible to avoid all possible confrontations. If you could do that, there would be no reason to carry a gun in the first place.

      2. Well, yeah, you can kick a lot harder than you can punch.

        1. I can’t strangle anyone with my feet.

          1. I can’t strangle anyone with my feet.

            I can. But I think I’ve said too much.

  13. In a courtroom they try to determine guilt or innocence based only on admissible evidence. In the real world, though, we take lots of things into account (including, no doubt, prejudices). In this case, it makes sense to look at who these two people really were, before the encounter.

    The prosecution case is (roughly) that Zimmerman was a wacko aggressive racist vigilante, who stalked and killed the innocent child Martin. The backgrounds of the two people do not support this, at all. Despite Zimmerman’s minor skuffles with the law, he seems not like an aggressive sort, and he’s not a racist. Martin, on the other hand, had pretty much every single marker of a young ghetto thug. He got caught in school with a screwdriver and a bunch of women’s jewelry that “someone gave him,” he participated in street fights, he was sent to live with his father to keep him out of trouble, etc. Anyone with an ounce of street smarts knows that he was absolutely the sort of person who would attack someone like Zimmerman if he felt “dissed.” Add the fact that Zimmerman’s wounds are consistent with his story, and I agree that this whole trial is a farce.

    1. Well put. note also that numerous facts that are not necessarily admissible in court are “admissible” in making charging determinations.

      Zimmerman should never have been charged.

      The fabled totality of the circumstances doesn’t support it, and CERTAINLY not a murder charge.


    We should have pity for Joan Walsh. She is a fifty-something white woman who desperately wishes she had been born black.

    1. Kick whitey, it’s all good! What a great way to heal racial resentments.

  15. “We may never know exactly what happened that night,”
    Exactly. This case should have never come to trial. There is simply no reliable account of the event. No matter who was the aggressor, there is far too much ambiguity.
    This prosecutor may be the biggest criminal in this case for overtly and willingly putting a man’s life at stake just to make himself look good. No matter what, stay home the around the time of this verdict.

  16. I am reposting this to get it out of the detestable “threaded comments”.

    I think Sullum needs to watch Mora’s testimony. She did not contradict the testimony of John Goode.

    I watched Mora’s testimony. It was a little difficult to follow it because of the translation but I thought she testified that Zimmerman was on top of Martin AFTER the gunshot, which is entirely plausible and consistent with Zimmerman’s account.

    If my understanding of Mora’s testimony is accurate then there is no discrepancy between her testimony and Goode’s testimony. They simply witnessed the fight at different times. Goode went to call 911 before the gunshot, hence did not witness the actual shooting. Mora came out of her townhome after hearing the gunshot and witnessed the after effects of the shooting.

  17. All of the 911 calls support Zimmermans story inasmuch as they can.

    Surdyka has changed her story from what she said in the call. She’s been associating with Martin’s family.

    Manalo notes that the larger man was on top. regardless of who she thinks that might be, Martin was 4 inches taller than Zimmerman. Zimmerman was not markedly heavier than Martin when the incident occured(everyone’s mental image goes to that fat guy picture) and would have appeared much smaller than Martin when lying on his back.

    Mora’s account is being published here out of order for some reason. In the proper sequence, it matches Zimmerman’s account.
    Out of sequence it doesn’t work at all. Martin was shot in the chest. How did he get on his back?

    1. “Mora’s account is being published here out of order for some reason.”

      Reason is now mostly part of the MSM, so BOLO for the Great White Defendant.

  18. I predict all that will come out of this trial will be a really awkward and unsettling edition of See ‘N Say.

    Oh, and rioting. Can’t forget the rioting.

    1. You said “‘N”.


  19. Each time you open your mouth, look down, clench your cheeks in a fresh wave of pain, I see Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Fannie Lou Hamer joining their spirits and bonding their strength to yours.

    A love letter to Rachel Jentel:…..s-key-witn

    1. “I can’t even fix the extreme likelihood that you and your children might soon find it impossible to vote in your home state.”

      Man that letter is just full of gems.

      1. More from the “Reality Party”! So now that one section of the Civil Rights Act was overturned, it’s “extremely likely” that blacks won’t be able to vote again? Yeah, right.

        I will admit that Rachel might well have a hard time passing any sort of literacy test….

  20. The big takeaway (and it was clear months ago) is that zimmerman never should have been charged in the first place. It smacks of political opportunism, something we see when cops get charged too in many cases. Zimmerman was caught up in politix. Sad, but true.

    1. Yep, I agree. Z was not charged for forty five days because his story held up to scrutiny. This farce of a trial is proving that point.

      After Sharpton, Jackson and Obama got involved the story became not about a simple case of self defense but instead about social justice and the president pining for his “murdered son”.

      1. Zimmerman didn’t even lawyer up, and the cops still couldn’t find a dent in his story. Monumentally stupid thing for anyone to do when they are facing potential charges, but hey, that’s Zimmerman for you.

        People think the Sanford PD saw that he killed a black kid and gave him a high five. No, they tried to get him on something.

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