But the story that Zimmerman told the police the night of the shooting and the next day, captured on audio and videotapes and made public Wednesday, is much different. It presents a scenario that could be germane to the defense strategy: that, in Florida, a defendant can invoke Stand Your Ground, or no duty to retreat, as a defense even if an interaction occurred between the defendant and the victim before the shooting, so long as the defendant didn’t initiate the attack.
"Although Zimmerman was possibly negligent, irresponsible, and exercised poor judgment, it was not illegal for him to follow Martin, carry a gun when doing so or even ignore the opinion of the civilian 911 dispatcher when advised,” writes Mark NeJame, a well-known defense attorney from Florida, in an op-ed for CNN.
In the tapes, Zimmerman can be seen and heard telling police he called 911 to “report a suspicious person” loitering near the back door of a condo that had previously been broken into.
Zimmerman told police that, while he had the dispatcher on the phone, Trayvon circled his SUV. After that, Zimmerman told police he lost sight of Trayvon and got out of his car to find a street address for police to respond to. At that point, he said, the dispatcher asked whether he was following Trayvon and noted, “We don’t need you to do that.”
On his way back to the parked SUV, Zimmerman says on the tapes, Trayvon ambushed him and asked, “What the [expletive] is your problem?” “I don’t have a problem,” Zimmerman claims he said. The teenager responded by saying, “Now you have a problem,” Zimmerman recounted to police.
According to Zimmerman, Trayvon punched him in the nose, knocking him over, and then started “waling” on his head. Eventually, he said, the teenager appeared to reach for Zimmerman’s gun, at which point Zimmerman grabbed it himself and fired.