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Trayvon Martin case ‘not as conclusive as people think’, says legal expert

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Defence attorney explains how lack of forensic evidence would complicate potential prosecution of George Zimmerman

Florida prosecutors face significant hurdles building a case against the man who killed Trayvon Martin, a legal expert has told the Guardian.

Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University and a defence attorney, said the case had several “murky” elements which are likely to prove difficult for the prosecution, including within the 911 tape which appears to suggest Zimmerman was the one in pursuit of Martin.

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Turley said the evidence was not nearly as conclusive of guilt as many people have assumed. “Some parts of the 911 tape would work to the disadvantage of Zimmerman, others to his advantage,” he said. “It would be a very difficult case for the prosecution without more evidence.”

He added: “We haven’t seen any of the forensic evidence, which is the key.”

Turley, who has written a blog about the case exploring the 911 tape, said it included elements in Zimmerman’s favour:

It has him ignoring requests not to follow Martin but it includes a portion where he is saying that Martin is approaching him. We have heard reports that Zimmerman was bleeding as the result of a struggle. Zimmerman was a big individual and was armed. It’s difficult to believe because of his size and the fact that he was armed that he felt in imminent threat of death. But lawyers could point to the tape showing that Zimmerman believed Martin might be armed. That Martin was moving towards him and checking him out. All of that is likely to be playing to a jury with the question of intend and whether he had a reasonable fear of serious injury or death.

At one point in the tape, Zimmerman refers to Martin’s hand in his waistband.

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Turley believes that the case is going to turn on classic criminal defence elements under common law, where an individual is allowed to use lethal force if they fear injury or death.

“You lose that defence if you are the aggressor or if you do not have a reasonable basis for fear or serious harm or death. Even if he is not the aggressor there will remain the question of escalation or confrontation.”

The key difficulty, said Turley, is the “maddening gap” of evidence at the critical time of confrontation.

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“At what point does a physical struggle justify the use of lethal force? If I was the defence counsel in the case, the first thing I would do is the trajectory of the bullet, how close it was to Martin, where it was fired.”

Turley said the racial element is unclear. In the 911 tape, Zimmerman says “He looks black” and then says “he’s a black male”.

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“The Zimmerman family have denied any racial element. On the tape he initially appears not to know the race, but then later does. All of these elements are murky.”

Nevertheless, Turley believes there was enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman and to secure an indictment.

“Police would have been on solid grounds to arrest him. You have an unarmed teenager and someone who does not comply with a request that he not follow Martin.

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“That doesn’t mean there’s enough evidence to secure a conviction.”

Even under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, Turley said, Zimmerman, if indicted, would still have to demonstrate he had a reasonable fear of death or serious injury.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2012

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Louisiana Democrat re-elected governor — despite Trump’s rallies for the Republican candidate

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The Associated Press has called the Lousiana's governor's race for incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards.

Edwards triumphed over Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, who called to concede.

The outcome is another major political loss for President Donald Trump, who had held multiple campaign rallies for Rispone.

During his most recent rally, Trump begged the crowd to give him a "big win" in the election.

Eddie Rispone has conceded the #lagov race to Gov. John Bel Edwards, giving the Democrat four more years in ruby red Louisiana despite Trump’s best efforts to flip the seat. Edwards camp says Rispone called minutes ago to concede. #lagov #lalege

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Press secretary says it is ‘dangerous for the country’ to question whether she is putting out honest info

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Press secretary Stephanie Grisham on Saturday argued it was "dangerous for the country" for anyone to challenge the veracity of her claims.

Grisham made her argument after President Donald Trump went to Walter Reed Hospital for an unannounced doctor's visit, resulting in a great deal of speculation.

Following the visit, Grisham claimed Trump was "healthy" and "without complaints" -- a claim many found unlikely as the president has spent a good deal of time as president airing his many grievances.

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Sondland used WhatsApp to communicate with Ukraine — and won’t turn over the messages: report

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Ambassador Gordon Sondland used WhatsApp to send encrypted messages to a top Ukranian official, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The communication occurred with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to President Volodymr Zelensky, when Sondland was in Kyiv, the newspaper reported.

"Sondland was also texting back and forth on WhatsApp with Yermak throughout the trip, and had been communicating with other Ukrainian officials over the messaging app in the preceding and subsequent months, according to people familiar with his interactions," The Post reported.

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