So politicized, so agenda-driven has the Trayvon Martin case become in some circles that I see it as a Rorschach test. Some pundits, reporters, columnists, gossips, are promoting that version of the events which match the view of the world they had before the incident.
Maybe eyewitnesses are now projecting their own preconceived ideas into their "memories" too, and possibly are being influenced by what they have heard in the time following that night. If so, the malleability of their memories are consistent with research on what eyewitnesses recall as time passes.
If you are interested in this process of memory, how it slips and slides, twists and turns, shrinks and grows, excises and bloats, read this article. Excerpt from "Are Eyewitnesses in the Zimmerman Trial Reliable?" (Live Science):
Newly released court documents in the second-degree-murder case against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman reveal that, in the month following his fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, four key witnesses significantly changed their accounts of what they saw and heard that night. The more recent versions of their memories tend to be more damning of Zimmerman than their initial statements.
Which raises the question: How reliable are eyewitnesses?
My answer from following this topic for years: Not very!
Memory is a reconstructive process, says Richard Wise, a forensic psychologist at the University of North Dakota. "When an eyewitness recalls a crime, he or she must reconstruct his or her memory of the crime." This, he says, is an unconscious process. To reconstruct a memory, the eyewitness draws upon several sources of information, only one being his or her actual recollection.
"To fill in gaps in memory, the eyewitness relies upon his or her expectation, attitudes, prejudices, bias, and prior knowledge. Furthermore, information supplied to an eyewitness after a crime (i.e., post-event information) by the police, prosecutor, other eyewitnesses, media, etc., can alter an eyewitness's memory of the crime," Wise said in an email. [How Are Memories Stored in the Brain?]
Elizabeth Loftus, a law professor at University of California at Irvine, said of the Zimmerman case, "There was so much media coverage that it could be that the new information that Trayvon Martin had died, that he was unarmed, the new information about the outcry and outrage, had the potential for contaminating and distorting the witnesses' memory."
Although the eyewitnesses' earlier accounts of that fateful night — descriptions that were generally less damning of Zimmerman — might be closer to the truth, they aren't what the jury will hear during the trial.