Zimmerman Trial Witness Demonstrates Power of Media to Shape Opinion

Long the focus of attention, the national news media's persistently inaccurate photographic portrayals of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin appear to have clearly influenced one of the witnesses in the trial of his killer, George Zimmerman.

While NBC News's dishonest editing of an audio clip of Zimmerman appears to have only temporarily skewed public opinion, during testimony last week it became apparent that the national media's continual showing of photographs of a much younger Martin led witness Jeannee Manalao to incorrectly believe that Zimmerman (who is 5'8") was taller than Martin (5'11").

In her testimony on June 26, Manalao, a resident in the condominium complex on the night Martin was killed, admitted repeatedly that she changed her assessment of the facts thanks to the media.

Originally, as Manalao admitted on cross-examination by the defense, she was uncertain which of the men was on top during the fight she saw in the dark. Manalao also admitted that in her initial communications with law enforcement, she never made any statements to that effect.

Later, however, she changed her opinion. "After the event," Manalao testified, she saw several pictures of both Zimmerman and Martin on television once the case acquired national notoriety. It was only then that she was able to make an assesment of the physical sizes of the men she saw struggling in the dark several months earlier.

Unfortunately, however, Manalao's judgment was clouded by the liberal media's incessant desire to portray Martin as a pure, innocent child who was murdered by an evil racist white man (who in truth is half Hispanic and also part black).

According to the witness, she based her assessment on the size of Trayvon Martin on old photos of Martin that most of the national media have been using instead of ones closer to his actual age at death, 17.

Asked to identify the photos, Manalao admitted that one of them (featured on the right) looked like it was taken when Martin was 11 years old. Another one, according to Manalao, made it look like he was 16. More than likely, if she had seen a closer-up version of the photo, she would have admitted it was even older than that.

Had Zimmerman's defense team not been sufficiently adept, it's quite likely Manalao's distorted picture of reality would have gone unchallenged in court. That's a really scary thought when you think about it: the media's negligence in reporting the truth literally changed an eyewitness's testimony toward their favored side.

Had they not been challenged, Manalao's media-created reality would have been more damaging than the false impressions created by both CNN and NBC that Zimmerman had uttered racist statements while on the telephone with a 911 operator since those never were presented to the jury.

Watch in the video below as Manalao discusses how pictures she saw in the media influenced her testimony:

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013