US
SANFORD, FL - JULY 02:  Jacksonville medical examiner Valerie Rao is quizzed by defense attorney Mark O SANFORD, FL - JULY 02: Jacksonville medical examiner Valerie Rao is quizzed by defense attorney Mark O'Mara as she testifies for the state in the George Zimmerman trial in Seminole circuit court, July 2, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)  

Medical examiner who called Zimmerman injuries ‘insignificant’ no stranger to controversy

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Chuck Ross
Reporter

An investigator in the Jacksonville, Fla. Public Defender’s office tells the Daily Caller that he is “skeptical” of the testimony given by Dr. Valerie Rao, the medical examiner called by the prosecution to testify in the George Zimmerman trial on Tuesday.

Rao, a state witness and the chief medical examiner for Florida’s 4th district, called Zimmerman’s injuries “very insignificant” and testified that they were not life threatening. Zimmerman’s face and head injuries are central to his claim of self-defense in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Rao reviewed photographs of both Zimmerman and Martin as well as a re-enactment video recorded by Zimmerman with Sanford police investigators. In direct examination by state prosecutor John Guy, Rao said that as little as one impact could have caused the injuries to the back of Zimmerman’s head.

On cross-examination, Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara pushed Rao to admit that it was possible that Zimmerman’s injuries could be consistent with several more blows and impacts.

David Douglas, who investigates in the same 4th district out of Jacksonville as Rao, said that he listened to Dr. Rao’s testimony yesterday and said he “was a bit skeptical of her motives and conclusions.”

During testimony Tuesday, O’Mara began his cross-examination by asking Rao if she was given her position by Angela Corey, the state attorney in charge of the Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. Rao said that she was appointed by Florida governor Rick Scott. Several memos sent by Corey do suggest that she pushed to get Rao the medical examiner’s position.

Corey has come under fire for pushing too hard to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder despite evidence that Martin attacked Zimmerman. Corey was appointed state attorney on the case by Governor Rick Scott after state attorney Norm Wolfinger refused to charge Zimmerman with a crime.

Douglas says that his office, which works with Rao’s examiner’s office on a daily basis, does have some larger concerns about the methodology and legal conclusions reached by Rao in some of the cases they are currently handling.

Douglas told The Daily Caller that he began investigating Rao “because she was refusing to answer fairly straightforward questions about her work history when our attorneys were taking her sworn depositions in homicide cases.”

Douglas says she’d refuse to answer simple questions like “why did you leave your position as Chief Medical Examiner for the 5th District of Florida back in 2003?”

Rao has been in the spotlight before.

Local Florida newspapers have reported complaints filed against Dr. Rao. Co-workers have accused her of various offenses including washing her feet in an autopsy sink, walking barefoot through a bloody crime scene, and calling a former subordinate “Big Mac” due to her weight. She was also accused by a former employee of Middle Eastern descent of making jokes about him being a terrorist.