Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The George Zimmerman Trial: Defense Scores Big after a Rocky Start

The prosecution got off to a great start with a strong opening statement. The defense then trotted out an old, bald, ugly James Carville lookalike, but without Carville's winning personality.This guy told a horrible knock-knock joke, which fell completely flat, and he compounded his blunder by castigating the jurors for not laughing at it. He then droned on for hours, giving a dry recitation of facts, and failed completely to connect with the jury.

But then the parade of prosecution witnesses started, and the defense has seemed to score big with every one of them. It is hard to understand why the state of Florida even bothered to file such a weak case.

What is fascinating is to go back and compare the actual facts that have come out with how the media portrayed them in the media frenzy that led up to the filing of the criminal murder case. The media made a big deal about race; the facts are that race has nothing to do with this case.

The media also made a big deal about the Florida "stand your ground" law; the facts are that this law has nothing to do with this case, and in fact was not even raised by the defense. The fact is that self-defense is a legitimate defense in every single jurisdiction in the United States, and that is the only reality at issue here. The fact also is that, unlike in Britain, in U.S. jurisdictions generally there is no "duty to retreat". What this leaves us is with the fact that, as far as I can tell, the so-called "stand your ground" law adds nothing of substance to the case; the only difference I can see is the procedural one that a defendant can get a pre-trial hearing on the stand your ground question and avoid a jury trial, if the judge determines that the defense is valid.

The third aspect of the media frenzy is that Zimmerman was portrayed as an adult male, bigger in size than the teenage defendant. The fact, according to one of the prosecution's own witnesses, is that Zimmerman was clinically obese. He was taking martial arts to lose weight, and, according to a statement made in the opening statements, was considered by his instructor to be too "soft" to actually be allowed to engage in any martial arts competition. Trayvon Martin, by contrast, was a high school linebacker, and therefore considerably tougher than the defendant.

The charge of second-degree murder is completely bogus, as any murder charge requires malice, and there is no evidence of malice here. There seems little doubt that a complete acquittal is in store, and the only suspense is how quickly the jury will render this inevitable verdict.

It needs to be noted that the testimony of Trayvon's girlfriend was a complete disaster. She was the worst prosecution witness I have ever seen; she was sullen, insolent, combative, inarticulate, and in all other ways a disaster. How is the jury ever going to dispute the defendant's version of the fight, if this pathetic testimony is all the prosecution has to dispute it?

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