Update: Part 2 is now up, covering the defence case and summing up.
I thought this quick summary would be helpful to people, to understand just how badly the prosecution of George Zimmerman failed.
This is a summary of the Legal Insurrection accounts, with links to each day’s footage.
I often say, do not trust a characterisation - so I encourage people to go read the original posts and play the video coverage.
- Chad Joseph (the son of the girlfriend of Trayvon’s father) – nothing interesting outside suggesting the skittles were an innocent purchase
- Andrew Gaugh (7-11 Employee) – didn’t remember anything, based his testimony on the store video
- Sean Noffke (Police Dispatcher) – Helped defence by confirming “don’t follow” wasn’t a command and refuted the suggestion Zimmerman was angry and the idea that his identification was somehow racist.
- Ramona Rumph (Custodian of Records, 911 and non-emergency calls) – Procedural witness, which lead to the following the next day:
The whole thing looked odd, however, because the rules of evidence prohibiting most prior acts is intended to keep out prior bad acts of a defendant, not prior good acts. Why would the State be looking to submit prior good acts?
The reason became clear in the State’s argument this morning for why they are demanding that the recordings be admitted. The recordings, they claim, will show that Zimmerman had a well-established pattern of properly following all the Neighborhood Watch Program guidelines on prior calls–but this time, with Trayvon Martin, he broke.
- Wendy Dorival (Sanford Police, Neighborhood Watch Programs) – Helped defense (and this is an incomplete list) by confirming spike in robberies (meaning, concerns were genuine), stated that GZ was polite, courteous, respectful every time she talked to him. No red flags. “It was almost as if the court clerk had accidentally placed a defense witness on the State’s witness roster.” Most important, she busted the “wanna be cop” myth:
It turns out that it’s a program in which the Sanford Police Department would provide Zimmerman with a civilianized patrol car and a uniform of sorts, and provide additional training that would allow him to effectively conduct patrols of his neighborhood. In contrast, the NWP program was far less pro-active, involving only observation and reporting.
Surely the Zimmerman described by the State as a “wannabe cop” seeking to “take the law into his own hands” and “profile” and “chase” unfamiliar black boys would fairly leap at such an opportunity. It was as close to being a police officer as Zimmerman was ever likely to get, the chance of a life time.
Zimmerman declined the opportunity.
- Donald O’Brien (President Twin Lakes Home Owners Association) – Hostile, but helped defense by pointing to a case where following a 17 year old burglar resulted in his arrest.
- Selene Bahadoor (Ear Witness) – No credibility due to adding details on the stand & “liking” Martin family FB page, signed petition calling for prosecution.
- Sergeant Anthony Raimondo (Sanford PD) - Procedural witness
- Diane Smith (Crime Scene Technician, Sanford – Documented and explained crime scene so… procedural.
- Jane Sudyka (resident)- No credibility, claimed 3 shots fired. “Had I heard that 911 recording in a non-court context I would have assumed it to be part of a scene from a low-quality comedy movie in which the actress had been told to “overact ridiculously, the more exaggerated the better.”“
- Jeanee Manaloo (resident) – Helped defence by confidently stating that the larger man was on top. Sadly, one of many people fooled by the media into thinking that Martin was the smaller of the two. Other credibility issues outside that, having gone to the media but denied it on the stand.
- Rachel Jeantel (on phone to Martin as events unfolded) – No Credibility, may just possibly go down in history as the world’s worst ever witness but also uncovered some grossly unethical behaviour by the prosecution. Lied, mumbled, insulted, and apparently her perfect recollection of dates was destroyed by the voice of the defence lawyers.
- More Rachel Jentel – “For many of these lies she offered a relatively innocuous excuse–she didn’t go the funeral because she doesn’t like to see dead bodies, for example. But the sheer number and variety of them cast Jeantel as someone who was perfectly comfortable creating a fabrication if it served her convenience or purposes.”
- Raymond MacDonald (Senior Manager, T-Mobile) – procedural to get phone records in evidence.
- Jenna Lauer (Resident) - Helped defense “On direct examination by de la Rionda, all of Lauer’s testimony was completely consistent with the defense’s theory of lawful self-defense, and to some degree even contrary to some of the State’s theory (for example, Lauer recounted that there was “pretty steady-paced rain,” when the State has consistently sought testimony that the rain was light or intermittent).” Also this regarding addresses: “She also noted in both direct and cross examination that she herself was uncertain of the street names in the neighborhood, and that there were no street signs anywhere near her townhouse, the same area where Zimmerman would have reported to the non-emergency dispatcher his difficulty in providing a specific address.”
- Selma Mora (Resident) – Helped defense. “Here again the State had a witness who on direct provided testimony that was 100% consistent with the defense’s theory of lawful self-defense”
- Jonathan Good (resident, eye witness) – Helped defense – a lot. Saw Martin pounding Zimmerman into the pavement, “MMA style”.
- Lindzee Folgate (Physician’s Assistant) – Helped defense. Effectively testified that shooting Martin saved GS’s life. Testified to GS’s poor general heath and fitness. Love this quote: “Frankly, the whole line of [state] questioning was an enormous gift to O’Mara, and as he walked back to the defense table after cross he had a broad smile on his face.“
George McKinney (United Security Alliance) Showed security footage that didn’t help anyone.
- Jonathan Manalo (Resident) Arrived first, took photos.
Next came a trio of first responders–Officer Ricardo Ayala, SPD, EMT Stacey Livingston, SFD, and Timothy Smith, SPD. All were as professional as one would expect from having a Seargeant like Raimondo (who testified earlier in the week). Mr. de la Rionda made little of these fine people on direct other than to again suggest that Zimmerman’s injuries were no big deal, and also that his affect in the aftermath of the shooting was so “calm” as to suggest he was uncaring or cavalier about having taken a human life. O’Mara undercut both these lines of argument skillfully in his cross-examination.
Police Officer Ricardo Ayala (Sanford Police Department)
- Emergency Medical Technician (Stacey Livingston)
Police Officer Timothy Smith (Sanford Police Department) – Helped defense by contradicting the idea that GZ was angry. ”
Did GZ seem cavalier or uncaring? No, sir. Did GZ seem angry, frustrated, ill-will, hatred, at all, moments after the event? No, sir.“
- Dr. Hirotaka Nakasone (FBI Expert, Speech Identification and Speaker Identification) – Helped prosecution a little, buy providing some support for later state witnesses. “By the end of Dr. Nakasone’s testimony it seemed as if the State had scored a “point” …but not in any substantive sense.”
- Police Officer Doris Singeleton (Sanford PD, interviewed GS at station) - Did not contradict defence. “Nothing here seemed to contradict any substantive part of Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. ” Walked through the video interview, transcript here.
- Investigator Chris Serino (Sanford Police Department, lead initial investigation) – Helped defence, massively. “Asked if there was ANYTHING that Zimmerman had said that contradicted the wealth of evidence possessed by Serino, the Investigator answered, “No, sir.””
Then there’s this.
The last O’Mara question of the day, the last words the jury heard to take with them into the evening recess, could only be characterized as catastrophic for the State’s theory of the case. Looking directly at the man who had been the chief investigator on the case, who had possessed access to ever bit of evidence of any sort, who had interviewed, and re-interviewed, and re-re-interviewed–applying increasing from each interview to the next–O’Mara asked him:
“Do YOU think George Zimmerman was telling you the truth?”
Serino succinct answer: “Yes.”
- The day opened with BDLR asking for evidence to be struck. “Frankly, it seems to this observer is that all that was accomplished by this maneuver is that after hearing the statement as the last thing before being sequestered for the night and having a chance to sleep on it, the jury heard it again first thing in the morning to set the tone for the day ahead.” This can only have helped the defence.
Also, this is fishy:
I say “former Investigator” because it turns out that although Chris Serino remains with the Sanford Police Department he was demoted from Investigatory to Partrolman a few months after the shooting for the apparent reason that he was willing to support a charge of manslaughter but not second degree murder: see here for details
- Investigator Chris Serino (Sanford Police Department, lead initial investigation) – Continued. ”In the end, Serino’s testimony today was ambivalent between the State and defense, as opposed to strongly in favor of the defense yesterday.”
- Mark Osterman (Zimmerman “Best-Friend”) - Helped defence. “Osterman’s testimony was 100% consistent with Zimmerman’s own recounting.”
- Video: George Zimmerman on Sean Hannity Show, FOX – May have advanced prosecution case somewhat by showing Zimmerman giving incorrect information about Stand Your Ground, suggesting he in fact lied. “Of course, we have already heard and seen Zimmerman “testify” numerous times that he has a poor memory.”
- Valerie Rao (Medical Examiner, Jacksonville) - No credibility. Not. Even. Close. It’s witnesses like these that make me wonder about the prosecution’s competence. Not only did she have credibility issues in her background, she was there to prove that Zimmerman wasn’t badly injured – a point that was completely and utterly irrelevant. “And then O’Mara once again began the bloody photo parade, asking her about each and every contusion, abrasion, and laceration on and about Zimmerman’s head and face. … the lesson for the jury was clear–this Doctor could not or would not see what every other witness with medical knowledge, even witnesses possessing mere common sense, had already identified as areas of injury.“
At this point, LI make this observation:
This observer was struck by the observation that this was the first State witness, other than the seriously questionable testimony of Rachel Jeantel, whose testimony clearly favored the interests of the State.
Heads should roll over this.
- At this point, there was a discussion about admitting GS’s “college transcripts and his course records, including textbooks, from his criminal justice studies at a local junior college”.
- Kristine Benson (Latent Print Analysis) – Testified Martin’s fingerprints weren’t on the gun.
- Legal arguments from day before continue:After hearing detailed case law arguments from Mantei, and a rather wishy-washy counter by O’Mara, Judge Nelson allowed all the evidence into the record, with the exception of some modest redactions. It seemed like an utter loss by the defense, and one couldn’t help but wonder why O’Mara had not fought back with his customary vigor.Events were to reveal that he may never have truly intended to do so. Indeed, it very much appears now as if O’Mara had successfully convinced the State to toss him into the briar patch.
- “As a result of the Court’s ruling to allow in the State’s evidence, however, it was necessary to step through a number of administrative witnesses who could attest to the authenticity of the documents. ” - Andrew Branca, the post author, claims there were “wins” with each of these but doesn’t elaborate.
Sonja Boles Melvin (Registrar, Seminole State College)
- Lieutenant Scott Kearns (Prince William County Police Department, VA)
- Mr. Arzenski (Administrative Services Manager, Sanford PD)
- Captain Alex Carter (US Army JAG) - Helped defense, a lot. “West’s cross-examination of Carter, however, was devastating for the State. Carter described Zimmerman as “one of my best students,” and asked what grade he had assigned he answered, “an A.”… As the State saw the narrative spinning against them they repeatedly objected, constraining West’s cross. By then, however, the damage had largely been done to the State’s theory of the case”
- Professor Scott Pleasant (Online Criminal Justice Course) - Helped defense. “The greatest blow, however, came with O’Mara’s last question (as has happened before) when he asked Pleasant what Zimmerman had told him about his career goals. Pleasant answered,”he said he wanted to be an attorney, and eventually become a Prosecutor.” Ouch.
- Amy Siewert (Forensic Analyst, FDLE) - Helped defense by contradicting the state claims. “She first testified that although the muzzle of the gun did appear to have been in contact with Martin’s sweatshirt, she was not prepared to testify that it had been pressed into his skin. … Next she testified at some length that the manner in which Zimmerman carried the gun…was the manner in which the gun was intended to be carried, …and was in no particular way unsafe.”
- Return from lunch was delayed by legal arguments.
- Anthony Gorgone (FDLE Crime Laboratory DNA Analyst) – “Pointless”. “There was no DNA evidence that substantively contributed to any issue in the case“
- A theme that crops up several times during the trial is the judge’s refusal to allow the defense to prepare their case, bordering on outright obstruction - “…Judge Nelson took the opportunity to vent her frustrations at the defense team when they requested additional time to arrange for the deposition of Martin family advisor/attorney Benjamin Crump. She was markedly unsympathetic to the defense’s explanations that they had only been authorized by the 5th District Court of Appeals to depose Crump. It is notable that the authority to depose Crump at all was delivered to the defense by the 5th District Court of Appeals (DCA), which did so by overruling Nelson’s earlier ruling to deny the defense this opportunity. Judge Nelson was also unsympathetic to the defense’ explanations that they had been fully consumed in the intervening period with the Frye hearing, Jury selection, and the State’s presentation of the case. The sense seemed to be that if they’d had enough time to shower and take care of basic biological necessities during the last several weeks, then they had had enough time to depose Crump.”
- Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s Mother) - Credibility issues. “Ms. Fulton’s credibility was also substantively damaged when she claimed that she had not known before hearing the tape that it was believed to contain the sound of her son’s last, desperate screams. That the persons responsible for playing that tape would not have prepared her beforehand for the shock–to not do so could only be described as monstrous.”
- Jahvaris Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s Half-brother) - Credibility issues.“Defense counsel O’Mara pointed out that two weeks after first hearing the recording played Jahvaris was still stating to reporters that he wasn’t sure that the recorded screams were those of Trayvon. When pressed, his answers became a series of “don’t know,” “not sure, ” can’t remember,” almost as if he’d been pushed outside the boundaries of the coaching for his testimony.”
At this point we have a problem, because the Day 9 post throws up it’s hands at the final witness – who is quite important. So I have gone to another source to get an account of this.
- Dr. Shiping Bao (Medical Examiner) - Credibility issues. “It is not unusual for professional witnesses such as police officers and medical examiners not to remember every detail of a case — that’s why they write detailed reports — but to remember nothing at all is bizarre. Bao also testified that he knew next to nothing about the protocols of autopsy, about what his assistants did, how they did it, why they did it, or when they did it, often saying that a given bit of knowledge wasn’t his job or he didn’t worry about that. Despite being the man responsible for the autopsy and all evidence related to it, he appeared to be disavowing all knowledge and responsibility.“
That concluded the prosecution case.
In total, I count 38 witnesses in the above:
- 7 had credibility issues of varying degrees.
- 15 actually helped the defence case, or provided testimony that agreed with the defence case.
- 14 provided background evidence (such as the first responders reporting state of the scene on arrival) or evidence that was not helpful towards proving either case.
- Only one witness (Dr. Hirotaka Nakasone) seems to have actually been a “win” for the prosecution. But even his evidence did not really help the case and he really should count as a background or procedural witness.
In other words, with the possible exception of Zimmerman’s own testimony via various forms, the state had nothing.