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Posts tagged ‘George Zimmerman’

Zimmerman Libel Suit thrown out – because the libel made him famous

This is from the “you’ve got to be kidding me” files. George Zimmerman’s lawsuit against NBC came up recently, and the same judge that appeared to be so biased against him during his criminal trial proved it by throwing out what is really a slam-dunk case.

In the audio played repeatedly by NBC on the air to a national audience, the dispatcher’s inquiry was spliced out, as was Zimmerman’s explanatory text of why it appeared that Martin’s behavior was notable:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good . . . He looks black.”

The doctored audio obviously suggests that Zimmerman purportedly believed Martin was “up to no good” solely on the basis of being black–prima facie racism.  Utterly fabricated, of course.

Despite this, Judge Nelson has dismissed Zimmerman’s libel suit against NBC on the basis that he had become a “limited public figure” in the controversy.  How so? Judge Nelson writes:

[Zimmerman]e voluntarily injected his views into the public controversy surrounding race relations and public safety in Sanford and pursued a course of conduct that ultimately led to the death of Martin and the specific controversy surrounding it.  Moreover, Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin rendered him a public figure in the ensuing controversy.

Yep, according to Judge Nelson, Zimmerman became a limited public figure unable to pursue a clear case of libel because, while doing nothing whatever unlawful himself, and conducting himself precisely as instructed by the police who managed the Neighborhood Watch Program in which he participated, became the victim of a vicious, life-threatening attack by Trayvon Martin.

More simply, if you are the utterly innocent victim of a violent criminal attack by someone of another race, and defend yourself, that makes you a limited public figure subject without recourse to deliberate libel by the news media.


Of course, even as a limited public figure Zimmerman could still sue for libel if he could demonstrate malice. Judge Nelson deals with that by simply concluding that he cannot demonstrate malice:

Zimmerman cannot carry his burden of proving that the single, allegedly [?!?!–AFB] defamatory statement he challenges in the March 20 TODAY show broadcast was disseminated with actual malice.

She similarly dismisses other disseminations of essentially the same libelous content.

Go read the whole post. And yes, this is the exact same judge that ignored the law and threw out perfectly valid cellphone evidence, without actually telling anyone why (which would have made the judgement appeal-able).

Frankly I’m amazed that she, or the prosecution the Zimmerman case, are allowed in a courtroom at all.


Shellie Zimmerman takes plea deal

Legal Insurrection reports that Shellie Zimmerman has taken a plea deal on her perjury charge.

She has to server 100 hours of community service, after which her conviction will be stricken from the record.

Given the weakness of the charges against her, this doesn’t seem very fair. But then being charged with something you didn’t do is a punishment in itself so either way the state was going to get it’s pound of flesh. Sadly, this is the real problem with the US justice system.

That Zimmerman Perjury Charge

One of the consolation prizes of the anti-George Zimmerman lynch mob (let’s call them what they are) is the fact that GZ’s wife is being charged for lying about their family’s finances shortly after he was released on bail.

And until today, I figured that what she’d said had been at least a little dishonest. I mean, they did have $200,000 in a paypal account when she testified that they had no assets. Seems clear cut, no?

Well, (and in hindsight this should come as no suprise) it seems that the charge has about as much basis as George’s charge. And that’s being generous.

The affidavit for the perjury charge, written and submitted by special prosecutor investigator T.C. O’Steen, is — like the affidavit submitted for the murder charge — devoid of probable cause.

In fact, it does not establish a single specific statement made by Shellie Zimmerman and explain why that specific statement was false, why it was material, how it was a matter of objective fact, or why Shellie believed it to be false as she uttered it.

Of all of the elements of the offense that must be established and proved, the state established only that Shellie was under oath and testified in a judicial proceeding.

Not only does the affidavit fail to fulfill the elements of the offense, by omission it actually lies to and misleads the court. In this case, there is no doubt that Judge Lester was biased against George, but it is most likely that the affidavit was approved because judges are generally not used to dealing with prosecutors willing to lie to them. Receiving an affidavit for a felony charge, they tend to rubber stamp it, not considering that a prosecutor, an officer of the court, would mislead them. In this case, that’s exactly what happened.

This is the relevant excerpt from the affidavit of the cross examination of Shellie by Bernie de la Rionda:

Q: And you mentioned also, in terms of the ability of your husband to make a bond amount, that you all had no money, is that correct?

A: To my knowledge, that is correct.

Q: Were you aware of the website that Mr. Zimmerman or somebody on his behalf created?

A: I’m aware of that website.

Q: How much money is in that website right now? How much money as a result of that website was –

A: Currently, I do not know.

Q: Do you have any estimate as to how much money has already been obtained or collected?

A: I do not.

Compare it with the transcript of the same testimony. The sections of the transcript that were omitted in the affidavit are in italics:

Q: How much money is in that website right now? How much money as a result of that website was –

A: Currently, I do not know.

Q: Who would know that?

A: That would be my brother-in-law.

Q: And is he — I know he’s not in the same room as you, but is he available so we can speak to him, too, or the Court can inquire through the State or the Defense?

A: I’m sure that we could probably get him on the phone.

Q: Okay. So he’s not there now.

A: No, he is not, sir.

Q: Do you have any estimate as to how much money has already been obtained or collected?

A: I do not.

Q. Okay. You haven’t talked to your brother-in-law in terms of just bare amount of how much money?

A. No. No, I have not.

Q. Okay. And how long has that website been in existence, ma’am?

A. I do not know. I have not been with my husband since he’s been in hiding. I do not know.

Q. Okay. So you mentioned your husband was in hiding. I understand he left the state, is that correct?

A. That’s correct.

Q. Okay. And did you continue to have contact with him while he was out? 

A. Yes, every day.

Q. And that was every day?

A. Yes.

Shellie testified that they had no money in their normal accounts and that she had no idea how much money was in the Internet account, but that her brother-in-law probably knew that information and that she could get him on the phone.

Notice that the pertinent information about the brother-in-law was completely removed from the affidavit.

In short, everyone in the court knew about the paypal money, and there is no reason to believe Mrs Zimmerman testified untruthfully – she told the court that she did not know the balance of that account, but she did know who did. Indeed, her testimony appears to be more honest than the affidavit that accuses her of lying!

If this is true, the best thing the state could do is quickly and quietly drop the case. They’ve already embarrassed themselves enough already – do they really want another round? Indeed, at this point one is left wondering how the lawyers involved can continue this charade. Do they honestly think that this level of dishonesty won’t get them kicked out of the legal profession?

Your Quick Guide to Zimmerman Trial, Part 2.

Part 1 is here, covering the disaster that was the prosecution case.

Day 9 Continued:

  • The Defense moved for a directed verdict of acquittal. “Mantei provided the State’s counter to the motion for a directed verdict in a manner that cannot readily be described in language suitable for a family-accessible blog. To say it was histrionic, lacking in factual evidence, and rife with abject fabrications, would be to put the matter too kindly.” The motion was rejected, and the judge demanded that the defence begin immediately – at 5pm on a Friday!
  • Gladys Zimmerman (George Zimmerman’s Mother) – Credibility issues “Asked if she had ever before heard her son scream like on the tape, Mrs. Zimmerman could only be honest–no, not exactly like that. O’Mara came back strong, however. Is that scream of anguish, fear, and terror without question your son’s voice?” “Yes,” she answered.
  • Jorge Meza (Orange County Courthouse Deputy, Uncle of George Zimmerman) – Helped Defence ““I felt the screams in my heart,” he testified firmly but emotionally. It is notable that this is the first member of either family who has claimed to have identified the voice absent a suggestive environment.”

Day 10 Midday | Summary

  • John Donnelly (Vietnam Combat Medic, Zimmerman Friend) – Helped Defence “Here, for the first time, was someone who could genuinely be said to possess personal expertise in being able to correlate a person’s normal speaking voice and their screams in extremis. And George Donnelly, firmly and without the slightest hesitation, identified George Zimmerman as the screamer.[…] The more BDLR sought to advance the impeachment of this witness, the more the quiet dignity of the war veteran became associated with George Zimmerman.”
  • Sandra Osterman (Family Friend, wife of Federal Air Marshall Mark Osterman) – Bizarre Prosecution Behaviour “O’Mara played the Jenna Lauer 911 call for her and asked her to identify the screamer. “Definitely, it’s Georgie,” she testified.”

BDLR then began what would be a cycle of expletive-laced questioning with every juror. He would play for them the non-emergency call Zimmerman made that evening, in which he refers to those “fucking punks,” and mutters that “these assholes always get away.” When recounting these phrases to each witness BDLR would fairly shout it out in the courtroom, although repetitive playing of the recording only reinforced that Zimmerman’s actual tone was one of resignation and frustration, not ill-will, spite, or hatred–the emotions BDLR wished to associate with the utterances.

BDLR’s typically sarcastic and petulant tone invariably emerged soon into his questioning of each witness. In the case of Sondra Osterman it was when he asked her, “Are you saying that George Zimmerman referring to “these assholes” means he wants to invite them out to dinner?” Sondra stood her ground, saying she didn’t believe Zimmerman sounded angry. That brought in this rather humiliating exchange for BDLR:

BDLR: “You don’t think he was angry? But you weren’t there that night, right? You’re just speculating.”

SO: [laughs] “I guess we both are.”

On re-direct O’Mara took BDLR’s theory of the case down at the knees. He stepped through the recording almost sentence by sentence, asking after each one, “Does that sound like spite to you? Ill-will? Hatred?” Each time Sondra Osterman responded, “No.”

  • Mark Osterman (Federal Air Marshall Zimmerman Friend) – Helped Defence “Mark also identified the screamer as George Zimmerman, but the real value of his testimony centered on Zimmerman’s management of his sidearm. He affirmed such fundamentals as the need for a self-defense firearm to be loaded to capacity, including a round in the chamber and a topped off magazine, as well as the standard that a deadly-force attacker be engaged center-mass.”
  • Geri Russo (GZ Co-Worker) – Her role was simply to identify the screamer as George Zimmerman and she did this with quiet confidence.”
  • Leanne Benjamin (GZ Co-Worker)  –She, too identified the screamer as George Zimmerman. “
  • Chris Serino (formerly lead Investigator),

    Doris Singleton (Police) – “Both of whom testified that when Serino played the Jenna Lauer audo recording for Tracy Martin and asked him if the screaming voice was that of Trayvon Martin he responded, “No.””

  • Tracey Martin (Trayvon’s Father) – Helped Defence by pretending he had not initially failed to identify the screamer as Trayvon. ” The only reason this testimony wasn’t the least credible of the trial is because the trial has seen a great deal of incredible testimony.”
  • Bill Lee (Former Police Chief) – Helped Defence by pointing out that the way the prosecution had tainted evidence in the way they had the family identify Martin as the screamer on the tapes.
  • Adam Pollock (MMA Gym owner) – Helped Defence. “Asked if he ever allowed Zimmerman to fight in a ring, he answered “Absolutely not, I wouldn’t put him in harms way.””

The day finished with some legal motions, including the decision to admit the Martin toxicology report.

Day 11 Summary

  • Dr. Vincent Di Maio (Forensic Pathologist) – Helped Defence. This is the sort of guy the prosecution should have been putting on the stand, with a lengthy list of credentials. He noted a number of things in Zimmerman’s favour – see the link for a full list. “To sum up, Dr. Di Maio’s testimony was extremely favorable to the defense, and quite destructive to the State.” I also note this Bizarre Prosecution Behaviour:Perhaps the strangest aspect of BDLR’s cross was the way it kept beating on the theme of uncertainty.  Dr. Di Maio had presented one possibility, BDLR argued, but isn’t it true that there was a second possibility, and a third possibility?  How such a cross was intended to drive the jury closer towards proof beyond a reasonable doubt is unclear.BDLR also repeated his tendency to ask questions on cross to which he clearly didn’t know the answer, and getting “blown up” by the reply.  In his direct testimony Dr. Di Maio had mentioned studying gunshot patterns on live animals.  Now BDLR acted aghast that Dr. Di Maio would have harmed poor innocent little beasts (the fact that there is at least one serious pet owner on the jury may have promoted this line of questioning).”
  • Elouise Dilligard (Neighbour) – Helped Defense Elouise Dilligard is also an African-American woman.  Having this older black woman, calling into court from her sick bed, testify with such affection for the Zimmerman’s and George in particular, completelly[sic] gutted the State’s characterization of George Zimmerman as some kind of seething racist who was actively seeking out a black boy to kill.”
  • The defence’s animated video was discussed, but not resolved
  • Norton Bonaparte (Jr. City Manager) – Proceedural (as far as I can tell). Testified about playing the 9/11 tapes. Apparently the police were excluded per family request.
  • Day ended with some discussions, including one defence witness who sat in court, and what turned into a heated discussion on Trayvon Martin’s text messages.

Day 12 Summary

  • The day started with the judge disallowing Martin’s text messages, in spite of the law being clear that they should have been allowed. This decision meant that the character of Trayvon Martin was essentially hidden from the jury. They never got to hear how he liked to start fights, and was buying and selling guns for example, or the efforts he went to to hide the evidence he kept on his phone.
  • Dennis Root (Use of Force Expert) – Helped Defense. “As has become a pattern in this trial, the defense witness’ testimony was utterly consistent with George Zimmerman’s narrative of self-defense.” Bizarre (Well, nasty anyway) Prosecution Behaviour “It was almost as if the State had never deposed Root before, had simply never met this witness before his testimony in the courtroom.”
  • Olivia Bertalan (Former Resident) – Helped Defence. Was a victim of a home invasion and was helped by GZ.The Zimmerman these people described, this kind, caring neighbor, could not be further from the evil, seething, racist murdered of young black boys that the State continues to try to sell to the jury.
  • Robert Zimmerman (George Zimmerman’s father) – As with all family members who identified the screamer as “their boy”, this has to be filed under “Credibility issues”. Bizarre Prosecution Behaviour In typically classy fashion, the State prosecutors noted to the Court that the witness was still subject to recall–meaning that he would still not be able to be present in court to support his son.”
  • “In a brief exchange with the Court, George Zimmerman indicated his decision to not testify on his own behalf in this case.” – Some have criticised the judge for this, and GZ’s lawyers upset, but it does seem that doing this was proper as there have been a number of cases going to appeal in Florida where the defendant has claimed he was prevented by his lawyers from testifying.

The Defense rested.

  • “…O’Mara made another motion for acquittal.  Essentially he argued that as little basis existed for continuing the trial at the end of the state’s case was now even further reduced to the point that an acquittal was the only reasonably outcome.  H[e] explicitly asked that the State be required to “identify their factual scenario, their theory of the case, anything, articulating in some way Zimmerman’s guilt. Judge Nelson did not take him up on this offer, and instead ruled that there existed substantial evidence both direct and circumstantial to allow the second degree murder charge to go to the jury”
  • Bizarre Prosecution Behaviour. The prosecution made a disastrous attempt at calling rebuttal witnesses. First, the called the Guy owner again, and proceeded to ask questions that were completely outside the rules and he didn’t actually end up testifying. They then decided not to call the second, and the third was an attempt to talk about GZ’s arrest 8 years earlier, for which he holds no conviction. “In nay case, it was prior bad act evidence, inadmissible in this case.  Plus, O’Mara cautioned, if the State called this one witness to testify that Zimmerman was violent, he would bring more than 30 counter witnesses to testify to Zimmerman’s peaceful character.”
  • Defence witness who sat in court was ok – “Ultimately, Judge Nelson denied the State’s request the Donnelly’s testimony be stricken from the record.”

Summing up the case:

  • Prosecution tried to get 3rd Degree Murder added, on the basis that GZ had comitted Child abuse. The judge refused.
  • Prosecution Summing up – “What the jury got was not a compelling narrative of guilt, however, but a rambling monologue of isolated bits of circumstantial evidence, much of which was consistent with–and even supportive of–the defense’s “self-defense” theory of the case.”
  • Defence““So now,” O’Mara segued, “let’s talk about the evidence.” That simple sentence could only reinforce how little BDLR had touched upon the evidence in his lengthy, meandering closing the day before.”

“In an interesting twist, O’Mara then highlighted how weak the State’s theory of the case was in the face of countervailing evidence. Let’s toss away, he suggested all of George Zimmerman’s statements consistent with self-defense. The State says they are self-serving lies. Ok, let’s say he never made them. What does that leave us with?

It leaves us, O’Mara said, with this–and he held up the worst of the bloody photos of Zimmerman’s face, his nose crushed sideways and blood running down his lip, taken by Officer Tim Smith while Zimmerman sat in his patrol car.”

  • (same link) Prosecution Rebuttal  – “From the first words out of his mouth it was clear that his presentation was to be even more fact-free than that of Mr. de la Rionda had been. “The human heart,” he stated, “guides us in big things and little things. Let us look into the heart of this child.”” 
  • Jury instructions

Juror B-29 – “George Zimmerman got away with murder”

Well, another juror has come forward from the Zimmerman trial, and she has given quite a different interview. I have not been able to find the full, unedited interview – and I don’t even think they broadcast one. To me, that’s important because this entire case has been about picking and choosing what information they will give to the public – especially the media. Indeed, the clip lined above contains information well known at this stage to be false.

(They also conclude with the Martin family’s so-called forgiveness.  Excuse me? This is a family who whipped up a lynch mob, and continue to do so. Let alone what we now know about their son’s character – evidence that was illegally withheld from the Jury. Forgiveness is not theirs to give.)

But what they have broadcast is curious. On the one hand, she says he was guilty of murder. On the other hand, she states that they had to follow the law and evidence and let him off.

Naturally, her “George Zimmerman got away with murder” comment is being highlighted just the same as the David Bain “gross miscarriage of justice” comment from the Privy Council was touted by his supporters. But this entire case has always been about one side highlighting limited headlines, and the other pointing to the detail which utterly destroys that narrative as false. In other words, she fed each side exactly what they are used to processing – one easy and believable headlines, the other, detail which disagrees with that and sticks to the facts.

I don’t think she intended to be that clever. But the fact she said that in an interview where she showed her face demonstrates clearly to me that much of this is about getting the lynch mob off her back. Because make no mistake, this woman, and all the jurors, have been targeted by the lynch mob almost as much as Zimmerman himself.

Mark O’Mara (Zimmerman’s lawyer) has a blog and here are his comments:

We acknowledge, and always have, that George killed Trayvon Martin. Over the last 15 months, we’ve heard from a lot of people who feel that anytime a life is lost at someone’s hands, the person responsible is guilty of SOMETHING. Indeed, it is natural to feel this way. In a self-defense case, however, that fact that the defendant committed a homicide is stipulated — it is undisputed. However, self-defense is one of the instances under the law when homicide is justifiable. People may disagree with self-defense laws, but a juror’s job is not to decide what a law should be, her job is to apply the facts presented at trial to the laws they are instructed about. Based on her statement, it seems Juror B-29 looked at the law, and whether or not she agreed with the law, she did her job and made her decision on a legal basis. This is the essence of what we seek in a juror: the ability to use one’s common sense, apply the law to the facts, agree not to be swayed by sympathy or emotion, no matter how loudly it’s argued by the prosecutors, and decide a lawful and fair verdict.

When Robin Roberts asks Juror B-29 if she stands by her decision, she says, “I stand by my decision because of the law. If I stand by my decision because of my heart, he would have been guilty.” While that decision of guilt would have been an emotional one, it would not have been a legal one. We applaud her ability to maintain the distinction.

We don’t expect jurors to be heartless people. Every murder case starts with someone who has had their life taken, someone who leaves behind grieving loved-ones. Every loss of life is a tragedy, and we don’t ask jurors to be immune to that. But we do ask jurors not to reach their verdicts based on what their hearts tell them; for the verdict, a juror must set aside emotions and follow the law. Based on her comments, Juror B-29 accepted a tremendous burden, set her feelings aside, and cast a verdict based the evidence presented in court and on the law she was provided.

I personally think that’s a very gracious response. And for all my criticism here, there is no doubt that, in the end, she did do the right thing.

Zimmerman’s “9/11” calls

Patterico does a detailed examination of Zimmerman’s many 9/11 calls, calls that were used to attack him for reasons that didn’t make much sense to me even before reading this analysis. After all, he was the local neighborhood watch captain in a crime-ridden neighborhood. You’d expect him to be calling the police much more than your average person.

One thing to note, it does seem that a number of calls he made were not actually 9/11 calls.

I think it could be unfair to criticize Zimmerman for calling 911 over potholes and animals. The Sanford FL Emergency Services website states:

The Emergency Communications Center also provides after-hours dispatch services for the Animal Services Division and other county operational departments and divisions.

We don’t know if Zimmerman called 911 or if he called another number and was routed or directed to 911 because his call was after hours. Look at the log of Zimmerman’s calls linked by SEK. Most of the calls SEK found objectionable occurred in the evening after the Animal Control and Maintenance departments were closed.

But back to the main post. A few quotes

Of the five calls the state introduced as supposed support for its theory that they showed Zimmerman’s state of mind as a profiler and wannabe cop, two of the calls pertained to the Beltaran home invasion, in which he didn’t profile anyone. He reported seeing someone who matched the description the homeowner (and his wife) had initially given police. The person he reported not only turned out to be the perpetrator, but the perpetrator was only able to be charged after his latent prints were found on the wall he had jumped over from Retreat at Twin Lakes to the neighboring complex. Burgess didn’t just commit one burglary, but several, and he was found in possession of some of the stolen property when he was arrested. He had a long record as a juvenile and he lived in the neighborhood.

In other words, it wasn’t “there’s a black guy here” it was “there’s a guy here who committed a crime”. That seems pretty legitimate to me. Indeed, to not call the police if you see someone who’s in the middle of a crime spree would be the unethical option.

There’s also an interesting comment regarding a call about a garage door being left open at 10pm.

On the garage doors: a neighbor gave an interview and explained his house had been broken into. While the neighbor was away, Zimmerman noticed the garage door was open. That is when he called, since he knew that house had been a target and the neighbor’s were out of town. It would be suspicious if a neighbor goes out of town and the garage door is suddenly found open – the way SEK presents it, however, it misleading since he juxtaposes potholes next to open garage doors next to suspicious activity calls (and this comparison makes you wonder how good GZ’s judgement is if he calls 911 for both potholes and suspicious activity, though, as explained prior, he may be rerouted through Sanford’s emergency line system). I’m trying to find the video, but haven’t found it yet.

Context is everything. That’s what people are (usually deliberately) removing when they talk about Zimmerman shooting an armed Martin.

Also, for those who didn’t know, Zimmerman has re-appeared to help the victims of a car crash. Of course, whether you believe he’s a decent guy or if you believe he has some sort of hero complex, this action can be interpreted to fit your view of the man.

Finally, according to this video Zimmerman was getting 400 death threats per minute on social media.The woman in the video was one digit out from Zimmerman’s old number, and that meant that her number got distributed by mistake as belonging to the man. Apparently a lot of people wanted to make the point that they were willing to kill Zimmerman and wanted themselves to be remembered as being two orders of magnitude more stupid than your average death-threat maker.

Not Guilty of Murder, a few other cases.

Roderick Scott was found no guilty of murder in 2009.

Who is Roderick Scott? Why, I’m glad you asked!

Scott says he acted in self defense when he confronted Cervini and two others saying they were stealing from neighbors cars. He told them he had a gun and ordered them to freeze and wait for police.

Scott says he shot Cervini twice when the victim charged toward him yelling he was going to get Scott.

“How can this happen to a beautiful, sweet child like that?” asked Cervini’s aunt Carol Cervini. “All he wanted to do was go home. And then for them to say, he was saying, ‘Please don’t kill me. I’m just a kid,’ and he just kept on shooting him.”

Scott says the last seven months have been difficult for him and his family. If he could go back to the events in the early morning hours of April 4, there are things he says he would do differently.

“If it meant a person not losing their life, absolutely,” he said. “Would I still have tried to stop what was going on? That I would have done. But if I knew ahead of time that I could do something to help somebody from losing their life, I don’t want anyone to lose their life.”

Of course, the “child” was black, and Scott was white. Oh wait, silly me – it was the other way around.

While sticking a gun in someone’s face and telling them you’re all waiting for the police is, um, provocative, the parrellels with the Zimmerman case are odvious. And in spite of the fact Zimmerman wasn’t white, people (even idiots in this country) have claimed that that verdict means it’s “open season” on black children.

Of course, that’s hysterical nonsense for a variety of reasons. In particular, because there simply was no real evidence that Zimmerman had lied about what had happened, and there was plenty of evidence (including eyewitnesses) that collaborated his story. That is why he was released so quickly originally, and that is why the jury found him not guilty. It was clearly a case of self-defense.


Overreactions – the ultimate irony of the Zimmerman case

I clicked this on twitter last night. This guy is right on the money – with this part at least.

You Are Not Trayvon Martin

His death wasn’t about race, guns, or your pet issue. It was about misjudgment and overreaction—exactly what we’re doing now to the verdict.

Trayvon Martin is dead, George Zimmerman has been acquitted, and millions of people are outraged. Some politicians are demanding a second prosecution of Zimmerman, this time for hate crimes. Others are blaming the tragedy on “Stand Your Ground” laws, which they insist must be repealed. Many who saw the case as proof of racism in the criminal justice system see the verdict as further confirmation. Everywhere you look, people feel vindicated in their bitter assumptions. They want action.

But that’s how Martin ended up dead. It’s how Zimmerman ended up with a bulletproof vest he might have to wear for the rest of his life. It’s how activists and the media embarrassed themselves with bogus reports. The problem at the core of this case wasn’t race or guns. The problem was assumption, misperception, and overreaction. And that cycle hasn’t ended with the verdict. It has escalated.

Going out and shooting someone because you think someone else was shot by a vigilante has got to be about the most stupid thing ever.

I almost joined the frenzy. Yesterday I was going to write that Zimmerman pursued Martin against police instructions and illustrated the perils of racial profiling. But I hadn’t followed the case in detail. So I sat down and watched the closing arguments: nearlyseven hours of video in which the prosecution and defense went point by point through the evidence as it had been hashed out at the trial. Based on what I learned from the videos, I did some further reading.

It turned out I had been wrong about many things. The initial portrait of Zimmerman as a racist wasn’t just exaggerated. It was completely unsubstantiated. It’s a case study in how the same kind of bias that causes racism can cause unwarranted allegations of racism. Some of the people Zimmerman had reported as suspicious were black men, so he was a racist. Members of his family seemed racist, so he was a racist. Everybody knew he was a racist, so his recorded words were misheard as racial slurs, proving again that he was a racist.

This guy was at least honest enough to do his research, and form his opinion on the facts – though he doesn’t seem to quite grasp just how thoroughly the prosecution was debunked. That’s fine – he’ll get there if the above is any indication.

What bakes my noodle is how on earth so many people can still hold to a story that has been so publicly, and so effectively debunked. Not only that, but then use that debunked story as justification for all sorts of things, including putting a hammer in the head of a waiter.

Who wins when people run around screaming about the lack of justice in a case where justice was clearly done, and done well? And does doing that really show that anyone has learned the lessons that should be learned from this incident?

Zimmerman Interviews

Professor William A. Jacobson, author of the Legal Insurrection blog I’ve been getting most of my material from for the Zimmerman posts, had an interview about the case with a New York radio station.

You can listen here. One thing that jumped out at me was that, while no one saw the initial confrontation between the two, Trayvon Martin’s texts apparently outline exactly the same sort of tactics that Zimmerman claimed he used on him. That is, if you want to start a fight, give one hard punch to the nose, knocking down your victim in a surprise attack.

This was interesting to me, since during the day I was reading different perspectives around the internet. And it did occur to me that, ultimately, no one really knows what happened at that moment when they met. That doubt swings the situation Zimmerman’s way in a trial. But with these texts, we can be a certain as we will ever be that Martin attacked Zimmerman.

CNN  managed to get an interview with one of the jurors. Legal Insurrection has those interviews on this post. I think she is very brave for having done this, since there are people who would like to kill her too. But it is clear that the jury applied common sense, dismissed evidence that had no credibility (it made no sense to have tit-for-tat parents testifying that they thought the screamer was their boy), felt sorry for Rachel Jeantel, and saw through the massive problems with the prosecution case.

She was asked if she would have Zimmerman as her neighbourhood watch, with a gun. She said she would, pointing out that Zimmerman would now be the safest person in the US to give a gun to.

Let’s hope he never has to use one to defend himself again.

Update: I’m sure many people know this (I knew about the jewellery ), but it is worth repeating. Were it not for a police chief trying to make himself look good by not doing his job, Trayvon Martin would almost certainly be alive today.

Both of Trayvon’s suspensions during his junior year at Krop High involved crimes that could have led to his prosecution as a juvenile offender. However, Chief Charles Hurley of the Miami-Dade School Police Department (MDSPD) in 2010 had implemented a policy that reduced the number of criiminal[sic] reports, manipulating statistics to create the appearance of a reduction in crime within the school system. Less than two weeks before Martin’s death, the school systemcommended Chief Hurley for “decreasing school-related juvenile delinquency by an impressive 60 percent for the last six months of 2011.” What was actually happening was that crimes were not being reported as crimes, but instead treated as disciplinary infractions.

In October 2011, after a video surveillance camera caught Martin writing graffiti on a door, MDSPD Office Darryl Dunn searched Martin’s backpack, looking for the marker he had used. Officer Dunn found 12 pieces of women’s jewelry and a man’s watch, along with a flathead screwdriver the officer described as a “burglary tool.” The jewelry and watch, which Martin claimed he had gotten from a friend he refused to name, matched a description of items stolen during the October 2011 burglary of a house on 204th Terrace, about a half-mile from the school. However, because of Chief Hurley’s policy “to lower the arrest rates,” as one MDSPD sergeant said in an internal investigation, the stolen jewerly[sic] was instead listed as “found property” and was never reported to Miami-Dade Police who were investigating the burglary. Similarly, in February 2012 when an MDSPD officer caught Martin with a small plastic bag containing marijuana residue, as well as a marijuana pipe, this was not treated as a crime, and instead Martin was suspended from school.

Either of those incidents could have put Trayvon Martin into the custody of the juvenile justice system.

Such is life.

Your Quick Guide to Zimmerman Trial, Part 1.

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.

Day 1:

  • 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.

Day 2:

  • 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.

Day 3:

  • 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.

Day 4:

  • 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”

Day 5:

  • 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.

Day 6 Midday, Summary:

  • 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.”

Day 7 – MiddaySummary:

  • 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.

Day 8 – MiddaySummary:

  • 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. ” – , 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.”

Day 9:

  • 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.

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