Considering the wonderful job Andrew Branca has done covering the George Zimmerman trial, I’ve been relegated to something approaching potted plant status here.
It ain’t broke, so I ain’t gonna fix that. But I will weigh in with my own thoughts on the case and the trial.
I’ve also listened to almost all of the trial, and those parts I missed because of my relocation I’ve accounted for through Andrew’s coverage.
My overall impression of the trial doesn’t really deviate from my overall impression of the pre-trial phase: This is a case which never should have been brought, and would not have been brought except for racial politics.
Florida prosecutors made an initial decision not to prosecute after the police investigation. Those prosecutors did what prosecutors should do, take a disinterested and dispassionate view of the evidence in determining whether the state could prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
What changed along the way was that the Martin family through the Parks and Crump law firm, assisted by agitators like Al Sharpton, launched a campaign to portray the decision not to prosecute in racial terms. The media was an all-too-willing accomplice in stirring up public protests alleging that this was a racially motivated killing.
NBC published an edited tape purporting to show that Zimmerman considered that Martin was suspicious because black; in reality the full tape showed that Zimmerman identified Martin as black only in response to a later police question. Allegations were made that Zimmerman used the word “coon” to describe Martin, when even the prosecution now acknowledges that the word used was “punk.”
The “hoodie” was mentioned only when the 911 operator asked Zimmerman to describe Martin’s clothing, yet the “hoodie” has become the image most associated with the case and is used to put a racial context on Zimmerman’s concern. That did not stop college and law students from holding rallies in which students wore hoodies in solidarity with Martin, as if that were the reason a shot was fired.
The false racial narrative of the case created such public pressure and threats of ongoing protests and potential violence that Special Prosecutor Angela Corey was appointed, and the inevitable decision to file the case was made. Corey has shown herself to be particularly thin-skinned as to criticism of her decision to prosecute.
The prosecution never let go of its desire to inject racial politics into the case. Only by virtue of a judicial ruling barring the use of the term “racial profiling” was the prosecution stopped. Once it became clear that the racial angle could not be worn on its sleeve, the prosecution acted as if it never really intended to go there anyway.
But the prosecution has gone there the best it could, seeking to introduce evidence of prior 911 calls from Zimmerman in which the suspicious person was black.
The prosecution also serially struck whites from the jury, leading the Judge to overrule two of the strikes.
The prosecution also is obsessed with showing that Zimmerman “followed” Martin as part of “profiling” even though that has no legal significance under the law as Zimmerman was permitted to follow whomever he wanted. The legal question is who commenced the physical altercation and what the status of that physical altercation was at the time of the use of deadly force.
On that point, the evidence in the form of physical injuries and eyewitness testimony points to Trayvon Martin as the aggressor under the law and Zimmerman having a plausible case of self-defense.
The prosecution case has not shaken the prime factual basis for a finding of not guilty — Trayvon Martin was on top of George Zimmerman punching him at the time of the shot. At best for the prosecution, there is somewhat conflicting eyewitness testimony on this point, which itself raises reasonable doubt.
I kept hoping that the prosecution would come forward with evidence to change my mind and justify the prosecution — perhaps bullet trajectory showing Zimmerman was on top when Martin was shot. But that evidence never came.
Instead we had a pathetic prosecution attempt (rejected by the Judge) to introduce dubious audio “expert” testimony. We have been subjected to the spectacle of the prosecution repeatedly attacking the police witnesses called on the prosecution’s case because the police found Zimmerman’s various accounts of the night essentially consistent.
Yet nothing has changed the basic equation: Regardless of who you think has the better argument at this stage, it’s hard to see how a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt could emerge from a dispassionate view of the evidence.
Yet a finding of guilt remains a possibility given how the prosecution is handling the case and its willingness to spin the facts to convince the jury to convict.
I think Andrew had it right when he described the prosecutors’ argument on the motion for acquittal. While that argument was before the Judge only, it is a preview of closing arguments:
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 spin spun by the prosecution could result in a finding of guilt, but what does that tell you?
It tells you that this is a prosecution which has to build conjecture upon conjecture, argumentative hyperbole upon hyperbole, just to get to the jury. It is a prosecution devoid of dispassionate prosecutorial discretion and on a mission to convict rather than to see justice done.
Reasonable people can differ on whether George Zimmerman committed a crime under the law. Reasonable people cannot differ on whether there is evidence of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s why prosecutorial discretion is so important, and that’s why this case is a travesty.
The original prosecutors were not so invested in the case. Only the false racial narrative put this case in the hands of those who want to win at all costs.
[Note: A few wording changes and additions were made to this post after initial publication, mostly to add additional source material.]