How do Zimmerman prosecutors prove case when key witnesses now have reasonable doubts?
The Orlando Sentinel reports that several witnesses have changed their stories from the initial interviews, mostly (but not completely) to the detriment of George Zimmerman:
Evidence released last week in the second-degree-murder case against George Zimmerman shows four key witnesses made major changes in what they say they saw and heard the night he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Three changed their stories in ways that may damage Zimmerman. A fourth abandoned her initial story, that she saw one person chasing another. Now, she says, she saw a single figure running.
They were reinterviewed in mid-March, after Sanford police handed the case off to State Attorney Norm Wolfinger. The case changed hands again when Gov. Rick Scott passed it on to a special prosecutor. Zimmerman was arrested April 11 on a charge of second-degree murder.
So … witnesses change their recollections in ways which hurt Zimmerman after the public outcry, charges of racism, death threats against Zimmerman, marches, and public protests in the town in which the shooting took place.
One of the key witness changes was to Martin being on top punching Zimmerman Mixed-Martial Arts style:
This witness lived a few feet from where Trayvon and Zimmerman had their fight. On the night of the shooting, he told Serino he saw a black man on top of a lighter-skinned man “just throwing down blows on the guy, MMA-style,” a reference to mixed martial arts.
He also said the one calling for help was “the one being beat up,” a reference to Zimmerman.
But three weeks later, when he was interviewed by an FDLE agent, the man said he was no longer sure which one called for help.
“I truly can’t tell who, after thinking about it, was yelling for help just because it was so dark out on that sidewalk,” he said.
He also said he was no longer sure Trayvon was throwing punches. The teenager may have simply been keeping Zimmerman pinned to the ground, he said.
He did not equivocate, though, about who was on top.
“The black guy was on top,” he said.
I think this hurts the prosecution tremendously. Remember, the prosecution needs to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Now key witnesses have doubts.
We don’t know all the evidence, so I can’t say the prosecution can’t prove that a crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt, but the likelihood of a conviction by a truly neutral jury appears doubtful based on what currently is publicy known.
Update: MSNBC has gone silent, reports Noah Rothman at Mediaite:
n March and April, MSNBC’s primetime hosts ran with nearly wall-to-wall coverage of the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. They regularly suggested that the lack of national interest in the case was worthy of outrage. Last week, when an avalanche of new evidence favorable to George Zimmerman came to light, MSNBC’s primetime lineup didn’t just bury the story, they didn’t mention Martin or Zimmerman once the week that news broke according to media monitoring service TV Eyes.
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Its funny how Obama always makes the mistake of condemning the “white guy” in an interracial controversy. Its almost seems like Obama has a problem with white people.
No surprise. He condemned his own white grandmother early on.
Sure helps with impeaching the witness testimony.
It isn’t factually dispositive, but it DOES make for killer closing argument!
And all it takes is one juror…especially if that juror is the “opinion leader”…with reasonable doubt.
The witnesses are fully aware of the fact that the DOJ has done nothing, and will do nothing, to the New Black Panther Party for issuing a bounty on Zimmerman’s head. The witnesses are afraid they will be targets by that group of criminals should Zimmerman be found not guilty.
How does a citizenry remove the leaders of the DOJ using a legal means?
One can hardly blame the witnesses for backtracking, given how the MSM packaged and sold their coverage of the case. If the witnesses were paying any attention at all to the early news coverage (and they likely were since they were involved in the case), they had to know that Zimmerman was being depicted as an evil, racist thug, and Trayvon Martin as an innocent angel (who looked like the son Obama never had).
Also, since it was dark when the shooting occurred and the police covered Martin’s body after they arrived, the witnesses probably never got a good look at Trayvon Martin until they saw his photo in the news coverage. For months, the media all used the old photo provided by the Martin family, in which Trayvon appears to be about 12 years old (some are still using it).
If the witnesses believed what they saw in the MSM — and why wouldn’t they? — it’s understandable that they would start to question their own recollections. After all, in a battle between an armed racist thug and an innocent unarmed child (who ends up dead), who wants to be on the side of the thug?
You fire the SOB who hired the AG in November and replace him with someone else who isn’t afraid to investigate,
You are talking political means…not legal means.
But NOW you’re talking…!!!!
Florida voters “hired” AG Pam Bondi.
Somehow I doubt the guy on top was yelling for help. It is not inconceivable but very unlikely. And given what we know of the injuries sustained by each party I think we can still rule out Trayvon yelling for help.
BTW, has anyone in the press even been curious enough to ask Obama why the hell the Black Panthers get to run around and break the law with impunity? We know the answer but it would be nice to see Obama have to stutter his way around the issue.
I would add that a defense attorney will surely elicit from police investigators that it is policy to get witness statements as close to the event as possible because memories fade and other influences may alter one’s impressions. Additionally I would put in evidence the incredibly distorted public relations campaign to show the deceased Martin as an innocent, promising and racially targeted 14 year old. What witness wants to be testifying on the wrong side of that juggernaut? This has to be pointed out in closing argument.
Mark, a lot of what you suggest would take considerable needle-threading.
I think it could be done, but it would draw an objection if you were not VERY careful. At points in a trial, you don’t want to hand your opposing counsel the chance to break your stride with an objection…especially one that might be sustained.
You are suggesting that I am writing a check that will be quite difficult for a trial lawyer to cash — and you are probably right. You make excellent points.
I think the defense should elicit from the WITNESSES what they’ve seen and read that may have caused them to change their stories from the night of the incident.
Bonfire of the Vanities, go rent it.
The book is far far better than the movie. I recommend adding it to your summer reading list!
I agree; I enjoyed the book far more than the film.
I would worry about reverse jury nullification on this one (I know Zimmerman’s attorney worries about it), that passions lead to jurors convicting Zimmerman to avoid any criticism and backlash. Given the doubts, the prosecutor should (at a minimum) reduce the charges or at least consider dropping them altogether). Isn’t a prosecutor not supposed to act as a zealot advocate, but strive for justice?
You mean….like Mike Nifong and his using the lacrosse boys to get elected through overwhelming support from black Durhamites?
Many of these prosecutors are cowards and charlatans all too willing to throw somebody to the wolves in a political prosecution.
George Zimmerman should not be under arrest for anything.
This kowtowing to blacks has GOT to stop!
Doesn’t there have to be a prelim first before any trial is set? What happened to that? I know there was a bail hearing, but that’s all I’m aware of.
I read somewhere that there is supposed to be an immunity hearing before trial. That is when Zimmerman presents his evidence that he acted in self defense. If the judge finds that he did, then the case is over and the charges are dismissed.
If that’s the case (and not knowing Florida law, I’m just relying on what was reported in the article), then it seems unlikely there will be a trial. Zimmerman is the only witness who saw how the fight started, so unless Zimmerman contradicts his own account, the evidence that Martin was the aggressor is uncontested. Also, the police counted 14 times that Zimmerman can be heard yelling for help on the 911 tapes. Zimmerman and another witness have said Martin was on top of Zimmerman, raining blows down on him as Zimmerman tried to escape. Zimmerman had a broken nose, two black eyes, and lacerations to the back of his head. In the reports of Zimmerman’s account, he says he only shot Martin after Martin felt the gun, told Zimmerman “you’re going to die tonight,” and grabbed for the gun. Given this evidence, a judge would be hard-pressed not to find that the shooting was a justifiable act of self defense.
From your lips to a brave judge’s ear.
Hi Prof. Sorry to post an unrelated comment but this looked like something that might interest you.
The Truly Massive ALEC Protests (Video)
I believe I read that the preliminary hearing only applies when Stand Your Ground is being invoked. It can’t be invoked here… more’s the irony. SYG was meant to protect people like Zimmerman but isn’t available to him as a defense.
Even Fox News got this wrong with SYG being mentioned as part of what made this case controversial when really it will be adjudicated no differently than any other self-defense case has been even before SYG was passed.
No, it’s part of the block of Florida law that was passed under the general name of “Stand Your Ground”, but that specific pre-trial immunity hearing has nothing to do with the Stand Your Ground right.
Think about it, why wouldn’t the very pro-self defense Florida legislature (first in the modern era to pass a shall issue concealed carry law) include this immunity for, e.g., people defending themselves against home invaders where retreat is not an option?
I stand corrected then. I had read the opposite elsewhere and frankly, I don’t think you can rely on rationality when trying to figure out how laws are made or applied. So while it seemed odd to have it not apply to all self-defense cases it did not throw up a red flag.
Is the immunity hearing before a judge or jury?
Well, preliminary hearings are required when there’s no grand jury indictment in a murder case, as far as I know. It’s one or the other.
I think every sentient being must know that the case will be a civil rights one after Z is exonerated by criminal law, one way or the other. Of course, the election might intervene. Sorry to be totally cynical. I lived through the Rodney King and OJ cases.
I wonder why no news outlet has posited the following headline:
“Numerous Eyewitnessness in Martin Shooting Now Changing Story – Some Think it May be Black Panther Pressure.”
No, I don’t really wonder why.
NEWS FLASH UPDATE:
AP Washington DC:
The gun used by George Zimmerman in the racist shooting of a young, clean-cut, black, straight-A student has been found to be a weapon sold to a Mexican drug cartel through the Justice Department’s Fast and Furious program. Zimmerman has been released and the gun store owner is being held without bail for the murder of Martin.
Attorney General Eric Holder is hailing this as another victory in the battle against gun violence and his efforts to clear the streets of reckless gun stores. His office is working with Senator Schummer on a new bill called the Travon Martin Citizen Protection Act which will further tighten gun ownership laws and strike down “Stand Your Ground” laws around the country.
Holder is quoted as saying: “This (law) and our plan to further regulate the 2nd amendment was never the intention of Fast and Furious, but we think this is a good first step in ridding the streets of firearms.”