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Zimmerman Trial Day One – Analysis of Opening Statements

Zimmerman Trial Day One – Analysis of Opening Statements

Today marked the first day of the trial proper of Florida v. Zimmerman, and accordingly was the first opportunity for each side to present their “theory of the case” to the jury.   This day covered both the party’s opening statements, as well as the first four of the State’s witnesses (although testimony of the fourth was interrupted).  Here, however, I’ll just provide an overview and analysis of the opening statements.  I’ll cover the first few of the State’s witnesses separately.

As an aside, Angela Corey was present in court for the first time in recent memory.

Angela Corey, Special Prosecutor (Tracy Martin is immediately behind her)

Angela Corey, Special Prosecutor (Tracy Martin is immediately behind her)

State’s Opening Statement:  Brief, Big on Drama, Light on Facts

As is the norm, the State spoke to the jury first. This is a powerful advantage for any prosecutor,. The first time the jury is presented with a cohesive vision of the events underlying the trial it is done from the perspective of the defendant’s guilt.

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

In addition, the opening statement provides the prosecutor with an unusually broad opportunity to establish a conceptual framework of guilt constructed wholly of the State’s view of the evidence. Once the State begins its formal presentation of its case it will face substantially greater restrictions on what it can say and how it can say it.

Given this relative “freedom of action,” it is during the opening statement that the State should really hit a “home run.”. Up until the State’s opening is completed, the only substantive information that the jury will know of the case will have come from the State’s perspective. If immediately after hearing the State’s opening one isn’t strongly disposed to believe in the defendant’s guilt, is it likely that guilt will seem more likely after the State’s evidence has been subjected to a vigorous cross and the defense has had the opportunity to present it’s own side of the case? I suggest that the State’s opening statement is where they set the “high water mark” for guilt.

With this context in mind, there were three aspects of the State’s opening statement that I found particularly remarkable.

First, that it was State Attorney Guy who made the opening, rather than his boss, de la Rionda, or for that matter his boss–the special prosecutor actually appointed by the Florida governor to bring this to trial, Angela Corey. (Both de la Rionda and Corey were present in the courtroom.)

Second, the brevity of Guy’s comments–from start to finish his opening remarks took a mere 30 minutes. Given that the vital strategic importance of the opening statement, the State’s relative “freedom of action” at this stage of the proceeding, and the fact that this is a murder in the second degree case of national prominence and in which the State has surely invested well in excess of a million dollars, a 30 minute opening seems a rather modest effort.

Third, the almost complete absence of evidentiary basis for the State’s opening. Attorney Guy opened by quoting Zimmerman’s brief cursing on the non-emergency call, placing considerable emphasis on this as evidence of an “evil mind”, and then went on to rely far more on dramatic intonations than on actual facts in evidence. Even worse from the State’s perspective, many of the facts he did mention would seem favorable to the defense–for example, that there had been a recent surge in crime in Zimmerman’s neighborhood.

Many other facts seemed an effort to shock the jury, but were of little or no relevancy to guilt. He repeatedly referenced the fact that Zimmerman’s handgun was loaded to its normal capacity, as if this showed some evil intent. In fact, every Sheriff’s deputy in that court room has his sidearm loaded in exactly the same manner, as intended in the gun’s design.

Similarly, he kept referring to the handgun as a “semi-automatic,” which it certainly is, but he may as well have been referring to its color or barrel length for all the relevancy it has to whether Zimmerman acted in lawful self-defense or committed murder in the second degree.

He also spent much of his limited opening attempting to diminish the seriousness of Zimmerman’s injuries, as if it is the extent of injuries suffered that justified acting in self-defense. Of course, the law of self defense does not require that you accept some indeterminate amount of a beat-down before you can protect yourself. It doesn’t even require that you suffer so much as a scratch. You need only be in reasonable fear of imminent harm about to occur, not to have actually suffer harm to occur.

There also seemed to be an almost desperate effort to recast marginally interpretable pieces of evidence as instances of Zimmerman lying outright to the police and others. Guy mentioned, for example, that Zimmerman claimed Martin attacked him “right after” the end of Zimmerman’s non-emergency call to police. Guy almost seemed to shout, “Ah-HAH!” with a pointed finger in the air when he informed the jury that in fact a whole two minutes had lapsed between the end of the call and the start of the confrontation.

In summary, the State’s opening remarks seem to me to be a very weak effort, indeed.

Defense’s Opening Statement:  Comprehensive and Heavily Fact-Based

In contrast, Attorney West appears almost Terminator-like in his presentation of the defense’s theory of the case, their compelling narrative of George Zimmerman’s innocence, the desperate fight for his life, the final instant when only his gun could save him, and George barely surviving, bloody and staggering, his brush with death.

West did start off poorly with a very poor joke, which went as follows:


Who’s there?


George who?

OK, you can be a juror.

West recovered strongly after this rare misstep, however, and began to roll out fact after fact, and exhibit after exhibit, including Google map images of the housing complex generally and the scene of the conflict in particular.

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His exhibits placed a great deal of emphasis on the terrain of the conflict, showing where Martin and Zimmerman had been physically located at various times, where Martin’s apparent destination was located, where Zimmerman had parked, where the attack occurred, the distances between them, and more.

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West played both Zimmerman’s non-emergency call to police as well as Witness #11′s 911 call, both in their full-length and in a step-by-step fashion, comparing each portion to a timeline of events. The recordings made clear that the “cursing” so strongly emphasized by the State was said in a tone of exasperation, not hatred.

He placed the expected witnesses testimony in the context of events, emphasizing the portions of that evidence that were consistent with George’s absence of either guilt or a depraved mind, and explaining why some testimony that suggested guilt would be shown to be impossible given the facts (for example, one witness claims that Zimmerman shot Martin in the back, but forensics clearly shows Martin was only shot once in the chest).

West had several exhibits showing Zimmerman’s extensive injuries, as well as hand-drawn sketches of the eye-witness who saw the fight and noted on his drawing, “dark shirt on top, red shirt on bottom,” referencing the fact that Martin with his dark hoodie was atop of Zimmerman in his red jacket.

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West also put into context Zimmerman’s desperate straits, begging for help, but with no help coming.

After the lunch recess West began digging into the forensic evidence. He illustrated how the fact that Martin’s hoodie was scorched by the shot but his chest was not indicated that there was a gap between the two, as one would expect of someone straddling, leaning over, and pummeling a beating victim.

He discussed at length the issue of the alleged lack of blood on Martin’s hands–which claim is supposed to show, I guess, that Zimmerman’s injuries were self-inflicted?–and noted that there were various steps skipped in the collection of evidence (such as a failure to bag Martin’s hands and a failure to photograph the hands at certain angels) such that we just can’t really know if there was ever blood on Martin’s hands or not.

Similarly, with respect to the State noting, with much drama, that Martin’s DNA was not found on Zimmerman’s gun–which would only mean, at best, that Martin never actually got a hold of the gun, not that he’d never reached for it (DNA doesn’t “jump”)–and that very little of ZImmerman’s DNA was found on Martin’s clothes, that the forensic lab had improperly stored the clothes such that any DNA would have degraded.

In discussing Zimmerman’s membership in the “fight gym,” West made clear he plans to call the gym’s trainer, and gave a very good sense of what that witness’s testimony will look like–that George Zimmerman was not a “fighter” in any meaning of the word.

West then used a forensics photo of Martin’s pants to show stains on the knees, just as one would expect of someone straddling a prone victim’s body.

West also recounted how the lead Investigator for the Sanford PD had played the “screaming” 911 call for Trayvon Martin’s father and asked him if the screaming was that of Trayvon, and the father had said it was not.

Time was also taken to discuss Zimmerman’s gun ownership, the fact that he had taken training to obtain his firearms license, and that he’d also received at least informal instruction from a close friend who is a Federal law enforcement officer (Air Marshall)–this person is expected to be a defense witness. He also emphasized that despite the State’s dramatic overtones about the fact that Zimmerman’s gun was loaded and “ready-to-shoot,” is actually the proper and normal way the gun is intended to be carried.

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And that wrapped up the parties opening statements.

The court then recessed briefly to take up the matter of whether Taryvon Martin’s father should be excluded from the courtroom for having cursed out one of the court observers there in support of Zimmerman. The observer in question took the stand and testified that Martin’s father had seen from his ID badge that he was there in support of Zimmerman and then muttered “M-F’er” under his breath. In the end the Judge allowed the father to stay and admonished everyone to behave like big boys and girls.

WIth that the court recessed for 10 minutes, to return with the State’s first witness.

I’ll cover the witness testimony, however, in follow-up post.


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense,” now available in its just released 2nd Edition, which shows you how to successfully fight the 20-to-life legal battle everyone faces after defending themselves. UPDATE: July 5, 2013 is the LAST DAY to take advantage of the 30% pre-order discount, only $35, plus free shipping. To do so simply visit the Law of Self Defense blog.

BREAKING: “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition” is now also being carried by, at list price but with a commitment for 2-day delivery.  A Kindle version to come within a week or so (I hope).

Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!

You can follow Andrew on Twitter on @LawSelfDefense (or @LawSelfDefense2 if I’m in Twitmo, follow both!)on Facebook, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.


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Thank you Andrew for the great updates! Perhaps more people will start to wonder why this case is even being tried. GZ couldn’t have had a much better day.

Not only is your coverage excellent, I believe years from now people will come to view blog coverage like this as the pivotal point where dissemination of news and information passed from the formal, former main stream media, to informed citizen journalists.

Thank you and thanks to our our host.

    The mainstream media has done so poorly on this case from the get-go, the niche for someone like Mr Branca was just there waiting for a suitably informed citizen journalist to step into it. I agree that’s he’s done a great job so far, and so did Professor Jacobson in bringing him on board as a guest blogger.

    As far as the hash the MSM has made of things, I came across two blog posts y’all might like. One at Breitbart yesterday, “Big Media and the Trayvon Martin Case: Wrong from Minute One”, and at Ace of Spades earlier today, “Media Deliberately Misreported George Zimmermann Case from Earliest Moments”. Oh, that “mainstream” media! Becoming less relevant by the day.

      FYI, I’m a lawyer, not a journalist. I know that’s not much of a step up, but it’s something. 🙂

        Calling someone a citizen-journalist isn’t the same as calling them a journalist. The latter would have been just plain mean, given the great job you’ve done so far.

      ggoblu in reply to AmyFL. | June 25, 2013 at 8:59 am

      “The mainstream media has done so poorly on this case from the get-go”

      i look forward to the lawsuit against nbc after zimmerman is cleared. that should be icing on the cake.

    Insufficiently Sensitive in reply to Anchovy. | June 24, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Mr. Branca’s commentary is a breath of fresh air, and enlightening – far more than the MSM has been. But there’s a downside. Should Branca’s work prove effective in moving hearts and minds, we may count on it that in future cases, allies of the MSM will jump in with a tornado of special pleading dressed up as ‘objective commentary’, to head off any future Branca-like successes.

Excuse me for reposting this question, but is there any possibility that Don West deliberately asked questions in his opening that he knew would be stricken by the judge? Would there be any rhetorical advantage in such a tactic?

There is a good possibility West’s questions were deliberate, James. Some lawyers call it planting a seed. I strongly suspect the jury will hear the theme suggested by those questions on final argument where it will unquestionably be proper.The Judge acknowledged that when she (correctly, IMO) excluded it in West’s opening statement. Opening statements are technically not argument, but a preview of the evidence that will be presented. That’s why openings are called “opening statements”, and closings are called “closing arguments”.

    Reporters who were actually in the courtroom remarked that the jurors were avidly taking notes during Mr West’s opening, long though it was. Seed, planted.

      Milhouse in reply to AmyFL. | June 26, 2013 at 3:51 am

      They’re allowed to take notes? That’s good. When I was on a jury here in NY we were not allowed to take notes. I don’t understand why.

        Milhouse in reply to Milhouse. | June 26, 2013 at 3:55 am

        We also weren’t allowed to see transcripts of testimony during deliberations. We were told that if we wanted to check something we had to identify exactly what part we wanted to hear, and have it read to us. I don’t understand why.

        What I wanted was to be able to read quickly through the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. My reason was that I’d pretty much concluded that the plaintiff had no case, but I wanted to be fair to her, and it had been about two weeks since I had heard her expert testify all day, so I wanted to go through what he had said, to see whether there was any point he had made that had not been convincingly rebutted by the defense. But I certainly wasn’t going to subject my fellow jurors to an all-day readback, even if the judge would have allowed it.

    James IIa in reply to Jim. | June 24, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks, Jim and Amy. I’m learning here.

West also tried to weave into his statement some of the major legal concepts, e.g. the law of self defense and on the state’s objection, the Judge refused to allow it. Those concepts of course will come up in the Judge’s jury instructions and on final argument.

    Ragspierre in reply to Jim. | June 24, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Unless you VERY carefully pre-condition any state of law with, “I believe the Judge here will instruct you…”, you are GOING to get shut down on statements of law during an opening.

    Even IF you very carefully pre-condition!

    BUT West did successfully flag these issues and peaked the juror’s interest.

    Sometimes, as in life, you ask forgiveness instead of permission.

Someone remarked that not only were the jurors taking notes, but that a lot of individuals attending the trial were taking notes. I thought how nice it was that Andrew is taking notes for us and then sharing them with us at the end of the day. It allows me to get other things done in between checking back. Thank you Andrew for taking notes for us, and thank you Professor for providing us with such a masterful and expert person to help us lay people through this trial. It’s an approach I am sure will catch on.

Does someone with an intent to kill a person in cold blood first call the police and give his location? It’s such an improbable notion that only the willfully biased could accuse Zimmerman of shooting TM out of murderous racial hatred.

And if Zimmerman had been in a confrontation with a blue-eyed blond, the whole left-lib establishment and racial grievance industry would be defending him.

    cazinger in reply to Radegunda. | June 24, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I have been saying that all along. If only EVERY criminal would be so courteous as to call and ask for the police to show up just in time to arrest them for committing their crime.

    Heck, even if you say that GZ developed his murderous intent AFTER finishing the call – wouldn’t someone who knows that the police might be there at ANY second be a little more circumspect about actually committing a crime? Don’t you think the fact that you have no idea if there might just happen to be a police cruiser in the area would give a murderer just a moment’s pause before he decided to do the deed?

    And given that he knew the police would be there ANY second, why on earth would he take the risk of actually getting into a physical fight with his intended victim? Surely such a fight would take even more precious time, bringing the police closer and closer with each passing second. And of course there is the possibility that once the intended victim is made aware of your presence, that the intended victim COULD gain the upper hand and even disarm you and turn your own gun on you. Why take that chance if murder is on your mind?

    Milhouse in reply to Radegunda. | June 26, 2013 at 3:58 am

    More than that, if his name hadn’t been Zimmerman he wouldn’t be on trial at all. The only reason Sharpton and the rest of the race hustlers took on the case in the first place, and threatened riots to demand a trial, is because they saw the name “Zimmerman” and assumed he was Jewish.

I actually couldn’t be happier right now. I said from the first time I pulled up a Google map of the apartment complex and noted where everything was that THAT was a big slam dunk for the defense. You can lie, twist, and obfuscate much of what was said and unsaid BUT you cannot change the locations of the clubhouse, his truck, Green’s apartment, and the scene of the altercation. The only way Martin could have ended up where he did is if Zimmerman had tackled him and dragged him to that location to shoot him or Martin ambulated there himself. Since there were no signs of a struggle or dragging anywhere else…. Couple that with the injuries and the couple of witnesses who are credible and there ya go. Unless the prosecution has something like a videotape of Zimmerman running after Martin, they are all going to look like fools.

Seeing corey with Martin’s family removes any assumption that all citizens are treated equally in her courtroom.

She is much like Lois Lerner or Sebelius, confident in her authority as much as she is insecure in her personal self. These people LOVE the power the government gives them and will run over anyone trying to take it from them.

West sounds like he is going to outline the self defense aspect well. Good. Zimmerman’s life is ruined, but maybe justice will prevail.

We’ll see.

confused about a few facts –

one – prosecutor claims “no blood on Martin’s hands”, yet did not the coronor’s report show bruised knuckles, which would be consistent with punching something/someone?

two – Zimmerman’s parents were not allowed in court as they were put on witness list and “may” be asked to testify. Would this same move be prudent/allowed for Martin’s overly emotional parents?

With Zimmerman’s parents barred from the court room as potential witnesses, won’t the Martin parents allowed in court room, be potential witnesses, as well?

BTW Angela Gorey is stunnnn, Nahh!

    Ragspierre in reply to JP. | June 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    No. Absolutely not going to be witnesses.

      Thanks for the info, good sir.

      With this occurring:

      “The court then recessed briefly to take up the matter of whether Trayvon Martin’s father should be excluded from the courtroom for having cursed out one of the court observers there in support of Zimmerman. The observer in question took the stand and testified that Martin’s father had seen from his ID badge that he was there in support of Zimmerman and then muttered “M-F’er” under his breath. In the end the Judge allowed the father to stay and admonished everyone to behave like big boys and girls.”

      He/They will be witnessed rather than witnesses

      fogflyer in reply to Ragspierre. | June 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm

      I don’t think that is correct (but I could certainly be wrong)

      I thought the judge cited case law that although witnesses in the case are normally excluded from the courtroom in order to insure their testimony is not tainted, that the parents of the victim receive special treatment and are excluded from the rule to bar the witness from the courtroom, unless the defense could show that their presence would be unfairly prejudicial to the defendant. The defense did not even try to get them excluded on those grounds.

      Therefore, they are allowed to,stay even though they are still potential witnesses.

      Did I misinterpret this?

        Ragspierre in reply to fogflyer. | June 25, 2013 at 8:30 am

        No, you could be absolutely right. I am not listening to the case, and did not hear any such discussion. Dunno from Florida criminal procedure on the matter.

        Matter of fact, dunno from Texas criminal procedure on such a parent-of-the-victim exception, since I don’t practice criminal law.

I looking forward to the analysis of the jury as the case goes on.

A few years back, I was on a jury in a “drunk” case (it was just too weird to call a DUI). The day the case began, I got an earache on the way to the courthouse. I spent most of the morning gritting my teeth in one way or another trying, in vein, to reduce the pain. I could see that in a few cases, the lawyers adapted their questioning based on my contortions. After lunch, the informed the “tipstaff” of my problem and he sent me off to my doctor.

My point, don’t get too engrossed in the reactions of the jury, because they might not be reacting.

The defense opening, having months to prepare, was rambling, overlong and disjointed. I don’t know Florida law, but I suspect the judge was incorrect in ruling several times that it was improper to talk about the law and the standard of proof in openings, yet the defense, rather than asking to approach the bench to discuss the issue, meekly acquiesced in the judge’s decision, indicating a decided lack of preparation. An attorney must foresee such objections and prepare a response. Even more worrying was the defense objection to the playing of old 911 calls from Zimmerman on relevance ground after a couple of calls had already been played for the jury. This issue should have been hashed out pre-trial – not in front of the jury. Zimmerman has a relatively good defense, but I fear his lawyers are not up to snuff. Prediction: not guilty Murder II, guilty manslaughter (excessive force).

I’ve come to the conclusion that the state doesn’t care if it wins or loses.

They haven’t got a case and they are too cowardly to stand up to the pro-Trayvon mobs, so now they’ve decided to sacrifice 6 jurors to do their dirty work. If Zimmerman wins, they can blame the jurors and let public outrage focus on them. If the state wins, they will take full credit and send an innocent man to prison.

Its frightening that such a travesty of justice can take place in this day & age.

After listening to the prosecution’s opening statement I was reminded of a quotation by Cardinal Richelieu: “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”

The opening statement showed how little the prosecution has to work with. It’s all spin and no substance. I particularly liked the comment about Zimmerman’s “two flashlights,” stated in a tone so ominous that one might have thought that Zimmerman had grenades instead of flashlights.

The jurors are asked to believe that a phone call to the police, two profanities, a properly licensed and carried handgun, and two flashlights all add up to the depraved mind required for a conviction of second degree murder. Had Zimmerman uttered three profanities the State of Florida probably would have charged him with first degree murder. And unfortunately, I’m not kidding.

VetHusbandFather | June 24, 2013 at 11:39 pm

What was West thinking with the knock-knock joke? I know he’s more focused on the jurors than on media coverage (which is a good thing), but tonight’s coverage of the case was dominated by headlines all about his bad joke and Zimmerman’s cussing instead of anything substantial on the case. He gave the liberal media just the fodder they needed to continue distracting the Public from the fact that the State has no case.

    ZurichMike in reply to VetHusbandFather. | June 25, 2013 at 2:10 am

    One theory about the joke is that the jury, having just endured Guy’s 30-minute bad audition for an episode of Boston Legal (or Jerry Springer), were jolted back to “normal time” by the joke, meant to be wry and ironic (but, in my opinion, was inappropriate). West could have brought the jury back to reality through other means. Another theory is that West is setting himself up as the “dupe” — he even said “don’t hold the joke against GZ, hold it against me”. Or my opinion is that he is just trying to connect with the jury, which he did anyway with a normal tone of voice, good use of pauses and visual and audio aids, coming across as that nice science teacher you had in high school who tells corny jokes but knows a lot. The jury is probably thinking “This is the first time I have heard the whole story and facts in one place” and, imagine them all — all WOMEN — thinking “Gee, that GZ is so brave to have confronted a suspicious feral youth and help keep his apartment complex safe — I know I would feel unsafe with kids ranging around the premises and would probably have done the same thing.”

    The State lost the narrative, the timeline, the facts, the context, and the interpersonal connection.

    The liberal media was never going to cover this case fairly anyway. They haven’t since Day One, and I can’t see any reason to believe they’d start now.

    It’s like with the Duke Lacrosse case. Listening to the mainstream and cable media versus reading KC Johnson’s “Durham in Wonderland” blog coverage, you’d be hard pressed to believe they were talking about the same case.

Thanks for the really great write-ups. I watched today’s proceedings and I see I didn’t need to.

I too feel that Don West was somewhat lacking in his opening although that may not matter in the long run. I just fail to see why he didn’t begin by saying while the state’s opening was quite impassioned, and the death of a 17 year old extremely serious, we’re not here to decide this case out of sympathy or emotion. That would’ve changed the atmosphere and he could have done his thing.

I have a question about the 2 minutes or so between the end of Zimmerman’s call and the first 911 call made by neighbors. Some people have pointed out that this time period shows that Zimmerman’s recounting of events is false, that the state is going to say that Zimmerman was searching for Martin even if the altercation did transpire so close to the path that led to Zimmerman’s car. How is the defense going to explain this?

Thanks again for the great blogging.

    They’ll explain it much like they did in their opening statement, with the facts in evidence. Like this: Myth Busters: Did Zimmerman “Chase Down” a Fleeing Martin? (


      DennisD in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 25, 2013 at 11:54 am

      That link doesn’t explain what Zimmerman was doing for the 2 minutes or so between the end of his call and the first 911 call. His account, which is videotaped, has him walking down the short path while still on the phone for part, coming right back and getting attacked. I know the defense will try and whittle down the 2 or so minutes as West seemed to by saying it took time for neighbors to realize a fight was ongoing and a little time to connect with 911, but Zimmerman’s account still seems not to account for some of that 2 or so minutes. The fight did take place on the path directly leading to Zimmerman’s car which seems to suggest that Zimmerman wasn’t moving about, but it still leaves the question about Zimmerman’s account as far as those 2 or so minutes, no?

      Thanks again.

        cazinger in reply to DennisD. | June 25, 2013 at 12:28 pm

        DennisD, I think that is a very valid question. I have had the same question myself. I honestly don’t think anyone but George Zimmerman will know for sure.

        If you are inclined to be on the side of George Zimmerman, you might think that he was just standing there, waiting for the police to come. When the police called him to ask where to meet him, he would direct them to where he was standing and be able to tell them that that was the last place he saw the suspicious person.

        If you are inclined to be on the side of the prosecution, you might think he was using that time to search for Martin, running down the dog walk and back again, desperately looking for the “outsider”, so George could make sure that THIS “a$$hole” didn’t get away.

        Of course, even if you are inclined to be on the prosecution’s side in your conjecture, you have to acknowledge that there is virtually no evidence to reach that conclusion beyond a reasonable doubt. Like I said, I don’t think any of us will ever know to that degree of certainty.

          VetHusbandFather in reply to cazinger. | June 26, 2013 at 2:39 am

          Good point. I think it’s fair that some people may have doubts about Zimmerman’s explanation of those two minutes, but whether or not they doubt Zimmerman’s story doesn’t matter. What matters is that they believe the State’s explanation with no doubts, and providing a few alternative suggestions of what he might have done with those two (or less) minutes, is simply conjecture. Short of a video tape or a few witnesses, these two minutes won’t prove their case.

          Milhouse in reply to cazinger. | June 26, 2013 at 4:05 am

          If you are inclined to be on the side of the prosecution, you might think he was using that time to search for Martin, running down the dog walk and back again, desperately looking for the “outsider”, so George could make sure that THIS “a$$hole” didn’t get away.

          Let’s suppose, just for the sake of argument, that that’s true. So what? How does it help the prosecution? Was he wrong to do so? Was he breaking any law in doing so? How does it even tend to indicate that he attacked Martin when he found him?

The more I think about it, the more I appreciate the approach taken by Mr. West in his opening (although I still think the joke was awful).

The prosecution came out and was very slick in their opening. They had a well rehearsed, well put together, very dramatic opening. Then came Don West, with a horrible joke and a rambling, disjointed, apparently disorganized opening that appeared to have been put together in the hallway just before court that morning. The jurors would clearly note the stark contrast. So what does this do for the rest of the trial?

It raises the expectations for the prosecution and lowers them for the defense. The jurors now have the stage set in their minds of the slick pros over at the prosecutors office taking on the bumbling, stumbling keystone cops for the defense. Now, when the state comes through with nothing but circumstantial evidence, and some fairly weak circumstantial evidence at that, and the bumbling, stumbling keystone cops are able to tear that evidence apart on cross, then that looks like the facts must be so tilted in favor of the defendant that even nearly incompetent counsel can easily defeat such a case.

And after reviewing Don West’s masterful handling of the Frye hearing, I just cannot believe that his performance during his opening was anything BUT masterful strategy on the defense’s part.

    VetHusbandFather in reply to cazinger. | June 26, 2013 at 2:47 am

    Interesting take. I think you may be right, after all the defense only has to win the jurors over to their side, not popular opinion. I do think there is some risk in losing popular opinion here though, not from the stand point of the likely inevitable acquittal, but from the perspective of widespread backlash when Zimmerman is acquitted. After Zimmerman is acquitted, everyone will kick and scream about how the corrupt system is so stacked against minorities that even these ‘bumbling’ defense lawyers were able to get an acquittal for a fellow white man. After all, wasn’t that the rhetoric that got us to this trial in the first place?

[…] Aiding Professor Jacobson is attorney Andrew Branca, the author of an important book on the law of self-defense.  I recommend that you visit his fine posts on the trial as he has been following what I could not.  You might wish to begin with his analysis of the opening statements.  […]