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Zimmerman Trial LIVE – Day 1 – Opening Statements

Zimmerman Trial LIVE – Day 1 – Opening Statements

Today we will again be covering the Zimmerman Trial live, all day. Continuing commentary will be posted in the Twitter feed of selected contributors below the first video feed, and breaking news will be added at the bottom of this post. Also, at day’s end I will post a separate comprehensive wrap-up discussing what happened and implications for the case moving forward. Thanks for joining us!

Finally, we’ve pulled together a compilation of our notes on these six final jurors (and the four alternates) here: Meet the Zimmerman Trial Jurors.

To see our extensive prior coverage posted on Legal Insurrection, click here: Legal Insurrection’s Zimmerman Trial LIVE coverage all day, everyday by Andrew Branca, author of The Law of Self-Defense

For all of our prior coverage on issues specific to the Law of Self Defense as covered at my own blog, click here: Law of Self Defense Blog: Zimmerman Trial

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WITH COMMENTARY FROM CHANNEL 9 IN SANFORD

[For live-stream video without commentary, see NBC live feed at bottom of this post.]

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(My tweets can be identified as coming from @lawselfdefense.)


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LIVE-STREAM WITHOUT COMMENTARY FROM NBC

Monday, June 24 Commentary

We’ve pulled together a compilation of our notes on these six final jurors (and the four alternates) here: Meet the Zimmerman Trial Jurors.

Today marks the first day of the trial proper, with opening statements. It is with these statements that both the State and the defense will set out their theory of the case.

To date, the State’s apparent theory has been that Zimmerman “profiled, chased, and killed Martin.”

The theory of the defense, in addition to challenging the underlying criminality of Zimmerman’s alleged “profiling” and “chasing,” is that Zimmerman’s killing of Martin was done in necessary and lawful self-defense, as provided under Florida law.

LUNCH RECESS UPDATE

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.

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.

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 unlikely that the juror will be more convinced 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 court room.)

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.

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.

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 rolled out exhibit after exhibit, including Google map images of the housing complex generally and the scene of the conflict in particular.

He played both Zimmerman’s non-emergency call to police as well as Witness #11’s 911 call, both 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 described how Zimmerman carried his gun loaded in the completely ordinary fashion, as he’d been taught by a friend who has long been a Federal law enforcement officer.

He placed the expected witness testimony in context, 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).

After 90 minutes of this West seemed prepared to continue indefinitely, but the Court called a lunch recess at 12:30. When the Court returns at 1:30PM West will resume his opening statement, and I would not be at all surprised if he continued for an additional 90 minutes.

OK, I need to grab a bite to eat myself. See you all back here at 1:30PM.

–Andrew


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 Amazon.com, 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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Comments

Uncle Samuel | June 24, 2013 at 9:45 am

Trayvon was the victim of deadly black gangsta culture and the violent, sexually deviant and promiscuous role models in that culture.

Arizona ‘fruit juice’ and skittles are ingredients in black gangsta drug drink called purple drank’ – http://thekansascitian.blogspot.com/2012/05/more-than-bag-of-skittles-trayvon.html.

NOTE: Trayvón’s own tweets about the drug at the link.

    Uncle Samuel in reply to Uncle Samuel. | June 24, 2013 at 9:48 am

    The news media, Crump, the Martin’s lawyer and others HID the truth and published lies about Trayvon’s character and his illegal and violent activities.
    They published incendiary lies about Zimmerman, just as the Prosecutor is doing right now.

      Ragspierre in reply to Uncle Samuel. | June 24, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      Not sure what “lies” you are alluding to here.

      One thing I heard on the radio news is that the State said there was no physical evidence that Zimmerman was injured.

      THAT…if true…is a terrible, awful, really BAD error.

      In closing you HAMMER that kind of misrepresentation and remind the jurors of what the evidence ACTUALLY DOES say. “If the State was willing to tell you what they did, and the evidence clearly shows is NOT true…just what do you think they would not tell you to try to wrongfully convict Mr. Zimmerman. What else did they tell you that is not so?”

        inspectorudy in reply to Ragspierre. | June 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

        I do not know you or your motives but you seem determined to play devil’s advocate at any cost. A lie in our modern media can be an omission as well as a false statement. We have seen this over and over again in the msm where they alter the transcript of documented statements made by various people by OMITTING certain words and then present the doctored evidence as true facts. That is a lie even though the rest of the statements are the exact words of the defendant. Mr. Martin stated firmly without any equivocation that the voice heard on the dispatcher’s recording was NOT his son’s voice. Now he says it is his son’s voice. Why? Crump got to him and told him that if it was Zimmerman’s voice then his son did what Zimm said he did. Zimm on the other hand has not had ONE single piece of his statement that he gave that night to the police changed or proven false. Not one! Think about yourself being there that night and being involved with what happened and you had to give a statement and you did not give one incorrect detail or false statement. I understand being a neutral but you are going out of your way to be negative about any comments that are not concrete facts. You are not the judge and we are not the trying lawyers so get over yourself.

    Ragspierre in reply to Uncle Samuel. | June 24, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    And sugar and cocoa powder are ingredients in pot-laced brownies.

    Very few people would be willing to make the stretch you seem (and we know you are not alone in this) to want to make.

    You don’t just seem willing, but eager.

I’m trying to maintain a sense of objectivity in this case. But one thing I’ve learned, is that when only one side of a case is heard, it always seems to be the correct side.

The most salient negatives against the defendant right now, based on the prosecution’s opening: Is that he was 200 lbs, to Trayon’s 158 lbs, and was training in MMA, and had a tendency towards vigilantism. All the other fluff was just window dressing. I am looking forward to hearing the evidence he cited that will be introduced.

It will be also interesting to see how the Defense’s theory of what the circumstances were during the night of the incident.

Are objections during opening statements normal?

    Paul in reply to JasonI. | June 24, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I was taken aback by that objection as well. And I think the defense recovered gracefully from the sustain, by saying the “Evidence will show this is a sad case.”

    Very gracefully getting back on track.

    Ragspierre in reply to JasonI. | June 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Objecting during opening or closing arguments is considered “bad form” by most trial attorneys. I will VERY seldom object unless someone is misrepresenting…not just spinning…the evidence.

    Still, it is used by some to try to throw the presenting attorney off their stride.

    This was a chickenspit objection, IMNHO.

The manner of the defense opening statement is one of “pre-meditated disorganization” in regard to the Audio visual aids. It has a great effect in deflating the emotional whiz-bang fluff of the prosecution. All the while, the defense is focusing the jury on the locale and circumstances.

Quite good.

    JasonI in reply to Paul. | June 24, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Note to self: always control my own A/V equipment and have it down pat before presenting.

    inspectorudy in reply to Paul. | June 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Pual, I hope you are right about the opening statement by the defense being by design because it was so disorganized and the lawyer was so un charismatic that it was stunning. He came across as a bumbling unprepared idiot who got confused and was trying the case instead of making an opening statement. His visual aids were a mess and he didn’t even know the name of one of the streets that he referred to in his statement. He made Matlock look like William Jennings Bryan.

      Brilliant legal theater. West not “being able” to remember the street name–in a case he’s been fully committed to for a year?–normalizes Zimmerman’s apparent (if explainable) forgetfulness the night of the attack. See jury, even I can’t always remember the name of the street, it’s not so unusual.

      The same with all the “accidental” going out of bounds with various pieces of evidence, inducing the prosecution to make unforced errors–every time they object, West gets to “rephrase the question,” and hit the theme again. And again. And again. All by accident, don’t you know. He’s just a bumbling idiot.

      Very subtle. Great stuff.

I keep hearing people talking about “Stand Your Ground”, and that this is an “only in Flori-DUH!” kind of case because only Florida has “stand your ground” legislation.

I had thought that many other states besides Florida don’t necessarily require a duty to retreat (whether their specific legislation has a catchy brand name like “Stand Your Ground” or “Castle Doctrine” or not); and I had thought that this (Zimmerman case) was a standard self-defense issue (not SYG) anyway, since if things happened the way Zimmerman claimed they did (Martin attacked him, he feared for his life, he used his gun to try to save his life), he hardly would have been in a position to retreat, so no SYG law necessary) – and if they didn’t happen the way he claims they did (i.e. if he hunted down Martin, attacked him, and shot him in cold blood) that wouldn’t be covered under a SYG defense at all.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to AmyFL. | June 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    If that was the State’s theory (hunted him down, shot him in cold blood, etc.), they’d be chaging him with 1st-degree murder, not 2nd-degree.

    Just sayin’. 🙂

      No, I know that’s not what the State is officially claiming, but it’s sure what people on the street (or the ‘net, our new global street) are happy to argue. I’ve seen claims that if Zimmerman isn’t found guilty, it’ll absolutely be because of Central Florida’s KKK past o_0
      To hear tell, you could be forgiven for thinking that the greatest threat to life for young black males in Florida is being gunned down by racist white-hispanic heirs of the KKK, instead of what the reality is. SMH.

    The vast majority of states–34, to be exact–are “Stand Your Ground” states in the sense that they have no general duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense (if you are in place you have a right to be, were not the aggressor, and all the other hoops).

    FWIW, some in the Australian media are playing up Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” angle too, making it sound like everyone walks around with guns there (“semi-automatics!!!11!!!”) and shoots anyone who even looks at ’em funny. They’re also playing up the KKK/raaaaacist angle, making it sound like the reason the police didn’t immediately charge Zimmerman with murder was that they’re all stereotypical good ol’ boy racist Southerners who heartily approve of gunning down innocent young black kids in cold blood. That’s why this blog, and also Jacob Sullum’s coverage at Reason (http://reason.com/tags/trayvon-martin ), are welcome as reality-checks.

“Castle doctrine” isn’t the same as “Stand your ground”. SYG means that in a situation which justifies forcible defense, flight is one of the defender’s options, but not the only option. Basically, details of the response are left up to the guy on the spot (ie, the person defending himself), which seems perfectly sensible. CD means that if a suspicious person – one who has no legal right to be there – id enocuntered in one’s own home,

    Yes, I know that Castle Doctrine isn’t the same as Stand Your Ground, but isn’t the common point to both of them that you don’t have a duty to retreat (applying to you in your home in the case of Castle Doctrine, and extending to anywhere you lawfully have a right to be in the case of Stand Your Ground)?

    And the point I was getting at as well, was that (A) Florida is hardly the only place in the US where you don’t have to prove that you tried to run away, and (B) nothing about SYG applies to this case anyway.

      Both the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground are exceptions to the traditional general duty to retreat before you use deadly force in self-defense. Every state has some version of the Castle Doctrine. A minority of states–17–maintain a general duty to retreat. A majority of states–34–have no general duty to retreat, and would qualify as “Stand Your Ground” states.

“Castle doctrine” isn’t the same as “Stand your ground”. CD is limited to how you handle illegal intruders into your “castle”, basically the interior of your home. SYG means that flight is not a required response to potentially deadly assault in public; more proactive defensive actions may be justified.

The press and the general public seem to have a lot of trouble understanding these concepts. Some of them are activists or trolls, but many seem honestly confused.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to rantbot. | June 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Much of the general public is usually confused. The reason for that is that they’re too lazy to tax their God-given brains to work out the simplest concept. If it’s not spoon-fed to them by the idiot box in their living rooms, it’s just too much like homework to figure it out for themselves.

    kentuckyliz in reply to rantbot. | June 30, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    CD/SYG isn’t just about your home…it’s about your workplace and vehicle too. TM behaved aggressively by circling GZ’s vehicle while putting his hand in his waistband. To me, that would suggest he was reaching for a gun or mimicking it to be intimidating. If GZ panicked at that moment and shot him, it might be a CD case then. As I understand it, CD varies by state so check your own state’s laws. I recall a CD situation in TX where a guy walked into a gas station convenience store, grabbed a case of beer, and walked out without paying. The clerk shot him dead and the prosecutor wouldn’t bring charges, because he was defending his property under CD. Seems heinous, but perhaps criminals need to change their estimation of risk–is my life worth a case of beer? It would have to be a really hot day and I would have to be desperately thirsty.

      Careful, kentuckyliz, these rules vary tremendously by state. I don’t recall the rules in KY off-hand (although they’re in my book, just like every other state, hint-hint), but assuming you know them cold doesn’t mean they necessarily apply in anything like the same way in Tennessee or Arkansas, or (God forbid) Massachusetts.

      –Andrew, @LawSelfDefense

Double posts, anyone?

Mister Natural | June 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

Prosecutor John Guy ain’t no Juan Martinez.
Thankfully

20+ states have SYG while another 20 have Castle Doctrine…sort of a subset of SYG.

Zimmerman isn’t using SYG…he is using self defense.

Kind of hard to SYG when you are sucker-punched by a Lean-soaked adolescent and on the ground.

Martin’s probable drugged condition outlined here: http://thekansascitian.blogspot.com/2012/05/more-than-bag-of-skittles-trayvon.html

Ouch! Defense brings up a powerful salient point in the whole affair: Traynon did NOT go home after running into the cut-through. Could this be the point in which the aggressor status flips?

    Immolate in reply to Paul. | June 24, 2013 at 11:45 am

    That has always been the point at which the prosecution’s strained theories begin to unravel. It is physically most unlikely that Zimmerman could have prevented Martin from escaping to his father’s apartment, or in rainy conditions could have successfully followed him.

    On another note, does anyone else think that the defense had been encouraging Zimmerman to overeat to make him look less threatening and to dramaticize the difference in the two players?

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Immolate. | June 24, 2013 at 5:14 pm

      No. A slimmer, younger-looking GZ is more sympathetic than a bloated, older-looking GZ.

@Paul,
Yep…I’d think so. I’ve maintained this over and over. Martin should have gone home and called 911 about the ‘white hispanic guy’ following him.

Martin had plenty of time to make it home and inside. He came back. Just like the case up here in Jacksonville where a woman left a threatening situation to her garage, got her gun and came back and fired a “warning shot.”

She should have left, since no one else was in danger. And as a result, she’ll end up serving some time.

Martin came back. That’s clear. He was the aggressor and Zimmerman was defending himself against the drugged out punk.

    Immolate in reply to profshadow. | June 24, 2013 at 11:47 am

    While Martin was almost certainly a user of drugs, whether he was actually under the influence during the incident should not be an uncertainty. Either he was or he wasn’t, and the blood will tell the tale.

      Ragspierre in reply to Immolate. | June 24, 2013 at 11:55 am

      It did. And he was not.

        the thc in blood was what? leftover from prior use?
        I forget details.

          Ragspierre in reply to dmacleo. | June 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

          I looked up the autopsy the other night because I was curious about any “trajectory” evidence. Nothing much there about that.

          The THC level was in the “not intoxicating” range, and the THC metabolites could be from a LONG time ago (weeks, as I understand).

          I thought maybe that was it but had been so long since I looked.

          fogflyer in reply to dmacleo. | June 24, 2013 at 1:09 pm

          I seem to recall the blood had 3ng/ml which would suggest he had been intoxicated within the previous 12 hours or so. While actually high, readings of 100ng/ml would be expected. I believe they also said you could have baseline readings as high as 3 ng/ml for several days if you were a very heavy.

          This is a different test than the metabolites that can remain in your system for weeks. This test was a measurement of actual THC.

          fogflyer in reply to dmacleo. | June 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm

          That was supposed to read “very heavy USER”

          fogflyer in reply to dmacleo. | June 24, 2013 at 1:27 pm

          Got to agree the the joke was a stupid move.
          If you have to preface it by saying, “some of the jury may find this offensive, but please don’t take it out on my client” … Maybe you just shouldn’t say it.

    That’s what I can’t get over either. Granted, I’m a girl, but if I’m out there walking and get the feeling I’m being followed, and start getting creeped out by it, and I’m just 400 feet from my front door, I’m not going to be hanging around — I’m making a beeline for home.

    As the saying goes, “why borrow trouble?”

Interesting procedural point and take-away…

Martin’s family will NOT be witnesses.

What we in Texas call simply “the rule”, once invoked, excludes all but a very few witnesses (i.e., SOME experts) from the courtroom until after they have testified.

Looks like the same provision exists in Florida, and Zimmerman’s family had to leave the courtroom.

    Immolate in reply to Ragspierre. | June 24, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Interesting. Why would the prosecution chose not to use the “victim’s” family, especially his mother, to make an emotional appeal to the jury? Are they too rough around the edges to be compelling, or would they be opening too many doors on cross?

      Ragspierre in reply to Immolate. | June 24, 2013 at 12:21 pm

      There are potentially a butt-load of reasons, and I can’t pretend to guess which are in play, and to what extent.

      I predicted that neither family would testify during this phase, partly over relevance and the probative/prejudicial calculus.

      Could be the State felt the silent (which will still speak volumes) presence of the Martin parents will be more influential than anything they might (predictably and hence easily discounted) say.

    cazinger in reply to Ragspierre. | June 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Martin’s family may still testify. While generally fact witnesses are excluded from the courtroom when they are not testifying (so that they cannot later tailor their testimony to one side or the other), there is an exception for the family or representative of the alleged victim. I did not watch all of the proceedings, but I understand that the defense also tried to get Bernie Crump excluded. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

State will have a lot to prove in order to reach 2nd Degree Murder. Defense is putting up a lot of reasonable doubt just in the opening statement.

I’m gob-smacked that the defense would open with a “knock-knock joke”.

Good-freaking-grief…!!! How ’bout something as simple and powerful as “We all…each of us…has the right to be safe in our persons. Nobody has the right to pen you to the ground and beat you.”

    You know how there’s always one Dad who makes his kids cringe with his excruciatingly lame Dad jokes, that no-one but he laughs at?

    I bet he’s that Dad.

      Ragspierre in reply to AmyFL. | June 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      But a trial lawyer is an actor on a stage…and HAS to be aware of everything…ALLLLLLL the time.

      Even the way you move in the courtroom is part of the persuasive package. In my case, I am big and somewhat imposing, so I am careful to not approach the jury too closely, or hover over a witness.

Even FOX is spinning it for the prosecution. That stupid “knock-knock” joke gave them the perfect opening. Dumb move, West.

Never mind the two-hour opening statement from the defense.

If I were inclined toward paranoia I’d wonder if they were throwing the case. And if I were on the jury I would begin to suspect that there might be some “there” there after all.

I think Zimmerman should be very grateful that Cory did not do the opening.

Like her or hate her, she is considered a very effective trial advocate in the Florida criminal bar.

I think West made some mistakes, but I also think he was effective.

Where is Angela Corey? Last year she was front and center, now she’s nowhere to be seen.

    Ragspierre in reply to myiq2xu. | June 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    According to accounts, she’s right there are counsel table.

    Just like firms with associates, sometimes seniors will let juniors perform at trial, just so they are “bloodied” and they can learn and be evaluated.

    It COULD…I stress…also indicate she is doing what she can to distance herself from the case.

    Although, given her beeeee-zar and unethical behavior WRT Da Dersh last year, she should have simply withdrawn.

Zimmerman’s lawyer just told a jury full of women who love animals (how many of them are involved in animal rescue?) that Zimmerman bought the gun to kill a DOG?

And that was supposed to make him look GOOD?

Oh dear.

    Crawford in reply to AmyFL. | June 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    The dog was attacking people, and the police advised Zimmerman to get a gun to defend himself against the dog.

    To his credit, Zimmerman took the time and effort to get a concealed carry permit.

      Here’s what my thinking would be: You live in a residential area (not out in the country), you know the dog’s name, so you probably know or could find out who owns the dog. You inform Animal Control, they go out to the owner’s house, charge them with leash law infringements and possibly have the animal officially declared a Dangerous Dog (http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusflst767_04.htm#s11). Then if the owner flouts the Dangerous Dog law provisions, more charges, and the dog gets seized. Habitually roaming dogs can also be trapped. There are a lot of suggestions I’d make before telling someone who’s never owned a gun before to try to shoot a fast-moving dog in a crowded residential neighborhood which is probably full of little kids and such.

      Sorry, I’m not saying a citizen doesn’t have every right to use a gun to protect themselves against dangerous animals, because he or she does, and sometimes it’s the only way, but the scenario just sounds kind of “off” to me. And I expect it might to some of the women on the jury who work in animal rescue, and have probably dealt with animal control before, too. I know it’s a minor point, it just struck me funny.

        rantbot in reply to AmyFL. | June 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm

        They’re not moving all that fast after they’ve got their jaws clamped onto your arm or leg.

    kentuckyliz in reply to AmyFL. | June 30, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    Good’s testimony–at first when he stepped out and looked, he thought it might be a dog attacking a person. So dog attacks aren’t only on GZ’s brain. That was the first perception of possibility by Good until he saw that it was two men.

The defense stumbled a bit in opening, but I thought they did an excellent job taking on the screaming for help heard on the 911. There were some items I hadn’t heard before. If they can get the jury to believe that it was George screaming, I think the case is over.

The author of this piece is suggesting that the prosecution’s opening was utterly disastrous, and the defense’s opening delivered an arse-kicking. That may or may not be true–but the opening “joke” by defense attorney West was beyond idiotic, and the failure of any mention of that disaster in this post makes me think that the analysis here consists of at least some degree of cheerleading.

We don’t need that. If I don’t get the feeling that this is a source for straight reporting and unflinching analysis at the trial, I’ll look for coverage elsewhere.

    cazinger in reply to gravytop. | June 24, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    I wouldn’t say that the prosecution’s opening was a “disaster”, but I would say that it was … less good than I would expect for a case of this magnitude. Generally for the opening statement, the attorney will try to lay out the facts in an almost story like manner – and tell the “story” of what brought everyone to court that day. After that, you expect some preview or roadmap of what the evidence will be and what the attorney thinks it will show. The prosecution did a good job of telling the story (complete with the overdramatic voices and pauses and sneers towards the defendant), but they were very light on linking any actual evidence to that story.

    As for West’s performance, I was frankly a little stunned. It certainly did seem somewhat disorganized. And that joke was god-awful. In fact, I think that one of the reasons he went so long was to try to bury any memory of that joke that the juror’s might have under an avalanche of evidence and facts. I would certainly HOPE that the defense’s opening was that disorganized on purpose – perhaps to demonstrate to the jury that even a disorganized opening cannot help but still succeed when it presents so many of the facts and evidence of the case.

      gravytop in reply to cazinger. | June 24, 2013 at 6:59 pm

      Watching the closings now. I agree with your assessment, defense seems v. disorganized… I think the defense should be starting with an overarching story, not a technical point about the “hole in Trayvon Martin’s skin.”…

    In the very limited time of mid-day recess I try to include the most important items. West’s bad joke was not among them. I did include West’s joke, word-for-word, in the lengthier end-of-day wrap-up. Fair enough?

I watched most of the presentation by Don West. He tried to make numerous points that were ruled out of order. Wouldn’t he have known that this was the likely result? Question for those with trial experience: do attorneys sometimes deliberately seek to have some of their questions stricken by the judge, for a rhetorical effect that they see as beneficial to their cause?

    Ragspierre in reply to James IIa. | June 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    A LOT of strategery goes into making and NOT making objections, and saying stuff you figure MIGHT draw an objection.

    For instance, West got to make a point that was essentially an argument. (Ideally, openings are not supposed to be arguments, but previews of coming attractions.

    He drew an objection, which was properly sustained (worth noting a judge can sustain your objection, and still telegraph to a jury he/she thought it chicken).

    To “heal” his offense, all he had to do was say, “We expect the evidence will show…”. While getting to make his point the second time.

    You do that as many times as the other side offers you…!!!

      James IIa in reply to Ragspierre. | June 24, 2013 at 7:17 pm

      Thanks, Ragspierre. So stepping over the line is not always a sign of incompetence. The jury may remember the point better when he gets to his summation.

        Ragspierre in reply to James IIa. | June 24, 2013 at 7:35 pm

        Often, it is a sign of good trial advocacy.

        “…the jury will disregard…” In a pig’s eye!

        ALSO, you DON’T object for the very reasons I’ve alluded to. You DON’T give the other guy a chance to keep repeating his points.

        I often ask leading questions, knowing I’m likely to draw an objection that will allow me to ask the SAME question a very slightly different way…winking at the jury (in effect).

From the article above:

“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. ”

I found this to be very true. About halfway through the State’s opening, I found I could not help myself but to try to help out with the scary story by making scary “Ooooooohs” and “Aaaaaaaahs” and other scary noises whenever Guy would shift into his “dramatic” voice.

It got a little silly after a while. Using it here and there for effect is okay, but to make an entire 30 minute opening statement using nothing but that “dramatic” voice he tried to use – I mean, it just felt like a high school play – using an “OK” high school actor to do a soliloquy.

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