Tag Archives: zimmerman

George Zimmerman Trial on Track to Begin Next Week

Jury selection is slated to begin in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, accused of killing Trayvon Martin last year in Sanford, FL. The Defense appears set to argue not that he didn’t do it, rather that he was justified in killing Mr. Martin. Zimmerman claims that Martin attacked him, and that he shot in self-defense as Martin was slamming his head against the ground, and Zimmerman suffered a broken nose in the incident. Prosecutors allege that Zimmerman followed Martin and initiated the incident, and killed him without justification. The case is being followed not only due to the racial undertones of a caucasian man killing an unarmed black teenager in historically racially divided Sanford, but also because it is the most prominent case to date to deal with Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.

Yesterday was the hearing on the final pretrial motion by defense, to allow some witnesses to testify confidentially, which was opposed by both the state and media outlets. The judge predictably denied the motion: trials happen in open court, and Florida has very broad public record laws. The only time I have seen such a motion granted was on a child victim case. The witnesses are understandably concerned, as Zimmerman has received numerous threats during the course of the case. Now, it will be up to a jury to decide if the State proves the charges, and overcomes the defense, beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt.

George Zimmerman – Trayvon Martin Case Developments

George Zimmerman’s attorneys have requested a continuance of the trial in his murder case for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The trial is set tentatively for early June, and difficulties in t completing the discovery cause the defense to believe they will not be ready in time for that trial date. They are acting proactively well in advance of the trial to allow plenty of notice. They have indicated that the State has required every formality on the discovery process (for instance, forcing the Defense to set depositions simply to learn an address, instead of giving the address that they already know). The State has objected, saying they have complied with other requests, and don’t want to continue the trial. The judge will hear the motion on Tuesday.

http://www.gzlegalcase.com/

George Zimmerman sues NBC for Defamation

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman has sued NBC for defamation, going back to the story they did where they selectively edited the recording of the 911 call.  NBC cut out when the dispatcher asked what race was the young man who Mr. Zimmerman was subscribing.  In doing so, it made it look like he volunteered the race himself, right after saying the individual was up to no good.  It gave a clear impression of racism that played into one of the major issues of the case.  NBC previously published a correction and apology, saying the edit was an error.  I am skeptical of their claim of an error. #standyourground

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/man-charged-in-trayvon-martins-death-sues-nbc-for-defamation/

The “new” George Zimmerman photo

Photo of George Zimmerman taken at the scene

Photo of George Zimmerman taken at the scene

This week George Zimmerman’s defense team released a graphic photograph of Mr. Zimmerman from the night he shot Trayvon Martin.  I’m skipping all the mentions of “alleged” as the Zimmerman team has conceded that he shot and killed Mr. Martin.  The question is whether or not the killing was justified.  The photo is not new, it was contained in the discovery that was provided to the defense team months ago, but this is the first time the image has been released in full, bloody color.

The earlier disclosure had been just a black and white copy, which does not reflect the severity Mr. Zimmerman’s injuries.  Fox News prepared a handy side-by-side comparison.  The color image shows a significant amount of blood coming from Mr. Zimmerman’s nose.  The nose itself appears extremely swollen and discolored.  There are also other markings on his face consistent with injury.  You really cannot identify these details in the black and white photograph without referring to the color picture.

These injuries are significant.  When Mr. Zimmerman’s self-defense claim was first being discussed in the media, reports that his nose were broken were met with skepticism.  This photograph bolsters that claim, which in turn bolsters his credibility regarding his version of events.  This picture cannot tell us exactly how the confrontation went down, but is suggests injuries that are consistent with Mr. Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.  They bolster his argument that he was in fear for his life or great bodily harm.

Something else that’s troubling about the photo’s release is the timing.  While the photo was initially released months ago, the Defense indicates they only recently received the digital, color copy of the image.  They have complained about the State’s reluctance in cooperating with their discovery requests, and this picture was only released as past of the State’s 9th supplemental discovery disclosure.  The delay gives the impression that the State is either playing games with discovery, or deliberately obfuscating the discovery process.  Either possibility is quite troubling.

Florida has very broad rules and a very open discovery process.  The system is designed so that everything gets out on the table well in advance, so that both sides are able to prepare for trial.  There is no valid reason to hold back the digital copy of a photograph.  Further, this image is potentially exculpatory for the Defendant.  As such it is Brady material: exculpatory information that the State is required to disclose immediately.  It is a major violation to withhold Brady material.

Whether there was intentional discovery violations or not, it gives the appearance of impropriety.  It would be a shame to think the prosecutor would be playing games in the discovery process of one of the most discussed cases in the country, especially when they evidence is consistent with the very real possibility that Mr. Zimmerman is innocent of criminal activity.  I have previously criticized the prosecutor appointed on this case, Angela Corey, for the aggressive prosecutorial approach that contributed to a brutal murder conviction being overturned just a few weeks ago.  Allegations of misconduct could call into question any conviction she may acheive in this case as well, though more and more evidence has become public that suggest her decision to prosecute the case, and to charge second degree murder instead of manslaughter is questionable.

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/03/newly-released-photo-shows-bloodied-george-zimmerman-from-night-trayvon-martin/

Michael Jackson murder conviction overturned by FL Supreme Court (not THAT Michael Jackson!)

A Florida man who shares his name with the deceased pop singer had his murder conviction overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.  The Court ruled that the trial court improperly allowed portions of the detectives’ interview with Michael Renard Jackson to be played to the jury.  The offending portion of the interview included several statements of opinion by the detectives, their firm belief in the defendant’s guilt, several statements regarding the victim’s character, and other statements.

Michael Jackson – accused murderer

To break it down simply, anything a defendant says may be used against him at trial.  However, anything the police say to him as they try to elicit a confession should not be used against him.  Their statements are not admissions.  It’s a different story if they ask him a question, and he adopts their statement, but not when he denies the allegation as Mr. Jackson did.  There are exceptions.  For instance, when Mr. Jackson took the stand and testified that he had a relationship with the victim, he opened the door to his statements where he denied knowing her.

The Supreme Court decided the error to allow the interview to be played calls into question the validity of the jury verdict.  The Court found that there were several statements of opinion that were improper and/or inflammatory, and that there is a concern the jury may have given weight to the recorded statements of the officers.  The error falls not only on the judge, but on the prosecutors as well, who fought to introduce the improper evidence over the defense objection.  The lead prosecutor was the elected State Attorney for that judicial circuit, Angela Corey.  She is currently the appointed prosecutor prosecuting George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin killing.

Corey has a reputation for being an exceptionally aggressive prosecutor.  In her comments, she defends the right of the officers to be aggressive in their questioning, which is correct.  However, the fault for the conviction being overturned falls not on the detectives or their aggressive interview technique.  The fault lies in the introduction of the inflammatory statements to the jury, and that falls right on her lap.  Officers are allowed to ask a lot of questions, but many of these comments should not be entered into evidence in court.  Due in large part to her aggressiveness, the case will be reopened and set for a retrial.

Also, Corey indicated she was frustrated because the defense agreed to the segment of the interview played in court, according to her.  This does not sound accurate, for in order for the defense to have standing to appeal, the issue must have ben objected to at trial.  If the defense had agreed to the playing, the right to appeal that decision would have been waived.  Since the Court granted the appeal, the objection must have been lodged, contrary to Ms. Corey’s claim in the article.  I do not doubt her claim she will continue to prosecute the case with the same vigor.

It’s important to remember, this decision does not reflect on Mr. Jackson’s innocence.  It only means that his case must be tried again (without the offending statements).  There is still a great deal of evidence suggesting that he is guilty of this brutal rape and murder of Ms. Andrea Boyer.  It’s a shame for everyone involved that the case will have to be revisited, but to maintain our faith in the system, it is paramount to ensure that everyone gets a fair trial.

Today in the news- Dunn, Zumba, Hurricanes… Update: Zimmerman news

Jury selection continues to crawl along in the Robert Dunn, Bobbie Noonan Day Care 1st Degree murder case.  According to the State Attorney’s Office, they have 29 potential jurors form the first two weeks of selection, and are hoping to get a panel of 60 for the next phase.  Clearly the publicity in the case is making it difficult to get an impartial jury.  However, it’s better to spend the extra time during jury selection to make sure to get it right, so the trial doesn’t have to be retried, as the Gateway Murders trial (Fred Cooper) a couple of years ago.

Alexis Wright, the Zumba Prostitute

“Zumba prostitute” Alexis Wright

Several more names have been released in the Zumba prostitution case (Alexis Wright).  That’s about 40 names at this point… most of them in that little town.  By scale- this is bigger than the Elliot Spitzer case in New York.

And finally, Crimcourts has our fingers crossed for everyone in the path of Hurricane Sandy.  We have an exclusive update from our own correspondent in NYC (my Mom).  Even this morning the streets are deserted.  Rain started at 11 am and has gotten worse, all the stores are closed.  Mom is staying near Grand Central Station, and it’s a ghost town.  Everyone on the east coast stay safe!  (Especially you, Mom!)

UPDATE: George Zimmerman news: the judge has denied a gag order request: the new Judge, Debra Nelson, ruled the State had failed to show prejudice.  This is the second time it has been denied.  Additionally, the judge limited the State’s request for medical records.  Trayvon Martin’s family attorney has been vociferously complaining, but ironically, the outspokenness and public presence the Martin family has presented in the media with their side of the story gives further justification for Zimmerman’s defense team giving updates. #standyourground

George Zimmerman case on track for a June trial

George Zimmerman’s murder case for shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin is tentatively set for trial next June (2013).  That’s a reasonable time frame for such a complicated case.  Zimmerman’s attorneys reiterated that they plan to file for an immunity motion on self-defense (stand your ground), and anticipate that should happen around April or May.  Florida’s stand your ground law provides immunity from prosecution to those who are acting in self-defense.  If Zimmerman is successful, the case will be dismissed without having to go to trial.  The hearing will essentially be a mini-trial, as the judge will have to make a factual determination.  The Defendant has the burden of proof at such a motion, unlike at trial where the burden falls on the prosecution.

Stand your ground motions can be time and money savers, as it is generally much less taxing to put on a limited motion than an entire trial.  This motion will likely involve several days of testimony, so it certainly won’t be cheap, but a jury trial, with selection and additional evidence to be presented, will likely take several weeks.  Additionally, if Mr. Zimmerman was acting in self-defense, he shouldn’t have to face a trial.  The judge will determine if the facts demonstrate that he was acting lawfully.  Prosecutors don’t like arguing these motions: they could have their case dismissed.  However, it’s more efficient to resolve these issues in pretrial, and if they can’t convince a judge that they have a solid case, we shouldn’t be wasting our time on expensive trials.  I’m sure I’ll have more to say when the motion is heard. #georgezimmerman

George Zimmerman’s team requests additional discovery

Details on the defense website here.  They are specifically asking for all documentation and records pertaining to the investigation of the police for how they handled the investigation.  It could provide more fodder for trial when they point out that other law enforcement agencies felt the police mishandled parts of the investigation, if there were such findings.  If not, no harm done.

Zimmerman’s attorney speaks at gun conference

Mark O’Mara, attorney for George Zimmerman, recently spoke at the gun rights policy conference in Orlando, lawyers.com has the details.  He didn’t get into the specifics of Zimmerman’s case, only to suggest that Zimmerman would pursue an immunity motion, which we have discussed on Crimcourts before.  The article says he didn’t say if it would be a Stand Your Ground hearing, but the effect will be the same, regardless of what subsection of the statute is used.

#georgezimmerman #trayvonmartin #standyourground

http://blogs.lawyers.com/2012/10/zimmermans-lawyer-speaks-at-gun-conference/

Judge ordered off George Zimmerman’s case

The appellate court has granted the Petition for Writ of Prohibition filed by George Zimmerman’s defense team.  Florida has a very low standard for recusal of a judge: if a judge does or says something that would make an average person think they wouldn’t get a fair hearing, the judge must recuse himself.  The judge doesn’t get the option of weighing the allegations, even if they are made up.  In this case, the statements leading to the motion are all on the record.  The judge pretty much hammered Zimmerman at the bond reconsideration hearings, as I’ve discussed before on this blog.  See more from the ABA Journal, with links.

The impartiality of the judge is particularly important in this case.  Since the judge has previously commented on the credibility of Mr. Zimmerman, the Defense team decided they had to make this move.  At trial, the witnesses credibility will be determined by a jury, who generally will not be made aware of statements (or Mr. Zimmerman’s silence) at the bond proceedings.  However, the Defense has indicated they plan a stand your ground motion, which will be decided by the judge.  The primary factor in the judge’s deliberation will be the credibility of George Zimmerman, as he’s the only surviving direct witness to the shooting itself, and whether he had been attacked beforehand, or if he attacked Trayvon Martin.  The question to be decided at that hearing will be “who provoked the physical altercation,” for which Zimmerman’s defense relies on the judge believing him.

There is always a consideration to be made at Stand Your Ground immunity hearings as to whether the defense attorney is willing to put the client on the stand, and expose him to cross-examination and to tip the prosecutor as to what he will say at trial.  As Zimmerman previously gave an extensive statement to police, the Defense would like to use that, but the court said in the McDaniel case that hearsay is not admissible.  Ironically, in McDaniel, the state was trying to rely on hearsay to proceed against Mr. McDaniel, but the ruling bars defendants from admitting their own statements.  And to further the irony, the state is allowed to use a defendant’s statements against him/her, but the defendant is not allowed to introduce his own prior statements in his defense!  It will be interesting to see how Zimmerman’s attorney’s proceed, but I anticipate they will probably put Mr. Zimmerman on the stand.