Constitutional Law Criminal Law

Prosecution Appears Asleep At the Wheel in George Zimmerman Case

OK, so the eyes of the nation (at least those without daytime jobs) are all on the George Zimmerman trial. I am not a fan of cameras in the courtroom as a general rule but I just caught a few snippets of what is transpiring and I am a little shocked at how the prosecution is handling it so far. They are currently trying to pass off some theory that the defendant planned his actions to comport with the Stand Your Ground defense. That will be a tough act to sell, but it will be even tougher if the prosecution continues to allow its police witnesses to testify about how credible Zimmerman was in their interviews with him before his arrest.

On one of the first days of the trial, in response to a question by defense counsel on cross-examination, Lead Detective Chris Serino stated that he thought Zimmerman was credible when he described how he got into a fight with Martin and had to act in self-defense. There was no objection to the question and only THE NEXT DAY did Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda ask the judge to strike Detective Chris Serino’s statement. The judge granted the motion and told the jury to disregard the statement. Good luck with that. If I tell you right now not to think about a pink elephant, you’re going to think about a pink elephant. Every half-decent trial lawyer knows you can’t “unring the bell.” It’s even harder when I tell you to think about a pink elephant for a whole day and then the next morning tell you not to think about a pink elephant. But why did the DA allow the witness to answer the question posed “Did you believe him?” in the first place? In Florida as in all states, a witness cannot testify to an ultimate question for a jury – credibility of another witness. They also allowed Serino to testify that he did not think Zimmerman’s actions were criminal. That is also the ultimate question for the jury. No motion to strike that testimony was made so that pink elephant is still dancing in jurors’ minds.

Another piece of evidence that may bear on the question of the threat perceived by Zimmerman is the recording of a 911 call in the background of which someone can be heard crying out. The prosecution has suggested the cries came from Martin, while the defense maintains they came from Zimmerman. Yesterday Hirotaka Nakasone, an FBI voice analysis expert, testified that the recording was too short and indistinct for any conclusions to be drawn about who was screaming. Nakasone is the same expert whom the defense used at a pretrial hearing to discredit prosecution witnesses who were prepared to testify that it was Martin in the background of the call. Judge Debra Nelson excluded the testimony of those witnesses, deeming it “not reliable.”
Why is the State calling a witness to tell the jury that a piece of evidence is essentially irrelevant? It makes their case look weak.

You know your case is in bad shape when the NY Times story on the trial has a headline that reads “In Zimmerman Trial, Prosecution Witnesses Bolster Self-Defense Claims.” If they have any hope of getting a conviction in this case, the prosecution better stick to a simple game plan. Trayvon Martin was unarmed and behaving legally yet wound up dead. Zimmerman was looking for trouble and maybe he found some , but he was never so hurt or in jeopardy as to justify shooting a person. Right now, I think the State is going to have a problem convincing a jury that they are smarter than their own lead detective. I can see a few if not all of the jurors saying “If he believed him and if he believed no crime was committed, who are we to say otherwise?”

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