The Prosecution’s Weak Case
The prosecution rested on Friday. In the end, they have very little. They proved what was undisputed: Zimmerman intentionally used deadly force against Trayvon Martin. What they have not proved is that Zimmerman’s claim of self defense was disproven beyond a reasonable doubt. Indeed, they did not even prove that Zimmerman started the fight with Martin, that he disobeyed law enforcement instructions not to follow him, or that the screams recorded in the 911 calls of Jenna Laurer were not his.
Instead, we heard from only two “ear”-witnesses that suggested Zimmerman may have at one point had the upper hand. These two only heard the fight, could not identify the source of the noise, saw the figures near the end of the fight through bushes and in the dark, and concluded based on media photos that the voice must have been Trayvon’s due to his youth, and also concluded Trayvon must have been the “smaller” person in the fight based on these media photos. The 7-11 photos of Trayvon Martin instead showed him to be a very tall young man. The histrionic 911 caller, Surdyka, also said she heard three shots, which is not consistent with any evidence or testimony. Notably, Laurer, Mora, and Good were all more favorable to the defense and more generally credible (i.e., not weird) unlike the first two callers, one of whom was histrionic, and the other of whom, Bahadoor, showed bias by “liking” pro-Trayvon facebook pages.
The closest eyewitness, Good, saw the two fighting and identified Zimmerman as the person on the bottom based on his red jacket. Also, the identification of Zimmerman on top at the very end of the fight by Mora is consistent with Zimmerman’s own testimony that he scurried out from under Trayvon after he shot him and tried to put his arms away from him, as he thought he might have a weapon.
The state’s law enforcement witnesses were uniformly professional and credible. That said, most helped the defense on cross, noting that Zimmerman was consistent, seemed to have normal emotional reactions to the event, and that his account generally matched those of the various eyewitnesses. Most important, the state made a surprising unforced error in letting in three largely consistent videotaped statements by Zimmerman into evidence. All included Zimmerman’s account that he was searching for an address to provide to law enforcement and then returning to his car, after the suggestion to do so by the 911 operator. He was ambushed after Trayvon Martin had more than enough time to make it home, and his physical injuries were consistent with his account of being sucker punched and then having his head bashed in the concrete by Martin and, most important, he described himself as the person screaming before he knew that it was recorded on any 911 calls. When told by detective Serrano in a “challenge interview” that video of the events might exist, he said, “Thank God.”
We also heard from the state’s “star witness,” Rachel Jeantel. Her testimony was clearly custom designed to fill in the original gaps in the prosecution’s case. But she confirmed Trayvon Maritn made it home. This is important and suggests Martin returned to have a fight with Zimmerman. And she equivocated on what was said in the initial exchange of Martin and Zimmerman. At first she said Martin asked “why are you following me” and Zimmerman responded by asking “what are you talking about.” But in later accounts, she said, he said, “What are you doing here?” Neither is clearly that confrontational and, of course, neither gives a legal right to start wailing on someone, as Trayvon clearly did. But her inconsistencies and penchant for lying undermine her credibility. They suggest she is making things up to accommodate the great pressure she felt from Martin’s family and from her own guilt. Jeantel admitted to lying about her age, lying under oath about why she did not attend Trayvon’s funeral, preparing a letter that she could not even read, and her overall failure to follow up with Travyon after losing contact and hearing the beginnings of a fight put a cloud over her testimony. Her actions do not make sense. I believe it is plausible under the circumstances she egged on Zimmerman to undertake an assault; after all, she and Trayvon both thought he was a “creepy ass cracker.” Her overall hostile and disrespectful demeanor suggest something indirectly about the type of person Trayvon was, a suggestion that his school record, texts from friends about “always fighting,” phone photos of guns and drug use all further reinforce, though the latter have been hidden from the jury.
The state stumbled with the medical examiner, Bao, on Friday, but the most important parts of his testimony–that Trayvon died from a gunshot wound to the heart–were not really in dispute. He also noted the lack of other significant injuries to Trayvon, other than abrasions to his knuckles and not abrasions or bruises on his head, which is consistent with Zimmerman’s account of being pounded into the sidewalk. He was generally a hostile and very defensive witness that added little to the state’s case. Further, the judge probably committed the most obvious example of reversible error by not allowing him to testify that he changed his mind about whether the levels of THC in Trayvon’s system would have affected his behavior; the judge earlier reserved ruling on this testimony, and would not allow any testimony about the change in his views or what that may mean as far as Trayvon’s likelihood to be aggressor, which is a directly relevant fact in a self defense case.
Finally, we did hear from Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, that the screams were her son’s. We also heard from Trayvon’s brother, who was a model of dignity, but whose testimony about the 911 calls contradicted his earlier statements. They were sympathetic witnesses and I do not think they were lying, strictly speaking. That said, they were not believable due to being clouded by self-interest. At the very least, they could be doubted. Their testimony was quickly neutralized by O’Mara’s introduction of Zimmerman’s own mother, who said, “that’s my son, George,” along with Zimmerman’s uncle, who said she recognized Zimmerman’s voice before knowing what it was. Personally, I’m not sure anyone’s testimony about identification of the screams is believable, as anyone sounds very different screaming for one’s life with the double burden of it being heard from a cell phone in someone’s home. I don’t even know I’d recognize my own family members in that case.
The Fantastic Theories of the Prosecution
What no one has explained is why Trayvon who was clearly beating up Zimmerman would also be screaming for help, as Fulton and others have suggested. It makes no sense, and it also makes no sense that a person with a gun hell bent on shooting someone who he thought was a criminal would get in a minutes long “ground and pound” session (or listen to minutes of defensive screaming) rather than shooting the victim right away. Of course, this doesn’t explain why a murderer hell bent on shooting a “bad guy” would also call 911 and tell them where he was.
The defense and prosecution traded their theories of the case in the course of arguments on a motion for directed verdict. The state prosecutor Mantei was, in a word, completely out of control. He suggested that Zimmerman was a liar based on his testimony on “stand your ground,” which I–a CHL holder, lawyer, and person interested in self defense law–can also say I wasn’t particularly aware of before the Zimmerman case. I, like most people, simply follow the rule of only using self defense as an absolute last resort. The state also suggested the shot to the heart, undoubtedly done under great stress and in the dark, showed “ill will” and “hatred,” even though a center mass shot is the standard instruction of every self defense course and law enforcement trainer in the country. Finally, he suggested some grave discrepancies in Zimmerman’s account, which are hard to see, and said the shot was impossible, when it’s clearly possible to be alternately punched and suffocated, as Zimmerman testified, and also to somehow pull one’s gun out of a holster and rotate it upwards to shoot. The fact the wound was “non-contact” is also consistent with Trayvon’s positioning above Zimmerman. In short, the state substituted high emotion for facts. The judge, who has been very much in the corner for the prosecution, denied the motion with little explanation and seemed to take glee in making the defense begin its case. They took the ball and ran with it and quickly neutralized Sabrina Fulton’s testimony with that of Zimmerman’s mother and uncle.
This case matters. It matters because it is part of an organized campaign of racial hatred drummed up by the media and supported by the President of the United States. It matters to me because I’m increasingly despondent about the culture. In spite of the election of a black president and the near elimination of white racism from society, racial strife continues, as does a plethora of social and economic problems that are an order of magnitude worse among blacks. Imaginary threats of white racism are made up and amplified whenever necessary, whether it’s Paula Deen, who used the word nigger after being robbed at gunpoint by a black man thirty years ago, media specials on decades-old lynchings when black on black murders (and black on white murders) have far outpaced the lynchings of the Old South, or the case of George Zimmerman, whom the media mistakenly thought was a “creepy ass cracker” hell bent on revenge.
The actual fact of high levels of crime and violence by young black men is boring, predictable, and out of alignment with the script. Even real cases of such crime, like that of the Jena Six, are made into cases of black victimhood. The ordinary stories are ignored, downplayed, and recast as proof of white hostility, as I’ve written about before. I have zero faith in politicians, the professional class, politically correct prosecutors, and the media. The media in particular has shown extreme bad faith and has doubled down on this case and increased the likelihood of race riots as a result. Anyone watching the actual testimony would find far-more-than-reasonable doubt that Zimmerman acted in self defense. Indeed, almost no other conclusion is possible. But the misinformation campaign and myth making in the liberal blogosphere are in full swing.
The jury is the last line of defense in our system. It acts as brake on these “official” sources of polite opinion and permits some polling of the sense of the community. The jury in a criminal case is rightly tilted towards acquittal, as a new injustice results whenever an innocent person is sent to prison. My hope–indeed, nearly my last hope–is that this jury will do the right thing. My faith in the country hinges on this. I expect they will do the right thing, as even in the age of political correctness, criminal juries are far more aligned with common sense sentiments than those in civil cases. Most people want to punish the guilty and free the innocent. There is not the same tendency to go haywire out of passion as there is in a civil case pitting the “little guy” against “big corporations.”
The one thing that will not result from this trial, however, even in the case of an acquittal, is the racial peace that we were supposed to have advanced towards with the creation of Civil Rights Laws, the elimination of Jim Crow, the expenditure of trillions on various social welfare programs, the entrenchment of affirmative action programs, and the election and reelection of Barack Obama. Instead, a continued demonization of whites, the promotion of a myth of allegedly endemic white racism, and the tribal and hostile outlook of Trayvon’s supporters will continue.
Ironically, none of this would likely have happened if Zimmerman’s name were Rodriguez. The media mostly ignores black and Hispanic rivalry and differences and intramural crimes, just as they ignore the drumbeat of black on black and black on white crimes. You haven’t heard about that white mother whose baby was shot in the face by black teenagers in Georgia recently, have you? Zimmerman has been transformed into a “white Hispanic” for the media’s purposes. But whether deemed white or Hispanic or both, he is a real human being, above all. He has real constitutional rights. He had every right to help law enforcement investigate Trayvon Martin. He had every right to find out who Trayvon Martin was and what he was doing, even though it appears now he wasn’t doing that. He has every right not to be sacrificed for the mob but instead to be accorded due process. Most important, he had every right not to be beaten to death when he had no idea how many more blows it would take until he were knocked unconscious or killed.
I would go further, in fact. Zimmerman seems to be a pretty good human being. He should be commended for caring about his neighborhood, taking the initiative to report suspicious behavior, and for having shown incredible restraint before using deadly force against Trayvon Martin. Instead, he has been made into a monster through falsehoods and conjecture–remember the nonsense about “coons”–and his reporting of suspicious behavior is being second guessed by people who assume a priori that there is nothing suspicious about a young black man in a hoodie wandering around a Sanford, Florida gated community in the rain. People know what’s suspicious in their communities. There were, in fact, prior break-ins in that community by a 17 year old young black man, who was later arrested. More important for this case, Trayvon Martin’s later actions confirmed that Zimmerman had every right to be suspicious of him. Trayvon Martin was a criminal, he committed many other crimes in his life, he initiated a criminal assault on Zimmerman, and he died as a result of his own string of bad choices.
In the end, Trayvon Martin murdered himself.