The prosecution had us all wondering which side it was on until Tuesday, when we finally detected that they were putting on a case. At the close of business Monday, Detective Chris Serino stated that he believed Zimmerman was telling the truth when he gave his recorded statements to Sanford Five-O. Tuesday started with a sustained prosecution objection to that answer, which was stricken from the record and magically excised from the hearts and minds of the jurors . . .
Getting around to making some kind of point, the prosecution was able to show that there were various inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s all too numerous statements. For example, Zimmerman said in an interview that he didn’t know about Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law at the time of the incident. “Shazam!” said the prosecutors, and put a couple of Zimmerman’s former teachers on the stand (one by Skype, which proved to be a total fustercluck). The teachers said that yes, they taught Zimmerman about SYG, and that he got an “A” in the course.
I was puzzled by the judge allowing the teachers to testify. I mean, how do you impeach someone who never testified? And if Zimmerman did know the law, so what? Does that make him a criminal mastermind? Yes it does, if the prosecutors are taking their script from a bad episode of Columbo.
As the prosecutors were preening over their coup, the teachers were explaining to the jury that, yes, of course Zimmerman had the legal right to shoot Martin—which added to the death of the prosecution by a thousand cuts. So why were the teachers called to testify when the prosecutors could have proven the same inconsistency by entering the course syllabus and Zimmerman’s transcript?
Trying to tease out another inconsistency, the state put Zimmerman’s best friend on the stand. Federal Air Marshal Mark Osterman [above] testified that Zimmerman told him that Martin grabbed Zimmerman’s gun, which is what Osterman wrote in his book. Or maybe Zimmerman told him that Martin tried to grab his gun. Or grabbed for his gun. Or was cleaning his gun when it just went off.
Osterman—a federal LEO who sweats like he’s in a steam bath—vouched for Zimmerman , entering strong character testimony for the defense. So why did the prosecution put him up there, when all it had to do was enter the book into evidence?
Medical examiner Valerie Rao had looked at Zimmerman’s pictures and read his medical report. Her testimony was a little better (prosecution-wise) but not great. (She was no Quincy, M.E.) She suggested Martin may have only been struck once, and not very hard at that. The defense suggested various counter scenarios to highlight the fact that she didn’t know what she didn’t know. All in all, the jury was left the impression that Zimmerman’s injuries were “insignificant.”
You don’t need injuries to sustain a case of self-defense. In Florida, an armed self-defender has the right to be mistaken about being in imminent danger. But the mistake needs to be reasonable. The non-evidence of a vicious struggle could be construed as evidence that Zimmerman wasn’t in mortal danger when he shot Martin. The lack of defensive wounds does not prove that a reasonable observer (i.e. someone without a dog in the fight) would believe that Zimmerman was not in mortal danger.
Then the prosecution tried to bootstrap the “Zimmerman is a monster” narrative—which cuts against the “Zimmerman acted unreasonably” argument—by showing he was carrying his pistol with a round chambered and a full magazine. In front of a jury that includes two women who own guns and may actually know something about them. The defense did a good job of knocking down that nonsense by showing that it’s common to carry with one in the pipe.
As for Zimmerman’s practice, either he started out the evening with a round chambered before Martin arrived on the scene, or he was carrying Israeli-style, saw Martin walking around in the rain and with murderous rage said to himself “I’m gonna shoot that pucking frick,” whereupon he pulled an extra round out of his own ass, racked the slide and then topped off his mag. I’m leaning away from the latter interpretation.
After eight days of testimony, it seems that only the following have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Trayvon Martin is dead and George Zimmerman killed him.
- An accused who gives no more than a single statement to the police in the presence of his lawyer and who doesn’t go on national television twice won’t have to explain away inconsistencies in his statements when he goes to trial a year and a half later.
- Lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda and Doctor Phil were separated at birth.
So what can we make of this? Two things for sure. First, the Zimmerman prosecutors overcharged like a bunch of cheap Las Vegas hookers on New Year’s Eve. Second, reasonable doubt isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.
The defense wants to depose the Martin family attorney before it puts on its affirmative defense case, so I expect O’Mara to slow play on Friday, after prosecution winds up its case. Its scheduled to conclude with the tearful testimony of Trayvon Martin’s mother. The media will be all over it like a cheap suit. But emotion outpouring isn’t likely to move the needle for the jury—instructed to rule on the facts of the case.