It was a dark and stormy night.
So started “Paul Clifford,” perhaps the worst successful novel of all time. And so started the events February 26, 2012, when George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin met, one life ended and the other will never be the same. Like the predictable silliness of the 18th Century novel, the trial of George Zimmerman started to a stupid joke, but the plot has improved since then, as have the performance of the defense lawyers . . .
Day Four began with the continuing and contentious cross examination of Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Travon Martin in the moments leading up to the shooting. It was hard to listen to, more difficult to watch and damn near impossible for the court reporter to transcribe. Fortunately, the day continued on a more watchable (and transcribable) note with the testimony of two comely neighbors of Zimmerman who were “earwitnesses” to the event. While perhaps solidifying the timeline, there were two important takeaways.
The first was revealed by a female neighbor who opined that Zimmerman started the neighborhood watch program to be a good neighbor. She corroborated the testimony of the former coordinator of Sanford’s neighborhood watch program. The coordinator had praised Zimmerman’s professionalism, adding “He seemed like he really wanted to make changes in his community, to make it better.” This was another kick in the teeth to the prosecution’s strained narrative painting Zimmerman as a heartless vigilante.
The second takeaway was that everybody who was living in proximity of the shooting seems to have moved away. I wonder why.
The highlight of Day Five was the testimony of Jonathan Good, a neighbor who saw more of the fight between Martin and Zimmerman than any other witness. Good was the kind of witness that juries love. He was straightforward, unbiased and direct. I’m sure that his standards of personal grooming were also noteworthy.
Judging Good’s credibility for myself, I concluded that he was telling the truth as he saw it. And while it’s possible that he didn’t see what he thought he saw, it sure seemed like he did. He was very convincing.
Several neighbors had testified that they had seen Zimmerman, the “bigger man,” on top. Good contradicted them by stating unequivocally that he saw Martin on top, not Zimmerman, in an MMA technique called “ground and pound.” In other words, he claimed to see Martin sitting on or straddling Zimmerman’s torso and delivering blows from the top or “mount” position.
I’ve seen Randy Couture do that and it seems like being on the bottom would be unpleasant. He’s lucky that none of his opponents were armed.
There was a thorn in the roses of Good’s bouquet of testimony. Good was adamant that he never saw Martin pounding Zimmerman’s head into the concrete, which contradicts Zimmerman’s statement. It also contradicts the defense’s position that the concrete was a deadly weapon, the use of which means that Zimmerman didn’t escalate but only met force with force. Well, the concrete isn’t a deadly weapon if it wasn’t used. Still, Good’s testimony was powerful defense evidence, which is amazing since he was a prosecution witness.
Jonathan Manolo, yet another neighbor, testified that immediately after the event, he asked Zimmerman what happened. Zimmerman told Manolo that he, Zimmerman, was being beaten up and had to shoot someone to save his own life. Because this statement was excited and occurred so close to the shooting, it is considered part of the event and admissible at trial.
If Zimmerman is acquitted, he should throw a party for Manolo. While it appeared that Manolo was actually a little peeved at Zimmerman, Manolo was also the recipient of admissible hearsay, and he was the only person to document Zimmerman’s injuries in their full flower by taking cell phone photos of Zimmerman’s nose and cranium. Right afterwards, the EMTs cleaned Zimmerman up so they could check his injuries. An uncleaned wound usually looks a lot worse than one where the blood has been cleaned away, reducing their potential impact on the jury.
I’ve told Farago on more than one occasion that trials are full of surprises, and one of the biggest occurred during the testimony of the articulate Physician’s Assistant who treated Zimmerman the next day. Let’s get this out of the way first — after her testimony and seeing the accompanying photographs, I believe that George Zimmerman now has the world’s most well-known skull since, alas, poor Yorick’s. I never want to see it again.
The surprise was that, according to the PA, Zimmerman was the trained MMA guy. He was taking MMA instruction three days a week, so maybe he knew a thing or two about ground and pound.
Except for Don West’s faux pas at the beginning of the case, the lawyering has been pretty good. The judge seems to want to move things along and (as she mentioned on Day Five) has agreed with the lawyers to allow them to ask leading questions even on direct as long as they don’t push it too far. Both sides seem to be playing nice so far. There’s still a few weeks to go in this trial, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.