SANFORD, FLORIDA: On the heels of a not guilty verdict, outraged trial observers are stunned. How could someone fatally shoot an unarmed teen and walk out of the courtroom as if it never happened. What went wrong?
First, there’s reasonable doubt. Inconsistencies in testimony are the Holy Grail for reasonable doubt and ultimately a not guilty verdict. The high burden of proof is not overcome with conflicting evidence and the prosecution’s case was driven by it. There was even conflicting evidence as to whose voice could be heard screaming for help on the 911 tape – each side claiming it was the voice of their son.
Runaway Witnesses: Witnesses called by the prosecution gave nothing to dispute Zimmerman’s claim of self defense and failed to establish him as the aggressor. For some witnesses it was difficult to tell whether they were testifying on behalf of the prosecution or the defense.
Strategy Mistakes: Prosecutors made critical missteps in their strategy. Among them: introducing Zimmerman’s statements to police into evidence. The strategy was intended to point out inconsistencies in the statements giving the jury a reason to reject Zimmerman’s account of events. But the move backfired and allowed Zimmerman to avoid the witness stand. Unfortunately for the prosecution, there were only two people who knew what happened that night. One, the deceased Martin and Zimmerman who paraded his version of events into the courtroom through statements given outside of the trial process. This was the knock out blow to the state’s case. The prosecution had to prove Zimmerman acted without lawful authority. Introducing the self serving statements only convinced the jury that Martin attacked Zimmerman therein justifying the shooting. With no other witnesses to refute the out of court statements and no cross examination to expose Zimmerman as a liar whose word could not be trusted, the prosecution walked into the lion’s den of acquittal.
Out-lawyered: Prosecutors were out lawyered by shrewd defense attorneys who skipped the provisions of the “Stand Your Ground” gun-rights law, which eliminates the duty for a person to retreat in the face of danger before using deadly force. Instead, they mounted a traditional self-defense case check-mating prosecutors who again, by introducing Zimmerman’s statements, proved that Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin.
So where do we go from here?
The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union have urged Attorney General Eric Holder to bring a federal civil-rights case against Zimmerman. Holder addressed the case Tuesday when he spoke to the NAACP in Orlando. Said Holder, “we will not be afraid,” and vowed the Department of Justice “will act in a manner consistent with the facts and the law.” A hopeful relief for those salivating to see Zimmerman held responsible in the deadly shooting. Yet, legal experts question whether such a case will be filed, given the same high burden of proof prosecutors faced at the state level.
- NAACP reaches 1 million signatures on Zimmerman prosecution petition (thegrio.com)
- Civil Rights Prosecution of Zimmerman by the Justice Department Would Be Frivolous (usnews.com)
- Civil rights case vs. Zimmerman won’t be simple (miamiherald.com)
- Justice Department To Consider Federal Civil-Rights Charges Against George Zimmerman (djsdoingwork.com)