I was visited by my second wife in a nap dream yesterday afternoon. She wore what appeared to be an old English vintage raincoat, with a hood covering her hair. She was looking off into the distance, with a slight smile on her lips.
She was my wife for most of the time I practiced law, and when I wrote KILL ALL THE LAWYERS? – A Client’s Guide to Hiring, Firing, Using and Suing Lawyers, which was pubished by the Prentice-Hall division of Simon & Shuster in early 1986. Long out of print, that book still can be found in online bookstores.
On waking, I crawled out of bed, went into my living room and turned on the evening news to see coming up a special report of the special prosecutor making an announcement in the Trayvon Martin shooting case, in Sanford, Florida. I thought to myself, maybe that case is what the nap dream was about, as seeing the news report was the first thing I did after waking up.
From time to time, I had wondered if I would be put to write something about the Martin case, but so far had not felt the nudge. As I waited on the special prosecutor’s interview, I thought my second wife’s rain coat looked like something Sherlock Holmes might wear. And it had a hood, which Trayvon Martin had on, when he was shot. I was not particularly amused, because I had not wanted to get involved, but it was starting to look like I indeed was going to get involved.
I watched the interview of the special prosecutor, who was appointed by Governor Scott, I think after the Governor removed the local State Attorney from the case. The special prosecutor appeared to be partially of African descent. Trayvon Martin was of African descent.
Made sense. Last thing this case needed was allegations that a white prosecutor was racially prejudiced against people of African descent, when many are claiming the shooter, George Zimmerman, is so prejudiced, even though they never met the man, and even though Zimmerman himself is half Hispanic and half Anglo, and looks in photos to be a lot more Hispanic than Anglo.
Although I thought the special prosecutor talked way too much in the interview, I felt she was careful to lay down the ground rules for her prosecution: that she represents the justice system and not the Martin family, and it is her duty and job to bring out the facts and let a jury decide the case based on the facts. I agreed with her statement that she will not discuss the facts of case itself.
However, when she said she had met with the Martin family and they had prayed together, I wondered if she had lost her mind? Right then and there I thought she should be removed from the case by the Governor.
A prosecutor is not supposed to get chummy with the defendant, nor with the victim or the victim’s family, nor with law enforcement, in this case, the Sanford Police Department. A prosecutor is supposed to be chummy only with the facts and the law and the justice system.
However, to remove this special prosecutor would put the Anglo Governor in the flames, for he would be widely accused of being racially prejudiced after all, and also anti-God, which would put him in the flames even more because he wears his very conservative Christianity on his sleeves.
From the beginning, my lawyer mind has felt there is more to what happened between Martin and Zimmerman that night than the people howling for Zimmerman’s head want to believe. That, of course, will be aired out during the trial, and then a jury will have to make the final call.
I found myself thinking last night that I imagine a stand your ground defense will require George Zimmerman to take the stand in his own defense. Otherwise, how does he raise that defense? I imagine there has to be evidence from some source to support his claim of self defense.
I cannot imagine Zimmerman’s new lawyer relying solely on medical evidence that Zimmerman had a broken nose and an injury to the back of his head, and blood at both places, at the scene of the shooting and at the police station.
I cannot imagine the new defense lawyer letting Zimmerman’s fate before a jury be decided just on that evidence. And I can’t imagine Zimmerman, if, as he claims, he was attacked by Martin, not insisting on taking the stand and telling the jury his side of it.
Of course, if Zimmerman takes the stand, he will be subjected to very tough cross-examination by what appears to be a very experienced and very good special prosecutor. However, she will be limited by the fact that the only living eye witness to what really happened between Zimmerman and Martin, is Zimmerman.
The recordings and videos being played in the news media might be admitted into evidence, but from what I have heard and seen replayed in news reports, those recordings and videos to not refute beyond a reasonable doubt Zimmerman’s claim that Martin viciously assaulted him, and only then did he shoot Martin.
The special prosecutor has to prove her case beyond a reasonable doubt, and if Zimmerman testifies, the special prosecutor will have to convince the jury that Zimmerman is lying. If she is not able to prove Zimmerman is lying, I see no way for the jury to convict him, unless the jury is predisposed to conviction and does not tell the judge that during the jury selection process.
Like it or not, the State of Florida allows a stand your ground defense. That law is not on trial, despite all the media and talking heads attempts to put that law on trial in this case. In the State of Florida, stand your ground is a perfect defense, if the prosecutor is not able to overcome it with the facts.
That appears to be why the Sanford police never brought charges against Zimmerman. They saw his injuries. They figured there had been a fight. They figured it would be hard to disprove Zimmerman’s side of what happened.
Consider this possible scenario.
Zimmerman, who was on Neighborhood Watch that night, sees an unfamiliar young man wearing a sweat shirt with a hood walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood. Zimmerman decides to follow the unfamiliar young man. Zimmerman calls 911 and is told to stop following the young man, the police are being dispatched. Zimmerman knows not how long it will take the police to get there, and he decides to keep following the unfamiliar young man until the police get there and take over. The young man sees Zimmerman trailing him and turns and confronts Zimmerman. They get into an argument, the young man assaults Zimmerman. Punches him in the nose, knocks him to the ground, then jumps on him and starts banging the back of his head against the pavement. Zimmerman now reaches for his gun for the first time. Seeing this is not going the way he had anticipated, Martin screams. Zimmerman shoots Martin.
In my opinion, that scenario makes out a stand your ground defense. If that’s all the jury has before it, I see no way for the jury to convict Zimmerman, unless the jury is contaminated.
I suppose some people will accuse me, an Anglo, of being racially prejudiced against people of African descent. I was accused two years ago of being racially prejudiced against people of Hispanic descent, which my Hispanic friends found seriously amusing. I was raised by a black woman, whose father had been a slave on a south Alabama plantation. That woman was my real mother. I wrote about her in A Few Remarkable (Birmingham) People I Have Known at goodmorningbirmingham.com.
Her portrait is entitled “She Worked Behind the Scenes.” Behind the scenes, she was a matriarch in the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham. During the time of the troubles, as they still are called, she spent her days off from working for our family, she lived with us, going into black churches and counseling blacks to be patient with their white brothers and sisters. Read that portrait of a living saint, before accusing me of being racially prejudiced against people of African descent.
Then read these two reports I found by by googling George Zimmerman’s injuries. I found a good bit more, but these two reports seemed very on point re the special prosecutor’s difficulties in proving her 2nd degree murder charges, or any charges, beyond a reasonable doubt. I added the bold to what I feel is most problematic for the special prosecutor.
Updated: Monday, 02 Apr 2012, 1:12 PM EDT
Published : Saturday, 31 Mar 2012, 4:42 PM EDT
By Jennifer Bisram
FOX 35 News
A man who lives in the Retreat at Twin Lakes Sanford Community where George Zimmerman lives and where 17-year old Trayvon Martin was killed, talked exclusively to FOX35 Friday about what he saw on Zimmerman’s face less than 24-hours after the shooting.
“I saw George, he was banged up,” he said.
The man, who didn’t want his identity revealed, said he saw bandages on Zimmerman’s nose and on the back of his head and well as lumps on his face.
He told FOX35 he hasn’t been able to sleep knowing that people in America are portraying Zimmerman as a racist and a murderer who suffered no injuries.
“I believe you have the right to pull the trigger if you feel like your life is on the line and after seeing George’s face the next day, I believe his life was on the line,” he said.
He said while the surveillance video of Zimmerman at the Sanford police department being brought in for questioning after the shooting doesn’t clearly show his injuries, it clearly shows an officer looking at his head.
Attorney Craig Sonner said the public is only hearing part of the story, and when all the facts come out, it will be clear that Zimmerman acted in self defense. A grand jury is scheduled to begin hearing the case April 10.
“George Zimmerman suffered a broken nose, and had an injury to the back of his head, he was attacked by Trayvon Martin on that evening,” Sonner said. “This was a case of self defense.”
When asked why Zimmerman went after Martin, even though a 911 dispatcher told him not to, Sonner said: “Those are questions that will be answered.”
Trayvon Martin Case: Timeline of Events
Sonner said the so-called stand-your-ground law, under which a person who feels threatened is not required to retreat and can “meet force with force” if attacked, will be applicable in the case.
Sonner insisted that Zimmerman is not a racist, pointing out that he and his wife mentored for two black children for free.
Martin Family/AP Photo
Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by… View Full SizMartin Family/AP Photo
Trayvon Martin, 17, was fatally shot by neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman.
“When I asked this mother [of the mentees], who trusted [Zimmerman and his wife], and she’s an African-American, if she trusted George Zimmerman, she said she did, and I asked her if there was anything that caused her to believe that she was a racist, and she said, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I said, went further, ‘Did you ever hear him use racial slurs in any time that you’d been around him?’ And she said, ‘no’ as well,” Sonner said.
Joe Oliver, a family friend of Zimmerman’s who spoke with him this weekend, told ABC News that as a volunteer community watch commander, Zimmerman had to look out for suspicious-looking people.
“There are people who have accused George of profiling, well, I would think as a watch commander you are keeping an eye out for people you don’t recognize in your neighborhood,” Oliver said.
“The reason why he was following this suspicious person that he saw was because the neighborhood had a rash of break-ins,” he said. “George had no intention of taking anyone’s life. He cried for days after.”
Oliver said the headlines have taken a toll on Zimmerman, his wife, and his family.
“He’s moved, they’ve disconnected their phone numbers, they’re in hiding, they’re fearful,” Oliver said.
The Zimmerman family friend also denied that a word the watchman is heard blurting out on one of the 911 tapes is the racial slur, “coon.” Oliver said the word he hears Zimmerman saying is “goon.”
“As far as, I mean as far as George being racist, I didn’t take it as a racist term. I heard ‘goon’ and talking to my teenage daughter, apparently goon is a term of endearment in high school these days,” he said.
“He wasn’t talking to Trayvon when that comment was made. He was speaking a generality in that this suspicious person was someone who he – lumped in — as always getting away — goon, coon. I mean, the bottom line, he thought he needed to keep an eye on this individual for whatever reason,” Oliver said.
Oliver said he believes the voice screaming for help on the 911 tape is Zimmerman’s.
After talking with Zimmerman, Oliver says he’s convinced that it came down to a final life-or-death moment: “At that point, either George or Trayvon was going to die.”
- Enlarge PhotoGeorge Zimmerman Video Shows Little Evidence of a Broken Nose, Doctor Claims (ABC News)
Enhanced video footage of George Zimmerman being taken into custody less than 30 minutes after he shot and killed Florida teenTrayvon Martin shows the neighborhood watch captain with an injury to the back of his head.
The never-before-seen evidence of an injury to Zimmerman, in this case a gash or mark to his head, would appear to back his claim that he shot Martin in self defense after he was attacked by Martin on the night of Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla
Zimmerman, 28, claims Martin, 17, punched him in the nose, knocked him down and repeatedly slammed his head into the ground.
The police surveillance video, first obtained exclusively by ABC News last month and clarified by Forensic Protection, Inc., shows Zimmerman exiting the police cruiser with his hands cuffed behind his back. Zimmerman is frisked and then led down a series of hallways, still cuffed. At one point, one of the officers stops to look briefly at the back of Zimmerman’s head.
There was no obvious sign of any injury to Zimmerman’s head or face on the video until it was enhanced. But the enhanced video does not show any visible injury to Zimmerman’s nose, nor any signs of blood on his shirt.
Police Video Surveillance of George Zimmerman
The initial police report noted that Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of the head and nose, and his lawyer later claimed that Zimmeran suffered a broken nose. After receiving medical attention at the scene of the shooting, it was decided that he was in good enough condition to travel in a police cruiser to the Sanford, Fla., police station for questioning. He did not check into the emergency room following the police questioning.
The surveillance tape of Zimmerman, later released by the Sanford Police Department, could be used as evidence if Zimmerman is brought up on charges, sources tell ABC News.
Zimmerman’s lawyer, Craig Sonner, has said his client felt “one of them was going to die that night,” when he pulled the trigger.
The case has gained national prominence with rallies across the country demanding that Zimmerman be arrested and charged with murder.
Lawyers for Martin’s family sent a letter to the Justice Department today asking that the federal probe into the killing look into the fact that Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee met with State Attorney Norm Wolfinger on the night of shooting. Lawyer Benjamin Crump also claims in the letter that members of Zimmerman’s family were also present in the police station that night.
The lead homicide investigator, Chris Serino, wrote in an affidavit that he recommended manslaughter charges be brought against Zimmerman but was advised by the prosecutor not to file charges because there was not enough evidence for a conviction, sources have told ABC News.
“We look forward to your thorough and comprehensive review of the suspicious circumstances surrounding this meeting,” Crump wrote.
State prosecutors are expected to go before a Seminole County grand jury on April 10 to determine what, if any, files should be charged.
An analysis of a 911 call done over the weekend by the Orlando Sentinel determined that screams for help overhead on a 911 came from Martin, although Zimmerman’s family insist they recognize his voice in the screams.
Two evidence experts consulted by the Sentinel found the voice heard in a 911 call placed by a woman in a home near where the shooting occurred was only a 48 percent match to Zimmerman’s voice. One of the experts, Tom Owen, told the Sentinel to reach a positive match he would expect higher than 90 percent.
“As a result of that, you can say with reasonable scientific certainty that it’s not Zimmerman,” Owen told the paper.
Owen, the chair emeritus at the American Board of Record Evidence, was not able to determine if the voice was that of Martin, the Sentinel reports, because he did not have audio of the teen’s voice to compare to the shouts for help in the 911 call.