Problems with the Zimmerman Affidavit

I spent twenty years working Colorado law enforcement, followed by nearly two years as an investigator for the Colorado State Public Defender's Office.  Ten of my twenty-two years in the criminal justice arena were in the area of criminal investigations, complex and simple.

I just read the arrest affidavit in the Florida v. George Zimmerman case.  I'm pretty certain that I would have been laughed out of any judge's chambers in Colorado, had I brought in a piece of evidentiary matter so poorly written.  The Zimmerman affidavit is so deficient in properly sourced factual information and full of unsubstantiated, unsourced conclusions, I am appalled that a State's Attorney would even give it a second look.  I don't know what's going on in the Florida Courts.  But, where I worked as a cop, all summaries of statements from eye and ear witnesses, whether inculpatory or exculpatory, had to be both sourced and included in a properly assembled arrest affidavit.

Every piece of information in the affidavit must be provable to a jury.  This case is terribly lacking, both in supporting evidence and in veracity.  To wit, from the document (with pertinent material emphasis highlighted by me):

On Sunday 2/26/12, Trayvon Martin was temporarily living at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community in Sanford, Seminole County, Florida.  That evening Martin walked to a nearby 7-11 Store where he purchased a can of iced tea and some skittles.  Martin then walked back to and entered the gated community and was on his way back to the townhouse where he was living when he was profiled by George Zimmerman.  Martin was unarmed and was not committing a crime...

Here we have two unsubstantiated conclusions:

1) There is nothing offered by way of proof that anyone "profiled" Martin. If Zimmerman confessed to doing that, based upon the color of Martin's skin, it should be in the document. Otherwise, lacking some independent substantiation, it's a huge lie.

2) We don't know that Martin was not committing a crime, or preparing to commit a crime. Zimmerman's statements to the 911 dispatcher tend to dispute the affiants' conclusion, the evidentiary source of which is not included.

...During the recorded call Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood.  Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated "these assholes, they always get away" and also said "these fucking punks."...

1) Either Zimmerman and the investigators who wrote the affidavit knew there had been burglaries in the neighborhood, or they did not know about any burglaries. It's not possible to credibly say that anyone, including the defendant, felt that crimes had been committed. If, in fact, there was or was not a series of unsolved burglaries in that neighborhood, the cops should have included that fact in the affidavit. It's a lie of omission, either way.

2) Profanity spoken by eyewitnesses in the stress of the moment can be heard in countless 911 recordings. If the investigators are trying to prove more racially biased culpability with Zimmerman's use of the words "assholes" and "fucking punks," I'm just not getting it.

...Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin.  When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him.  Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home...

1) Zimmerman's acknowledgement of the dispatcher's instruction to break off and not engage Martin is on the recorded 911 call. The dispatcher said "you don't have to do that," which is quite different from a n instruction do not do it.

2) Where the actual confrontation happened is not included in the affidavit. Was it near Zimmerman's parked car? Or was it down the street from his car, because he disregarded the dispatcher's instructions? This is critical information. It's a murder affidavit. If Martin is shot with Zimmerman's car parked close-by, that makes Zimmerman's claim that Martin followed him back to the vehicle more credible. If the body is some distance from the car, that makes Zimmerman look less credible and in defiance of the dispatcher's request to break off the pursuit. Incredibly, the affiants neglected to include that piece of vital information in the affidavit.

...Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.  Witnesses heard people arguing and what sounded like a struggle.  During this time period witnesses heard numerous calls for help and some of these were recorded in 911 calls to police.  Trayvon Martin's mother has reviewed the 911 and identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin's voice...

1) Did the cops play the dispatch tapes for Trayvon's father?

2) If so, what did the father say about recognizing or not recognizing the screaming voice?

3) What did the eye-witness to the fight say about who was sitting atop whom during the struggle? Much has been omitted here, to enhance the appearance of Zimmerman's inculpation.

...Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest.  When police arrived Zimmerman admitted shooting Martin...

...The facts mentioned in this affidavit are not a complete recitation of all the facts and evidence in this case but only are presented for a determination of Probable Cause for Second Degree Murder...

Indeed.

I spent twenty years working Colorado law enforcement, followed by nearly two years as an investigator for the Colorado State Public Defender's Office.  Ten of my twenty-two years in the criminal justice arena were in the area of criminal investigations, complex and simple.

I just read the arrest affidavit in the Florida v. George Zimmerman case.  I'm pretty certain that I would have been laughed out of any judge's chambers in Colorado, had I brought in a piece of evidentiary matter so poorly written.  The Zimmerman affidavit is so deficient in properly sourced factual information and full of unsubstantiated, unsourced conclusions, I am appalled that a State's Attorney would even give it a second look.  I don't know what's going on in the Florida Courts.  But, where I worked as a cop, all summaries of statements from eye and ear witnesses, whether inculpatory or exculpatory, had to be both sourced and included in a properly assembled arrest affidavit.

Every piece of information in the affidavit must be provable to a jury.  This case is terribly lacking, both in supporting evidence and in veracity.  To wit, from the document (with pertinent material emphasis highlighted by me):

On Sunday 2/26/12, Trayvon Martin was temporarily living at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a gated community in Sanford, Seminole County, Florida.  That evening Martin walked to a nearby 7-11 Store where he purchased a can of iced tea and some skittles.  Martin then walked back to and entered the gated community and was on his way back to the townhouse where he was living when he was profiled by George Zimmerman.  Martin was unarmed and was not committing a crime...

Here we have two unsubstantiated conclusions:

1) There is nothing offered by way of proof that anyone "profiled" Martin. If Zimmerman confessed to doing that, based upon the color of Martin's skin, it should be in the document. Otherwise, lacking some independent substantiation, it's a huge lie.

2) We don't know that Martin was not committing a crime, or preparing to commit a crime. Zimmerman's statements to the 911 dispatcher tend to dispute the affiants' conclusion, the evidentiary source of which is not included.

...During the recorded call Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood.  Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated "these assholes, they always get away" and also said "these fucking punks."...

1) Either Zimmerman and the investigators who wrote the affidavit knew there had been burglaries in the neighborhood, or they did not know about any burglaries. It's not possible to credibly say that anyone, including the defendant, felt that crimes had been committed. If, in fact, there was or was not a series of unsolved burglaries in that neighborhood, the cops should have included that fact in the affidavit. It's a lie of omission, either way.

2) Profanity spoken by eyewitnesses in the stress of the moment can be heard in countless 911 recordings. If the investigators are trying to prove more racially biased culpability with Zimmerman's use of the words "assholes" and "fucking punks," I'm just not getting it.

...Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin.  When the police dispatcher realized Zimmerman was pursuing Martin, he instructed Zimmerman not to do that and that the responding officer would meet him.  Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher and continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home...

1) Zimmerman's acknowledgement of the dispatcher's instruction to break off and not engage Martin is on the recorded 911 call. The dispatcher said "you don't have to do that," which is quite different from a n instruction do not do it.

2) Where the actual confrontation happened is not included in the affidavit. Was it near Zimmerman's parked car? Or was it down the street from his car, because he disregarded the dispatcher's instructions? This is critical information. It's a murder affidavit. If Martin is shot with Zimmerman's car parked close-by, that makes Zimmerman's claim that Martin followed him back to the vehicle more credible. If the body is some distance from the car, that makes Zimmerman look less credible and in defiance of the dispatcher's request to break off the pursuit. Incredibly, the affiants neglected to include that piece of vital information in the affidavit.

...Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued.  Witnesses heard people arguing and what sounded like a struggle.  During this time period witnesses heard numerous calls for help and some of these were recorded in 911 calls to police.  Trayvon Martin's mother has reviewed the 911 and identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin's voice...

1) Did the cops play the dispatch tapes for Trayvon's father?

2) If so, what did the father say about recognizing or not recognizing the screaming voice?

3) What did the eye-witness to the fight say about who was sitting atop whom during the struggle? Much has been omitted here, to enhance the appearance of Zimmerman's inculpation.

...Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest.  When police arrived Zimmerman admitted shooting Martin...

...The facts mentioned in this affidavit are not a complete recitation of all the facts and evidence in this case but only are presented for a determination of Probable Cause for Second Degree Murder...

Indeed.