Ten Aha! Moments in the Zimmerman Trial to Date
In April 2012, the office of Florida State Attorney Angela Corey drew up an affidavit of probable cause against George Zimmerman for the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin.
The affidavit was loaded. Martin was walking back to the townhouse "where he was living" when Zimmerman "profiled" him. Zimmerman "assumed Martin was a criminal." He called the police. The affidavit cited Martin's phone "friend" to attest, "Martin was scared because he was being followed by an unknown male and didn't know why." Again, according to the affidavit (and this was critical): "Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued." Martin's mother then "identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin's." Zimmerman admitted shooting Martin, and that apparently was good enough for the prosecutors.
For the next year, the major media accepted the affidavit as gospel. In so doing, they prepared their audiences to believe that George Zimmerman would be convicted for the killing of Martin. He won't be. Every interesting revelation in the trial so far has supported his innocence.
Here are ten such revelations:
10. Witness #8, the "phone friend," the real-life Rachel Jeantel, the plus-size American-born daughter of Haitian and Dominican parents, provided a few aha! moments of her own. Right away, the defense established for the jury the many lies that Jeantel and/or her handlers had been telling. No, Jeantel was not sixteen and a minor, as first insisted. She was eighteen at the time of the shooting. And no, she had not been hospitalized on hearing of Martin's death. That too was pure fabrication.
9. In the six-week-long hysteria between Martin's shooting and Zimmerman's arrest, Mary Cutcher, a thirtyish blonde, was the media's favorite eyewitness. To spread the message that the Sanford PD were ignoring witnesses unfavorable to Zimmerman, Cutcher appeared on local TV, on CNN's Anderson Cooper Show, on Dateline NBC, and at rallies with the Martin family. The State did not call on Cutcher to testify. Prosecutors had very good reasons not to.
8. During his first interview with the Sanford PD, Zimmerman observed that officer Doris Singleton was wearing a cross. He asked if she was Catholic. She asked why that might matter, and he responded, "In the Catholic religion, it's always wrong to kill someone." She responded, "If what you're telling me is true, I don't think that what God meant was that you couldn't save your own life." If the prosecution had hoped that Singleton would paint Zimmerman as a person of "depraved" mind who killed Martin out of ill will, spite, and/or hatred, she did not at all oblige them. In fact, she endorsed his behavior.
7. The defense caught Jeantel changing her testimony one more time. In her first phone interview, Jeantel recounted that when Martin asked Zimmerman, "Why are you following me?," Zimmerman responded non-threateningly, "What are you talking about?" At the trial, Jeantel tailored her response to fit the State's case, alleging that Zimmerman answered that same question with the confrontational response, "What are you doing around here?"
6. JAG officer Capt. Alexis Carter, an African-American prosecution witness, taught Zimmerman a course in criminal law. Whatever good he did for the prosecution was undone by the time the defense finished introducing its client: "You see George over here?" Zimmerman stood and nodded. Carter gave him a friendly wave. "How ya doing, George?" he said, eliciting in the process a shy smile out of George. In his opening statement, the defense had said, "There are no monsters here." With a wave and a smile, Capt. Carter confirmed the truth of that contention.
5. State witness Wendy Dorival, an African-American who served as volunteer program coordinator for the Sanford PD, proved even more helpful to Zimmerman's cause. The State had hoped that she would confirm that Zimmerman was an overzealous cop wannabe. Instead, Dorival spoke highly of Zimmerman throughout and repeated the point frequently that the Sanford PD "always encourage [neighborhood watch people] to call." Asked by the defense, "You err on the side of making the call?," Dorival answered in the affirmative. "When something about them doesn't seem quite right?" asked the defense again. "Yes," said Dorival.
4. Lead Sanford PD investigator Chris Serino told how he played the 9-1-1 tapes for Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father, two days after the shooting. When Serino asked Martin if the screaming voice on the 9-1-1 tape was his son's, Martin said "no." Sanford PD officer Singleton testified next. She had witnessed the exchange and confirmed what Serino had said. "He was telling Chris it was not his son's voice," said Singleton. Martin would later change his story, but his shaky testimony threw into doubt that of Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton.
3. Usually, the lead investigator is the one who nails the coffin shut in a murder trial. Serino, however, spent much of his time on the witness stand prying the nails loose. Serino told the court that he could find no reason to doubt George Zimmerman's account of what transpired that fateful night in February. "Do you think George Zimmerman was telling you the truth?" O'Mara asked him. "Yes," admitted Serino as the Monday, July 1 afternoon session wrapped up. So compelling was this admission that the Tuesday proceedings began with the prosecution demanding that it be stricken from the record.
2. The un-coached highlight of the trial was Jeantel's response to the question of how Martin described Zimmerman on first seeing him. According to Jeantel, Martin called him "a creepy-ass cracka," a racial slur she liked enough to repeat a couple times. In so saying, she introduced a phrase into the American lexicon that may outlast the memory of Trayvon Martin. She also reversed the understanding of just who profiled whom. In the trial's most pathetic moment, Jeantel admitted not being able to "read cursive."
1. Neighbor Jonathan Good's testimony was worth more than all the other witnesses, eye or ear, combined. Towards the end of it, the defense asked Good to confirm what he told Serino immediately after the shooting: "So I open my door. It was a black man with a black hoodie on top of the other, either a white guy or now I found out I think it was a Hispanic guy with a red sweatshirt on the ground yelling out, 'Help!' And I tried to tell them, get out of here, you know, stop or whatever, and then one guy on top in the black hoodie was pretty much just throwing down blows on the guy, kind of MMA-style." He confirmed and, in so doing, made a joke out of the State's case. Time will tell if the jury feels the same way.