Legal experts conclude that prosecution in Zimmerman trial never proved its case
The prosecution is coming under withering criticism from some legal experts for their handling of the Zimmerman case, with some believing that the second degree murder charge was unwarranted.
After five weeks of trial and 56 witnesses, few legal observers believed prosecutors came close to proving Sanford neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman committed second-degree murder when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
So for many legal analysts, it was no surprise that jurors rejected even a lesser "compromise" verdict of manslaughter, acquitting Zimmerman outright of all criminal charges and deciding he acted in a reasonable way to protect his own life.
The acquittal was a stinging blow for prosecutors and their decision to file the second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman, who was not initially arrested by Sanford police after claiming self-defense. And it was a resounding embrace of the defense's strategy during closing arguments not just to establish that prosecutors hadn't proven Zimmerman guilty, but also to show he was "absolutely" innocent.
"Justifiable use of force is one of the most difficult areas of the law," State Attorney Angela Corey acknowledged Saturday after Zimmerman's acquittal. "Make no mistake, Trayvon Martin had every right to be on the premises as did George Zimmerman ... that's what makes this case unique."
Zimmerman defense attorney Don West Zimmerman defense attorney called the prosecution's case a "disgrace."
"We proved that George Zimmerman was not guilty," he said.
Jude M. Faccidomo, the former president of Miami's Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said the jury clearly believed in the right to self-defense: "Especially when cases are so gray, like this one was, self-defense really resonates because people can associate with being afraid."
And while some also have questioned the state attorney's office acceptance of a mostly white jury, a more diverse panel would have returned the same verdict, lawyers who have watched the case believe.
"After seeing the quality of the evidence presented by the state, the diversity of the jury really didn't matter in the end," said Larry Handfield, a prominent African American Miami criminal defense lawyer. "But it would have helped the community in giving more credibility to the decision to acquit Zimmerman."
This is a fascinating article in that it rehashes the trial, step by step, witness by witness, showing how incredibly weak the prosecution's case was. It just wasn't credible and the jurors weren't buying it.
One telling remark is the notion that even a "diverse" jury would have found Zimmerman innocent. Could a jury with several African Americans on it given Zimmerman a fair shake? I don't know if it's universally true, but I've talked to a couple of lawyers who tell me that a remarkable transformation occurs when people are faced with deciding the fate of a fellow citizen as they sit on a jury. They take their responsibilies very seriously and try to do the right thing without regard to race or class. I'd like to think that Zimmerman would have been found innocent regardless of who was sitting on the jury.
The argument that this case should never have gone to trial is well served by this article.