5 More Things I Think About The George Zimmerman Case

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But the idea that it was easily foreseeable that his effort at playing police helper would end in tragedy even though he was carrying a gun is simply to take great liberties with the benefit of hindsight.

23. I think "vigilante" is the wrong word to use to describe Zimmerman

I've casually used it myself in writing about this case, but the more I've thought about it, the more I've come to the conclusion that it's not accurate.

A "vigilante" takes the law into his or her own hands. A "vigilante" doesn't call police or even want the help of police.

image from 2.bp.blogspot.com>There's nothing in Zimmerman's history that suggests he ever tried to make a citizen's arrest, attacked a person he thought was up to no good or even drew his concealed gun to enforce what he thought was the law. If anything, the record suggests he avoided getting close to people he thought were criminals and prior to this awful incident was an officious busybody, at worst, more Gladys Kravitz (right) than Charles Bronson.

24. I don't think the prosecutors are blundering through the trial.

Daniel J. Flynn at the American Spectator writes:

What happened to Trayvon Martin in Sanford may not have been criminal. What’s happening to him in court in Sanford might be. No matter which side ones takes a rooting interest in — and this case appears more as a racial sporting event than a trial — it’s difficult not to see the prosecutors as a bunch of Mike Nifong wannabes, sacrificing the interests of justice or even of a conviction in favor of satiating a loud mob.

 Mike Nifong, in case you've forgotten, was the prosecutor in the Duke LaCrosse team rape case whose conduct was so egregious in that bogus and botched prosecution that he was removed and disbarred.

Flynn's piece argues that the state has bumbled along in the George Zimmerman trial, with witness after witness ending up helping the defense.

The prosecution playing video of Zimmerman providing his version of events without having to endure cross-examination demonstrates the level of incompetence. Instead of the cold, emotionless, blank stares of a killer, the jurors saw a likable, nonthreatening, mild-mannered, pudgy man. After demonizing Zimmerman outside of the courtroom, the prosecution strangely humanized him inside of it.

 Much of the TV punditry has made this point, but I'm not sure the state really had much choice in the matter. Their case --as they revealed during the pro-forma argument Friday over whether the judge should order a directed verdict of not-guilty now that the state has rested -- will boil down to this:

Zimmerman has repeatedly told the story that he broke off following Martin and was headed back to his truck when Martin sucker punched him, started whaling on him and put him in fear of his life or of suffering great bodily harm.  But because there are holes, inconsistencies and exaggerations in his various and self-serving accounts,  you should give no weight to anything he says and believe the opposite.

To paraphrase what one of the prosecutors said (I wasn't taking notes, alas), only two people really know what happened on that dark, raining evening. One of them is dead, the other's a liar.

And the only way to be sure they would be able to use that line of argument was to introduce all the videotaped interviews with Zimmerman. Had they not done so, the defense (which couldn't have introduced them for legal reasons I wont' try to explain here) probably would not have called Zimmerman to the witness stand, figuring the circumstantial case for self defense -- his wounds, the testimony of the witness who saw Martin straddling Zimmerman and raining blows on him -- was sufficient.

I am close to alone in thinking that Zimmerman and his defense team may decide to put Zimmerman on the stand to try to iron out those inconsistencies, though I concede that chance is small.

Certainly one problem with the state's "don't believe the liar!" approach is that their only witness who supports the theory that Zimmerman actually chased Martin and provoked the final, fatal altercation is herself a spouter of inconsistencies.  Rachel Jeantel, the friend of Martin's who was on the phone with him prior to the shooting, has not only admitted her willingness to tell lies or alter her story to please the Martin family, but her account places the fatal altercation at least half a football field away from where it actually happened.

Another is that the consistent elements of Zimmerman's account -- he'd stopped following Martin, Martin came back to attack him, he was terrified, losing the fight badly and screamed for help -- are a much better fit with the physical evidence, the timeline, the map and the disinterested witness accounts, and so have a common-sense appeal that the "believe the opposite of whatever he said!" argument will have.

25. I think prosecutors deliberately overcharged by going for second-degree murder.

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 782.04(2). Second degree murder.—

The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life.

The jury will be told that to find depravity they need to find "ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent," which can't be formed on the spot. I'm guessing that, all along, the state has been hoping for a guilty finding on the lesser included offense of manslaughter:

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 782.07(1). Manslaughter.—

The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776 and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder, according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter.

The Orlando Sentinel wrote about this latter charge:

"Manslaughter generally is a crime that's committed in the heat of passion, meaning there's no premeditation," said Isadore Hyde Jr., a Lake Mary criminal defense lawyer. "It's something that happens in the moment. It's quick, and you've got a dead body."...

What is culpable negligence?

"You've got to do something really stupid," said William Orth, a Longwood lawyer and former Seminole County prosecutor, "…something that you and I as intelligent humans — adults — know, 'Don't do that. Somebody could get hurt.' "

It requires a suspect to be much more than negligent, lawyers say. It requires him to show a gross disregard for the safety of others.

But the penalty for such a conviction stands to be severe:

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 782.07 (3)  A person who causes the death of any person under the age of 18 by culpable negligence ...commits aggravated manslaughter of a child, a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082  [which specifies "a term of imprisonment not exceeding 30 years].

So the stakes really are high and "just" a manslaughter conviction would be a huge win for the state. 

Earlier:  20 things I think about the George Zimmerman case

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Source : http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2013/07/25.html

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