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More about the Trayvon Martin case

July 3, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
There's probably a reason that all defense attorneys tell their clients to keep their mouths shut.

Reading accounts of the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford, Fla., this morning, I see that the prosecution showed the jury a TV interview that Zimmerman gave several months after he shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, following a scuffle he claims was started by Martin. Prosecutors contend that he deliberately followed Martin, profiled him as suspicious, and shot him "because he wanted to."

In the TV interview, Zimmerman said he had never heard of Florida's Stand Your Ground law until after he shot Martin. Today the prosecution put one of Zimmerman's college professors on the stand, who said Zimmerman got an A in his class and knew all about Florida's self defense and Stand Your Ground law before the shooting. Had the shooting never happened, Zimmerman would have graduated in the spring of 2012 and hoped to become a police officer himself.

I don't know that Zimmerman's obvious poor judgement, his interest in the law or even his allegedly fibbing to a TV reporter necessarily adds up to a guilty verdict. I, too, know a fair amount about the law and at one point considered becoming a lawyer. I have read North Dakota's Century Code and State and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, as well as various legal blogs. I know it is a very bad idea to talk to the police, even if you're innocent, without a lawyer being present. I suspect all of that knowledge would fly straight out of my ears if I were ever in the situation Zimmerman was in that night in February 2012. Yesterday his friend testified that Zimmerman was stunned and wide-eyed when he picked him up from the police station. The police officer who interviewed him soon after the shooting testified that Zimmerman, a Catholic, told her that that killing people is always a sin. He was surprised and upset that Martin had died. I'm not sure that a man who was in shock was capable of a convincing fabrication.

What's interesting at this point is the way social media is being used in this trial, for good or for ill. Every time a witness appears, people give instant (often unflattering) feedback on Twitter and on various blogs. The defense attorney's daughter posted an Instagram photo of her and her father eating vanilla ice cream. The caption read "We beat stupidity celebration cones." The prosecution, apparently believing that the defense attorney can control his daughter's exercise of her right to freedom of speech, is demanding an investigation. Angry supporters of the Martin family have tweeted death threats to Zimmerman if he is acquitted. If the NSA is really watching us all, as Edward Snowden (currently in hiding) has said, then none of these people seem overly concerned.

What would have been good advice to Zimmerman is also good advice to Molly West and to the scores of blabbermouths threatening violence on Twitter: when in doubt, shut up.


Article Comments



Jul-05-13 1:21 PM

Despite the overwhelming evidence of racism and prejudice against young Black men -- you don't believe this murder was about race?

Moments before gunning down this perfectly innocent high school student, the defendant is heard on tape saying, "These f-ing punks. These a-holes. They always get away."

Who are "they"?

Trayvon Martin was walking alone. In what context does this one kid become "they"?

Zimmerman was expressly told not to follow the person he repeatedly referred to as a "suspect," and yet he continued in hot pursuit.

Two minutes later Trayvon Martin was dead.

It is exceedingly clear that Zimmerman was acting out of his delusional, racist paranoia -- because the "punk" and "suspect" he murdered turned out to be a kid going to the store for Skittles.

Sorry if that's too emotional for you.


Jul-05-13 12:26 PM

Namexxx -- I don't think that this is a case that should be decided based on high emotion. I've read the Florida statue and interpretations of self defense and the Stand Your Ground law. I've also read the witness testimony, read the autopsy report and various descriptions of what happened. I think this was a terrible, tragic situation, for which George Zimmerman bears moral culpability, but I don't think it ever warranted a murder or a manslaughter charge. The local prosecutor didn't initially charge him because there wasn't enough evidence and the case the prosecution has put on bears that out. What's ironic here is that I think Trayvon Martin also would have been justified in killing Zimmerman, because he also was defending himself. I don't think race has much to do with the actual case, despite all the furor.


Jul-05-13 12:08 PM

I agree: "When in doubt, shut up."

And yet, the race-based lies and bigoted talking points continue to pour from this newspaper and other propaganda peddlers.

I have no doubts about this: if it was your kid laying dead in the mud, gunned down on his way to get Skittles -- you would not be making grand public pronouncements that you don't think the killer "should have been charged at all."


Jul-05-13 11:29 AM

-- Continued -- I'd also add that law enforcement officers themselves will "lawyer up" and refuse to talk to the police without benefit of counsel in a situation like this one -- even when they're merely bystanders to an incident. Many cases that result in charges are helped because the defendant gave a statement to the police without benefit of counsel and, more often than we'd like to think, because people innocent of the charges gave a false confession under police pressure during an interview.


Jul-05-13 11:26 AM

There's a YouTube video of a lecture given by a law professor, who is a former defense attorney, and a police officer that is called "Don't Talk to the Police." Both men advised not to talk to police without a lawyer, even if you're innocent, because it is so easy to be tripped up in a police interview and have whatever you say misconstrued. There are so many laws on the books that you may well have broken one that you don't know about. If you say one thing in the police interview and then say something slightly different, because your memory is faulty, it can be used to trip you up. It's the police officer's job to get you to talk and he can lie and promise things that he can't deliver to get you to talk. In Zimmerman's case, it may have worked because the police officers on that stand looked a lot more like defense witnesses than prosecution witnesses, but a person the police aren't inclined to like could find themselves in a real pickle.


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