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Thoughts on the Zimmerman Trial

I am flattered and not a little self conscious to have been asked by jennifer to provide some blog commentary on the Zimmerman / Martin case. I must admit to not following it particularly closely up to this point.

A bit of disclosure, I have done a lot of criminal work for most of the thirty years I’ve been practicing. I’ve not tried a homicide, primarily because (thankfully) they are relatively rare, and the ones that triedo occur and are tried tend to be tried by thy public defender system. I would feel comfortable with my experience and tenure in doing one. Ultimately, although the stakes are high, the differences are ones of degree not kind. Proof is proof.

I first have to say that I think that anyone who has ever handled a high profile case, and this is much more high profile than anything I have ever personally tried, is under an extra and unfortunate distraction. Strategies that might work normally are crushed or twisted into unrecognizable shapes.

There is sometimes a fine line between that which is perceived by a jury as innovative and that which can be perceived as desperate. And then there is the always fun armchair quarterbacking.

My first impressions were with the openings, I regret I didn’t see any of the voir dire, and I’m not even sure how it is conducted in Florida. State was pretty business like and the defense started with a knock knock joke. I was not impressed.

The idea that the defense needed a “team” also tends to hit me a bit oddly. Zimmerman wasn’t a celebrity of any kind before the tragedy, and I am of the opinion that while it is nice to have support behind the scenes, juries tend to have enough trouble forming relationships of trust and credibility with a single defense attorney, let alone one who they might perceive as asking for and needing help. If you can’t try a case on your own two feet, maybe you shouldn’t try. IMHO.

The press and many of us have made much of inconsistent testimony. Testimony is generally inconsistent, and the winnowing of the wheat from the chaff is both a hard thing for a jury and a hard choice for the defense and state alike, as nothing signals weakness and desperation to a jury more than focusing on irrelevant minutiae.

The biggest score I’ve seen so far is that the prosecutor looks to have made the charge of Zimmerman as a wannabe cop or weekend vigilante stick without using the terms by focusing on his education and obsession with stand your ground.

The defense’s treatment of the screaming issue leaves me cold. Both mothers say it was their child screaming. If there is a correlation with either scenario, I would put it with Zimmerman screaming and being out of control, which is not the theory he needs to have the jury hanging on.

James P. Moriarty is a criminal defense lawyer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. To learn more about him, visit his website at http://www.jpmoriartylaw.com/