A reader writes:
I’m completely with your perception of the Zimmerman trial as a real tragedy. But you made a mistake in your original post that I think requires a correction, or at least a clarification. In your original post you wrote:
I can see two things clearly: when there are no witnesses but the two individuals involved in a fight, and the victim is dead, and you live in a state that provides “stand your ground” immunity for self-defense, then proving a murder beyond a reasonable doubt is hard.
But there was one witness to the actual fight: Jonathan Good.
He testified that Martin was above Zimmerman, straddling him and beating him up before the shots were fired. Good’s testimony – as the only eyewitness – was extremely important. There were two narratives of the events in question: 1. That Martin was doing nothing when he was accosted by Zimmerman (and shot after a confrontation that Zimmerman initiated), or 2. That Martin attacked Zimmerman while Zimmerman was returning back to his car. Good’s testimony (apparently) supports the second narrative more than the first (at least that’s what most reporters thought at the time – we’ll have to wait on what the jurors say).
For what it’s worth, I think a manslaughter charge was justified and the jury’s interest in it (asking for additional instructions) proves just how clearly the state bungled this case. You haven’t dealt with that, but it’s important. If you don’t believe me, go back to the video of the two closings and compare them. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda yelled and shouted several times during his closing, and when Mark O’Mara opened the defense, the first thing he did was tell the jury he wasn’t going to shout and yell; he was going to change the tone of the discussion and be civil and respectful and appeal to reason. Even before he got into his argument, when I heard that, I knew he was going to win.
The Good testimony does indeed suggest that at some point in a scuffle, Martin was on top of Zimmerman. But another witness, Selma Mora, testified to the opposite. None had a very clear picture on a dark night. And Good did not witness the actual shooting. Good, moreover, denied Zimmerman’s claim that his head was being smashed against concrete (a critical point if you are claiming self-defense to the point of killing someone); and they all testified that after the fight, Zimmerman was bloodied but not by anything remotely life-threatening. I stand by my original post, although of course, the jury, as my reader notes, was examining every minute and I wasn’t. Good’s testimony might well have swayed them. And, again, I can easily see why they acquitted Zimmerman, given the reasonable doubt of such a confusing incident in the dark.
Previous reader criticisms here.