Monday, March 25, 2013
Willis Newton posted an excellent comment at 11:37 pm last night on the open thread regarding the defendant and the good-cop good-cop interview technique.
The only correction that I feel a need to point out is that a criminal defense lawyer would have advised the defendant to shut his mouth. There are no exceptions to that rule.
This full-of-himself intellectually challenged defendant caused irreparable damage to his case when he decided that he could talk his way out of being charged with killing Trayvon Martin. Once he got going, he could not stop and the pièce de résistance was the Shawn Hannity interview.
State’s Attorney Angela Corey and Assistant State’s Attorney Bernie de la Rionda did the right thing when they declined to talk to the defendant as they are ethically prohibited from talking to a defendant represented by counsel, even if the defendant initiates the contact.
George was handled by Serino and Singleton of the SPD in a manner I’d call “good cop/ good cop.” Both tried to be amicable and played to his vanity and let him think they were his “buddies.” This was not because they believed him, it was because this attitude kept George “cooperating” by continuing to make multiple statements without a lawyer present, after being advised of his right to refuse to answer any questions without a lawyer present.
Let me just say this now – anyone, ESPECIALLY innocent people, but anyone, anyone is a fool if you let the cops question you without a lawyer present. They are NOT your friends, no matter how many times they let you go to the bathroom or buy you a cola from a vending machine. They are doing their job, which is to get you to talk yourself into a criminal conviction.
George bought the routine hook line and sinker. He was a fool for giving so many statements, as it became very cleat quickly that he was pushing a false narrative and telling a story that was fraught with inconsistencies, critical omissions and clear contradictions.
One thing he was tricked with was the “voice stress test,” which is a useless and pointless exercise that proves NOTHING and is never admissible in a court of law. George agreed to the test because he thought the cops were believing his lies, and his ego told him that he could and should “talk his way out of this one” since the cops were seemingly sympathetic to his plight. The real and true purpose of the voice stress test was to get George to run through his whole (false) narrative one more time with as little interruption as possible. The “test taker” was simply a new interrogator, but one whose job it was to feign disinterest as he asked George “on background” to relate his tale so the test taker could “set up the voice stress machine.”
Notice that “as they waited for the tester” the cops also let GZ sit around for a long quiet period with detective Singleton. This too is a deliberate session of evidence-gathering that detectives use on a regular basis – put the guy at ease but do anything to keep him from calling a lawyer -just keep him making statements.
She’s being mostly quiet so that he will KEEP talking to fill the uncomfortable silence. It’s here that he made the telling remarks about how “suspects” need to respond to “authority” but that he thinks Singleton “doesn’t have to worry” about that since she has such a commanding presence, or whatever it is that he says exactly. I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but it was a telling moment and I predict will be shown to the jury as part of the overall portrait the prosecution is going to paint to color him as a wanna-be authority figure who had no legal right to profile and pursue a teen to the point where the child fled in terror, and then for GZ to leave his vehicle with a loaded weapon and continue on foot after him into the proverbial “dark alley.”
Whatever the reason the police let him go home that first night, Serino made certain that GZ was going to “keep cooperating.” Letting him go home was a gamble, but one that paid off well since the next day GZ cooperated AGAIN without having a lawyer present and did a “re-eneactment” for the detectives that was less than credible, and again made for several very telling moments that could be presented to a jury to show his lack of credibility at the least. George told provable lies about where he pulled over his car and how his car ended up near the cut thru when he got out of it and started following the teen. Then he massively contradicted his many earlier accounts when he suddenly added the “I must have stumbled” portion of the account of the “first punch” that may or may not have even happened. Each time he’d previously spoke of this alleged blow to his face, he described things like falling backwards, and how he was knocked IMMEDIATELY to the ground before “Trayvon mounted him” as George alleges the teen did. Suddenly George has to insert a 40 foot “stumble” right in the middle of where he wished he could again claim he was knocked to the ground where he stood.
Keep in mind if George had waited for his lawyer to be present, the lawyer would likely advise him to make ONE statement that was carefully crafted and then to refuse to cooperate any further. I’m not certain about this but imagine if GZ had called a lawyer and kept his mouth mostly shut. He may have spent a few nights in jail, but it would be more difficult to impeach his credibility, a key component of his upcoming murder trial. He may have even avoided a trial altogether. His own words are what is going to sink his ship.
After the “re-enactment” the detectives confronted him about his inconsistencies in the harshest session of questioning, but as you listen to the recording keep in mind they are careful to frame their disbelief and harsh questions by mentioning the need for George to “keep his story straight for later” essentially as if what was happening contemporaneously was his “cop buddies” leading him down the path to freedom and insider treatment. They don’t QUITE pull off the whole ruse of buddy-buddy, partially because his lies are too difficult to swallow but also because George is so suspicious and guarded in his words. But the detectives still act as though “this is all just so we can set the record straight” and that George is “gonna be fine probably” etc.
Never do the SPD detectives posture that they are “holding him for questioning.” It’s always that they are “allowing him to make a statement,” or some such polite way of putting things, as though his cooperation is helping them seal the fate of the dead “suspect” who “attacked” him. This is how “good cop/ good cop” works.
Someone in the SPD made the call that George “should be handled with kid gloves” and also let go to sleep in his own bed. It was a pragmatic decision since at the beginning the detectives saw they lacked a good witness to the events from start to finish and that GZ killed the only other person who they thought heard the start of the fight. Keep in mind they had yet to learn that TM was on the phone at the time the fight started.
The fact that George kept in touch with Serino while he was out and not facing a grand jury or criminal charges is a sign that Serino had gained some measure of his trust. Before GZ called Angela Corey he also had been speaking with Serino. I am guessing its likely GZ asked Serino something obsequious like “do you think it might be a good idea if I were to call the state’s attorney and let them know (what a good boy I am) etc?” Serino knew he was pretty much off the case by then but tried to keep the “good cop” ruse going.
Recall the two clown lawyers who weren’t really his lawyers? I also am guessing one of both of them, idiots that they were, knew enough to try to advise George of the folly of trying to consider Angela Corey his new buddy. Whatever the timing and whomever was advising George, he didn’t get his chance to cozy up to the special prosecutor because the state wisely refused to see him at all until he retained a lawyer. He called Corey but she wouldn’t take that call IIRC.
So in answer to the question, “what was he thinking when he tried to see Corey?” I’d say the guess is probably right that he still felt like he could talk his way out the jam he was in. (SO far, so good, he felt.) He’d killed the only real witness to his car-to-pedestrian chase and was fairly sure no one saw how the physical altercation began. Somehow he’d gotten the lucky break of having someone, Shellie probably, move his car away before it could be searched or its location noted. (which way was it facing? He could be lying about that but we don’t know, and we may never know.)
His arrogance is staggering, but his gullibility is as well. IMO Serino did a good job of “handling” George. He may have made other mistakes but in this regard his strategy was a wise one. And the special prosecutor made the wise call that despite George possibly being willing to come make more “statements” that he’s been given enough rope to hang himself with already. They knew the statements he’d given the SPD and they felt they had enough already to paint him as the two-bit liar that he is.
If Serino ever gets a book deal, I’ll buy his book. He’d got things to answer for, but keep in mind he looked into GZ’s eyes and read his body language, heard his story, walked the grounds with him and then looked again into his eyes as George was confronted with the NEN call recording and several of his contradictory statements. If anyone in the world knows whether or not to believe GZ it’s detective Chris Serino, who wanted to charge him with murder and was willing to settle for manslaughter but NEVER felt GZ was in the clear.