Thursday, April 11, 2013
Greetings to all:
This post substantially exceeds my typical post. I had a lot to say, however, and I have been rewriting and fine tuning this piece since Tuesday night.
As you all know, Benjamin Crump represents Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. He negotiated a settlement agreement earlier this year with the Homeowner’s Association at the Retreat at Twin Lakes (the HOA) whereby Trayvon’s parents agreed not to sue the HOA for the wrongful death of their son in exchange for the HOA paying them a certain sum of money. Although the specific terms of the agreement and the amount of the settlement have not been released to the public, I believe we can reasonably conclude that the HOA agreed to settle the case before trial because they believe that the jury will reject Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. If they had concluded that the jury would find him “Not Guilty,” they would not have had any reason to settle the case.
Benjamin Crump filed a copy of the confidential settlement agreement in Zimmerman’s criminal case file late last week after blacking out the settlement amount. He also provided copies to Bernie de la Rionda and Mark O’Mara.
The Clerk of the Court has since notified Crump that she does not believe she has a proper legal basis to keep the terms of the settlement agreement confidential. She told him that she will unseal the settlement agreement in 10 days, unless he obtains an order from Judge Nelson telling her not to do that.
Regardless what she does, the amount of the settlement probably will remain confidential since he blacked out the amount before he filed the agreement.
Since Crump was not required to announce or to file the settlement agreement, I have been attempting to figure out why he decided to file it and why he waited until the end of last week to do it.
I believe I know the answer.
When considered together with O’Mara’s recent decision to forego an immunity hearing later this month, members of the public now have two solid reasons to doubt O’Mara’s credibility and to question everything he has stated about the case. There cannot be any doubt that this is a devastating turn of events for the man who decided long ago to focus on wining his case in the court of public opinion where he believed he could control the message reported by the media before the trial started and hope that would somehow favorably influence a jury to find the defendant not guilty, despite the evidence. That strategy is falling apart.
I never believed his strategy made any sense unless he got very lucky and a racist Zimmerman supporter lied his way onto the jury with the intent of voting “not guilty,” regardless of the evidence. That seems about as likely to me as filling an inside straight on the draw in a game of poker. In other words, only suckers make that bet.
The inescapable reality is that this case will go to trial eventually and when it does, the jury will be instructed to decide the case based only on the evidence admitted during the trial. That jury, BTW, will have been screened as thoroughly as possible by the juror questionnaire and the use of individual voir dire to identify and excuse prospective jurors who may be biased or prejudiced.
Another inescapable reality is that the evidence admitted during the trial is going to paint a far different picture of the case against the defendant compared to the false and misleading narrative that O’Mara has been repeating at every available opportunity since he got involved in the case. To the extent that any members of the jury recall what he said before trial, they will soon realize that he did not know what he was talking about or he was lying. That most definitely is not a thought that O’Mara wants any juror to have during the trial.
Sooner or later, he will have to face the jury and present a coherent final argument for acquittal based on the evidence admitted during the trial.
Meanwhile, Mark O’Mara and Don West have been subjecting Benjamin Crump to a relentless effort to obtain a court order authorizing them to depose him regarding his contacts with W8, the witness known by the pseudonym Dee Dee assigned to her by the prosecution to protect her privacy. attack on his character and professional reputation in an effort to discredit W8, the witness known by the pseudonym Dee Dee assigned to her by the prosecution to protect her privacy.
Cellular phone records establish that Dee Dee and Trayvon spent many hours on their phones talking to each other on the day that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon. In fact the records show that their phones were connected [detail]. Therefore, Dee Dee is the only witness who was in contact with Trayvon during the approximate 30 minute period leading up to his death. In effect, she is Trayvon’s voice from the grave and she presents a problem to the defendant’s claim of self-defense because she told Bernie de la Rionda that Trayvon told her he was afraid of. He told her that he ran to escape from the creepy man and believed he had successfully eluded him until the man suddenly appeared nearby on foot. She heard Trayvon say, “What are you following me for? She heard a deeper voice respond, “What are you doing here? Then she heard what sounded like physical contact between the two followed by Trayvon screaming, “Get off.” She lost the connection and was unable to reconnect with Trayvon.
George Zimmerman fired the fatal shot approximately one minute later.
That shot is preceded by an agonized shriek that abruptly ends with the sound of the fatal gunshot. The shriek sounds inhuman and it lasts for 40 seconds. It sounds like a desperate and panicked child protesting the certainty of imminent death without knowing who is going to kill him and why he going to do it. The shriek is audible in the background of a recorded 911 call from a neighbor who lived close to the scene of the shooting.
The shriek far exceeds any horror that I have witnessed and it will likely continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
The combination of Dee Dee’s testimony and the shriek pose a major problem to the defendant’s claim of self-defense.
The defense scheme to discredit Dee Dee and blame Ben Crump for suborning perjury for dollars
To cast doubt on Dee Dee’s credibility, Mark O’Mara and Don West have accused her of committing perjury and Ben Crump of suborning her perjury. Never mind that they have no evidence to support their claim that she committed perjury. However, they do have her admission that she lied to Bernie de la Rionda while under oath when she told him that she did not go to Trayvon’s funeral or wake because she was sick and stayed overnight in a hospital. Apparently, despite the lack of materiality, which is an essential element of a perjury charge, they believe that admission is sufficient to support an accusation that everything she said was a lie.
Calling her an admitted perjurer, they now accuse Ben Crump of convincing her to lie. They are basically accusing him of providing her with a script full of lies to repeat when she testifies at trial.
Yes indeed, despite a lack of any evidence O’Mara and West have accused Ben Crump of concocting a scheme to have Dee Dee lie during the trial in order to fool the jury into wrongfully convicting an innocent George Zimmerman of second degree murder thereby setting up multi-million dollar causes of action against George Zimmerman for wrongful death and the Homeowner’s Association for negligently appointing and failing to supervise his activities as the captain of the neighborhood watch program contributing to the wrongful death of Trayvon Martin.
Finally, they claim they must be permitted to depose him under oath regarding this scheme in order to adequately prepare for trial.
Even though there is no evidence that Benjamin Crump encouraged or attempted to encourage Dee Dee to lie about what Trayvon told her and even though there were other witnesses present when he interviewed her by telephone that the defense has not attempted to interview or to depose, defense counsel continue to repeat their false allegations about Benjamin Crump and insist that the defense will suffer irreparable harm if the court does not authorize the deposition. Of course, they do not explain why they would suffer irreparable harm.
Benjamin Crump actually is the person most likely to suffer irreparable harm, if the court were to authorize the deposition since he cannot answer any question regarding any discussions he had with his clients about Dee Dee and the civil causes of action against the HOA and George Zimmerman because those discussions were confidential and protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. Discussions with his clients about George Zimmerman’s credibility and the probable result of his self-defense claim are also protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. In addition, he cannot provide any notes he made regarding the questions that he decided to ask her and her responses to those questions since that subject matter is protected from disclosure as attorney work product. In addition, he would be justified in refusing to answer any questions about his plans to sue George Zimmerman. In short, there are very few questions that he could answer, if a deposition were to take place.
With his motives, character and professional reputation under relentless attack by defense counsel and unable to defend himself due to the attorney-client and work product privileges, Benjamin Crump did the only sensible thing he could do under the circumstances. He retained Bruce Blackwell to speak for him and defend him from the attempted character assassination.
Judge Nelson denied their motion to depose Ben Crump with a written opinion in which she found that as attorney for Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, Ben Crump’s communications with them are protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege. She also ruled that he acted as opposing counsel when he recorded a telephonic interview with Dee Dee in early March and provided the FBI with the original recording. This finding is significant because an attorney cannot depose opposing counsel under Florida law. She also ruled that his efforts to locate and interview Dee Dee constituted attorney work product protected from disclosure. She summarily denied their motion to reconsider and clarify her decision.
They have now filed for a writ of certiorari in the Court of Appeals asking it to reverse Judge Nelson’s decision and order Ben Crump to submit to a deposition.
The Court of Appeals entered an order yesterday granting Bernie de la Rionda and Bruce Blackwell 20 days to respond to the defendant’s petition.
I believe Bruce Blackwell and Benjamin Crump decided to file the settlement agreement to accomplish two objectives:
1. To place indisputable documentary evidence in the record to support his claim that he represents Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton and that he acted on their behalf contrary and in opposition to George Zimmerman’s best interests in his criminal case. The agreement also firms up his argument that he is opposing counsel as it indicates his intent to sue George Zimmerman for causing the wrongful death of their son, Trayvon, after the criminal trial concludes.
2. To figuratively smack Mark O’Mara, Don West and their client where it hurts the most on the eve of trial by publicizing documentary evidence that Zimmerman’s employer, the HOA, does not believe Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense will prevail at the trial. Coming on the heels of O’Mara’s decision to waive the immunity hearing, which he attempted to conceal by falsely claiming he could always bring it up later, publication of the settlement agreement sends a clear message to anyone following the case that the defense is in deep trouble, notwithstanding O’Mara’s massive propaganda effort to convince the public that the prosecution has no case.
Lawyers are required to have a good faith basis for the statements, arguments and objections they make. They are prohibited from knowingly or intentionally misleading the Court. The defense attack on Ben Crump and Dee Dee is based on a fanciful theory that is not supported by the evidence or the law. For those two reasons, I do not believe the defense effort to discredit and demonize Dee Dee and Crump is being made in good faith. Instead, the defense effort reminds me of political strategies and arguments that Andrew Breitbart used to discredit Democratic Party candidates for national office. Such strategies and arguments have no place in a court of law.
Efforts to discredit people by character assassination, uttering false statements and misrepresenting existing evidence can cause unpleasant real-life consequences to the people targeted. Therefore, I am not only offended by the defense team’s choice of tactics, I am disgusted that the defense team decided to harm Dee Dee’s reputation and Ben Crump’s professional representation.
Good lawyers take pride in what they do and they do not tolerate unfounded attacks on their character and reputation. I believe Ben Crump and Bruce Blackwell are extremely offended by the continuing bad faith defense effort to discredit Dee Dee and destroy Ben Crump’s professional reputation with false statements and misrepresentation of existing evidence.
I think they decided to file the settlement agreement to counter the defense team’s false narrative and misleading argument that there is no evidence that refutes the defendant’s claim of self-defense.