Defendant faces Hobson’s Choice

July 4, 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day to everyone!

I write today to allay concerns regarding the sufficiency of the State’s case.

First, we know they are going to call the Dr. Bao, the Assistant Medical Examiner who did the autopsy. I think we can reasonably expect that he will tie up any remaining loose ends regarding Trayvon’s death. Expect graphic and gruesome photographs that will firmly ground this case in the reality of a death that did not need to happen.

Second, the prosecution always ends its case-in-chief with what we call a wind-up or summary witness who ties everything together with the aid of charts, graphs and timelines that bring the evidence into focus. I am anticipating that FDLE Detective Gilbreath will be the witness and Bernie de la Rionda will ask the questions that steers him through the maze and haze.

Third, I am expecting the State will call Sybrina Fulton and she will identify her son as the person who uttered the terrified death shriek.

I believe the State will use most of tomorrow to finish up its case.

After the State rests, the defense will move to dismiss the murder charge and enter a judgment of acquittal on the ground that the State failed to present a prima facie case.

The test sJudge Nelson will apply in deciding that motion requires her to assume for the purpose of deciding the motion that all of the evidence introduced during the State’s case-in-chief and all reasonable assumptions that can be drawn from that evidence are true. Given those assumptions, she must decide if a rational trier of fact (i.e., a juror) could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder in the second degree.

Expect Judge Nelson to deny the defense motion.

After she denies that motion, the defense will have to decide whether to present any evidence. I believe sufficient evidence of self-defense has come in through the defendant’s statements to support instructing the jury on self-defense. Therefore, the defendant will not have to testify to get that instruction and the defense could rest without calling any witnesses.

Will the defendant testify?

As I commented last night,

The combination of the SPD photographs that show no significant injuries to the defendant’s face and head and the absence of any of the defendant’s blood and DNA on Trayvon Martin’s fingernails and his hoodie sweatshirt, particularly the sleeves and cuffs, put the lie to the defendant’s story.

Trayvon Martin did not hit the defendant repeatedly or slam his head against a cement sidewalk because, if he had done so, he would have been covered with the defendant’s blood and DNA.

Therefore, the defendant was never reasonably in fear of death or serious bodily injury.

Trayvon Martin’s fingernails and sleeves would have been drenched in blood, if the defendant’s story were true. The argument that the rain washed away the defendant’s DNA, and/or the packaging of the damp hoodie in a plastic biohazard bag degraded all of the defendant’s DNA is specious because Trayvon’s blood and DNA were detected.

There is no question that the defendant followed Trayvon Martin first in his vehicle and then on foot with the intent of preventing this “asshole from getting away.”

There is no question that Trayvon Martin attempted to run away from the defendant.

There is no question that the defendant had two opportunities to identify himself but decided not to do so.

There is no question that the defendant ignored the dispatcher’s warning to cease from following Trayvon Martin when he told the dispatcher to have the officer en route call him for a location and he subsequently pursued Trayvon Martin into the grassy area behind the townhomes south of the T intersection.

Given his unambiguously expressed intent to prevent Trayvon Martin from getting away, there is no doubt that he confronted him when he found him.

The defendant’s hostile pursuit makes him the aggressor and he cannot legitimately claim that he acted in self-defense, unless Trayvon Martin resisted his effort to detain him with deadly force and he could not withdraw from the encounter.

The defense claim that Trayvon Martin was “armed” with a cement sidewalk is controverted by Dr. Rao’s testimony and the DNA evidence.

I think the jury will likely find the defendant guilty, if he does not testify.

Yet, I cannot imagine how he can talk himself out of the mess he has created.

He has the right to decide whether to testify.

We will have to wait and see what he decides to do.

I am not expecting the defense to present any other evidence, with the possible exception of calling a family member(s) to identify the defendant as the person who uttered the terrified death shriek.

I suspect the jury will not believe them since the defendant was never in any danger and the shriek abruptly ends with the gunshot that silenced Trayvon Martin forever.

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Prosecution hammers defense with DNA evidence in eighth day of trial in Zimmerman case

July 3, 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Good afternoon:

The State hammered the defense with DNA evidence today. FDLE laboratory analyst Anthony Gorgone testified that the defendant’s DNA was not found on Trayvon Martin’s fingernail cuttings or anywhere on Trayvon Martin’s sweatshirt, including the area from the elbows to the cuffs.

Gorgone also testified that Trayvon Martin could not be excluded as a contributor to a bloodstain on the lower portion of right cuff of the defendant’s jacket.

These results are a devastating blow to the defense because they refute the defendant’s story. Given the scenario that the defendant described, his blood and DNA should be all over Trayvon Martin’s fingernails and sleeves.

Judge Nelson recessed the trial until Friday morning at 8:30 am EDT.

The State will be resting its case sometime Friday, possibly before noon.

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I have changed my mind and now support Judge Nelson’s decision

June 22, 2013

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Good afternoon:

I was in the waiting room at my doctor’s office down in Tennessee browsing through a dictionary looking for new words with which to torture y’all when CNN announced that Judge Nelson had issued an order excluding the State’s audio experts (Tom Owen and Dr. Alan Reich) from testifying at the trial. For those of you who may not be as familiar with the case as we are, both experts would have testified that George Zimmerman did not utter that haunting shriek. Dr. Reich also would have testified that Trayvon Martin likely uttered the shriek.

The anchor person said Judge Nelson determined that there is an absence of agreement in the scientific community that the methodologies used by Mr. Owen and Dr. Reich were capable of identifying the source of the terrified death shriek due to the current inability in the scientific community to match a voice exemplar with a shout, the poor quality of the 911 recording, and the short length of time in which there are no competing sounds on the recording and only the shriek can be heard (approximately 3 seconds).

Although I predicted Judge Nelson would deny the defense motion, I cannot say that I am surprised or dismayed by her decision. In fact, and I may surprise some of you with this statement, I am going to compliment Judge Nelson for her decision because it is the right decision at the right time in our nation’s courts and I believe it took a lot of courage for her to make it, especially in a high visibility case like this one in which the whole world is watching.

I have previously written about the deplorable state of forensic science in our nation and the need for standards, regulatory oversight, and mandatory blind proficiency testing of lab personnel modeled after the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA). There is no question in my mind that Dr. Nakasone and Dr. Weyman are on the right track attempting to establish a national set of standards and accepted methodologies for use in forensic voice identification. Judge Nelson did the right thing by endorsing their efforts and her decision was courageous because a lot of forensic scientists and the prosecutors and defense lawyers who employ them will criticize her.

My support for the admissibility of the results obtained by Mr. Owen and Dr. Reich is based on the unique set of circumstances of this case in which the shriek could only have been uttered by one of two known individuals. This situation only requires eliminating one of the two individuals. Since all of the experts who testified agreed that the methodologies used by the State’s experts have been used for many years and continue to be used today; it was easier to exclude than to declare a match; the defense was unable to find an expert willing to testify that George Zimmerman uttered the shriek; and the circumstantial evidence proves that Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek; I concluded that the State’s experts should have been permitted to testify. I still believe that would have been an appropriate conclusion to reach applying the Frye rule.

I am very pleased and proud of your reaction to the news. I anticipated dismay, some panic, and cynical complaints that Judge Nelson is corrupt and the outcome is rigged. I anticipated this reaction because I confess that it was my first reaction. A 2-hour motorcycle ride home on a beautiful afternoon driving on a lesser-traveled 2-lane highway curving through forests and corn fields with the Crane-Station sitting behind me was the perfect antidote. I fully engaged in driving my motorcycle, forgot my disappointment, and realized the prosecution is in a much better position because of her ruling.

When I arrived home and checked the blog I saw that y’all were taking it in stride without any help from me. Y’all know that the prosecution does not need the expert testimony to convince the jury that Trayvon Martin uttered the shriek and I think y’all also realize that not presenting the expert testimony avoids the inevitable distraction and confusion that a battle of the experts might cause. Indeed, in a case like this with only two possible individuals who could have uttered the shriek, there is virtually no chance that any jury would conclude that the shooter uttered that shriek when the evidence will show that he was the person who was armed, he was the person who got out of his vehicle and ran after an unarmed Trayvon when Trayvvon attempted to get away from him, he was the person who admitted to establishing control over Trayvon with a wristlock before pulling his gun and shooting Trayvon, and the shriek ends with the gunshot. Just as we do not need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind blows, we also do not need experts to tell us who uttered that shriek. Neither will the jury.

Therefore, Judge Nelson did the prosecution a huge favor by excluding the experts. In essence, she applied the KISS rule and is forcing the prosecution to do the same thing. She deserves to be thanked for that, not criticized. Y’all realized that without any assistance from me and that is why I am so proud of you and so delighted to see how much you know about the case and how sophisticated you have become in understanding the evidence and the rules governing the use of expert witnesses.

Anyone lacking your knowledge of the evidence in this case would have thought the prosecution had lost any chance to convict George Zimmerman, given the near unanimity of so-called legal experts characterizing this ruling and the selection of an all woman jury as devastating disasters for the prosecution.

Before I got involved in this case, I did not believe my low opinion of the national media and their so-called legal experts could possibly get any lower. However, the nonsense they are spewing as informed opinion has significantly lowered the bar. Despite its availability, they are ignoring the evidence that we have so carefully analyzed and discussed. They have accepted Mark O’Mara’s false narrative and joined in demonizing an innocent 17-year-old kid with loving parents and a bright future. I would have considered myself extraordinarily fortunate if Trayvon were my son and I would have been extremely proud of him. Anyone lawyer who has joined in the demonization of Trayvon and his parents by appearing on national television and voicing an expert opinion regarding the case that endorses the false narrative as though it were true, is a fundamentally dishonest human being without empathy or moral compass.

In many ways, Travon’s case functions as a mirror reflecting the prejudices people have about race, black male teenagers, and black people as parents and citizens. With the selection off an all female jury, the case is reflecting the prejudices people have about women as decision-makers.

Before this case, I knew we had a long long way to go before we reach a place where we no longer disrespect people by the color of their skin and their gender.

Trayvon’s case has taught me that our society is far more racist and sexist than I imagined. His case is an opportunity to set the record right and recommit to seeking equality and justice for all of our people as opposed to a privileged few.

Congratulations to all of you from your humble professor.

Fred

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All Female Jury to decide Zimmerman case, Opening Statements Monday at 9 am

June 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Good evening:

We have a jury, an all female jury.

B-29
B-76
B-37
B-51
E-6
E-40

The four alternates:

E-54
B-72
E-13
E-28

Two males and two females.

Here’s a link to fauxmccoy’s chart on the jurors.

Those in green made the jury. Those in red were stricken.

I tried hundreds of cases during my 30 year career and never had an all female or an all male jury.

5 of the 6 women are white. One is Hispanic.

5 of the 6 women are mothers.

I would be very worried, if I were George Zimmerman, because I believe those mothers are not going to believe him. I think they are going to hold him accountable for killing an unarmed teenager.

I am unhappy that none of the jurors are black, but I do not believe that is going to affect the final outcome of this case.

I predict GZ will testify because Mark O’Mara did not voir dire the panel of jurors regarding a defendant’s right to remain silent and not testify. When my clients decided not to testify, I always made sure that the jurors understood that my clients were not required to testify and no one could assume that their silence was evidence of guilt.

Judge Nelson announced that counsel will give their opening statements beginning at 9 am EDT on Monday morning.

After she dismissed the remainder of the panel and swore in the jurors, Judge Nelson excused the jury and completed the evidentiary part of the Frye hearing.

Assistant State Attorney Manthei summed up the situation when he said there was nothing novel or new about the methodologies used by the State’s experts. What is new is a move across several different scientific disciplines to establish a universal set of standards to use when attempting to match a recording of an unknown voice to a database of recorded voices of known individuals in order to declare a match.

That is a far more complicated task than listening to a known voice and excluding that known individual as the source of a voice on a recording. There are only two possible sources of the terrified shriek that ends with the shot and it’s not difficult to exclude the armed defendant who admitted firing the fatal shot as the source of that scream.

Manthei added that the State was not responsible for the recent news reports that the defense had an expert who identified GZ as the source of the scream.

And some PJs mentioned hearing that in the news before reporting for jury service.

However, as it turned out, the defense could find no expert to testify to that opinion and the reports were false.

If I were Judge Nelson, I would rule that the State’s experts may testify and express their opinions. The defendant’s objections go to the weight of the evidence, not its admissibility.

Judge Nelson will issue her ruling after court reconvenes at 9 am tomorrow.

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Zimmerman Frye Hearing Resumed: Rebuttal

June 20, 2013

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have a jury, an all female jury.

B-29
B-76
B-37
B-51
E-6
E-40

The four alternates:

E-54
B-72
E-13
E-28

Two males and two females.

Here’s a link to fauxmccoy’s chart.

Next up is the prosecution’s rebuttal case in the Frye hearing.

They will be presenting one witness, Tom Owen.

Here’s the link to the livestream coverage.

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nbcnews.com/52117880/


Zimmerman: Day 8 Liveblogging Jury Selection Completed

June 19, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have completed liveblogging the 8th day of jury selection.

Bernie de la Rionda spent the day teaching and indoctrinating the panel of 40 prospective jurors (PJs) with the legal foundation of the case that he will present to them in opening statement. Judging by their reaction, he succeeded in building rapport and trust.

The defense has a big mountain to climb tomorrow.

Bernie used a mixture of one-at-a-time voir dire as to the entire group and then switched to what we used to call the Donahue Method after the former TV host, Phil Donahue.

We would never have been allowed to conduct a classroom style multiple-hour education of the panel regarding legal principles as Bernie did.

Judges instruct on the law, not lawyers.

Voir dire means to question.

During his initial questioning of the panel, he asked each individual juror how long they had lived in Seminole County and Florida, their marital status and children, and what they liked to do with their spare time.

Then he used the Donahue Method to question the panel of 40 as a group on the following subjects:

1. Knowledge of the defendant, lawyers, court personnel and witnesses to be called;

2. Familiarity with TV programs about forensics, cops and the law;

3. Difference between direct and circumstantial evidence;

4. Whether anyone was arrested and prosecuted for a crime;

5. Victims of crime, particularly violent crime;

6. Experience with Neighborhood Watch programs;

7. Whether anyone believes they have the right to take the law into their own hands;

8. Whether anyone believes any person by reason of wealth, education, employment, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, language or dress should be treated differently under the law;

9. Whether anyone has been a witness before or served on a jury;

10. Member of law enforcement or knows someone who is;

11. Whether anyone has medical experience or knowledge;

12. Owns a gun, has a license to carry concealed, NRA membership;

13. Whether people who own guns have a responsibility to learn how to use them;

14. Whether anyone is a fitness freak or trained fighter or been in a fight;

15. Whether anyone has special knowledge or training in cell phones, phonetics, linguistics, or DNA testing; and

16. Whether anyone would not be able to look at gruesome photographs for their evidentiary value.

No one was excused today although I believe 2 PJs should be excluded for financial and familial hardship, especially since the trial is expected to last 2-4 weeks and the jury will be sequestered. Both are Hispanic.

B-29 is a married mother with 8 children at home. The oldest is 22. She works as a CNA. She is juror #2 in the box and would be replaced by B-51, a retired white female from Oviedo with a dog and 20-year-old cat. Knows a good deal about the case, but said “I’m not rigid in my thinking.” She moved to Florida from Atlanta and was the Director of a call center for 1,200 employees.

P-67 is an auto mechanic whose job might not be there after the trial. He is 22nd on the list of 40.

The defense will voir dire tomorrow starting at 9 am EDT.

If the defense has not completed questioning the PJs by 2 pm, Judge Nelson will excuse them for the day in order to resume and complete at least the evidentiary portion of the Frye hearing. The prosecution will be presenting one rebuttal witness, Tom Owen.

I doubt she will be ready to issue her decision at the conclusion of the hearing, so look for it early next week, probably Monday.

I will see you all tomorrow morning at 9 am EDT.

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Zimmerman: Day 7 of Jury Selection Completed

June 18, 2013

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Good afternoon:

We have reached the magic number of 40 prospective jurors (PJ) passed for cause on the issues of hardship and exposure to pretrial publicity.

1. B-12
2. B-29
3. B-76
4. B-7
5. B-35
6. B-37
7. B-51
8. B-86
9. E-6
10. E-40
11. E–54
12. E-73
13. M-75
14. B-61
15. B-72
16. E-22
17. E13
18. E-28
19. K-80
20. K-95
21. P-67
22. G-14
23. G-29
24. G-47
25. G-63
26. G-66
27. G-81
28. H-6
29. H-7
30. H-18
31. H-29
32. H-35
33. H-81
34. H-69
35. H-86
36. I-5
37. I-19
38. I-24
39. I-33
40. I-44

As I have previously described the likely process:

When she gets to 40, she will gather that group together seating the PJs in the jury box, and subsequently the benches, in the order in which they were called and likely instruct them to raise their hands indicating an affirmative answer as she asks a series of questions, pausing to record each PJ’s affirmative answer to each question.

For example, she might ask for a show of hands by each PJ who has been a victim of a crime and write down each PJs number who raises their hand.

After she completes her list of questions, the lawyers, starting with Bernie de la Rionda, will question the first PJ on the list (B12) regarding each question she answered affirmatively. After both lawyers have finished with B12, they will pass or challenge her for cause. If she is excused, she will be replaced in the box by PJ B51 (she is 7th in the order).

This process will be repeated with B51 until she is passed or excused for cause. If she is excused, her seat will be taken by B55. If she is passed, the lawyers will question B29, the PJ in the second seat in the box.

This procedure likely will be followed until 30 PJs have been passed for cause.

Then the lawyers will exercise their peremptory challenges, which is usually done secretly with the lawyers passing back and forth a sheet of paper alternately listing a PJ number until one or both sides exhaust their allotment of peremptory challenges.

If one side accepts the jury of 6 before exhausting their peremptories, they retain the right to use a peremptory challenge to excuse the PJ who replaces a member of the jury struck by their opponent after they accepted the jury.

Judge Nelson announced in court that she intends to begin at 9 am EDT and recess at 3:45 pm EDT, if jury selection has not been completed.

She will reconvene court at 4 pm EDT for the State’s rebuttal case in the Frye Hearing.

The State is going to call one witness: Tom Owen.

Jury selection will resume Thursday morning and continue until completed.

Opening statements will follow jury selection.

I estimate Friday morning for opening statements.

See you in court tomorrow morning at 9 am EDT.

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