George Michael Zimmerman and the Thirteen Commandments of Criminal Defense

September 25, 2012

The First Commandment of Criminal Defense is thou canst not create a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, no matter how good you are. Some cases are dead-bang losers and you must be able to identify and dispose of them, if at all possible, without going to trial. That usually involves a plea bargain and a guilty plea.

There are two kind of plea bargains: charge bargains where charges are dropped or reduced in exchange for a guilty plea, and sentencing bargains where the prosecutor agrees to recommend a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

You should be prepared to take a case to trial, if the prosecutor is unwilling to give your client a benefit in exchange for pleading guilty. The prosecutor must know that you are willing to do that or you will not get the best deal for your client.

The Second Commandment is thou shalt not fail to use your independent judgment and act in the best interests of your client. The relationship must be a professional one, not a codependent one. It is not a friendship of equals.

Your client hired you, or you were appointed to represent him, because you are a professional with the requisite knowledge and skill to do the job. Because of that knowledge and skill, which your client does not have, and your duty to use your independent judgment, you must be the boss in the relationship.

I can think of no better example of a difficult and self-destructive client than George Zimmerman. Four words illustrate the disaster that can happen when the lawyer permits the client to make the decisions:

The Shawn Hannity Interview.

If you cannot control your client, thou shalt withdraw from the case.

The Third Commandment is thou shalt not fail to do everything within your power to silence your client because the prosecution can use everything he says about the case against him.

If you cannot shut him up, thou shalt withdraw from the case.

The Fourth Commandment is thou shalt not fail to keep your client well informed about the facts and legal issues in the case. Just because you are the boss does not mean you are God. Keeping your client well informed and up to date is the best way to build trust and manage the attorney-client relationship.

The Fifth Commandment is thou shalt not assume that your client is telling you the truth. He might be and he might not be. Whether he is or not is not your responsibility or duty to determine. Nevertheless, consistent with your duties to keep your client informed and to be diligent and thorough, you do have a duty to inform your client about any contradictions and inconsistencies between his statement(s) and the evidence.

The Sixth Commandment is thou shalt not try your case in the court of public opinion. Nothing good can result, if you do. Two words summarize this rule beautifully:

Mark O’Mara

The Seventh Commandment is thou shalt not ask a question on cross examination unless you know the answer.

The Eighth Commandment is thou shalt never ask a question on cross examination that cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no.”

The Ninth Commandment is thou shalt not encourage your client to testify unless it is absolutely necessary. Nothing good can come of it. Three words summarize this rule:

George Michael Zimmerman

The Tenth Commandment is thou shalt know forensic science well enough to spot issues, ask intelligent questions and choose qualified and credible expert witnesses.

The Eleventh Commandment is thou shalt not rely on the police to investigate your case. You must always work with an investigator.

The Twelfth Commandment is thou shalt always file a discovery motion requesting a prosecution witness list with a list of prior convictions of record for each witness and disclosure of any agreements with any witness to confer a benefit of any kind on the witness in exchange for the cooperation and/or testimony of the witness; all police investigation reports; witness statements; forensic reports and bench notes; your client’s statements, together with a list of all searches and seizures and an inventory of all property seized; and any exculpatory evidence, including impeachment evidence, in the possession, custody or control of the police and prosecution.

The defense has the burden of proving self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence at the immunity hearing. Therefore, it will go first.

Zimmerman’s statements to police and others are inadmissible hearsay, unless they are not offered to prove the truth of the matters asserted in the statements. Therefore, Zimmerman would have to testify to have any chance to win the immunity hearing.

If he testifies, however, the prosecution will have an opportunity to confront him with all of his prior inconsistent statements. That might take several days and could get downright ugly eliminating any chance of winning the immunity hearing. His predicament can be summarized in nine words.

Damned if you do and damned if you don’t

O’Mara might want to consider waiving the hearing, since he cannot win it and can only further damage Zimmerman’s credibility and standing in the court of public opinion, if he goes forward with it.

The burden of proof will switch back to the prosecution at the trial where it will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not reasonably fear imminent death or serious injury when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

I italicized “reasonably” because the test is objective, not subjective. That is, he must not only believe he is in imminent danger of death or serious injury, his belief must be reasonable.

Satisfying that burden should be easy since Zimmerman admitted to Serino that he had Martin under control with a wrist lock before he pulled his gun and shot him. He also admitted to the investigator who administered the voice stress test that, after he grabbed his gun, he extended his arm beyond his left hand to avoid shooting it, aimed, and pulled the trigger.

Assuming for the sake of argument that he believed he was in imminent danger of suffering death or serious injury, and I do not think the evidence supports that conclusion, his own words establish that his belief was not reasonable.

Even if Martin punched him repeatedly in the head with his fists and then he gripped Zimmerman’s head and slammed it repeatedly against the cement sidewalk, Zimmerman was no longer in any danger because he had Martin under control first with the wrist lock and then at gunpoint. Although his injuries bled copiously, they were not serious and he did not have to shoot Martin, much less kill him.

Moreover, he knew the police were en route and would arrive within moments, which they did. The evincing-a-depraved-mind-indifferent-to-human-life element is established by the unreasonable and unnecessary shooting.

There is no doubt that he intended to kill Martin because, as he said, he aimed and the shot went direct from front to back exploding the right ventricle and collapsing both lungs.

In the final analysis, Zimmerman’s own words convict him and all of the hullabaloo regarding whether Martin was a Super Bad Black Gangsta From Hell or the Second Coming of Jesus was totally irrelevant.

The truth is Martin was a good kid minding his own business that night.

The evidence will establish beyond a reasonable that the only thug out and about that rainy night in February was a burly armed vigilante who fancied himself to be the Sheriff at the Retreat.

His name is George Michael Zimmerman.

I will now close this essay with the Thirteenth Commandment:

Thou shalt not play the race card or trash the character of the victim of a homicide or other violent crime, such as a rape or an assault, when the victim is a child, in order to escape responsibility for committing the crime. The best example I can think of consists of three words:

George Michael Zimmerman

So let it be written

So let it be done.

(H/T to Logi for pointing out Zimmerman’s statement to Serino admitting that he had wrist control of Martin before pulling his gun and shooting him)


Zimmerman: The Case of the Useless Press Conference

August 13, 2012

Mark O’Mara raised expectations late last week with an announcement that he would have an important announcement to make Monday morning and would follow it up with a press conference.

Having raised expectations, he effectively dashed them with a bucket of ice cold water early Monday afternoon when he announced that he was filing for a writ of prohibition in the Court of Appeals to get Judge Lester off the case.

Nothing surprising about this continuing foolishness to unseat the judge who dared not praise George Zimmerman and his partner in perjury, Shellie Zimmerman.

The motion to disqualify did not pass the straight-face test and this latest effort does not even merit a yawn.

Why did he do it?

The only reason I can think of is that he’s still trolling for dollars from anyone still willing to contribute money so that George and Shellie can continue to live in the style to which they have become accustomed.

Therefore, we had to endure yet another repetition of the absurd self-defense claim and lives-in-danger nonsense that is growing tiresome and old.

Absolute waste of time.

I said long ago that only a racist would believe that an innocent 17-year-old boy walking home in the rain talking to his girlfriend, after walking to the store to buy his little brother some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea, would suddenly for no apparent reason go psycho, start speaking in 10-20 year-old ghetto slang and B-movie dialect, attack, and attempt to kill with his bare hands an older menacing man following him who outweighed him by more than 40 pounds and whom he had successfully eluded by running away and hiding.

I’ll say it again.

Anyone who believes George Zimmerman is a racist.

Anyone who contributes money to his continuing dog-and-pony show is a racist and stupid.


Zimmerman: A Spectacular Fail!

July 19, 2012

Watt4Bob at Firedoglake posted a comment to my article, Should Mark O’Mara Withdraw as Counsel for George Zimmerman? He asked the following question, which probably is on most everyone’s mind this morning after the Sean Hannity interview of George Zimmerman last night.

I want to ask both Hannity and O’Mara what the hell good they think they did for that pathetic man, but I realize neither of them gives a damn and GZ is oblivious.

I can answer that question with three words:

EXPLOITATION. FOR. MONEY.

I am furious.

I cannot imagine myself, or any criminal defense attorney whom I respect, ever, under any set of circumstances, short of cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness or death, sitting passively beside my client as he denies any regret for killing an unarmed teenager, or anyone else for that matter, because it was “God’s plan” for him to die.

And to follow that statement with an “apology” to the kid’s parents in which he says he’s sorry they had to bury their child because he knows what it would be like to lose one of his as yet unborn children is . . . well,

What is it?

And all of this was delivered in a soft monotonous voice without any detectable trace of emotion as though he were describing doing the laundry.

Are there words that capture the depravity and emptiness of that shell of a human being?

If any of you were concerned whether the prosecution could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin while acting with a depraved mind,, you need not worry any longer.

The prosecution must be drinkin’ the bubbly and dancin’ in the street.

I assure y’all, no client of mine would ever have said anything like that on national television with me present because I would have done something, anything, even ripped off my clothes and mooned Amerika in all my naked glory, just to shut him up.

And this appears to have been scripted.

Jesus Christ on a bicycle.

Can there be any doubt who is calling the shots for the defense?

George Zimmerman is representing himself with Mark O’Mara dancing to his tune while playing the role of his attorney.

If anyone still believes George Zimmerman is not a devious and manipulative person, please listen to this audio recording of a jailhouse telephone call when he called right-wing Pastor Terry Jones of let’s-all-of-us-sinners-party-on-the-lawn-burnin’-Korans fame to pray with him for the healing of America and ask him to cancel a pro-Zimmerman demonstration to calm people down.

Hell, listen to it anyway.

Just for the halibut.

(h/t to Crazy1946 @ my website for spotting this recorded conversation and posting a comment about it)


Should Mark O’Mara Withdraw as Counsel for George Zimmerman?

July 18, 2012

I believe Mark O’Mara should withdraw as counsel for George Zimmerman because he is not acting in his client’s best interests. Instead, he appears to be acting in what he perceives to be his own best interests by constantly talking to the press, making himself available for interviews by mainstream media TV, and making questionable pitches for dollars on his website to fund his effort to represent his client.

There also is the disturbing matter of whether he knew his client had raised a substantial sum of money from contributions by donors at his client’s original funding website (therealgeorgezimmerman.com).

On April 12th, Mark O’Mara filed Defendant’s Motion for Reasonable Bail asserting that his client was indigent.

On April 14th, during a recorded jailhouse conversation (Call 30) with someone identified as Scott.

George Zimmerman said.

GZ: Mark O’Mara is going to try and get me declared indigent. I told him that I didn’t think that was a possibility because you know there was the one possible transfer I tried to make and it got stopped, you know the $37. [37 is code for $37,000]

He said ‘well that doesn’t matter. Right now you are not working, not providing an income for your family, you are probably never going to be employable for the rest of your life. So basically they will declare you indigent.

Male: ah ah

GZ: So he knows about that. um But he …

Male: Does he know about the volume

GZ: No

Male: Ok

GZ: And uh …

Male: I’d like to keep that with us

GZ: Ok I think so too.

At the bond hearing on April 20th, Mark O’Mara did not disclose the $37,000. Instead, he represented to the court that his client had no money.

As we subsequently discovered, during the period between the phone call and the hearing, Shellie Zimmerman transferred $155,000 from the internet account into George Zimmerman’s personal account at a credit union and then she transferred that money into her personal account and his sister’s account, all pursuant to George Zimmerman’s explicit instructions. Therefore, on the date of the bail hearing, there was very little money in the internet account and George Zimmerman’s personal account. The money was transferred back into his personal account after he got out of jail. He then proceeded to spend $36,000 paying off some bills and purchasing two $300 smart phones with a two-year prepaid Verizon account and a two year internet access account, among other things.

Shellie Zimmerman testified by telephone at the bail hearing claiming she and her husband were indigent. She denied any knowledge of how much money, if any, had been donated to the internet account.

She has since been charged with perjury.

Judge Lester revoked George Zimmerman’s bond for misrepresenting his assets at the bond hearing.

In my opinion, any reasonably experienced and competent lawyer at this point would have backed off on the full court press to promote a false image of his client as a young and somewhat naive person “who was fearful and experienced a moment of weakness and who may also have acted out of a sense of betrayal by the system.” See Judge Lester’s Order Setting Bail below.

Nevertheless, at the second bail hearing on June 29th, Mark O’Mara attempted to excuse his client’s misconduct by saying he was exactly that.

Judge Lester did not buy it. Although he set bail in the amount of $1,000,000 based on Florida law that left him no other alternative (thereby brushing aside O’Mara’s presentation of character evidence as irrelevant) in his order setting bail, at page 2, he said:

Under any definition, the Defendant has flaunted the system. Counsel has attempted to portray the Defendant as being a confused young man who was fearful and experienced a moment of weakness and who may also have acted out of a sense of betrayal by the system. Based on all of the evidence presented, this Court finds the opposite. The Defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so. He is an adult by every legal definition; Trayvon Martin is the only male whose youth is relevant to this case. The Defendant has taken courses in criminal justice with the intention of becoming a police officer, an attorney, a judge, or a magistrate like his father. He has been arrested before, having entered and successfully completed a pretrial intervention program. He has also obtained an injunction and had an injunction obtained against him. The injunction against him has obviously been dissolved at some point for him to have validly obtained a permit to carry the firearm used to shoot Trayvon Martin. He also had the wherewithal to set up a website to collect donations to help defray the costs of his defense. Thus, before this tragic incident, the defendant had a very sophisticated knowledge of the criminal justice system over and above that of the average, law abiding citizen.

One would think, he would have breathed a sigh of relief that his client bailed out and reconsidered the wisdom of placing his client’s character in evidence before the court of public opinion.

Nope. He doubled down and while doing so, he forgot to appeal and seek a stay from Judge Lester’s order directing the prosecution to release incredibly damaging evidence to the public; specifically, W9’s claim that George Zimmerman (her cousin) had sexually molested her multiple times over a period of 10 years when she was 6-16 years old. Zimmerman was two-years older.

That evidence exploded on the public two days ago and now he’s going to appear with George Zimmerman on the Sean Hannity Show to discuss the case and no doubt trash W9.

Meanwhile, he made the following pitch on his website:

For those who have given in the past, for those who have thought about giving, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman was justified in his actions, for those who feel they would do the same if they were in Mr. Zimmerman’s shoes, for those that think Mr. Zimmerman has been treated unfairly by the media, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman has been falsely accused as a racist, for those who feel this case is an affront to their constitutional rights — now is the time to show your support.

He also filed Defendant’s Verified Motion to Disqualify Trial Judge alleging that Zimmerman fears getting a fair SYG hearing before Judge Lester because the judge said bad things about him and is obviously prejudiced against him.

As the prosecution noted at page 8 in its Response to the Defendant’s Verified Motion to Disqualify Trial Judge,

On June 1st, he told Anderson Cooper of CNN News:

There is no question that they knew about the money, actually in a previous correspondence to the judge, we had acknowledged that. The question of whether or not they had presented it properly, I think it was somewhat misleading to the court. I’ve gone over that with George.

On June 3rd, the Orlando Sentinel reported:

O’Mara acknowledged the problem his client faces in securing a new bond. “There is a credibility question that needs to be explained away,” he said. O’Mara added that “Zimmerman’s credibility has been tarnished and he will have to rehabilitate it.”

On June 4th, he posted the following statement on his website (gzlegalcase.com):

While Mr. Zimmerman acknowledges that he allowed his financial situation to be misstated in court . . . The audio recordings of Mr. Zimmerman’s phone conversations while in jail make it clear that Mr. Zimmerman knew that a significant sum had been raised by his original funding website.”

On June 29th, ABC Action News reported:

This prosecutor has made a very specific showing that his case is strong,” O’Mara said. “It was important for us to counter that.”

Since he makes no valid legal argument in support of the relief he requests, I expect Judge Lester will deny the motion.

Filing a frivolous motion did not help his client.

The Rules of Professional Conduct mandate that a lawyer shall represent the best interests of the client to the best of his ability.

I see a lawyer who has placed self-interest in surfing media attention to fame and fortune above the best interests of his client. He acts like a moth driven to the flame and I see nothing good coming out of this for himself and his client. I therefore think he needs to withdraw.

George Zimmerman appears to be the quintessential difficult client who probably wants and may even be directing O’Mara to do these things. But public revulsion and disgust are not in his best interest.

He needs to shut up and so does his lawyer.


Is George Zimmerman Playing the Race Card to Garner Sympathy and Financial Support?

July 9, 2012

Good morning everyone. With GZ out on bail wearing a GPS bracelet monitoring him at his secret location, I think this is a great opportunity to consider and discuss the issue of race and the potential for retaliation.

For example, I do not believe GZ’s life is in any actual danger and his claimed need for bulletproof vests, living at a secret location and a 24/7 security detail is an hysterical overreaction that his lawyer should be attempting to stop. Or, perhaps GZ is not afraid and it is merely a charade to garner sympathy and financial support.

Y’all get the picture that I am concerned about, don’t you?

This is really unfortunate and I hope the strategy, assuming that is what it is, is perceived for what it is; namely, stark unreasoning fear of race-based retaliation by a racist projecting his fear and prejudice on everyone else.

Therefore, I ask y’all this question: Is GZ’s fear reality based or is it an admission of guilt that he is a racist, that he did profile TM and he killed him without justification all the while believing he was a thug?

If I were his lawyer, I would be telling him to knock it off and act like a regular person.

If you were his lawyer, would you play the race card as Mark O’Mara appears to be doing, or do you think he is doing the right thing?

Also, Mark O’Mara posted the following statement at his website three days ago and I wonder what y’all think of it.

We steadfastly maintain that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense and that he is not guilty of second degree murder.

In the next hours and days the defense team will be working to get George released on bail and on effective strategies for moving forward. Much of our decision making will be based upon the funds available for mounting a defense. In the days surrounding Mr. Zimmerman’s initial arrest, supporters surprised everyone with the strength of their donations.

For those who have given in the past, for those who have thought about giving, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman was justified in his actions, for those who feel they would do the same if they were in Mr. Zimmerman’s shoes, for those that think Mr. Zimmerman has been treated unfairly by the media, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman has been falsely accused as a racist, for those who feel this case is an affront to their constitutional rights — now is the time to show your support.

What do you think of this statement?


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