by Dan Linehan on April 10, 2012....By almost any standard, Zimmerman’s legal defense in the Trayvon Martin shooting case has been a sort of ongoing cautionary tale for exactly what not to do if you’re facing potentially serious criminal charges.
Almost immediately, within around thirty-seven minutes after the shooting, Zimmerman was already waiving his right to an attorney. He then proceeded to interview with the police for several hours without any legal representation present.
Then the next day, still without any attorney present or legal advice, Zimmerman took the police back to the scene of the shooting at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, and reenacted what happened on the evening of February 26th with them, step-by-step on video.
Had Zimmerman’s narrative and recounting of the details of that evening been any less than 100% consistent, that’s the moment when everything would have fallen apart for him — sometime right around February 27th. The police had every reason and opportunity to document and doggedly pursue any differences they saw between Zimmerman’s initial interview and his video re-enactment the following day.
Rather than finding anything they could follow up with, what happened instead? The Sanford Police Department was unable to obtain any evidence that would allow them to press even involuntary manslaughter charges against Zimmerman. And no new evidence changed that, even as days and weeks passed.
As anyone who follows criminal justice knows, under harsh conditions and during long, station-house interviews, many people will end up confessing to crimes they didn’t even commit.
Most people are conditioned from an early age to have a bias towards telling authority figures what they want to hear.
Police have been known to take skillful advantage of this psychological blind spot to extract confessions and other incriminating information from suspects during interrogations.
In one infamous case, four innocent men confessed to committing the same brutal rape and murder after being interrogated without legal counsel.
Even when DNA evidence exonerated them, years later, they were still not immediately released, because of the sheer weight a recorded confession carries.
Zimmerman not only didn’t confess to any sort of impropriety in his police interviews, he seems to have been 100% consistent in his statements.
Which brings us to today’s debacle with Zimmerman’s attorneys.
Apparently, Zimmerman has not been in contact with his legal team since Sunday. He unilaterally contacted a member of the media himself, Sean Hannity, and there are reports that Zimmerman contacted the state prosecutor, Angela Corey, himself as well.
It’s unclear how much of the web site he setup was vetted by his legal team. In any case, the site initially included a photo of graffiti vandalism in Ohio that has since been removed from the “album” page.
All of this, of course, must have been pretty horrifying for Zimmerman’s attorneys, who seem to have been doing their best to rehabilitate Zimmerman’s public appearance. They called a press conference to announce that they are withdrawing from the case until such a time when Zimmerman is back in contact with them.
There was initially a pretty strong assumption by most people (mainly due to the incredibly biased media reporting of the incident) that the Sanford Police Department had somehow been complicit in not charging George Zimmerman.
But as time has gone on, it seems the investigation the department carried out was actually extremely by the book. Lately, people have changed tack; they don’t like the conclusions the investigation reached and feel state law must be to blame.
While the police spent weeks attempting to gather evidence and press charges against Zimmerman, the facts of the case simply didn’t materialize in a way that implicated Zimmerman as having committed manslaughter.
Then the case was blown up by the media, and more and more investigatory branches of the government became involved, including the Department of Justice and the FBI, but evidence against Zimmerman has still remained elusive. If there is any strong evidence against him, it hasn’t been released by the prosecutors thus far.
While some have said it was reckless for Zimmerman to leave his truck at all, the law simply does not codify that. Leaving one’s vehicle inside one’s own neighborhood cannot legally be considered “reckless” behavior, especially when Zimmerman was well-known as being the neighborhood watch captain for the community.
Of course, it makes sense that Zimmerman would leave his truck to investigate something he considered suspicious, especially when he was relaying information to a 911 dispatcher.
Many people have taken issue with the fact that Zimmerman was armed as well, but legally speaking, it is unlikely to matter.
Around 900k Florida residents have have concealed carry licenses. Carrying a weapon in one’s own neighborhood is not uncommon, nor does it have any special impact on this case. There is no evidence thus far that Zimmerman was brandishing his firearm or otherwise using it inappropriately.
It may be that Zimmerman simply doesn’t need his legal advisers as badly as most people assumed that he did. Presumably no inconsistencies were found in his statements on February 26th or February 27th. Had there been any serious discrepancies, the police would have already had plenty of rope to hang him with.
The crux of the case comes down to what was happening in the sixty seconds preceding the shooting. And those sixty seconds happen to be the part of the encounter we know the most about.
There is hard evidence of screams for help on 911 tapes. There is evidence showing Zimmerman’s injuries, including a broken nose, and there is an eye-witness account of Zimmerman being beaten and yelling for help.
Since that time period is going to be the main focus of any investigation, there may not be much Zimmerman’s legal advisers can do here beyond what essentially comes down to public relations.
While Zimmerman’s lawyers withdrawing from the case was certainly confusing and unexpected initially, it makes sense when one considers how transparent Zimmerman has been about what happened from day one.
If anything, hiding away and ceasing to make any public statements for the last several weeks seems to have been incredibly unnatural for Zimmerman.
This is, after all, a man who was going around town handing out flyers about the Sanford “homeless sucker punch” case last year, a case that didn’t involve him directly whatsoever.
Those flyers began with the same quote currently featured on each page of Zimmerman’s web site.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
- Edmund Burke
Zimmerman now seems to be downright intent on advocating for himself directly and increasing his public visibility. This has created a near-instant backlash against him from many who are still convinced he should immediately be arrested.
But that’s Zimmerman’s character in a nutshell; he’s nothing if not exceedingly independent and vocal.
Zimmerman went further than most would in volunteering to lead his neighborhood watch. He was, by all accounts, extremely thorough over the years in reporting anything suspicious in his neighborhood. He went against all reasonable legal advice when he allowed himself to be interrogated without an attorney present the night of Trayvon Martin’s shooting.
And now he no longer seems to be willing to back down from speaking with the state prosecutor directly, even against his legal team’s wishes. He also has expressed the urge to respond directly to those who are rallying for his arrest.
It’s difficult to tell what will happen with this more cavalier change in attitude. Sanford is, by many accounts, currently a tension-filled powder keg. Yesterday, the police station was briefly occupied by protesting students.
This morning, an empty police cruiser was shot at six times. Not the warmest response for a police department that, thus far, has not been shown to have done anything improper in the investigation.
Zimmerman speaking out will undoubtedly change the public’s perception of him, even if it doesn’t have much of a legal effect.
While he seems to think it will defuse the situation, he could be lighting the fuse for an even larger explosion when Angela Corey’s announcement is made later this week.
In: Other News
Tags: Zimmerman, , shooting, , , Trayvon, Martin,
Location: New York, New York, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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