The second week of the Zimmerman trial has proven as disastrous for the prosecution as the first. The only conclusion the jurors could reach beyond a reasonable doubt at this point is that the state has wasted their time and ruined the life of a hapless neighborhood watch volunteer.
Insuperable doubts abound in the case. Not a single piece of incriminating evidence has been nailed down. Bob Beckel, Fox’s Falstaff, claims that Zimmerman is a “wannabe cop who didn’t like black people.” That’s what the prosecution would like people to think. But the only racism it has managed to establish implicates Trayvon Martin, who called Zimmerman a “creepy-ass cracker” and “nigga.”
Even on the irrelevant question of whether or not Zimmerman “profiled” Martin, the prosecution has struggled, despite enjoying the advantage of getting to leave jurors in the dark about most of Martin’s past. Zimmerman’s monstrous hate crime, it turns out, was that he profiled a juvenile delinquent as a juvenile delinquent. He said that Martin looked like he was on drugs. He was. He said that he was behaving suspiciously. He was. Jurors may hear about the marijuana in his system (the judge has now said that the defense can use a toxicology report), but they won’t hear about his suspension from school at the time, his school’s discovery of stolen goods and a burglary tool in his backpack, and his past fights.
Zimmerman’s “profiling” fell well within the range of reasonableness for a neighborhood watch volunteer. So even if that were the subject of the trial, as the prosecution has tried mightily to make it, he would deserve to prevail. The media will undoubtedly portray an acquittal, should it come, as a narrow legal, not moral, victory, spin which can already be seen in anxious, craven commentaries about the trial on most channels. But it is not at all clear what Zimmerman did even morally wrong, apart from make one profane aside to a 911 operator.
“I do not see how a jury, as a legal matter, convicts of either second-degree murder or manslaughter. Now, that does not mean that George Zimmerman was justified, it doesn’t mean that George Zimmerman was right,” said Dan Abrams of ABC, setting the tone for potential post-acquittal coverage.
In other words, Zimmerman is a vile person who could have committed a crime but it just wasn’t proven. By adopting this line, the media shows its amoral willingness to deliver Zimmerman’s head to the mob. A responsible press would turn its attention to prosecutors and ask why they brought the case in the first place. It would paraphrase to prosecutors Raymond Donovan’s famous question: Which Seminole County office should Zimmerman go to get his reputation back?
On Monday, two detectives testified that Trayvon Martin’s father told them that the screams captured on a 911 call did not come from his son. “There’s no doubt” that is what he said, according to detective Doris Singleton. This devastating testimony came after a mounting number of witnesses testified to Zimmerman’s voice on the call, testimony which corresponds to the account from the only eyewitness to the incident, John Good, who said last week that he saw Trayvon Martin on top of Zimmerman in a “ground and pound” style and heard Zimmerman crying for help. On Tuesday, a black neighbor of Zimmerman’s also testified that when she heard screams on the call she identified the voice as Zimmerman’s.
The defense also called on Tuesday a forensics expert, Dr. Vincent Di Maio, who testified that the gun burn on Trayvon Martin’s sweatshirt supports Zimmerman’s account. “Mr. Martin was over him, leaning forward,” he said. “If you are lying on your back your clothing is going to be against your chest,” he said. “The clothing is consistent with someone leaning over the person doing the shooting.” Di Maio also confirmed that Martin would have had enough oxygen in his brain to have spoken after the shooting, as Zimmerman told police he did (Martin said something like “you got me”) -- a part of Zimmerman’s story the prosecution had claimed was implausible.
The confidence of the defense’s witnesses is in sharp contrast with the shakiness, hedging, and bumbling of the prosecution’s. On Monday, illustrating this problem, Trayvon Martin’s father took the stand and attempted to contradict the detectives. His performance was less than convincing. He claimed that he didn’t deny it was his son’s voice but that he just couldn’t “tell” one way or the other. Even if this fudging were true -- and there is no reason to think the detectives are lying -- how could it possibly help the prosecution’s case? Reasonable doubt is established, not eliminated, by such testimony.
“I can’t tell” -- that line defines the emptiness of the prosecution’s case. The state had nothing more than a politicized hunch, now proven worthless, that Zimmerman committed second-degree murder. No direct evidence, just conjecture, changing stories, motive-mongering, and burden-shifting. A conviction, not an acquittal, would merit protests in the streets.
Photo: UPI ("Dr. Vincent DiMaio… describes the injuries of George Zimmerman while testifying … in Seminole circuit court Sanford, Florida, July 9, 2013")