Defense in Kelly Thomas case resorts to character assassination

December 12, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2014

Good evening:

The prosecution rested its case yesterday in the Kelly Thomas case.

Defense resorts to character assassination.

Adolfo Flores of the Los Angeles Times reports,

Among the witnesses defense attorneys called to the stand Thursday were some of Thomas’ own relatives, including his grandfather, Walter Dieball, who testified that in 1995, his grandson hit him over the head with a fireplace poker while he was watching television.

“I heard the fireplace tools rattling and I looked around and he had the poker in his hand and he hit me with it,” Dieball said.

Ramos’ attorney, John Barnett, asked Dieball if the poker was heavy, tapping his podium twice with a fireplace poker.
Dieball said it was.

An image of the fireplace poker taken after Kelly Thomas struck Dieball was projected onto a screen. It was bent.

Dieball said Thomas hit him another time on the head when he was on his knees attempting to get up and another time on the back as he fled into a room.

He told prosecutors he went into the room because it had a lock, a phone to call 911 and a gun for protection. Dieball, who was pushed to the stand in a wheelchair, wore a yellow ribbon worn by supporters of Thomas.

The defense also called his mother to the stand. She testified that he attempted to choke her in December 2010. She also was wearing a pin exhibiting a photo of his face and a yellow ribbon.

They also called a man who testified that Kelly punched him on the chin when he told him to leave a party for being disruptive.

A woman, who worked at a produce stand in 2010, testified that Kelly Thomas threw rocks at her after she told him to leave the area and chased him away with pepper spray and a machete.

Whether these violent acts will influence the jury remains to be seen.

Regardless of what he did or threatened to do to someone else at some other time in the past, the simple fact remains that the video shows that the police beat an unarmed young man to death and never even attempted to handcuff him.

The trial will resume on Monday.

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Mark O’Mara engineers snipe hunt to avoid responsibility for publicizing irrelevant evidence

May 29, 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Good afternoon:

NBC News reported late yesterday:

A Florida judge ruled Tuesday that George Zimmerman’s defense team cannot mention Trayvon Martin’s suspension from school, prior marijuana use, text messages or past fighting during opening statements at next month’s trial.

Judge Debra Nelson said that during the trial she will consider motions to admit details as evidence on a case-by-case basis, outside the presence of jurors who will decide if Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Martin.

Although this statement is technically correct, it also is misleading because Judge Nelson actually concluded that the evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible. That is why she granted the State’s motion in limine to prohibit the defense from mentioning any of those things during jury selection and opening statement.

The only reason she might change her mind is if the State were to open the door by introducing evidence of good character. That is not going to happen because Trayvon’s character, whether good or bad, is not an issue in this case. BDLR has no reason to introduce evidence of good character and I am certain that he was not planning on doing that because he knows that good character evidence is irrelevant. Since the defense cannot rebut something that does not happen, the jury will not hear any of this information.

That is not the end of the story, however, because the irrelevant information in question was obtained from Trayvon Martin’s phone and it is the subject of a defense motion for sanctions and request for a judicial inquiry that Judge Nelson has scheduled for June 6th, the same day as the Frye hearing regarding the admissibility of expert testimony identifying the person who uttered the terrified death shriek.

I do not believe Judge Nelson is going to find that BDLR withheld evidence from the defense. The evidence was recorded on Trayvon’s phone in binary code and a copy of that raw data was disclosed to the defense sometime in late January. O’Mara did not hire an expert or purchase a software program that can translate that code into plain English.

A few weeks ago, O’Mara was contacted by an attorney who represents Ben Kruibdos, the Director of Information Technology for the Fourth Judicial Circuit. The attorney is Wesley White.

The Miami Herald reports:

White led the Nassau County state attorney’s office before resigning in December, citing differences of opinion with Corey. He is now in private practice.

White said the photos Kruidbos retrieved were of a hand holding a gun and one depicted drugs. The content of the text messages wasn’t specified.

“I’m an officer of the court and I’m obliged to inform the court of any misconduct or any potential misconduct coming before the court. Whether it’s by the defense or prosecution,” White said.

Apparently, Kruibdos extracted the two photographs and possibly the text messages from the binary code and gave them to BDLR who did not pass them on to O’Mara.

Does that constitute a discovery violation or a tempest in a teapot?

I believe it is a tempest in a teapot, so long as BDLR turned over the raw data.

Judge Nelson has already ruled that the evidence is not relevant or admissible and it certainly is not exculpatory.

We will have to wait and see how the hearing turns out, but this looks like another snipe hunt instigated by O’Mara to distract everyone from holding him accountable for publicly disclosing information that should not have been disclosed.

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Proposal to protect Dee Dee from witness intimidation

April 1, 2013

Monday, April 1,2013

I write today to provide additional context regarding when the prosecution must turn over Brady material to the defense in federal court. This article supplements The Prosecution did not violate the Brady rule in Zimmerman case.

Discovery in federal criminal cases is controlled by the Jencks Act (18 USC 3100 et. seq.), which was passed by Congress in the early 1930s in order to protect the lives and safety of prosecution witnesses in cases against members of criminal organizations (i.e., mob prosecutions). Pursuant to the Jencks Act, federal prosecutors do not have to disclose the identity of a witness to the defense until the witness takes the stand. They do not have to disclose witness statements until after the witness testifies on direct examination. To prevent recessing a trial after the direct examination of each witness to allow defense counsel an opportunity to read the statements before commencing cross examination, federal prosecutors in most districts provide a list of their witnesses and all of their statements and reports late Friday afternoon before the trial starts on the following Monday.

The only discovery that a defendant has a right to obtain before the Jencks material is delivered on Friday afternoon, is his statements, search warrants, affidavits for search warrants, and an inventory of all of his property seized by federal agents executing those searches.

The Brady rule applies in federal criminal cases just as it does in state criminal cases.

As I stated in my Saturday post, regardless of when the defense requests Brady material in a state case, there is no violation of the Brady rule so long as the defense receives the defendant’s Brady material before the trial starts. The same is true in federal court.

I hope this brief description of discovery practices in federal court that do not violate the Brady rule sheds additional light on the defendant’s frivolous claim that Bernie de la Rionda violated the Brady rule by waiting until the night before a pretrial hearing to inform the defense that no hospital records supported Dee Dee’s claim that she missed the funeral and wake because she was in the hospital.

If I were the judge handling this case, I would enter an order dismissing the two defense motions because they are frivolous and I would assess terms against O’Mara for wasting the court’s time.

I had another reason for mentioning the Jencks Act in this post. Since I am concerned about protecting Dee Dee from willful, intentional and malicious doxing and character assassination by people who pride themselves in breitbarting those who seek justice for Trayvon, I think Bernie de la Rionda might want to consider seeking the court’s permission to wait until the trial starts before it discloses information that identifies Dee Dee and any other witness for whom there are reasonable grounds to believe they may be subjected to the same intimidating criminal acts.


Dee Dee did not lie or commit perjury in Zimmerman case

March 5, 2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Before the beginning of today’s hearing in the Zimmerman case, the prosecution informed the defense that Dee Dee (the name given to Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend to protect her anonymity) did not go to a hospital instead of attending Trayvon’s funeral.

Judge Nelson dismissed the defense motion for Dee Dee’s medical records as moot.

The defense now claims that Dee Dee lied.

As the following partial transcript of her interview under oath by prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda conclusively demonstrates, she not lie or commit perjury.

BDLR:_ OK._ I’m not saying that they did._ I’m just making sure the records’ clear on that….Um…you obviously found out about what happened to Trayvon, right?_ And at some point you ended up knowing that he was killed, right?

Dee Dee:_ Yeah.

BDLR:_ Were you able to go to the funeral or to the wake?

Dee Dee:__I was goin’ to go, but…

BDLR:_ OK, what happened?

Dee Dee:__I didn’ feel good.

BDLR:_ OK, did you end up going to the hospital or somewhere?

Dee Dee:_ Mmmm…Yeah, I had high blood pressure.”

(Emphasis supplied)

The question is unclear because he asked if she went to a hospital or somewhere.

Therefore, her answer was not a lie and if it was not a lie, it certainly was not perjury.

Nevertheless, let us assume for the sake of argument that she did lie.

As I said in response to a comment by Unabogie,

I think you are being way too literal.

Lying is lying, by definition, but there is an unlimited number of reasons why people lie.

Intentionally lying to conceal the existence of more than a $100,000 in cash from the court during a bail hearing is, by any standard one might choose to apply, a far more serious matter than lying because you did not want to admit that you were too upset to attend a funeral.

I do not believe the prosecution is the least bit worried about this turn of events.

Proof of perjury requires proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant unambiguously lied under oath about a material matter.

BDLR’s question was ambiguous and DD’s response was not about a material matter, as is the case regarding Shellie Zimmerman’s denial under oath during a bail hearing that she did not know about the money she had transferred into her account.

Therefore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that Dee Dee lied, she did not commit and will not be charged with perjury.

Anyone who says she lied and committed perjury is mistaken and anyone who claims that Dee Dee is as guilty of perjury as Shellie Zimmerman is wrong and guilty of asserting false equivalencies.

As I said in an earlier comment this morning before I saw the transcript, I do not believe this development today changes anything.

I predict DD will be one of the last witnesses called by the State after all of the evidence about the shooting and the events that led up to it have been admitted into evidence.

She will simply be confirming what the evidence has already proven. BDLR will ask her about the false statement and she will probably break down and cry as she admits that she lied about that because she was too embarrassed to admit that she was too upset to attend the funeral.

I think the jury and everyone in the courtroom, except the defendant, will understand that and forgive her for lying.

I believe Sybrina will be the last witness because she is Trayvon’s mom and the emotional impact of her testimony will be extremely powerful.

After all is said and done, I do not think anyone will remember, much less care, that DD lied. It’s just not very important.

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Trayvon Martin’s Murder Forces Us To Confront Racism

December 27, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I realized the defendant was lying when I first read his narrative about the shooting.

Why?

Because I believe it’s extremely unlikely that an unarmed person would flee from a menacing stranger following him and, after successfully getting away, voluntarily approach, engage and attempt to beat that stranger to death with his bare hands.

That story is ridiculous. It made no sense to me when I first read it and it makes no sense to me now.

With two exceptions, I never have understood why anyone would believe that ridiculous story.

As a former criminal defense attorney and law professor, I certainly understand, support and believe in the presumption of innocence. I trained myself to think that way and always searched for the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against my clients. I had no problem exploiting those vulnerabilities for the benefit of my clients. I suspect that most of the lawyers and law professors who have publicly supported the defendant did so from the perspective of presuming that he spoke the truth.

Since I no longer practice or teach law, I believe I can evaluate this case from a more objective perspective.

I cannot and will not presume that an obvious bullshit story is the truth.

I have reviewed all of the evidence released to the public to date and I have not found any evidence that supports the defendant’s story. Instead, his multiple inconsistent and contradictory statements conflict with the physical and forensic evidence. In fact, he has admitted that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin after he had him under control with a wrist lock. He said he pulled out his gun, extended his right arm, aimed to avoid shooting his left hand, and fired the single shot that killed Trayvon Martin. The terrified, prolonged and desperate shriek protesting the depraved execution that was about to occur finally and forever was silenced by the gunshot.

No one is going to believe that the defendant uttered that inhuman shriek with a loaded gun in his hand.

I feel obliged to remind my former colleagues that the presumption of innocence does not require them to blindly accept a liar’s story and actively defend that liar by supporting his effort to demonize an innocent victim and his parents. I am offended, horrified and disgusted by the unrelenting attacks on Trayvon, his family and their supporters. I have no respect for anyone who participates in or supports those attacks, including members of the mainstream media who publicize them, and by so doing, legitimize them.

Enough is enough.

We do not need or want to hear any more lying racist Zimmermans polluting the news.

The Trayvon Martin murder case is much more than a set of hypothetical facts to be discussed in a classroom. It is a real case involving real people and I think our responses to this tragedy reveal much about ourselves as individuals and as a society.

For example, in order to believe the defendant’s story, one would have to believe that Trayvon Martin acted like a stereotypical Black Gangsta thug in a Hollywood action movie. Would any Caucasian person believe the defendant’s story, if the person he killed were Caucasian?

Is it not easier for Caucasians to believe his story because the victim is Black?

I believe we would not have heard about this case, if Trayvon Martin had been a Caucasian kid. The defendant would have been arrested and jailed that first night. He would have been charged with second degree murder and prosecuted without any of the publicity and controversy that we have seen.

The most important lesson of this case is that racism is alive and well in our nation. The defendant’s characterization of Trayvon Martin presents each one of us with a litmus test. Those who accept and believe what he said are failing the litmus test and seriously need to ask themselves why they were so willing to believe such an obvious lie.

Those who continue to believe the defendant in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is a liar may be beyond help.

We live in a racist society and nothing will change unless we admit that we do and we commit to ending racism. As always, the self is the place to start changing society.

Trayvon Martin will not have died in vain if his death becomes the rallying point for a systematic, determined and prolonged effort to once and for all eliminate racism in our society.

Unless we succeed, we will remain a racist and failed society.


Zimmerman: Lawyers Lawyers Everywhere — Important Hearing Today at 1:30 pm EDT

October 19, 2012

Lawyers for prosecution, defense and various news media organizations will be in court this afternoon before Seminole County Circuit Court Judge Debra Nelson to argue about various discovery related issues in the Zimmerman case. This should be interesting, so you may want to pay attention.

The always reliable and accurate Frances Robles of the Miami Herald has the breakdown:

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda filed papers Thursday in Seminole County Circuit Court asking a judge to muzzle defense attorney Mark O’Mara, whom the prosecutor accuses of taking to the Internet to try his case in the media.

“Unless defense counsel stops talking to the media about the case, in person or by use of defendant’s website, it will (be) more difficult to find jurors who have not been influenced by the media accounts of the case,” de la Rionda said. ” … An impartial jury could never be seated.”

De la Rionda asked Circuit Judge Debra Nelson to issue a gag order, which would silence the defense, prosecutors, law enforcement and any of the lawyers’ employees. If the judge agrees, lawyers and investigators would not be allowed to make any statements outside the courtroom about the case, evidence, credibility of witnesses or possible sentences. If the judge allows it, they would even be kept from opining about Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence.

I am not surprised by the State’s motion. The defense has been trying its case in the Court of Public Opinion for months now and the prosecution has at long last run out of patience.

Of course, the prosecution has benefited more than the defense from this strategy. After all, who can forget George Zimmerman’s appearance on the Sean Hannity Show. His smirks, denial of regret, and shifting of responsibility for Trayvon Martin’s death onto God Almighty Himself has to be one of the greatest moments in network television history for this still young second decade.

Although there may still be more gold to be mined in the proverbial “them thar hills,” I think the prosecution comprehends the notion of diminishing returns and wants to cash-in its winnings and move on to other pleasantries of a somewhat more formal nature.

The defense and media lawyers will be objecting to the motion and I do not expect Judge Nelson will seriously consider granting it. Florida’s Sunshine Law is an impressive barrier to a gag order. I predict she will deliver a sternly worded rebuke to defense counsel and we shall see what we shall see.

Judge Nelson also will be hearing argument concerning the defense request to subpoena Trayvon Martin’s middle school and high school records. The State objects to the request on the grounds that the information in the records, whether good or bad, is protected from disclosure by privacy statutes and it would be irrelevant and inadmissible at trial. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda called it a “fishing expedition.”

As I have said before, I believe the rules of evidence permit the defense to introduce evidence of a pertinent character trait in support of Zimmerman’s claim that Martin was the aggressor. For example, if Trayvon Martin was known to be an aggressive bully who started fights, the defense would be permitted to bring that out at trial. Specific acts of misconduct would not be admissible, however. The defense would be limited to introducing the evidence as a character trait. Assuming such evidence exists, which I doubt, it might be in the school records. Therefore, I believe the defense has a legitimate reason to want to review the records.

The problem is that the defense may post Martin’s records on its website, regardless whether they contain any reference to misconduct of any kind, whether admissible or not. The State already did that with George Zimmerman’s school records and has apologized for doing so, claiming it was a clerical mistake. Now it seeks to prevent the defense from administering a dose of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

There is a solution to this sort of problem and I have previously recommended it. It’s called in camera review. No, it does not involve a camera. In camera review is a legal term that means in chambers. That is, the school records would be filed under seal and Judge Nelson would review them in her chambers and decide whether they contain evidence the defense has a right to review. She discloses it to both sides, if they do. Presumably, she also would order both sides not to publicize the records and might even threaten to hold them in contempt of court, if they were to violate the order.

As I said, I doubt the records contain the information that the defense has a legitimate reason to seek, so this dispute will likely be more like a proverbial tempest in a teapot. If there is any substance to it, there is a solution to deal with the records and protect privacy that has worked in the past.

The State also wants Judge Nelson to order the defense to file its requests for subpoenas in the future under seal so that it cannot publicize them on its website before submitting them for the court’s approval. This argument is part of the prosecution’s strategy to stop the defense from trying its case in the Court of Public Opinion.

This is another issue that Judge Nelson can handle with a stern warning and threat to use her contempt powers. I predict she will do so rather than establishing a special rule for O’Mara, as opposed to all other defense counsel, when seeking court approval for subpoenas.

The prosecution also is seeking George Zimmerman’s medical records at the clinic where he sought a permission-to-return-to-work authorization the day after the shooting. The defense objects on privacy grounds. I think the defense likely waived doctor-patient privilege and privacy concerns when it released a portion of his records and has intimated that his ADHD condition might explain some of his inconsistencies.

Finally, there is an interesting issue about the discoverability of Trayvon Martin’s social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter). A lawyer representing Facebook has refused to comply with the subpoena.

Once again, here’s Frances Robles,

On Monday, Facebook lawyers sent a letter to O’Mara vowing to fight the subpoena. Martin’s social-media account, Facebook attorney Furqan Mohammed said, is not only irrelevant to the case, but by law cannot be released. Mohammed said federal law protects the account information, and added that arguing the issue would have to be done in a California court.

“We think the attorneys for Facebook are essentially saying the same thing we have been saying all along: Trayvon’s Facebook and social media are completely irrelevant,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family. “All of these issues are distractions that take the focus off George Zimmerman.”

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Zimmerman Requests Martin’s School Records and Social Media Accounts

October 9, 2012

The Orlando Sentinel has reported today:

Zimmerman’s defense has asked for subpoenas for records from the teenager’s middle and high schools, as well as his Twitter and Facebook accounts. A hearing has been set for Oct. 19.

Zimmerman, 29, fatally shot the Miami Gardens 17-year-old Feb. 26 in Sanford. Authorities allege he profiled and pursued the teen.

Zimmerman says he fired in self-defense after Trayvon attacked him. Zimmerman’s defense is also asking for a continuance. In a motion, the defense team writes that “at least 50-75” witness depositions must be completed in the case before it will be ready for trial.

In a third new motion, O’Mara asked to be allowed to review the court’s copy of a recorded law-enforcement interview of a woman identified as “Witness 9.” That witness, in two interviews made public in the case already, accused Zimmerman of disliking black people and of molesting her when they were both young.

O’Mara writes in his motion that the state failed several times to provide him with a working copy of a third Witness 9 interview, and he wants to know whether Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. received a bad copy, too. Zimmerman “requests the opportunity to review, with the court, the recordings … to ascertain whether or not the Court received an accurate recording as finally disclosed by the State … or if the Court received an inaccurate or inaudible recording, as the defense has received up until” the latest evidence exchange on Sept. 19.

Global Grind reports that Benjamin Crump said the request is irrelevant.

“Trayvon’s parents maintain that his school records and Facebook page are completely irrelevant to George Zimmerman’s decision to get out of his car to profile, pursue, and shoot their son in the heart on February 26, 2012.

How does George Zimmerman’s review of Trayvon Martin’s high school and middle school records and Facebook page bear any relevance to Zimmerman’s decision to pull the trigger and kill a seventeen year old child? Is this going to be a new legal standard we are setting- for a murderer to review the school records and Facebook page of his teenage victim to determine whether or not he should have killed him?”

After Trayvon’s death, there was a small group of hateful and racist people, who attempted to destroy his legacy, reputation, and image.

These people hacked this dead youth’s social media accounts, his email account, and stooped as low as to plaster the internet with photoshopped and fake images purporting to be Trayvon.

On the advice of counsel, and with the intent to preserve Trayvon’s public reputation, Trayvon Martin’s parents deactivated all of his electronic accounts.”

I have previously written that the rules of evidence permit the defense to introduce evidence that Trayvon was an aggressive bully, assuming such evidence exists, to support Zimmerman’s claim that Trayvon was the aggressor. However, specific instances of misconduct would not be admissible. Instead, the evidence would have to be limited to stating the character trait.

I do not believe such evidence exists and I suspect O’Mara knows that. Since he appears to be determined to try the case in the court of public opinion, I fear that his real motive is to obtain the records to post them on the internet. This would further publicize the recent suspension for the trace amount of marijuana detected in his backpack and the earlier report about some jewelry and a screwdriver that were found in his backpack. No criminal charges were filed in either case and the evidence would not be admissible at trial for any purpose.

If O’Mara finds some evidence that Trayvon was an aggressive bully and he introduces it at trial, he will open the door for the prosecution to introduce similar type evidence regarding Zimmerman, which we know exists.

The hearing will be before Judge Debra Nelson on Friday, October 19, 2012.

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