More indefensible errors by Bernie de la Rionda

July 23, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Good afternoon my friends,

Crane and I slept late yesterday. We eventually decided to take a day off from blogging and went for a ride on the motorcycle.

During the ride home, I thought of two additional examples of inexcusable prosecutorial bungling during the Zimmerman trial; namely, failure to adequately prepare witnesses to testify and failure to adequately protect them from harrassment by defense counsel.

Dr. Shiping Bao, the Assistant Medical Examiner, apparently believed that he could write out what he wanted to say before court, read his statement to the jury, and answer any questions the jurors might have had. He put many hours of effort into preparing his report, including time spent reviewing peer reviewed papers and notes published in professional journals. That review and the autopsy results obtained by another medical examiner in a similar case led him to change two of his original conclusions. For example, he changed his opinion regarding how long Trayvon Martin might have remained conscious after the shot from an estimate of two to four minutes to possibly as long as ten minutes.

Bernie de la Rionda knew or should have known that Dr. Bao probably was not familiar with court rules and procedures. He should have contacted him to find out if he had updated his official report and whether he was familiar with the question and answer method of interrogation. If he had contacted Dr. Bao, he would have realized pretty quickly that Dr. Bao had supplemented his official report and needed to be briefed on the basics.

For example, Bernie would have told him that the rules limit witnesses to answering questions asked by the lawyers or by the judge. He also would have told him to stop answering a question asked by a lawyer, if opposing counsel objects, and wait for the judge to overrule the objection before answering.

Rachel Jenteal also would have benefited from the same advice.

Bernie owed a duty to all of his witnesses to protect them from the defense tactic of repeating a question many times and eventually changing the meaning of the question by adding or eliminating a keyword to it that the witness overlooks to the detriment of the prosecution case.

The proper objection is, “the question has been asked and answered.”

Finally, much grief would have been avoided, if witnesses were told to answer questions on cross with one of the following answers:

“Yes,” “No,” or “I don’t know.”

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