Zimmerman: I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Morning

July 16, 2012

The you-know-what hit the proverbial fan today in the George Zimmerman case.

The prosecution released W9’s damning account of being raped and molested by George Zimmerman over a 10 year period that began when she was 6 years old. W9 is his cousin. She is two years younger than him. The rapes she endured involved digital penetration of her vagina and the molestations involved fondling.

She submitted out of fear. She feared him physically and she feared her family would not believe her because he was so good at charming everyone. She finally mustered up the courage to terminate the abuse by running away from him and leaving the house. She told her parents, who told his parents, but nothing happened except he stopped attending joint family get-togethers. Her parents discouraged her from reporting the crimes to the police and she did not do so until he was in custody after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. When asked by police investigators why she waited until then to report the crimes, she said she finally felt safe to do so.

I listened to her account and I thought it was very credible. Don’t kid yourselves, child victims of sex abuse rarely report the abuse because they are afraid they will not be believed and afraid of reprisals. This lady has a lot of guts and courage to come forward with these allegations knowing as she must have known that the information might become public.

Question: What impact will this have on selecting a jury in the murder case?

Answer: It will definitely complicate seating a fair and impartial jury, but the State of Florida was able to do that in the Casey Anthony case and I have no doubt they will be able to do so in the Zimmerman case.

We are immersed in this case, but many people are barely following it, if at all. The court will deal with the pretrial publicity issue by moving the trial to another county or importing a jury from another county, which is what happened in the Casey Anthony case. By questioning prospective jurors individually (i.e., out of the presence of other prospective jurors), the judge and the lawyers will be able to find out how much each juror knows about the case and whether a juror has formed an opinion about GZ’s guilt or innocence.

This precaution has worked in the past and it will work again.

Question: Is the evidence admissible at trial?

Answer: Not unless the defense opens the door by introducing evidence that GZ is a person of good character. If the defense opens the door, you will be able to hear a garbage truck backing up to the courtroom door with a load of bad character evidence to be provided in damning detail by W9 and anyone else they can find between now and the trial. According to W9, btw, there is another victim, but she is reluctant to come forward. Who knows, she might change her mind. For example, think of the recently concluded Sandusky case.

The rule in question is Rule 404(b) which prohibits the admissibility of uncharged misconduct unless it is probative of the defendant’s intent, knowledge, motive or opportunity, common scheme or plan, consciousness of guilt or absence of mistake or accident.

The evidence is inadmissible since it does not fall into any of these exceptions, unless the defense opens the door by introducing evidence of good character.

Like I said, Katie bar the door, if that happens.

While we are on the subject of uncharged misconduct evidence, let us not forget Shellie Zimmerman’s perjury and GZ’s role in putting her up to it and assisting her to conceal the Peter Pan account and lie about it in court (i.e., the internet donation account).

As Judge Lester said in his recent order setting bail, it would not have been unreasonable for the Court to have concluded that, but for the GPS bracelet, the defendant would have used his second passport to flee the country with $130,000 of other people’s money after he bailed out the first time.

If that was his intent, evidence of his role would be admissible under rule 404(b) as consciousness of guilt, for the same reason that evidence of flight to avoid prosecution is admissible to show consciousness of guilt.

I have written about this possibility before and, as I stated then, the prosecution probably will need Shellie Zimmerman’s cooperation and testimony against GZ to make that case.

Will W9’s statement be the straw that breaks Shellie Zimmerman’s back and sends her knock knock knockin’ on the door to the prosecutor’s office?

Who knows, she might even throw in an admission that GZ did not kill TM in self-defense.

Stay tuned.

Question:What about W9’s statements about racism in the Zimmerman family. Are they admissible?

Answer: No. W9’s testimony about family racism is not admissible because it’s not specific to GZ. She did not mention any specific instances where he expressed racist beliefs or epithets. and even if he had done so, it still would likely be inadmissible. Otherwise, it might be admissible under rule 404(b) to show evidence of motive.

Question: Are there any other foreseeable consequences?

Answer: Yes. The most immediate and probable consequence of this revelation today, other than a dramatic world-wide increase in disgust for George Zimmerman, should be a dramatic collapse of financial support via internet contributions to his defense fund.

Should be interesting to see what his supporters come up with to defend him. Are they vile enough to mount a full-fledged attack against W9 the way Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke?

Will Fox News reach a new low in entertainment reportage?

Question: What’s up with his lawyers?

Answer: The not-ready-for-prime-time defense team still isn’t ready. They should have filed an appeal on Friday or first thing this morning in the Court of Appeals along with a request for an emergency stay ordering the prosecution to not release the information pending the outcome of the appeal.

This inexplicable failure coming on the heels of the reckless and legally groundless motion to disqualify Judge Lester looks really bad.

Apparently, O’Mara has asked for reciprocal discovery on W9 and that is not a good move at this time because it looks so thuggish.

Why posture like that when she is unlikely to testify?

Question: Did Judge Lester really have to release W9’s statement to the media under the Sunshine Law?

Answer: I do not know, but if so, this is a perfect case to get before the State Supreme Court to carve out a privacy exception to protect victims of uncharged crimes, especially sexual crimes, from having their stories published for all the world to see when it is not likely that they will ever testify.

I am appalled by their failure to file a timely appeal.


Zimmerman Medical Report Released

May 16, 2012

ABC News reported last night that George Zimmerman sought medical treatment at a family clinic the day after he shot Trayvon Martin.

According to the medical report, which was part of the court file made public yesterday, he requested the appointment to obtain a medical clearance to return to work. However, according to Wikipedia, he was employed as an insurance underwriter at the time of the shooting and attending his final semester at Seminole State College in their Criminal Justice program.

The diagnosis: a closed fracture of the nose, two black eyes and two cuts to the back of his head.

[Note: a closed fracture means that the fracture did not penetrate through the skin and black eyes are a common symptom of a fractured nose]

The Christian Science Monitor reports today:

As the Christian Science Monitor reported Tuesday, prosecutors in the Trayvon Martin shooting began to sketch an outline of their case against George Zimmerman on Monday, citing new video evidence, a long list of witnesses and experts, and hints of a trail of facts, forensic details, and witness observations that they hope will lead a jury to a second-degree murder conviction.

But after weeks of national introspection into what really happened between Mr. Martin, an unarmed black teen, the guts of the hefty Zimmerman file remain secret. The prosecution, for its part, wants to keep it that way, having asked Judge Kenneth Lester to waive Florida court transparency laws in order to keep some witness names secret.

ABC News with Diane Sawyer broke the story last night.

Portions of the medical report are visible in the background and highlighted in yellow.

Apparently, no photograph was taken of the injuries noted in the medical report, no Xray was taken of his head and the cuts on the back of his head did not require stitching. The only recommended after-care, according to ABC, was a recommendation to obtain counseling.

Since the report mentioned that Zimmerman was taking Adderall and Temazepam, he probably was seeing a psychiatrist for ADHD and, if he followed-up with that aftercare recommendation, he likely would have done so by informing his psychiatrist regarding the event.

There was no reference to a psychiatric report.

I also did not see any indication that the doctor at the family clinic prescribed any pain medication.

I am still waiting to see the autopsy report and the forensic report on the examination of Zimmerman’s gun and his clothing. According to Wikipedia, the police kept his gun. However, his clothing might have been returned to him.

Evidently, the prosecution does not want the autopsy and forensic reports released at this time. We will have to wait and see whether the judge orders them released.


Judge Recuses Herself In Zimmerman Case

April 18, 2012

As I predicted in my last post, Judge Jessica Recksiedler of the Seminole County Circuit Court in Florida signed an order today granting George Zimmerman’s motion to recuse her from presiding over the Zimmerman case.

I did not need a crystal ball or a book of spells to predict the outcome since, by advising counsel that she had a potential conflict of interest about which they might not have been aware without her telling them, she basically invited the motion to recuse and I do not believe she was the least bit offended by the motion.

The potential conflict is that her husband is employed by a criminal defense lawyer, Mark NeJame, who has been a television commentator about the case. Someone in Zimmerman’s family contacted him about representing Zimmerman after Zimmerman fired the two lawyers who were representing him. He declined to take the case, in part because he had expressed opinions about it on television, and he recommended several lawyers, including Mark O’Mara, whom Zimmerman subsequently retained.

I do not believe Judge Recksiedler had an actual conflict of interest, but I would be surprised to discover that she and her husband had not discussed the case, especially after NeJame was contacted about representing Zimmerman before the prosecutor, Angela Corey, charged him with murder second degree.

Judges are supposed to abide by a code of judicial conduct and, in addition to recusing themselves when they have an actual conflict of interest, such as a financial interest in the outcome of a case before them, they are supposed to maintain the appearance of fairness and impartiality, regardless of what they may think about a case, the lawyers, and the litigants. Since there is a possibility that someone might question her impartiality, due to her husband’s connection to NeJame, she decided to disclose it in order to maintain the appearance of fairness.

For all I know, she might not have wanted the case anyway because she is relatively new to the bench and inexperienced. She may have used the situation to get out of it. I do not know that for certain and merely present it here as a possibility.

Jennifer Preston of the New York Times reports that,

Judge Recksiedler will be replaced by Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr., 58, who was first elected to the court in 1996. Mr. Lester graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in accounting. He received a law degree from the University of Florida.

Zimmerman’s motion to be released on bail pending trial is set for Friday. I imagine Judge Lester will proceed with the hearing, unless he has a conflict with his schedule that necessitates rescheduling the bail hearing. Those types of hearings do not usually require a lot of preparation time for a judge.

Judge Lester will also have to schedule a hearing for the pending motion filed by various news organizations, including the Miami Herald, to unseal the court file.

The issues at the bail hearing will be whether Zimmerman is a flight risk or a danger to the community and whether there are conditions of release that could be imposed that would not endanger anyone in the community and assure that Zimmerman makes all his court dates.

Since he turned himself in, I think he’s shown that he probably is not a flight risk and it’s possible that he might be released subject to the following conditions:

1. Reside at home and wear an ankle bracelet and GPS locator at all times;

2. Not possess a firearm;

3. Remain in contact with his lawyer;

4. Check-in daily with the court’s pretrial supervision officer and follow any orders the officer might impose; and

5. Post a cash bail in some substantial sum of money (apparently, murder second degree is not a bondable offense).

A bond is a promise to pay a certain sum of money in the future, if the defendant fails to show up in court when he is supposed to be there.

Let’s say bail is set in the amount of $100,000. It probably will be substantially higher but $100,000 is an easy number with which to work, so I will use it. Zimmerman could get out by posting $100,000 cash with the Seminole County Circuit Court Clerk, or if the offense were bondable, he could post an approved unencumbered real estate property bond with a fair market value of at least $100,000 together with a quitclaim deed quitclaiming the property to the Clerk of the Court and recording the transaction with anything but MERS. Yes, that’s snark. He would record the transaction in the county recorder’s office.

Or he could post 10% of the bail ($10,000 cash) with a bail bondsman and property worth $100,000. When someone goes with a bail bondsman, the bondsman posts its promise, or bond to pay the full amount of the bail to the Clerk of Court, if the defendant fails to make his court appearances. The 10% cash amount up front is called the principal and bondsman gets to keep that as the fee for posting the bond, regardless if the defendant makes all of his court appearances.

The property that secures the bond that the bail bondsman posts with the Clerk is called the security or collateral and, if the defendant makes all of his appearances, the bail bondsman will return it to the person who posted it when they showed up with the 10% cash fee.

Since murder is not a bondable offense in Florida, however, the bail bondsman option is unavailable to Zimmerman and he will have to come up with the cash.

But he has to pay the lawyer’s retainer first and I imagine that it is substantial, probably well in excess of $100,000. Whether there will be enough money left over to post a cash bond is anybody’s guess. I imagine that there has been some mad scrambling going on in the Zimmerman family to get together enough cash to do both. We will have to wait and see what happens.


News Organizations File Motion To Unseal Court File In Zimmerman Case

April 16, 2012

As I predicted late last week after I found out that the court file in the George Zimmerman case was sealed at the request of the defense, various news organizations in Florida, including the AP and the Miami Herald, filed a motion today in the Seminole County Circuit Court to unseal the file. The file contains a full set of police investigation reports, the autopsy report, and transcriptions of witness statements.

The reports were in the file because they become public information after a case has been filed, unless sealing the file is necessary to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial and there are no other alternatives that will accomplish the same objective. Pursuant to Press-Enterprise Co. vs. Superior Court of California, 464 U.S. 501, 510 (1984), must identify and articulate an overriding interest based on findings that a seal is essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored to serve that interest.

The news organizations contend that the court did not follow the proper procedure and its blanket order is too broad to meet the “narrowly tailored” requirement.

This matter has not been scheduled for a hearing because defense counsel has filed a motion to recuse the judge to whom the Zimmerman case has been assigned.

Mark Schneider at the Huffington Post describes the situation this way,

Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler last week revealed the potential conflict in the case that relates to her husband, who works with Orlando attorney Mark NeJame.

NeJame was first approached by Zimmerman’s family to represent the neighborhood watch volunteer. But the attorney, who also is serving as a CNN legal analyst in the case, declined and referred them to O’Mara.

“What I don’t want to happen is to wait a month or two, and then we find out that what we thought is a potential conflict is an actual conflict,” O’Mara told reporters outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center.

Having been in Mark O’Mara’s (Zimmerman’s lawyer) situation several times, including the Green River Killer serial murder case, I know he is concerned about the effect that some of the information in the court file might have on Zimmerman’s right to be tried by a fair and impartial jury, if that information becomes public before the trial.

As an onlooker, for reasons that I have previously expressed, I am most interested in the autopsy report, forensic reports on blood spatter, the gun, and the 911 tapes.

O’Mara’s concern is legitimate, given the firestorm of publicity about this case already. It will be interesting to see how the judge who eventually decides the motion splits the baby between Zimmerman’s right to a fair trial and the public’s right to know that is protected by the First Amendment.

A hearing on the request to unseal the file cannot be scheduled for a hearing until the motion to recuse is decided.


%d bloggers like this: