Zimmerman Update: Will Loose Lips Sink Defense Ships?
The process of the State of Florida bringing George Zimmerman to trial over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin just keeps getting weirder, and no one involved in the case seems to be able to keep quiet about it.
“Both sides have their hands full with this case,” notes Mitch Stone, a defense attorney with Stone Lockett in Jacksonville, FL. “It is a very polarizing case in a unique way. Traditionally anti-defense groups are siding with the defense and groups that are traditionally anti-prosecution are supporting the prosecution.”
That might explain the public’s fascination and the intense media attention, but what explains the defense’s seemingly bottomless need for the spotlight these days? The crazy thing is Zimmerman’s not the only one talking.
Wife Pleads Not Guilty to Perjury Charges
Shellie Zimmerman, George’s wife, is now in hot legal water herself, following Zimmerman’s first bond hearing in which she allegedly lied to the court about the couple’s finances (and got her husband released on a mere $150,000 bond). She was subsequently indicted for perjury, and on July 27, she pled not guilty to those charges. Zimmerman’s bail was revoked in June and reset at $1 million.
Even if she’s not convicted, says Stone, Shellie is basically sunk as a witness for her husband. “Being charged with perjury causes her to have potential credibility problems in court if she were to have to testify on her husband’s behalf,” Stone explains.
If she’s convicted of perjury, the prosecution can use that to impeach her, rendering whatever she said at Zimmerman’s trial completely untrustworthy. But even if she gets off, the prosecution can still bring up the facts that gave rise to the perjury charge, i.e., lying about the couple’s finances, notes Washington, D.C. trial lawyer and former prosecutor Debbie Hines, who predicts that the state has Shellie “hands down” on the perjury charge.
“The media exposure of the perjury charge could also affect Zimmerman,” adds Stone, “because potential jurors may think he is responsible for her being put in that position, and as such his credibility can be hurt as well. Either way it does not help the defense.”
Go Public! Everybody’s Doing It…
While it might have been eyebrow-raising for Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara to take to the e-waves to manage media coverage of the case – see the George Zimmerman Legal Case site and companion Twitter feed – it was even more surprising to see Zimmerman himself resurrect his website, The Real George Zimmerman and then go live with an interview on Fox News in July.
Now his parents are getting involved. Titled Robert & Gladys, Zimmerman’s parents have launched their own site, floating even more information about the defendant into the hands of the media and the prosecution, including young George’s past and seemingly every detail of his interactions with people of races other than his own. What is going on here?
“The websites are likely being created to generate support, provide information that supports the defense, dispel rumors that hurt the defense, expose false information and provide counter arguments to opinions that hurt the defense,” explains Stone. “They are also seeking financial contributions for the defense of the case to cover attorney fees, expert witness costs, investigations costs and other litigation costs.”
But that tactic may come with a hefty price itself. While the defense likely sees publicity as a good thing in this case, believing that the public – at least the jury pool in Florida – is firmly on the defendant’s side, that could backfire, says Hines. In the case of Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2011 in the death of Michael Jackson, an interview he’d given to the media was used against him by the judge during sentencing to show he lacked remorse.
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And we all know Zimmerman stumbled in his interview with Sean Hannity, initially saying he had no regrets about the night of the murder and that Trayvon’s death was “God’s plan.” Asked if Zimmerman is getting out of O’Mara’s control, Hines says, “Sometimes in the real world, you cannot control your client. It is their case, after all. At the end of the day, all you can do is advise your client, let them know the downside.”
“I’m curious to see if he will stick around,” she says of O’Mara.
Do you think Zimmerman’s case is being helped or hurt by all the publicity? Leave a comment below and share your opinion.