Apr 12, 2012 54 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from Wagist: By almost any standard, Zimmerman’s legal defense in the Trayvon Martin shooting case has been a sort of ongoing cautionary tale for exactly what not to do if you’re facing potentially serious criminal charges.
Almost immediately, within around thirty-seven minutes after the shooting, Zimmerman was already waiving his right to an attorney. He then proceeded to interview with the police for several hours without any legal representation present.
Then the next day, still without any attorney present or legal advice, Zimmerman took the police back to the scene of the shooting at the Retreat at Twin Lakes, and reenacted what happened on the evening of February 26th with them, step-by-step on video.
Had Zimmerman’s narrative and recounting of the details of that evening been any less than 100% consistent, that’s the moment when everything would have fallen apart for him — sometime right around February 27th. The police had every reason and opportunity to document and doggedly pursue any differences they saw between Zimmerman’s initial interview and his video re-enactment the following day.
Rather than finding anything they could follow up with, what happened instead? The Sanford Police Department was unable to obtain any evidence that would allow them to press even involuntary manslaughter charges against Zimmerman. And no new evidence changed that, even as days and weeks passed.
As anyone who follows criminal justice knows, under harsh conditions and during long, station-house interviews, many people will end up confessing to crimes they didn’t even commit.
Most people are conditioned from an early age to have a bias towards telling authority figures what they want to hear.
Police have been known to take skillful advantage of this psychological blind spot to extract confessions and other incriminating information from suspects during interrogations.
In one infamous case, four innocent men confessed to committing the same brutal rape and murder after being interrogated without legal counsel.
Even when DNA evidence exonerated them, years later, they were still not immediately released, because of the sheer weight a recorded confession carries.
Zimmerman not only didn’t confess to any sort of impropriety in his police interviews, he seems to have been 100% consistent in his statements.
Which brings us to today’s debacle with Zimmerman’s attorneys.
Apparently, Zimmerman has not been in contact with his legal team since Sunday. He unilaterally contacted a member of the media himself, Sean Hannity, and there are reports that Zimmerman contacted the state prosecutor, Angela Corey, himself as well.
It’s unclear how much of the web site he setup was vetted by his legal team. In any case, the site initially included a photo of graffiti vandalism in Ohio that has since been removed from the “album” page.
All of this, of course, must have been pretty horrifying for Zimmerman’s attorneys, who seem to have been doing their best to rehabilitate Zimmerman’s public appearance. They called a press conference to announce that they are withdrawing from the case until such a time when Zimmerman is back in contact with them.
There was initially a pretty strong assumption by most people (mainly due to the incredibly biased media reporting of the incident) that the Sanford Police Department had somehow been complicit in not charging George Zimmerman.
But as time has gone on, it seems the investigation the department carried out was actually extremely by the book. Lately, people have changed tack; they don’t like the conclusions the investigation reached and feel state law must be to blame.
While the police spent weeks attempting to gather evidence and press charges against Zimmerman, the facts of the case simply didn’t materialize in a way that implicated Zimmerman as having committed manslaughter.
Then the case was blown up by the media, and more and more investigatory branches of the government became involved, including the Department of Justice and the FBI, but evidence against Zimmerman has still remained elusive. If there is any strong evidence against him, it hasn’t been released by the prosecutors thus far.
While some have said it was reckless for Zimmerman to leave his truck at all, the law simply does not codify that. Leaving one’s vehicle inside one’s own neighborhood cannot legally be considered “reckless” behavior, especially when Zimmerman was well-known as being the neighborhood watch captain for the community.
Of course, it makes sense that Zimmerman would leave his truck to investigate something he considered suspicious, especially when he was relaying information to a 911 dispatcher.
Many people have taken issue with the fact that Zimmerman was armed as well, but legally speaking, it is unlikely to matter.
Around 900k Florida residents have have concealed carry licenses. Carrying a weapon in one’s own neighborhood is not uncommon, nor does it have any special impact on this case. There is no evidence thus far that Zimmerman was brandishing his firearm or otherwise using it inappropriately.
It may be that Zimmerman simply doesn’t need his legal advisers as badly as most people assumed that he did. Presumably no inconsistencies were found in his statements on February 26th or February 27th. Had there been any serious discrepancies, the police would have already had plenty of rope to hang him with.
The crux of the case comes down to what was happening in the sixty seconds preceding the shooting. And those sixty seconds happen to be the part of the encounter we know the most about.