If I were prosecuting George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I would charge him with murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice, adding several named officers of the Sanford. Fla., police department – as well as the state attorney – as co-conspirators.
By now, most of the civilized world has heard the 911 call Zimmerman made last month describing someone as “suspicious” mainly because he was black and wearing a hoodie. This town watch “captain” saw no criminal activity, but decided to follow the person even after a dispatcher clearly warned him not to. Minutes later, Zimmerman shot the 17-year-old youth, who was armed with nothing more than Skittles candy and an ice tea.
Police investigated the crime scene, and escorted Zimmerman to the police station less than an hour later before letting him go when the state’s attorney for the county apparently overruled the lead detective, who wanted to charge the killer with manslaughter. The world knew nothing of this Feb. 26th incident until the following month, when it came to light. Trayvon Martin, whose name and a brief biographical sketch were included in an initial police report, was tagged “John Doe” and left with no notification of his next of kin despite the police recovery of his cell phone and its list of his most recently dialed friends and family members.
I would subpoena the phone records of the state attorney to determine who called him, and would ask why he drove some 50 miles from his home to the Florida town on a Sunday evening. How often does one of the state’s top lawman get involved in local shootings? Why did he go to Sanford, and – more importantly – why did he overrule the head detective, who wanted to bring charges against Zimmerman?
As a prosecutor, I would also investigate whether there were civil-rights violations and would make available all of my findings for a Section 1983 claim, the federal law which permits those harmed to seek justice against individuals, police officers — as well as the entire police department — the city, and in this case, even the state attorney’s office.
I’d retain an expert to enhance the words Zimmerman said to the dispatcher when he cursed, saying “f… ing” something to determine if that f… ing something was actually, “f…ing coons.” I’d also question every person Zimmerman spoke to about the shooting and “memorialize” what he said in an attempt to use his own words against him should they prove vital. That would include his affluent father, a former judge, and a “friend”of Zimmerman, who has quit his job to become an informal “spokesman” for the shooter on the media circuit. Hearsay is generally not permitted at a trial, but there is an exception to the rule when a person charged with a crime has spoken about that crime to someone else.
Zimmerman has not been charged with any crime, and that might be a crime itself.
We know how friendly he has been with local police, having contacted them on numerous occasions in the past through what I would call an overzealous abuse of his town watch authority. His job is to “report” on what may or may not be suspicious. While he might be licensed to carry a gun, he had no authority to investigate on his own. Zimmerman was ordered not to follow the person, and Trayvon Martin would more than likely be alive today had he obeyed the experienced dispatcher.
Can we believe anything Zimmerman says? He clearly has an interest in the outcome of any investigation. We know there were two “initial” police reports — one that states the gunman had a bloody nose and grass stains on his back, and a second report that makes no mention of any injuries or discolored clothes. Was one report prepared by a cop Zimmerman knew and befriended on the force? Did police automatically believe Zimmerman’s self-defense claim because they knew him?
And what about the state attorney? Why did he step aside when a nation-wide outcry forced the governor to order a state-run investigation? What was the “conflict of interest” mentioned by the official? Whose interest could there be a conflict with? Zimmerman? Zimmerman’s father, the judge?
Having worked 20 years as a criminal defense attorney, I never thought I would want to argue the other side of the law, but this is one case that calls out from all sides for swift and incorruptible justice.