Tag Archives: George Zimmerman

Zimmerman’s Arrest Proves Only One Thing

Here we go again.

Countless cases have been compared the 1995 Simpson criminal trial over the past 18-19 years, including that of another two-bit ‘star’ accused of killing his wife that a veteran high-profile-trial news reporter predicted would be as big as Simpson.

Now comes Fox News Latino’s Rick Sanchez’s George Zimmerman, OJ Simpson And The Art Of Getting Away With Things.

“It’s like reliving the OJ Simpson saga all over again. I’ve always believed that George Zimmerman and Simpson had much in common, but it became crystal clear this week when I heard his girlfriend tell 911 operators that ‘he knows how to do it, he knows how to play the game.’,” Sanchez espouses.

Really! Knowing “how to play the game” is about all those two narcissistic bullies do have in common. OK, that, plus both being narcissistic bullies and neither being able to stay out of trouble.

What else? None of the captivating elements that landed Simpson in the top 10 of the Trial of the Century — sports hero, beautiful people, money, celebrity, sex — rub off on Zimmerman in any way. Although the 21st Century is young, racism,  violence against women and controversial verdict, while certainly Page 1 newsworthy,  won’t by themselves or even together elevate  Zimmerman to  even the top 100 list.

The only thing Zimmerman’s most recent arrest proves is that, like so many gun nuts, without one, Zimmerman is a nobody.

Zimmerman, Simpson on Parallel Tracks?

I must say, the parallels between O.J. Simpson’s and George Zimmerman’s tracks struck me long before Zimmerman’s latest rearing up in the headlines. Privileged backgrounds (Zimmerman’s father was a military officer, then magistrate judge), wives named Nicole (Zimmerman’s wife is Shellie Nicole), elite defense teams, trials fraught with racial assertions, whether justified or not), both acquitted in highly controversial and polarizing verdicts, both brushing up against law enforcement like a horse’s tail in a fly infested stable.

Both seem to be determined to make their lives a spectator sport.

We know where that landed Simpson. It’ll be interesting to see if Zimmerman follows.

It would also be interesting to see if psychologists see similar parallels in their psychological  profiles. What’s that called? Even bad publicity is good publicity as long as you spell my name right?

http://www.businessinsider.com/is-george-zimmerman-like-oj-simpson-2013-9

Writer Is Three Years Wrong

You’d think if someone is going to plug a book they would get a basic fact right about what shot the author to fame — or in this case, the failure that launched the author’s fame.
“Marcia Clark first became nationally known in 1991 as the lead prosecutor in O.J. Simpson’s murder trial. She has followed that up with a career as a legal commentator on various broadcast and cable channels (weighing in recently on the George Zimmerman case) — and as a novelist.”
1991 was three years before Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were murdered, Simpson was charged with their murders and his trial on charges of murder began. The trial prosecuted and lost by Marcia Clark. 1994 is year all of that occurred, with the not-guilty verdicts announced in October of the following year, 1995.
And if the writer, Tampa Bay Times Book Editor Colette Bancroft doesn’t remember or was too young back then, it is an easily check-able fact.

 

What a Difference a Video Makes

After a Milwaukee jury convicted a mean, vengeful old man, John Spooner, for the fatal close-range shooting of an unarmed teenager on evidence based in part on a security camera video, Milwaukee newspaper columnist Eugene Kane pointed out what I think is obvious. The video tape made a difference.

Justice for a black teenager:  A different case, but many of the same old troubling questions

http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/justice-for-a-black-teenager-b9956660z1-216213411.html

Video tape of other crimes have made a difference in the outcome of those cases, too. The Rodney King beating, for instance. Yes, the four cops were acquitted in state trial of all but one minor count in that case, but they were found guilty of violating King’s civil rights in a federal trial.

Kane’s column ends with, “(George)  Zimmerman’s acquittal revealed deep fissures in the racial gap between black and white and a confounding disconnect between the races about society’s realities. And even though folks are relieved at the Spooner verdict, they also remain acutely aware of this fact: It was a good thing a video showed exactly what happened.”

Consider how different the Zimmerman case would have been, beginning with law-enforcement’s decision as to whether or not to arrest him right after he shot Trayvon Martin, if their encounter had been captured on video tape, beginning with Zimmerman’s first sighting of Martin walking home from a convenience story.

Thanks to Kane, I’m thinking that, pervasive as they are, security cameras have a lot more benefits than drawbacks.

 

 

Does Grandchild-in-Common Create Conflict Perception?

A Milwaukee judge, in my opinion, has either a skewed view of or a blind eye to judicial rules that call for judges to avoid not only impropriety or partiality, but the appearance of impropriety or partiality.

A story headlined Judge, lawyer in John Spooner case have family ties  in the local newspaper yesterday reported that the son the judge presiding over the trial of a man, John Spooner, charged with murdering a teenage boy, Darius Simmons, is married to the defense attorney’s daughter. The son and daughter have a child, which means the judge and the defendant’s lawyer share a grandchild.

The news story says the judge, Jeffrey A. Wagner, has pictures of the child on display in his courthouse chambers and photos or online of Wagner and the lawyer, Franklyn Gimbel, who is his son’s father-in-law, socializing at a number of events.

The judge, however, sees no problem and the defense attorney, of course, doesn’t either. More surprising to me is the prosecution’s position.

Although the lead prosecutor in the case, Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams, raised the issue “early on”, according to the newspaper story, he’s quoted as saying his office left the decision up to the judge as to whether he should step aside so another judge could take over the case.

Other judges and a judicial ethics expert quoted in the story took a dim view of the judge’s decision.

This debate became public in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, which, in fact, was cited as having an impact on Spooner’s trial.

Spooner is a white man and the teen he shot to death (not just allegedly or accused of, but did as there is video of him doing so) is a 13-year-old African-American boy. 

“A number of potential jurors for the trial — which will determine the fate of a Milwaukee senior citizen charged with fatally shooting his 13-year-old neighbor — said Monday they might have a hard time ignoring parallels to the Zimmerman case, and the reaction to the Florida jury’s decision,” a July 15 story said.

Although some might have thought the family ties and friendship between judge and lawyer would work in favor of the defense because the judge could not possibly be objective — however subconsciously — no matter how good his intentions might be.

But yesterday the defendant, John Spooner, was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide, which would shoot down such arguments, right?

Perhaps, except that given the videotape, ironically from Spooner’s own security camera mounted to surveil the sidewalk in front of his house, and the eye witness testimony by the teenager’s mother who standing on the front porch of her house which is next door to Spooner’s, that verdict would not be surprising.

Yet, to come, however, was a second phase of the trial in which Spooner’s lawyer, Gimbel, was to argue that his 76-year-old client should be declared not guilty be reason of mental disease defect.

 That phase hit a bump a few hours ago, however, when Gimbel said Spooner was “mentally unfit to continue the insanity plea portion of the trial,” according to an update on the newspaper’s website.
Because of the, at least perceived, conflict of interest, it’s hard to see how the judge can avoid criticism no matter how he rules.

No Déja Vu to Everyone

News reports and opinion pieces have been full of comparisons between the George Zimmerman and O.J. Simpson trials on murder charges. I jumped on that bandwagon with my “Déja Vu All Over Again” post on this blog.

A good friend and the most experienced and knowledgeable non-lawyer person on courtroom proceedings I know, however, begged to differ.

Other than public perception, she said, there is no comparison between the two trials.

I certainly agree that public perception is a common denominator and huge factor in measuring the Zimmerman trial against Simpson’s. But I believe other similarities are present, too.

One is the prosecution’s less than stellar, even ineffectual, performance. Another is that both defendants had juries of their peers so far as racial makeup is concerned. Both trials were highly emotional, polarizing, fraught with the role racism played or might have played in the case, and both were scored by a wide swath of media and pundits as if they were sporting events.

Unlike sporting events, however, in which few other than team fans care much about the outcome, just about everybody who knew about Nicole Brown’s and Ron Goldman’s murders and Simpson’s trial, and the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman’s trial have strong feelings/opinions about the verdicts in those cases.

My friend asserted that Florida law was the cause of acquittal. Certainly, Zimmerman’s claim of self defense was the crux of the case his lawyers presented and of jury instructions. Lost, not considered or even absent, though, was Trayvon Martin’s need, attempt or right to defend himself.

The question that should be asked, my friend said, is what would have happened under that law if a black man were the aggressor and a white man were being followed.

That prompted me to contemplate the few known facts in the Zimmerman case, which are that a white man followed a black teenager, even though police told him not to, a confrontation occurred, the white man who had a loaded gun shot the black teen dead.

Both had the right to be where they were. The teen had the right to be doing what he was doing, i.e. walking on the street. The man had the right to be doing what he was doing, i.e. following the teen, even though police told him not to.

Both, under Florida law, had a right to defend themselves.

The jury heard Zimmerman’s testimony, albeit via his statements to police investigators, but without the benefit of cross examination (i.e. a single-source story). The jury heard no testimony from Trayvon Martin.

Once defense lawyers were permitted to portray Martin as a wanna-be gangster and use photos of what they promoted as his gang symbols and of his well-defined musculature, which were as unrelated to the trial as was Zimmerman’s record of his past brushes with law, which apparently was not admissible, they successfully fertilized the seeds of fear that are planted in the vast majority of Southern white females — and I was one — in early childhood.

Thus, instead of responding like prosecutors apparently thought they would, i.e. mothers sympathetic to what the prosecution planned to present as an unarmed teenager — who very well could have been one of their children — walking home from buying candy and a drink being stalked and shot by a wanna-be cop, those five white and one Hispanic female jurors saw him as the young thug the defense turned him into. The kind of young thug they had been conditioned to fear and who, no doubt, break into the houses of people like them.

Once the defense morphed Martin into the bad guy, he lost all credibility and any right to defend himself.

So, what would have happened under the Florida law if a black man were the aggressor and a white man were being followed? One finding cited in a Tampa Bay Times story is, “Defendants claiming ‘stand your ground’ are more likely to prevail if the victim is black. Seventy-three percent of those who killed a black person faced no penalty compared to 59 percent of those who killed a white.”

The story is at http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/florida-stand-your-ground-law-yields-some-shocking-outcomes-depending-on/1233133.

I was struck earlier today by another similarity. This one between Zimmerman and, not Simpson, but the lynching more than eight decades ago of three black teenagers who were arrested on suspicion of murder. A Sanford, Florida, resident said in an interview aired this morning on NPR, “We need to move on.” That was the theme of a newspaper editorial in the wake of those lynchings more than 80 years ago.

Déja Vu All Over Again

O.J. Simpson – Oct. 3, 1995

George Zimmerman – July 13, 2013