Testimony in George Zimmerman’s highly anticipated trial started last week, and prosecutors trying to prove he’s guilty of second-degree murder for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin didn’t get off to a very good start.
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighbourhood watch volunteer, says the unarmed 17-year-old attacked him first, and several witnesses for the prosecution are bolstering his self-defence claims, experts told The New York Times.
One of those witnesses was Jonathon Good, a neighbour of Zimmerman’s who watched his fight with Martin through his blinds on a rainy night in February 2012. Despite being called by the prosecution, Good told the court that Zimmerman was on the bottom of the “tussle” with Martin.
Even more damning for the prosecution, Goode said he believed Zimmerman was the one yelling for help. Both of these observations would back up Zimmerman’s belief that his life was in danger.
The other problematic witness for the state was Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with him when he died and was supposed to be the prosecution’s star witness. Zimmerman’s lawyers found a number of inconsistencies in her story, potentially damaging her credibility and helping his case.
“When you are talking about state witnesses as if they are defence witnesses, that is a problem for the State of Florida,” Orlando, Fla. lawyer Diana Tennis told The Times. “And any time you end each day with either a zero-sum game or the defence coming out ahead, that’s a problem when you’re the prosecution.”
Legal analysts also told The Times that prosecutors should have gone for a manslaughter conviction instead of second-degree murder, which involves “hatred, spite, or evil intent.”
“The state is overreaching, and I think that may well come back to bite them in terms of credibility,” Miami lawyer Michael Band told The Times.
To be sure, the prosecutors did score a few points last week. Good, for example, said repeatedly that he never saw Martin slamming Zimmerman’s head into the ground as the neighbourhood watch volunteer claimed. It was also clear from a nurse’s testimony that Zimmerman didn’t sustain any life-threatening injuries from Martin.
Prosecutors could score some more points this week, as they plan on showing evidence of inconsistencies in Zimmerman’s own account of what happened that night, ABC News points out.
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