George Zimmerman‘s defence attorney might already be rubbing the jury the wrong way.
Donald West, an attorney on Zimmerman’s defence team, started his opening statements in the second-degree murder trial a lot less theatrically than the prosecution, and then went on to tell a knock-knock joke that didn’t seem to amuse anyone in the courtroom.
West started off by talking about how Zimmerman’s family wished they could be at the trial but that they are not allowed in the courtroom because “they are not related to the deceased,” Florida teenager Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman is on trial for shooting and killing Martin after a confrontation in Zimmerman’s neighbourhood.
When West went on to talk about his own family, the prosecution objected and the judge told West he was “personalizing” and that opening statements are supposed to be about what the evidence will show.
He responded: “I think the evidence will show that this is a sad case.”
He then went on to tell a bizarre knock-knock joke that he acknowledge could be received badly by the jury.
“Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from crying,” West said. “So let me, at considerable risk, let me say: I’d like to tell you a little joke.”
West told the courtroom: “I think you’re the perfect audience for it, as long as if you don’t like it … you don’t hold it against Mr. Zimmerman.”
“Here’s how it goes: knock, knock. Who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good, you’re on the jury.”
The joke didn’t elicit any laughs. West asked: “Nothing? That’s funny.”
It’s worth noting that West is a veteran attorney who has handled “some of the most high-profile criminal cases in the Orlando area in the past 20 years,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. He specialises in murder cases.
But the joke could communicate to the jury that he doesn’t take the case very seriously.
Here’s a legal expert’s take on the opening statement, per breaking news reporter Micah Grimes:
Legal expert Jeff Swartz says #Zimmerman defence more technical to focus on law; state more emotional to connect with jury.
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) June 24, 2013
West’s statements later focused more on exactly what happened the night Martin died, but the prosecution’s approach was a powerful emotion appeal that might resonate more with the jury.
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