A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN
…I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ….
The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
William Shakespeare, “Hamlet,” Act Two, Scene II, after
the Second Quarto, 1604-1605, ed. Cyrus Hoy, 1992.
George Zimmerman Questions
After the Prosecution concludes its case-in chief, in the
Florida trial of George Zimmerman, who is accused of killing Trayvon Martin, in
a manner evincing a depraved indifference to human life, the Defense may well
move to dismiss the charges for lack of evidence OR for a directed verdict,
arguing that based upon the evidence in the trial record, there is no set of
circumstances under which any rational jury could convict the defendant by
proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Any
such motion, probabilities 60-40, would likely fail. A court’s refusal to grant such a motion is
The Defense would
then be faced squarely with the need to make a decision, about which they must
have been ruminating and researching for months, as to whether Mr. Zimmerman
should take the stand. While Mr. Zimmerman
has an absolute right to testify, he need not do so. Courts usually admonish juries, pursuant to
the Fifth Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination, made applicable to
State criminal proceedings by the “Due Process” Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, that no inference whatsoever may be drawn from the Defendant’s
omission to testify. The presumption of
innocence never separates from the Defendant unless and until the jury is
satisfied, based upon all admitted evidence, that the State has proved its case
by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defense attorneys are, in general, always aware that they
may not put a witness (including the Defendant) on the stand where they know
the witness is about to lie under oath.
Doing so would open the attorney to felony charges of subornation of
perjury and end the attorney’s career.
Where an attorney has any such apprehension, and it is too late in the
proceedings to withdraw, the attorney must bring the matter to the attention of
the court. Rather than declare a
mistrial, the court will often allow the Defendant to testify in narrative form,
without questions by Defense counsel, but subject to cross-examination by the
If Mr. Zimmerman chooses to testify, in good faith, at
some point the jury is going to have to be alerted to the fact that the rather
flaccid, feckless appearance in court of the engorged George Zimmerman, does
not jibe with the very physically fit and self-defense trained George
Zimmerman, whose courage, further bolstered by his carrying a gun, which his
citizen watch controllers had instructed him not to take with him on his night
watch rounds, prompted him to pursue Trayvon Martin on that night. In short, did Mr. Zimmerman believe that if a
confrontation might occur, he felt pretty sure he could “take” the seventeen
Assume that at some point, Mr. Martin was atop Mr.
Zimmerman. This assumption must, of
course, be preceded by the threshold question of whether the cuts on Mr.
Zimmerman’s head could have been caused by a fall. Stated otherwise, were the lacerations on Mr.
Zimmerman’s scalp caused by his slipping in the rain soaked grass and striking
his head upon the ground? Would any
attribution of violence on the part of Mr. Martin be believable as a cause for
these few superficial lacerations?
Suppose, however, Mr. Zimmerman was upon the ground, and
Mr. Martin was atop him -- remember, not a plausible scenario if Mr.
Zimmerman’s head abrasions were most likely to have been caused by a fall. Suppose Mr. Martin had gained the upper
hand. (This is really a plausible
scenario only if Mr. Martin had been a Florida State wrestling champion.) Mr. Zimmerman draws his gun, a
semi-automatic pistol, loaded with a bullet in firing position, places the gun
against Mr. Martin’s chest. Stop. Stop here. Stop.
Mr. Zimmerman’s attorneys have now insisted, many times over, that
screams heard at the moment, were not the screams of Trayvon Martin, but rather
those of George Zimmerman. Defense
counsel cannot now argue the screams were that of anyone other than Mr.
So Mr. Zimmerman, the putative screamer, had enough
breath left in him to howl. And to howl continuously
until the shot was fired. So here is the
key question: Why did Mr. Zimmerman fail to warn Mr. Martin that Mr. Zimmerman
was in a position to shoot Mr. Martin to death?
Mr. ZIMMERMAN HAS ADMITTED THAT MR. MARTIN KNEW THAT MR. ZIMMERMAN WAS
ARMED BECAUSE MR. ZIMMERMAN ALLEGES MR. MARTIN REACHED FOR MR.ZIMMERMAN’S
GUN. (This also undercuts any
apprehension that Mr. Zimmerman thought Mr. Martin might be armed, because at
no point does Mr. Zimmerman allege that Mr. Martin reached for any weapon of
Mr. Martin’s own.)
“I have a loaded gun at your chest. Don’t make me pull the trigger.
Get off me and let the police sort this out. Don’t make me pull the trigger!”
Zimmerman never said that. As a matter of fact, at no time did he warn
Trayvon Martin, that he, Mr. Zimmerman, was armed with a fully loaded
handgun. The very argument that having a
handgun becomes a deterrent to violent conduct is fully controverted by what
happened here. George Zimmerman never
said to Trayvon Martin, “I have a loaded gun at your chest. Don’t make me pull the trigger.
Let’s stop this now. I called the police, let them sort this out.”
Instead, Mr. Zimmerman did pull the
trigger, knowing full well that the bullet fired would enter Trayvon Martin’s
chest and penetrate Trayvon Martin’s heart.
For all of the above reasons, I respectfully submit that George
Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin with a depraved indifference to the life of
Harvard Hollenberg is a writer and an appeals lawyer in New York City.
© Copyright Harvard Hollenberg 2013. All rights reserved.