Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Embarrassment Of The George Zimmerman Verdict

The result of a verdict today in a criminal trial is that everyone with a twitter or Facebook account gets to let the world know how ignorant they are of the criminal justice system. I know, First Amendment. But your ignorance shows again when you mention that. The First Amendment protects you from the government, it doesn't protect you on twitter or Facebook from people calling you out for your ignorance.

@A1Black_: RT @_surlySprite: They need to APPEAL THIS VERDICT AND GO TO THE SUPREME COURT ❗❗❗ Don't Stop until Justice is Served for T…

@34thwarrior: Trayvon parents should appeal this to the next level

@_CharNae: Trayvon Martin parents better appeal this case! I would NOT let nobody off for killing my child! HELL TF NO!

@_shVn: Trayvon's parents can appeal this verdict and try to get justice again! Lets pray they do and it turns out right this time! Rip

Some background before you start beating on your keyboard:

1. I'm a criminal defense lawyer in Florida since 1995.

2. I watched the trial. Had it on at home, in my office, in the car. I didn't watch it through updates from the morons on HLN or CNN, most of whom should be fired (more on that later).

3. I know the lawyers, on both sides, including the civil lawyers for the Martin family.

4. I did some commentary, and declined commentary on media outlets that were only trying to enrage the public.

As for the case, I think it's terrible that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. That's a tragedy. I don't think he had to shoot him, and had one or two things been different (he didn't get out of his car, didn't have a gun, on and on), we wouldn't be here. I keep hearing Trayvon Martin would have killed George Zimmerman, I don't think so, but I wasn't there.

You weren't there either. You don't know what happened, exactly. As much as you want to believe you were there and know what happened, exactly, you weren't, and you don't.

Not knowing exactly what happened requires a not guilty verdict, no matter how angry or outraged you are. The jury didn't free Zimmerman because they thought he was a good guy or because they weren't sad that a young boy was killed (jurors were rumored to be crying during the state's rebuttal), they found him not guilty because the facts and the law required them to do so.

The state had a crappy case, they knew they had a crappy case. This is why they assigned 3 career prosecutors with a combined stat of probably over 500 trials. Their first problem was no witnesses to the event. You would agree, wouldn't you, that witnesses help prove cases? Their second problem was a tape that no one could agree on. You know whose voice was on that tape? I don't. The state never laid out, point by point, what happened. If I'm being asked to convict someone of a crime, and I know the state has the burden of proof, the state is required to tell me what happened, not just ask questions and tell me "you decide" over and over again.

Juries don't make decisions because they are mad, sad, angry, or feel bad for someone's parents.

George Zimmerman is not guilty because the law says he's not guilty. You don't think it's right that he killed Trayvon Martin, but that's not what the law says in Florida where we like guns more than we like people. You have a problem with that, do something to change the law other than complain on social media. I know, you're busy, you won't. That's for others to do.

Five things I want to say in closing:

1. Your cries for an appeal are hurting my eyes. There is no appeal. Stop letting the world know how ignorant you are. If you don't know criminal law or procedure, shut up. Ask someone before you display your stupidity to the world.

2. If you didn't see the trial, stop criticizing the verdict, it just makes you look stupid.

3. HLN, get rid of Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell. They are not legal commentators helping the public understand our important, essential, and treasured criminal justice system. Neither are many of their guests who should never be asked back. There are 95,000 lawyers in Florida, there is no reason a lawyer from another state who doesn't know Florida law needs to be on daily telling everyone "I don't practice in Florida, I don't know Florida law" just because they can yell. Their daily display of drama may be what you believe to be the "First Amendment," but it is also pathetic, and making people dumber and angrier.

4. CNN needs to send Sonny Hostin and Gloria Allred packing. First of all Piers Morgan, this is a criminal trial in Florida. Why is the only guest you continue to have on is someone from California that doesn't practice criminal law and is known for representing, at press conferences, women victims? What could she possibly have to offer about this case?

And CNN, especially Anderson Cooper, get rid of Sonny Hostin. This woman was a prosecution shill from the beginning of this trial, struggling to say anything positive about the defense. Last night, after the verdict, she said "justice took the day off." She wasn't there to provide commentary, she was shilling for the state. She should have disclosed from the begining that she desperately wanted a conviction, that way it would have been easier to listen to her biased commentary. She's terrible and should never be asked to appear in the media again when there is an important trial.

5. The media, especially TV, needs to start vetting their guests. I know these are lawyers with agents, but they've never been in a criminal courtroom, or at least not since they spent a year as a prosecutor in 1978. Can you not find lawyers that actually know what they are talking about? Piers Morgan is asking Gloria Allred what she would do in opening in the Zimmerman case? I have a better question, Gloria, when is the last time you gave an opening statement, in any case?

That's all I want to say, for now.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal and Bar Defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.

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