The Zimmerman trial: Judicial misconduct?

I’ve been frankly appalled by the partisanship and loose reasoning exhibited at the Zimmerman trial over the past couple of days.

  • She directly questioned Mr. Zimmerman as to his intention whether or not to testify while the defense case was still in progressThis is unheard of in my experience of US jurisprudence.  She overrode repeated objections from Mr. Zimmerman’s counsel to do so.  You can see video of the exchange, and read a transcript of it, here.  (I agree with the commenters at that link that the judge was ‘way out of line’ in acting as she did.)
  • She’s disallowed evidence that was deliberately concealed by the prosecution until almost the start of the trial – evidence that clearly demonstrates criminal tendencies, attitudes and actions on the part of Trayvon Martin, and would therefore convincingly bolster Mr. Zimmerman’s claims about his actions that night.  She even walked out of the court while the defense was still trying to make its case about the evidence.  There’s video of the exchange at the link.
  • She’s permitted the introduction of a third charge – manslaughter – for the jury to consider, despite that charge never before having been laid against Mr. Zimmerman.  It appears clear to me – and to many other observers – that since the prosecution’s case has been so badly bungled from the beginning, they – and, by inference, the judge – are trying desperately to give the jury an opportunity to convict Mr. Zimmerman of something – anything! – so as to to avoid a ‘not guilty’ verdict.

These developments are not only ridiculous, but in my opinion they demonstrate at best, judicial incompetence;  at worst, outright corruption and a miscarriage of justice.  I question whether Mr. Zimmerman can possibly receive a fair trial and/or verdict under such conditions.  I believe there are more than enough grounds for a higher court to declare a mistrial on appeal, and order that the case be re-tried – preferably before a more qualified and less partisan judge!  (I’m not alone in that belief.)

If Mr. Zimmerman is found guilty under these circumstances, it’ll be a black day for the Florida legal system.  He may, indeed, be guilty – I’m not in the courtroom, I haven’t heard all the evidence, and therefore I haven’t been able to form a qualified judgment – but his guilt (or innocence) must be established by open, impartial, unimpeachable standards of judicial fairness.  On the basis of the points outlined above, right now, those standards appear to me to be conspicuous by their absence from his trial during recent events.



  1. Actually the Manslaughter charge is encapsulated in the Second-degree Murder charge, per Florida law, so that is neither new nor unexpected. However, the new charge this morning (Thurs 7/11) is Third-degree Murder (i.e. murder in course of committing a felony). What is the felony you ask? Aggravated Child Abuse, because Trayvon Martin was aged 17 when Zimmerman was forced to shoot him in self defense. Unless repeatedly striking Martin in the fist with his face is the "abuse" Zimmerman is accused of committing.

    The pro-prosecution bias of Judge Nelson is glaringly obvious, and she has made many decisions that seem to be grounds for reversal, but she did at least disallow this sophistical bit of circular "logic" by the flailing Persecution (sic).

    As has been noted over at Tam's place, the best coverage IMO has been on Professor Jacobson's blog Legal Insurrection by guest blogger Andrew Branca. Branca is an attorney specializing in self-defense as well as a gunnie. He is doing this coverage on his own time so far as I know. I have purchased his book (covering the legal aspects of self defense in all 50 states) partly in appreciation of his time and efforts. (But I bought Take the Star Road first.)

  2. He may, indeed, be guilty – […] I haven't heard all the evidence

    Forgot to say: When I first heard about the Zimmerman/Martin case on the regular news I had no opinion one way or the other and thought Zimmerman might indeed be a sort of mall-ninja wannabe.

    Over the course of the (shameful, show) trial I am now convinced that Zimmerman is absolutely NOT such a yahoo, and is in fact a good, decent, community-spirited guy who reluctantly did what he had to to protect himself from either death or a debilitating, life-changing injury (such as brain damage). His shooting of Martin — to get TM to stop assaulting him — was clearly within the scope of lawful behavior, given the circumstances. That Martin died is an unfortunate circumstance, but the responsibility lies with Martin, not Zimmerman.

    If I were a religious person I would be praying that the jury renders a decision based on the facts presented and in accordance with the pertinent laws, and not out of fear for personal safety (understandable as that is, and IMO not a silly fear) or the threat of riots and other violent civil unrest.

  3. Agree with 110%, BRM…..The misconduct in this trial will be grounfs for reversal ro dismissal, even if Zimmerman is convicted…..

    …..and what about the FOIA documents that Judicial Watch has just released, that shows the DOJ's "Special Community relations" branch sent tax-paid agitators to Sanford during what were essentially local protests, and fanned the flames of racial hatred until this case went nationwide? The "Misconduct" goes VERY high-up, apparently….

  4. I'm virtually convinced that Zimmerman will be convicted of something in order to (a) avoid riots and (b) bolster the DA's inevitable campaign for elected office.

    However, the prosecution and the courts have handed Zimmerman so many grounds for appeal that I don't think the verdict will stand very long.

  5. Jeremy: I wonder if that's part of the strategy. "Convict" Zimmerman to forestall rioting, and then don't bloody well publicise the appeal.

  6. While a firearm is an excellent means of self-defense, it should be the last line of defense. In this case, Zimmerman should have been able to defend himself from Martin without resorting to deadly force. Zimmerman was not elderly, or physically impaired, and of course he was not a she. Martin was not large, nor particularly strong, nor athletic, and if he had any particular skills in streetfighting no one's ever found out about them.


  7. According to the local media here in NE FL, Martin's website included comments about bare knuckle fighting. Details forbidden to be mentioned in court.
    Who notes this is the latest low level to which shysters have slunk.

  8. Thank goodness the trial is over with a good result, but for the record (in response to Peter above), Martin was at least 5' 11" (per coroner's report which was after rigor mortis may have set in) and probably more like 6' 2" in life.

    Zimmerman was 5' 7" and over 200 lbs (I forget the exact weight) but his BMI was nearly 32 (obese) and this was not due to muscle*. Martin had youth, reach and athleticism over Zimmerman. Plus TM sucker punched GZ in the nose.

    IANAL but my understanding is that if you engage in a physical tussle with someone, then shoot him when you are losing, then it is no longer self-defense because you wilingly engaged in the fight. So the obligation is to NOT get into the fight in the first place. Try to leave, get away, run. If you can't get away and have to shoot the bastard, then you may be able to claim self defense. GZ did everything legally and still nearly ended up in jail.

    *I know that BMI is a poor measure of obesity for body builders and strength athletes, but for the general sedentary population it works pretty well. GZ was definitely not an athlete. Check out the testimony of Adam Pollock, the owner of the gym where Zimmerman signed up.

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