The prosecution of George Zimmerman for second-degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin last year appears to be collapsing, thanks in large part to testimony offered by witnesses called by prosecutors, according to legal experts and analysts. Even though the judge refused to allow Martin’s history of drug use, fighting, and school suspensions into evidence, explosive witness testimony provided during the trial may still prove devastating to authorities and their bid to convict Zimmerman.
More than a few commentators have suggested that the murder charges were concocted to satisfy race profiteers, the out-of-control U.S. Justice Department, and the establishment media. Critics of the prosecution, including heavy-hitting law professors and attorneys, say prosecutors have engaged in ethical violations in what appears, to many analysts at least, to be an over-zealous bid to convict Zimmerman in the absence of solid evidence.
“The state of Florida’s politically driven decision to charge George Zimmerman with murder has resulted, as some of us predicted it would, in a pathetically weak case,” explained Andrew McCarthy, a former attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice who has been following the case closely. “It has taken only a few days of trial to collapse of its own weightlessness — undone, in fact, by the direct testimony of a prosecution witness.... This case does not belong in a criminal court. That it has gotten this far is a sad triumph of demagoguery over due process.”
As The New American reported last week, the prosecution’s so-called “star witness,” 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel, proved to be a huge embarrassment for state prosecutors. The young woman — apparently the last person to speak with Martin, then 17, prior to his death early last year — actually ended up benefiting the defense, according to countless legal analysts and pundits commenting on the case.
In addition to the public exposure of potentially incriminating posts on social-media services referencing drug use, drunk driving, underage drinking, and more, Jeantel’s testimony in court appeared to make a mockery of the prosecution. The witness was forced to admit, for example, that she could not read a letter she supposedly “wrote” outlining the events of February 26, 2012, the night Martin was killed. “I don’t read cursive,” she explained.
During testimony, Jeantel admitted to lying under oath, putting her credibility in serious doubt. She eventually conceded that she did not know who started the fight, too. Her demeanor in court, meanwhile — eye-rolling, referring to an attorney as “the bald-headed dude,” answering questions with remarks like “that’s retarded,” and more — was widely criticized as well.
The “star witness” also revealed that Martin had described Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, as a “creepy-a** cracker” over the phone on the night he was killed — a term widely understood as a racist pejorative used to describe whites. Jeantel testified that she did not think the term “cracker” was racist but that she thought Zimmerman’s actions may have been motivated by race.
Much of the establishment press and the race-profiteering industry, of course, have bent over backwards trying to paint Zimmerman as a racist — even using deception, as in the case of NBC’s editing of Zimmerman’s 911 call. Prosecutors tried it as well, albeit in a more subtle manner, alleging that Zimmerman had “profiled” Martin. Now, the “racism” allegations aimed at Zimmerman appear to have become less tenable at the very least, with critics of the prosecution suggesting Martin was in fact the racist.
Jeantel, however, was hardly the only prosecution witness to apparently hurt the state’s case for murder. John Good, a neighbor who said he witnessed the fight between Zimmerman and Martin that preceded the fatal shooting, was also called to testify by prosecutors. Instead of bolstering the prosecution’s case, though, the witness’ testimony proved to be a major boost to Zimmerman and his claim of self-defense, according to analysts.
In essence, Good contradicted a previous witness — and possibly the entire narrative of Zimmerman as the crazed, vigilante-type aggressor. Good told the court this week that he saw Martin on top pummeling Zimmerman seconds before the gunshot rang out, just as the defendant has maintained from the beginning.
“Could you describe who was on top and who was at bottom,” asked prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. Good responded by saying that the color on top was dark, as Martin’s sweatshirt was that night, and that the man underneath was wearing red, as Zimmerman was. The witness also testified that the person on the bottom during the fight had “lighter skin color.” Martin, of course, was black.
“The person on the bottom, I could hear a ‘Help,’” Good said during the trial, suggesting that it was Zimmerman who was screaming for assistance, rather than Martin. Who cried for help amid the fight — Martin or Zimmerman — has become a strong point of contention, with prosecutors and at least one witness suggesting it was Martin while the defense team and Good say it was Zimmerman. Good also said he saw the person on top using what seemed like mixed martial arts (MMA)-style “ground and pound” tactics against the person on the bottom.
After Good’s testimony, the prosecution called Jonathan Manalo, another neighbor. Manalo, who took the now-infamous photos of Zimmerman’s head injuries, testified that he talked to Zimmerman moments after the fatal shooting. The witness said that Zimmerman looked like he "got his butt beat" after the fight, also supporting the defense’s claims of self-defense, according to analysts.
Another witness who testified for the prosecution was Jacksonville medical examiner Valerie Rao. Her credibility has been questioned by experts, reported the Huffington Post, in light of complaints filed against her. While Rao only reviewed photos and videos, she told the court that Zimmerman’s injuries — bloody wounds on the back of his head and an injured nose — appeared “insignificant” and “not life-threatening.” Under cross-examination by the defense, Rao said that grazes on Martin’s knuckles were consistent with him having thrown a punch.
To secure a conviction in the case, which attracted nationwide attention when race-profiteers and anti-gun zealots thought it could be useful, the state of Florida will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to jurors that the former Neighborhood Watch chief acted with a “depraved mind” and disregard for human life. At this point, with prosecutors reportedly about to rest their case, that seems like a long shot. Experts said pursuing manslaughter charges may have been more plausible, but even that would be a tough case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Zimmerman, of course, has maintained from the beginning that he shot Martin in self-defense following a series of burglaries in the neighborhood. According to Zimmerman’s version of the story, Martin, who was unarmed, brutally attacked him, slamming his head against the ground. Photos of the injuries appear to corroborate the claims, legal analysts say. Finally, when Martin reached for Zimmerman’s gun, Zimmerman was forced to shoot, the defendant argued.
A crime lab analyst for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Anthony Gorgone, testified this week that Martin’s DNA was not found on the grip of Zimmerman’s pistol. Under cross-examination by the defense, however, Gorgone admitted it was possible that Martin had touched the gun without leaving DNA traces.
Prosecutors are trying hard to attack Zimmerman’s credibility, most recently putting a college professor on the stand who taught Zimmerman about self-defense laws as part of a criminal litigation course. The Seminole State College professor testified about the defendant’s knowledge of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which Zimmerman denied knowing about in a media interview.
If convicted, Zimmerman could face up to life in prison, with a minimum of 25 years. According to news reports, the prosecution is just about ready to rest its case, making way for the defense to present its own witnesses and evidence. The trial is expected to go on for at least a few more days, and then the all-female jury will have to make its decision. What happens after that remains to be seen, but warnings of nationwide riots if Zimmerman were to be acquitted have been growing louder every day.
Photo of wounds to the back of Zimmerman's head on the night of the shooting: AP Images
Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at