The jury will likely return an acquittal in the George Zimmerman case Friday, and I wouldn't be surprised if they do so in time to head home for dinner tonight.
The prosecution failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Case closed.
I've had the same opinion about this case from the beginning: It is a tragedy. No parent or child should ever face what the Martin family has faced. It seems implausible that a kid minding his own business, walking home from 7-Eleven would be shot dead and no one would be held accountable.
Here's the problem -- 17 months after the fact, we still don't really know for certain what happened when Zimmerman and Martin confronted each other that night. Yes, we know Martin was walking home and that Zimmerman got out of the car. But we don't actually know for sure who confronted whom. We don't really know how the fight progressed from verbal to physical and ultimately, what Zimmerman was truly feeling with the pop of a near-broken nose, Martin purportedly straddling him, and no one coming to help. We only know how it ended -- in tragedy.
I also believe that this case, like Casey Anthony, was over-charged from the start. And like we saw in Anthony’s trial, when you bring a case you can't prove and promise things to the jury that aren't backed up by the evidence, the one that loses in the end is you.
The prosecution’s case was weak from the start, but it really started to unravel during Vincent Di Maio's testimony, a forensic pathologist and gunshot wound expert. It was during the cross examination of Di Maio that the prosecution floated their new theory in the case: Martin was in fact on top, but might have been trying to back up away from the fight when he was shot. After weeks of telling the jury that Zimmerman had killed Martin "because he wanted to," prosecutors were now admitting that Martin was actually beating Zimmerman up on that dark night.
The next morning, John Guy mounted the dummy and demonstrated how Martin was purportedly straddling Zimmerman last February, and then (ineffectively) attempted to suggest he was backing off Zimmerman when he was shot. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara, of course, seized the moment, straddling the dummy and driving its head into the ground — driving home the visual of Martin doing it to Zimmerman.
Prosecution offered no rebuttal case. What the heck? Where was the "use of force" expert? Where was the emotional parade of Martin’s friends from high school, testifying that the voice on the 911 tape was their friend’s? Sitting in court watching, I couldn't help but feel like they were phoning it in. The Martin family deserves better.
And then, the closing arguments sealed the deal.
Bernie de la Ronda's closing argument was horrendous. He was sarcastic, defensive, preachy and spent much of his time yelling at the jury. He skipped around the courtroom, he mounted the dummy, he flashed the lifeless autopsy photos of Martin, and he repeated the swear words -- a lot.
What he didn't do was lay out his detailed theory of what happened that night. In three hours, he basically said, “An unarmed teenager is dead and Zimmerman is a liar -- convict him.” Sorry, but if the government is going to put you in jail, they have to prove what happened with certainty, and in this case, they didn't.
What they did do a great job of, on the other hand, was inserting a ton of doubt and assumptions into the minds of the jury.
As O'Mara said in his closing argument, the State has built a case on hypotheticals, full of "could-have-beens" and "maybes." That's not how it works. Prosecutors live in the world of certainty, proof and evidence. And in this case, they just don't have it. That's why on rebuttal, all Guy could urge the jurors to do was use their “hearts” and “common sense.” He said very little about the law.
This is a terrible tragedy, but based on the evidence presented, Zimmerman was in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm and the shooting was justified. And there is doubt about a lot of aspects of the case. O'Mara illustrated this very effectively as he had the jurors wait silently, the minutes ticking silently by, as he walked back to the defense table. He consulted his notes, his watch, and then said, "That's how long Trayvon Martin had to run -- four minutes. Do you have a doubt about what Martin was doing?”
Guy ended his rebuttal with this quote: "To the living, we owe respect. To the dead, we owe the truth."
I found it an odd thing to say because dead or alive, we should all know the truth. And in this case, the truth is that both Martin and Zimmerman made choices that night that led to Martin’s death and Zimmerman standing trial in court and in the media.
Zimmerman's fate is in the jury's hands now, where it belongs.
And now it's time for us to respect the judicial system that's been in place for more than 200 years and get back to living our lives.