Zimmerman Trial

Well, I held off as long as I could on opining over the Zimmerman Trial. I wanted to wait until the evidence was in to form an opinion. I have represented people (and children, namely Nate Abraham) accused of murder and I am acutely aware of the “presumption of guilt”. I am not referring to the Constitutional right to a presumption of innocence – a vital right that may be the most violated right of all. People automatically assume a criminal suspect has done something, with the rare exceptions of white suspects whose case has been amplified to social significance by the media. Like Zimmerman. This is why the media and the Defense put Trayvon Martin on trial as well.

It’s a natural bias we all share and one every attorney has to deal with. Whenever I drive along a highway and see a policeman searching a car they have pulled over I don’t think “Gee, I wonder what that guy is presumed innocent of doing…” We all tend to assume that they must have done something to justify police action. This is because we give police the benefit of the doubt out of a natural bias. We all NEED police that are honest and trustworthy, and because we need to trust police we tend to give them that benefit of doubt. Except those of us attorneys who have seen countless arbitrary and illegal actions by a relatively few, dangerous officers know better.

As protective as I am about the presumption of innocence, I also know the emotional power of bigotry, and in cases involving race it often controls the outcome. I think the evidence proved the case of second degree murder. It certainly proved the lesser charge of manslaughter. Yet, justice wasn’t done in the Martin case partly because of one significant piece of evidence allowed into the trial: the fact that Martin had trace marijuana in his body at the time of death. Of course, trace amounts would not affect anyone’s behavior to any noticeable degree, and even if it did, marijuana would lessen any propensity for violence and reduce reaction times, muscle strength and energy. The problem with the ruling to include this evidence was that it was clearly more prejudicial than probative – it fits perfectly with the most racist and frightening stereotypes of young African-American men: wandering the streets high on drugs and violent. Can a jury of nearly all white women overcome this bias and look at the evidence objectively?

I trust the jury system.  I also know it is flawed and reflective of the prejudices which pervade our land.

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16 Responses to Zimmerman Trial

  1. Jessica Hughey says:

    I agree completely that the evidence, at the very least, proved Zimmerman should have been found guilty of manslaughter. However, I believe that the marijuana evidence, though it was “allowed”, was never submitted to the jury.

  2. Rex A. Umney says:

    Mr. Fieger,

    What you claim is not necessarily true… You were opining the Zimmerman trial before it ever began! Take a look at March 28th 2012 in your thread titled “Trayvon Martin” of all things. You just like Obama were making this tragedy political before it even went to court!

    I am also a little disgusted that a trial / defense attorney like yourself would suggest that you thought Zimmerman’s actions constituted 2nd degree murder! You know darn well this was self defense and I called it from day one! Of course it didn’t help that we had MSNBC cutting and editing the 911 audio calls to make Zimmerman appear to be a racist and it sure was none of Obama’s business to second guess the proper actions of the local Police who weren’t going to press charges. I guess Obama feels like he can do everyone’s job better than they can, but clearly this is not the case and just like Obama you are dreaming!


    Nice to see that President Obama can pressure Local, State and Federal investigators to this matter but what about all the other kids (some much younger than Trayvon) who don’t look like Obama?
    The real injustice here is the fact MSNBC and Obama put such a racist spin on this tragedy from the start that it overshadowed everything else! I mean Obama literally put the “politics” in this trial and I am sure many of the Jurors were left wondering how come 15 days of their lives were taken because Obama wanted to try an innocent man who was defending himself.
    Seems the original decision of the Local Police not to prosecute was in fact the right course of action after all. I just hope this brings closure for everyone and that people realize racism is not just exclusive to a single race.
    But most of this falls in the Media’s lap. Whenever the Media decides to make a circus out of a hearing it often times results in a not guilty verdict. Take for instance O.J. Simpson. That trial had even more coverage and as a result I feel it really forces the Jurors in a corner. I think had this trial not been headline news a different verdict would have been handed down. No one wants to come off as the bad guy on national TV and often times Jurors in highly televised cases can’t seem to convict, if only because they know everyone is watching. Get a Jury outside of the Media and you notice something different… The Jury feels more opinionated, more willing to throw someone under the bus. Zimmerman didn’t even testify at his hearing which usually does not bode well for anyone in a Jury trial.
    It does not sit well with me that a young man of 17 years was killed. Regardless of the circumstances the killing of young Trayvon is not something people of ANY race would consider acceptable. Obama called this a tragedy in his video above and I would have to agree with him on that statement.
    If anything this caused me to talk to my kids about what it means to get in a fight with someone. You just never know and I tell them that fighting should only be a means of self defense and to avoid such altercations at all cost unless your life depends on it. But kids… You know how they are… That’s what makes this a tragedy, because really he was just a kid not even 18 years old.
    It pains me to say this, but better parenting could have prevented this. If Trayvons parents had never had gotten divorced none of this may have ever happened. People that have kids need to be more responsible and realize that when they have kids its no longer about them! It’s about raising the family and sticking together! Nothing messes up a kid more than getting stuck in the middle of a divorce and all the nasty $hit that goes with it. It makes my blood boil just thinking about it.
    There is no such thing as a bad kid! Just bad parents! I sure hope I can live up to my responsibility as a parent because it’s not always easy. Too many selfish parents that feel they don’t have to make sacrifices to keep their family together. Too many irresponsible men and women having kids and not doing the responsible thing, which is to stick together and raise the family and that’s the bottom line here.
    Do you believe it was homicide Mr. Fieger?

  3. Denise Silsbe says:

    I agree! At the very least, manslaughter…

  4. Jessie Gibson-Eldridge says:

    Thank you Attorney Fieger for sharing your thoughts. Rex has it ALL wrong. I hope his kids grow up to have a different opinion about people than he does. Rex’s kids probably will not be gunned down like Trayvon because they will not be judged by the color of their skin. Make God continue to bless ALL of us. O, Rex, President Obama is Black and he would have a Black child!

  5. carl walker says:

    Maybe , Zimmerman should have waited. Ya ,seeing how someone is dead. There is no maybe, if the kid was doing something wrong he could have taken a picture or filmed him in an illegal act. No probable cause. If anyone fits a profile, its zimmerman , he looks like a terrorist to me. Fact he was told not to engage, fact ,he was a wanna be cop. Fact, he called 911 ,all the time. Fact he wanted to kill someone , and he did. What exactually did Zimmerman say he saw Trayvon do, that he need to stop him from doing ? what law was the kid breaking. ? He should have waited for the police & just observed ,from a distance. He caused a death. If someone is fallowing me arround ,I might do something too. & everything I wrote ,was my view. Everybody is going to react to someone fallowing them differently. So common sence is, If I think someone is breaking the law, Im going to catch them on film, & I certainly wouldnt want them to see me. And I wouldnt confront them, because I wouldnt want them to know ,they were being watched.

  6. Marc says:

    I wasn’t surprised that Zimmerman got acquitted. People have the right to defend themselves when their life is in danger. However, I don’t feel like Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot. I don’t like that Zimmerman just decided to shoot the kid rather than defend himself physically. I don’t like guns, I am against guns. At the very least, Martin deserved his day in court.

  7. “It pains me to say this, but better parenting could have prevented this. If Trayvons parents had never had gotten divorced none of this may have ever happened.”

    Um… wow? I know plenty of people from divorced families who turned out to be great people. Sometimes divorce is better for the kids so that they don’t have to listen to their parents screaming at each other all the time.

    Rex, I strongly suggest you read The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker and The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. Kids are not blank slates on which parents can write whatever they want. Research has shown that genetics play a strong role in someone’s temperament and that the kid’s peer group has a larger role in shaping the non-genetic bits (for lack of a better term; EVERYTHING has a genetic component) than the parents. For anybody who wants to misconstrue that into “oh, so blacks are born more violent,” no, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

    I really don’t know if one race vs. another has a bigger violence issue within their communities, and quite frankly I really don’t care. Racial profiling is wrong. The Blank Slate discusses that what actually happens is that kids who are in low-income communities are more desperate in terms of personal survival and are more likely to resort to violence. Most people are predisposed to this kind of behavior given the right circumstances. Also, our evolutionary history predisposes kids to want to be like their peers; it helped our ancestors survive. Research has also shown that the best thing to do to prevent a kid from going down the path is not to take them away from their parents but to put them in a neighborhood without things like gang violence. They are given a different peer group to imitate. Sadly, this is easier said than done in this every-man-for-himself society.

    And finally, did you miss the part where the cops told Zimmerman NOT to pursue the kid??

  8. Rex A. Umney says:

    Jessie Gibson-Eldridge – Rex has it all wrong? I think you better check the verdict of the Jury once more! And hey Jessie, this is a web forum! How do you know I am not black? Are you just assuming since I agree with the verdict that I am white? I think it’s quite clear who the REAL racist are in here 😉
    I especially like the reference to my children getting gunned down, it makes me laugh… Seeing how they are from good stock I am sure they will be fine! Not only that they will be armed @ age 18 providing all the jackass Democrats don’t have their way with regards to gun control. I should also mention that Obama is HALF white, even though Obama considers himself back; in Kenya (His homeland) he would be considered “White”! Isn’t that kind of strange? Strange as it may sound, it’s TRUE! Wake up already… People are judged by what they do, not what they are! Don’t matter what color you are, if you are worthless, then what good are you? I see a lot of worthless types in this forum. God bless us all, I’ll agree with you there but that’s about all we share in common.

    carl walker – Ummmm… That’s what Zimmerman was doing… Watching and waiting…. Then out come Trayvon from the bushes… It’s a tragedy a young man got his card pulled but that’s the risk you take when engaging someone in a fist fight… Had Zimmerman not had a gun I think Trayvon might have mopped the floor with Zimmerman, but why should Zimmerman risk life and limb to appease someone that wishes to do him bodily harm? Perhaps all the people clamoring for Trayvon need to have their heads smacked on the concrete a few times to understand what it means to get attacked. This is why we have laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons, because no one should have to put up with someone else’s violence. Zimmerman did not cause a death; it was Trayvon who underestimated the person he engaged in a fight. No different than a young 16-17 year old who underestimates a high performance vehicle and gets in a wreck. It’s tragic because we know a kid usually does not have the wisdom to know any better but it does not change the facts.

    Marc – Just because you don’t like guns does not mean that the rest of the nation who does should be without them. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!

    Julie (@InYourFaceNYer) – Julie… Your far left field thoughts have and always will be a waste of my time. Zimmerman had a right to observe Trayvon much like private eyes do. We already know the Police/Government track us but they now have technology on their side, so you just don’t see them is all. Racial profiling is a load if $hit now days… WAKE UP! We have a black President! I don’t want to hear another BS claim about how blacks are hard done by and whites have it so easy… It’s a national cop-out that I refuse to support.

    Ultimately I think this whole “I’m black” so I deserve special treatment idea is absolute bullshit. You are judged by what you do, not what color you are. Racism is not just limited to black people! Racism is too often considered to be the oppression of blacks when in reality racism is found wherever there is a minority. Does not matter the color!

    Anyone who thinks this Trayvon Martin trial is anything but a big distraction to the fact Obama is flushing our nation down the toilet is a complete idiot! There are many other people who die each day who are a HELL OF A LOT more innocent than Trayvon will ever be! EVERY SINGLE DAY! But do we hear about them? NOPE!

    Zimmerman looks to be more Hispanic than he does white… Just like Obama looks to be more Black than white… These mixed pups are confused hopping from one race to another, whatever suits them better at the particular moment. I am here to say the Grim Reaper is not racist, so in life you better make it count and do your best. People who use their race as an excuse bother me to no end. I simply stop listening once ignorant $hit like that comes out of their mouths.

    Obama is a very poor President who hoodwinked the entire nation with his pathetic reverse racism tactics. If you don’t agree with Obama you must be a racist! Right?

  9. Keante Houston says:

    I believe in the self defense law and I also believe trayvon was defending himself from a man that was following him. What would any young black man have done to a person that was following him around. If Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white it would have been a lynching in the justice system. Nice job Florida you let a woman who killed her daughter go and a man that killed a defenseless child go, but you convicted a black woman who killed her abusive husband and she had worst scares then Zimmerman SMH

  10. Keante Houston,

    I agree! Someone pointed out to me tonight that situations like Trayvon fighting Zimmerman are often not isolated and the origins can be traced back quite a while. Let me give a parallel that I’m sure is familiar to to more people than would be willing to admit:

    I was taunted and bullied horrendously as a kid in elementary school and, especially, middle school. Parents and teachers told me, “Just ignore them,” which, of course, made the kids try harder to get a rise out of me, even resorting to physical means. After ignoring, telling the kid to stop, telling the teacher, doing whatever else, sometimes I would lose it and hit the kid who was harassing me. Conveniently, the teacher would turn around to see me trying to fight. I was the one who got in trouble because the teacher saw ME doing it, not the bully. To make matters worse, I was often told that I brought the bullying on myself for not trying to fit in.

    Many victims who find themselves in the situation I was often in are also blamed because of how they dress, being a little socially awkward, or not hiding the fact that they are gay.

    I hope my parallel is clear!

  11. Rex A. Umney says:

    All I can say is “WOW”!

    It would appear to me, after reading the last two postings; that people think its okay to engage in physical altercations simply because of what someone says! That’s just insane! What’s even worse? The fact that when said people get their asses kicked they feel compelled to play the bleeding heart card of “Oh I am gay” or “Oh I am Black” and since I lost the fight it must be some form of racism or bias.

    Pathetic at best!

  12. I’m sorry that you keep missing my point. Have a nice day.

  13. Rex A. Umney says:

    I must keep missing your point unconsciously.

    But have yourself an outstanding day anyway!

  14. annika stanelu says:

    Rex, aren’t you late for a KKK pep rally

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