By now, most following the Trayvon Martin case know that Judge Debra Nelson denied the defense motion to take the jury to the scene of the shooting. This is a significant decision, but one that the defense can largely overcome through clever graphics and analogies. Why would the defense want to take the jury there? People are poor judges of distance and velocity.
For instance, if I suggested a distance of 440 yards, at least some people would know that’s a quarter mile, but few apart from active runners would know that a reasonably fit adult could run that distance at a moderate pace in about 100 seconds. A fit teenager in a sprint could easily cover that distance in 20 seconds or so less, and most people know that a standard circular track like those at a high school football stadium is about 440 yards, but few understand that in a straight line, that’s a substantial distance.
Once beyond 200 yards, only expert rifle marksmen can hit a target with anything approaching precision. Even shorter distances like 100 yards are very difficult for most people to judge with any degree of accuracy. For the most part, people aren’t required to make uncommon distance and velocity judgements with any degree of regularity.
One of the things I had to teach new police officers when they were traveling fast with lights flashing and siren blaring is to watch out for people at stop signs at cross streets. People, you see, are used to vehicles on that street–a street they regularly travel–proceeding at or near the posted speed limit. That velocity/distance equation is their frame of reference. So they’ll look right at an approaching police car, not see the lights or hear the siren–particularly during the daytime–completely misjudge the velocity, and pull right out in front of the rapidly approaching police car. My trainees really didn’t believe me, until the first time a citizen did just that, forcing them to brake and maneuver to avoid a collision. That made believers out of them and taught a vital lesson about human nature.
It’s one thing for the defense to tell the jury that Trayvon Martin had–for example–a 50 second head start on George Zimmerman, and that once he turned the corner and Zimmerman could no longer see him, he only had to travel (again, I’m just using a random number to illustrate the point) 80 yards before he arrived at home, a distance he could have easily covered in that time, particularly considering that after traveling half that distance, he would have been invisible to Zimmerman due to darkness even if Zimmerman knew exactly where to look, and he did not.
At least some of the jurors wouldn’t understand the time and distance equation. They might think Martin didn’t have enough time to get away, or imagine that Zimmerman was much faster than he was, or to them, 80 yards is more like 150 yards because that’s the distance between their driveway and the nearest cross street, etc.
One way this might be dealt with would be to carry a video camera while running and timing the exact distance, which would easily prove that had Martin chosen to actually go straight home, he could easily have been indoors and have never seen Zimmerman again. But then again, who knows if Judge Nelson would allow even that?
Overall, the prosecution pretty much got what it wanted, with the exception of no additional gag order on the defense. This, even for Judge Nelson, likely would have been a step too far as the defense has done nothing outside ethical application of the rules and the law. There was nothing to gag.
Also learned today (Via NBC News):
(1) The defense can’t mention Martin’s past fights, his school suspensions, his drug use, his text messages and similar matters in its opening statement, though Nelson said that such matters might be allowed on a point by point basis during the trial. Such matters would be equally easily disallowed at trial.
(2) The amount of marijuana in Martin’s bloodstream might be admissible after Nelson hears expert testimony about it.
(3) O’Mara revealed he has video from Martin’s phone of three fights. In two, Martin was acting as a referee and in a third, two of his friends “were beating up a homeless guy,” presumably as Martin filmed the assault. A charming practice. O’Mara also spoke of Martin’s text messages relating to fighting (see Update 29).
UPDATE: 06-02-13 2030 CST: From the GZ Legal site:
During the Tuesday, May 28th hearing, Mr. O’Mara misstated the nature of video from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone which was included in the Defendant’s 3rd Supplemental Discovery. He stated that the video showed “two buddies of his beating up a homeless guy,” when what happened was Trayvon Martin, along with a buddy, was videotaping two homeless guys fighting each other over a bike. Though it was unintentional, it is a particular concern to us because we are and have been committed to disputing misinformation in every aspect of this case, not causing it. For that, Mr. O’Mara apologizes.
(4) There will be no continuance in the trial. However, as I wrote in Update 29, the appeals court may yet grant O’Mara’s request to depose Benjamin Crump. If that is granted, it’s hard to imagine how Nelson could refuse to grant a continuance.
(5) Martin tried to purchase pot while in Sanford.
(6) Martin has pictures of a 15-17 year old girl, naked on his phone (O’Mara noted this would likely not be relevant). Apparently her identity is unknown.
(7) The jury will not be sequestered. This will raise a number of reversible error issues.
Another potentially destructive witness was revealed at the hearing:
Zimmerman’s team put an outside lawyer on the stand, Wesley White, who testified that photos from Martin’s cellphone were never shared with them. White, who resigned as a state prosecutor in December and is now in private practice, represents the state attorney’s office’s information-technology director, Ben Kruidbos, who will be called to testify June 6 about the allegedly withheld images.
White told NBC News that Kruidbos was placed on administrative leave Tuesday and considers himself a ‘whistleblower’ under Florida law. Kruidbos was grilled by staff in the state attorney’s office twice, either to learn what he planned to testify about or possibly to ‘bully him,’ White told NBC.
The state attorney’s office has not responded to a request for comment from NBC News.
I’ll bet. Kruidbos is apparently ready to testify that the prosecutor’s office knowingly violated the law in denying discoverable evidence to the defense. As the former IT director, he would have had access to virtually everything the prosecution knew. It will be interesting indeed to find out what he knows. It could theoretically lead to a mistrial, and could surely lead to leaving the Florida bar no choice but to pursue disciplinary charges against Bernard de la Rionda, Angela Corey and potentially other members of the special prosecutor’s office. Criminal charges are not out of the question.
The folks at the Conservative Treehouse have a post regarding Scheme Team attorney Natalie Jackson, who is accusing the defense team of racism. Her tweet:
George Zimmerman’s Defense Team Releases Texts and Photos to Fit Their Racist Narrative.
It was in Update 5 roughly a year ago that I was accused of, and dealt with, a charge of racism. As I noted then, this Internet ATM doesn’t accept race cards. I suggest readers peruse Update 29 to see the texts and photos Jackson so blithely cites as evidence of racism. They are photos and communications Martin himself produced and obviously believed to project the public persona he coveted. One cannot exalt “thug” or criminal culture, and then cry “racism” when their practice of its outward manifestations is revealed as Martin himself preserved and revealed them to family and friends. I trust the reasonable person will find no evidence or racism in anything the defense has done. I certainly haven’t found any in their presentation of Trayvon Martin as he presented himself.
What is significant is that when members of the racial grievance industry are losing any argument, they play the race card as fervently and loudly as possible. But I’ve detected, in recent years, a great weariness in the public with this tactic. More and more, people no longer feel the need to defend themselves against the charge, and it does not put them on the defensive. Overuse and abuse of the charge has robbed it of much of its effectiveness. So it is here. Crying “racism” requires solid, unambiguous proof, and the burden of proof is on those making the charge.
What’s going on here? Many of Judge Nelson’s decisions are on the razor edge of being obviously and grossly biased toward the prosecution. Her deference to the prosecution, and her inexplicable reluctance to sanction de la Rionda for repeated, indisputable and egregious misconduct, including lies to the court–a matter that usually draws the wrath of any judge–is very hard to understand.
O’Mara and West and building a predictable and competent record for appeal in case of conviction. Based only on Judge Nelson’s rulings thus far, there is substantial reversible error, and the court of appeals may begin that process at any day prior to trial.
Is Judge Nelson a true believer? Is she so invested in the narrative, a narrative that might coincide with her socio-political world view, that she is willing to risk her career to prop it up even as more and more evidence found by the defense shatters the foundation and facade of the prosecutor’s case?
Or is she, like some have suggested, actually trying to introduce reversible error because she knows she has to do all she can to enable a guilty verdict regardless of the evidence if she wishes to survive as a judge in the political climate of contemporary Florida? Does she truly hope that if Zimmerman is convicted, her malfeasance will allow the verdict to be overturned, thus relieving her of responsibility? “I did all I could; I got you a guilty verdict; it’s not my fault. Blame that racist appeals court!”
Criminal cases are virtually never like TV lawyer dramas where defense attorneys come up with dramatic evidence and expose the inherent corruption in the system. In most cases, the defendant really is a bad guy who did bad things, and the evidence against them is solid, carefully and ethically gathered. The defense is reduced to trying to make the police look bad. That’s not the case here.
The defense is defending not only George Zimmerman, but the Sanford Police Department. They are also coming up, on a daily basis, with more and more damning evidence that utterly destroys the narrative, particularly regarding Trayvon Martin’s behavior and character, and in these matters, his race means little. Drug use, violence, illegal guns, burglary, vandalism, and more are hallmarks of the “thug” lifestyle, commonly practiced by young blacks who might be more prone to a particular set of cultural behaviors, but they surely aren’t exclusive to blacks. They have painted a self-portrait of Trayvon Martin that does nothing but make George Zimmerman’s account even more likely and sympathetic.
All told, the outcome of this hearing is not at all surprising. That’s the tragedy. The trial promises to be farce.