As an avvocato (Italian lawyer) and European lawyer, self-defence cases are one of my principal areas of specialisation in both criminal and civil law. I’ve successfully defended clients charged with homicide, attempted homicide, wounding, aggravated assault, and brawling (or affray) in numerous European nation States. So I found following the George Zimmerman trial insightful because although I’ve represented clients in 16 European states to date, I’ve never been involved in a case in the USA and so it gave me an opportunity to see a self-defence trial across the pond. Now that I’ve either seen or listened to all the testimony in the Zimmerman trial, I’m going to give my no-holds barred assessment of the case over several posts. If you’re of a nervous disposition, look away now!
Lets start with Barack Obama’s posthumous adoption of Trayvon Martin on the 23 March 2012: “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon. And, you know, I think they [Trayvon Martin parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”
Clearly Obama was trying to appease his black supporters but he’s not a black political agitator speaking in Chicago, he was speaking as the President and Chief Executive of the United States. His comments were disgraceful, not only were they racially charged — he certainly wouldn’t have said it if Martin wasn’t black — they were also very clearly prejudicial to George Zimmerman’s defence that it was Martin who attacked him, a view that was supported by State Attorney Norm Wolfinger and Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee who had both decided the shooting on the 26 February 2012 was a justifiable homicide. Obama was also well aware that there was an ongoing homicide investigation because Angela Corey had been appointed as a Special Prosecutor to investigate the case by Florida Governor Rick Scott the day before, and Obama said specifically said before making his comments, “I’ve got to be careful about my statements to make sure that we’re not impairing any investigation that’s taking place right now.”
So he knew exactly what he was doing and frankly could not have thought that his comments would not compromise the investigation or any potential jury trial. Given that Zimmerman was facing a jury trial I’m very surprised that O’Mara didn’t argue that Zimmerman could not get a fair trial on the basis that Obama’s comments would prejudice a jury against him and undermine his claim of self-defence. The judge could hardly direct a jury to disregard the President’s comments.