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Massad Ayoob on Guns

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Massad Ayoob

ZIMMERMAN VERDICT PART 7: WHY THE JURY DIDN’T LEARN ABOUT TRAYVON MARTIN

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

The discovery materials which the defense finally received from the prosecution after a long and arduous fight revealed Trayvon Martin to be deeply into drugs, and a young man who reveled in street fighting, and more.  (Didn’t seem to have much respect for women, either.) None of that was allowed in.

The reason tracks to something found in the Federal Rules of Evidence in the Rule 404 series, particularly Rule 404(b).   Among other things, it means that prior bad acts of the person you harmed, IF THEY WERE NOT KNOWN TO YOU AT THE TIME YOU HARMED HIM, cannot be used by you to defend inflicting that harm. This is because, being unknown to you, they had no part in your decision to act as you did, and it is that act and that decision for which you are being judged at trial.

Some courts have disagreed with that. The Massachusetts State Supreme Court in two precedent cases, and the Arizona State Supreme Court in one, have ruled that if the deceased had attacked people previously a manner similar to how the defendant described being attacked by him, that the jury SHOULD be allowed to know. (There was reference in the discovery materials to Martin having punched out a school bus driver.) There is no such precedent in Florida that I know of.  State Supreme Court decisions from other jurisdictions do not bind on other states, but can be used as persuasive argument during a pre-trial motion in limine to allow such evidence.

Back in 1984, I was on the defense team as an expert witness called by two of the finest attorneys I’ve ever worked with, the great Roy Black and the brilliant Mark Seiden. Mark and I later served two years together as co-vice chairs of the forensic evidence committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, and Roy’s courtroom accomplishments are legend. It would be worth your time to read Roy’s autobiography “Black’s Law.” In the 1984 trial, Roy and Mark defended Miami Police Officer Luis Alvarez against Manslaughter charges in the shooting death of one Nevell “Snake” Johnson. (There were interesting parallels between that case and Zimmerman’s. An officer of Hispanic descent had shot a 20-year-old black man who was reaching for a gun as that officer and another attempted to arrest him. The shooting triggered a race riot. A scapegoat was needed. Janet Reno, then State’s Attorney there, indicted the cop.)

In that case, the state had portrayed the late Mr. Johnson as a perfect specimen of innocent young manhood, and this is what opened the door for the judge to consider the 40-page memorandum of law that Black and his team put before the bench.  The judge set aside 404(b) to allow the defense to rebut that characterization, and the jury got to hear an elderly black woman describe the terror she had experienced when Nevell Johnson had made her the victim of an armed robbery. To make a long story short, Alvarez was acquitted. (Which triggered another race riot, but that’s another story.)

The lead prosecutor in Zimmerman, Bernie de la Rionda, was too smart to open that door. I understand why Judge Nelson did not allow evidence of prior bad acts by Trayvon Martin to go in front of the jury.  Interestingly, though – at the very end of the trial, when it was too late for the defense to do much of anything about it – second seat prosecutor John Guy made the state’s final argument to the jury, a soliloquy rife with references to Martin, who was much taller than the man he attacked, as a “child.”  “Child” was also used in this respect by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg after the verdict, and was Martin family lawyer Ben Crump’s refrain from the beginning.

Yet the Trayvon Martin who emerged from the state’s reluctantly-provided evidence, the evidence the jury didn’t see, was something else entirely. (Discovery available here.)

If Guy, Bloomberg, or Crump had ever met 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in life, and called him a helpless “child” to his face, I strongly suspect Martin would have kicked them in the balls.

56 Responses to “ZIMMERMAN VERDICT PART 7: WHY THE JURY DIDN’T LEARN ABOUT TRAYVON MARTIN”

  1. Andre Smith Says:

    Why does it seem that people want to destroy this kids name? It’s almost as if Zimmerman getting off was not a clean win without destroying Trayvon’s name. It’s just weird. I can’t really explain it.

    Are people affraid that if it’s not a clean win that it might Jeopardize the “stand your ground laws”.

  2. DeLynn Says:

    I understand the point of not allowing past history unknown to the other party involved. But I wonder: Would not the security camera photos have been admissable? They show how TM actually looked to GZ that night.

    Those pictures in such a strong contrast to the angelic kid in a white hoodie (on all those posters) should have gotten a lot of attention. The only place I’ve seen those pictures is in these articles. Why?

    And BTW, Mas, I’ll add to all the other voices thanking you for such a clear presentation of the actual evidence. 🙂

  3. Korean Vet Ray Says:

    Rasta, the fact of the matter is that, Zimmerman was minding his own business. He was the nieghborhood watch capton, implying that there was more than one. And as such he was not self appointed, as erroniously reported but was appointed by the gated community association, of which both he and Travon’s Father’s paramoor, were members of. The wanna be thug most probably knew without a doubt that it was a neighborhood watchman following him and was going to beat hell out of the dumb-assed cracker, but made the fatal mistake of taking a pair thug fists to a gunfight.

  4. Mas Says:

    DeLyn, those photos did get in. The clerk in the 7-11 testified that he himself stood 5’10”, for comparison.

    Andre Smith, to combat the false story of vicious gunman attacking innocent kid, people need to understand what might have motivated Martin to attack Zimmerman, which the evidence indicates is indeed what happened.

  5. Alonzo Gomez Says:

    For those who disagree with the defense questioning Martin’s character, MOM explains to Al Sharpton here that after the prosecution, the media and Martin’s family conspired to demonize Zimmerman and fabricate an angelic image of the deceased, it was only fair to look honestly at the other side of the equation:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcu9SeNVvBE

    The cute ‘unarmed kid on his way back home from the store with candy’ story was an invention to fit the narrative that would help sell Zimmerman’s railroading. Just like calling him white or accusing him of racism and therefore of having profiled Martin.
    Too many people in this country are professional victim impersonators, and the unconvenient truth about their actual status is often swept under the PC rug, but here a man’s freedom was in the balance. There’s no claim of hate crime or child abuse possible if the kid is the assailant and very capable (and inclined) to give others a beating and procure a gun, you see?

    I actually think that the defense team, while they did bring Martin’s issues up before the trial, kept the kid gloves on in court. With an all-female jury and an overly emotional public stirred by lies that was probably smart.

  6. mikeee Says:

    arizona watermellon icetea…..main item mixed with cough suryp (rubintussin) for my favorite drink called (lean)…then top off with skittles….what a high

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