There is a meme floating around the internet that shows a photograph of the bleeding skull of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman the night of his altercation with Trayvon Martin. The caption — “If the skull is split, you must acquit” — is a distressing reminder of one of the most disgraceful miscarriages of justice in American jurisprudence: The acquittal of O.J. Simpson.
Back during the jury selection phase of Zimmerman’s trial, a number of respected legal scholars expressed the view that the case against the defendant, if not a slam dunk, should be a relatively easy one for the prosecution to make. If nothing else, there was the instruction to Zimmerman from Sanford police to stand down and let them handle the investigation. This alone seemed to ensure Zimmerman complicity in Martin’s death.
But the prosecution has done a terrible job. Their failure to prepare their simple-minded star witness, Rachel Jeantel, for the rigors of cross-examination may turn out to be a fatal flaw. Also problematic was the testimony of Sanford police officer Christopher Serino, who on the one hand, agreed with prosecutors that Zimmerman may have been profiling Martin, but on the other stated in open court that he believed Zimmerman claim that he had been attacked by the teen.
How bad is the trial going at this point for the prosecution, which would up its case yesterday? Consider this statement by Dan Abrams of ABC, formerly of MSNBC:
I do not see how a jury, as a legal matter, convicts [Zimmerman] of either second-degree murder or manslaughter. Now, that does not mean that George Zimmerman was justified, it doesn’t mean that George Zimmerman was right. It means that when the prosecution has the burden to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning they have the responsibility to disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt, it is hard to imagine that of all the witnesses we’ve seen, that there is not reasonable doubt as to that, up to this point. This is just the prosecution’s case, and even amongst those prosecution witnesses, we have seen testimony which it’s hard to imagine would not be perceived as reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury.
Abrams concluded by noting that “you can’t predict juries, so who knows?“ but that assurance will come as cold comfort to those convinced for whatever reason in Zimmerman’s guilt.