[Alan Dershowitz on the affidavit: "This is so thin that it won’t make it past a judge on a second degree murder charge”; "irresponsible"; "an elected public official who made a campaign speech last night for reelection".]
[Jeralyn Merritt: Affidavit = FAIL. "That a judge signed off on this... is perplexing, to say the least".]
The Orlando Sentinel described the arrest affidavit for George Zimmerman [available here]; we note a lack of self-confidence from the prosecution, which switches to the passive voice at a crucial moment in the action:
In the two-page document, prosecutors offer little new information about the shooting.
However, they said in the affidavit that "Zimmerman confronted Martin," an apparent contradiction of Zimmerman's version of the events that led to the shooting.
The document says Trayvon's mother identified the screams for help heard in a 911 call as those of her son. It also reveals that investigators interviewed a "friend" of Trayvon's who was talking to him in the leadup to the shooting.
Based on the description, it appears the friend was the girl described by Martin family attorneys as his girlfriend.
"During this time, Martin was on the phone with a friend and described to her what was happening," the affidavit said. "The witness advised that Martin was scared because he was being followed through the complex by an unknown male and didn't know why."
Martin tried to run home, the affidavit says, but was followed by Zimmerman. "Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin."
The affidavit goes on to say that "Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher" who told him to stop, and "continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home."
Zimmerman, the affidavit says, "confronted Martin and a struggle ensued."
According to the affidavit: "Trayvon Martin's mother has reviewed the 911 calls and identified the voice crying for help as Trayvon Martin's. Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest."
That is a prosecution document and certainly represents one theory of the case. The defense will challenge many of those points, as we know.
I especially like the passive voice at the critical plot point: "...a struggle ensued". Those pesky struggles, ensuing like that! One might have thought the prosecution would at least argue that Zimmerman initiated the struggle, in addition to the verbal confrontation.
A minor puzzle is this - from the Miami Herald:
Corey declined to discuss in detail how the investigation was carried out, but her statements shed some light on how the prosecution team reached the decision on a second-degree murder charge. She said the decision was made last week, and prosecutors used the arrest warrant an investigator had sought early in the case.
If - IF! - the affidavit described above is the arrest warrant mentioned by the Herald, then how did it come to include the details from the cellphone girlfriend? She was brought forward by Martin family attorney Ben Crump after the release of the 911 calls and was originally only going to talk to the Federal investigators [my skepticism about the circumstances of her emergence is here].
The obvious guess is that she (i.e., Mr. Crump) changed her mind and talked to the state investigators, who used her story to update the base affidavit.
Just as a reminder of how little seems to have changed, here is the Orlando Sentinel from Apr 2:
Some news agencies have reported that Sanford's lead investigator, Chris Serino, wanted Zimmerman charged with manslaughter that night but Wolfinger's office put a stop to it. The city of Sanford issued a statement saying that is not true.
Police did that night prepare an incident report that lists "manslaughter" as the possible crime being investigated, but in every case in which an officer prepares an incident report, he or she fills in that spot with some crime and statute number to allow the agency to properly report crime statistics to the FBI.
Two weeks ago, during an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, [sidelined police chief] Lee disclosed certain details of the investigation and during that session, attended by Serino and others, Serino said his investigation turned up no reliable evidence that cast doubt on Zimmerman's account – that he had acted in self-defense.
"The best evidence we have is the testimony of George Zimmerman, and he says the decedent was the primary aggressor in the whole event," Serino told the Sentinel March 16. "Everything I have is adding up to what he says."
Numbers add up to nothing.
The defense counsel thinks his client has a better chance in a court of law than in the court of public opinion:
After Zimmerman exited, O'Mara asked the judge to seal documents in the court file containing other information -- including witness statements and information.
"I am seeking on my clients behalf... that we do a complete sealing of that record," O'Mara said, adding that the sealing would be temporary. The judge agreed.
After the hearing, prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda asked reporters gathered outside for patience.
"In the rule of law, we have jury trials for a purpose," De La Rionda said. O'Mara echoed that sentiment.
"It really, truly, it works," O'Mara said of the judicial system, telling reporters that in a case of this profile, if it doesn't work, "you'll tell us."
O'Mara said it made more sense to forgo a bond hearing at this point, electing to give time to allow the fervor surrounding the case to die down. He said his client is in protective custody.
If the publicity dies down the pressure on the prosecutor to showboat may diminish, if that is what is happening here. And it might work - a Kardashian is bound to do something daft any day now, yes?
I do remember (perhaps incorrectly) that the Duke defense team scuttled the prosecution and kept the case out of court by leaking exculpatory material to the press. But I seem to recall leaks from both sides there.
THAT ALLEGED RACIAL EPITHET: Mrk Levin just read the affidavit on his radio show. If I heard him correctly, the alleged epithet mumbled by Zimmerman on the 911 call was "Effing pukes". But the copy provided by 'TJ6' seems to say "punks". Does Levin need glasses, or do I need a hearing aid? Not exclusive possibilities.
The map is not friendly to the notion that Zimmerman overtook an urgently fleeing Martin. Zimmerman was behind him and his detination in front. Martin doubling back makes a lot more sense in explaining how they met.
As to Martin being scared, let's keep in mind - when the young lady was telling this story Zimmerman was believed to be 250 pounds, based on his 2005 police report.
Now the Times has him down to 170. So the 6'3" 150 lbs Martin was fleeing from the 5'9" 170 lb. Zimmerman? How scared was he? So scared that doubling back makes no sense?
I can believe that Zimmerman seemed ominous when parked inside his SUV. Once he stepped outside he became the Incredible Shrinking Threat.
THE RACE CARD, SLYLY: The affidavit claims that Zimmerman "profiled" Martin but does not describe the profiling. Walking from patio to patio rather than sticking to the sidewalk? Peering into windows? Being black? No guts at all.