Are Zimmerman’s Lawyers Hurting or Helping His Defense?

Posted: July 12, 2012 in criminal justice system
Tags: , ,

by Frederick Leatherman

Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog.

I have reached the point with GZ that I now assume everything he says is a lie, unless it is independently supported by credible evidence.

George Zimmerman with an American Flag superimposed over his face.

Image: Donkey Hotey / Flickr

It’s as if this guy is living in a movie making everything up as he goes along and now he is starring in an epic action adventure and crime thriller in which he is the heroic crime fighter targeted for assassination by all of the Black hoodlums in the land.

I cannot help but wonder if this is GZ’s consciously selected new role to play or if he’s delusional and really believes himself to be in danger.

Instead of a cape, this courageous crime fighter is wearing a bullet-proof vest and has his lead attorney pandering to the right wing drumming up dollars for justice.

For those who have given in the past, for those who have thought about giving, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman was justified in his actions, for those who feel they would do the same if they were in Mr. Zimmerman’s shoes, for those that think Mr. Zimmerman has been treated unfairly by the media, for those who feel Mr. Zimmerman has been falsely accused as a racist, for those who feel this case is an affront to their constitutional rights — now is the time to show your support.

(Emphasis supplied)

I am not aware of any credible threat to kill GZ or a member of his family since he surrendered himself into custody after being charged with second degree murder. Before then the New Black Panther Party apparently sought to effect a citizen’s arrest, but I do not believe law enforcement took the threat seriously, or if it did, it was only for a short time.

I have to admit that I do not know for certain if he is in any danger, but I do not see any evidence that he is and, based on my experiences representing individuals who were despised and hated by most members of society, I do not believe he is in any real danger.

In my previous article, I discussed the possibility that, if GZ has chosen to play this role to garner sympathy, the strategy may backfire badly if people do not believe he is in any real danger. For example, they may see it as evidence of an obsessive and paranoid fear of Black people that explains why he would have profiled, followed, confronted and murdered an innocent unarmed teenager walking home in the rain on an early Sunday evening talking to his girlfriend on a cell phone after walking to a 7/11 to buy Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles.

If I were his lawyer, I know I would be extremely concerned that the public, especially the prospective pool of jurors, might view his actions with suspicion. Therefore, I would be advising him to cool it rather than trolling the angry sea of racism for dollars with a race-baited hook

However, what if GZ is not acting? What if he suffers from paranoid delusions that led him to profile, follow, confront and shoot TM because he was walking while Black in GZ’s neighborhood?

Is that a possibility?

Is it a legal defense?

What should a lawyer do if he believes his client is delusional?

What happens if the client insists he is right and further insists that the lawyer is crazy?

I have been there before. For example, in the late 80s, I represented a client accused of stabbing his wife to death in front of their two young children. He wanted me to try the case by blaming her for forcing him to kill her because she was having an affair. Except she was not having an affair. It was all in his mind. I refused to do it, so he fired me.

Judy Clarke, who is the head of the Federal Public Defender in San Diego and one of my heroes by the way, knows a lot about crazy clients. She represents Jared Loughner, the man accused of shooting to death six people in Tucson, including United States District Judge John Roll, and wounding 14 others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner’s case is on indefinite hold because he is mentally incompetent and unable to assist his lawyers in presenting a defense, despite having been administered medication to make him competent. I do not know if that case will ever go to trial.

Notice that we have not heard her attempting to try her case in the media. She never does because she knows that it rarely, if ever works out well for her client. Contrast that with GZ’s legal team who took a well deserved beating recently by Judge Lester in the second bail hearing after unsuccessfully attempting to portray GZ as a fearful innocent caught up in the legal system.

Among other things, he said,

Under any definition the Defendant has flaunted the system.

Counsel has attempted to portray the Defendant as being a confused young man who was fearful and experience a moment of weakness and who may also have acted out of a sense of “betrayal” by the system. Based on all of the evidence presented, the Court finds the opposite, the Defendant has tried to manipulate the system when he has been presented the opportunity to do so.

He also said,

It is entirely reasonable for the Court to find that, but for the requirement that he be placed on electronic monitoring, the Defendant and his wife would have fled the United States with at least $130,000 of other people’s money.

See: Judge Lester’s 9-page order dated July 5, 2012.

Ms. Clarke also previously represented Susan Smith, the South Carolina woman who drove her car into a lake drowning her three-year-old son and 14-month-old son and later claimed a Black man stole her car with the two boys in it. The jury rejected the death penalty and sentenced her to life in prison due to her substantial mental health issues.

It was disclosed in her trial that Smith was molested in her teens by her stepfather, who admitted that he had molested her when she was a teenager and had consensual sex with her as an adult. Her biological father committed suicide when she was 6 years old and she very rarely had a stable home life. At 13, she attempted suicide. After graduating from high school in 1989, she made a second attempt

She also represented Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, in a federal death penalty case. Kaczynski killed three people and injured 23 others in a letter-bombing campaign that he conducted for nearly 20 years against universities and airlines.

Judy Clarke knew he was insane and the federal prosecutors agreed, but he was unwilling to admit he was insane. They were willing to drop the death penalty in exchange for Kaczyinski pleading guilty and admitting he was insane, but he refused to do that because he was convinced that he was sane. He was so angry at his defense team that attempted to fire them. He eventually changed his mind, however, to avoid a highly publicized trial against impossible odds.

When asked if he was afraid of losing his mind in prison, Kaczynski replied:

No, what worries me is that I might in a sense adapt to this environment and come to be comfortable here and not resent it anymore. And I am afraid that as the years go by that I may forget, I may begin to lose my memories of the mountains and the woods and that’s what really worries me, that I might lose those memories, and lose that sense of contact with wild nature in general. But I am not afraid they are going to break my spirit.

Judy Clarke is a master at getting and maintaining control of the difficult client. She has saved lives others could not have saved by doing so.

After a lot of reading and a great deal of reflection, I do not believe GZ’s claim of self-defense is credible. We have spotted and discussed the inconsistencies and lies, but the biggest problem it faces is the lack of any credible straight face explanation why TM would all of a sudden decide to attack and try to kill a much heavier adult male whom he had run away from in fear and successfully eluded. And he decided to do this without picking up a weapon while talking on the phone with his girlfriend.

He was a Black thug may work at a KKK meeting but I doubt a jury will believe it.

What do y’all think GZ’s lawyers should be doing and why?

Notice: The prosecution has announced it will be releasing more discovery tomorrow morning.


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