by Frederick Leatherman. For an ongoing discussion about the Zimmerman case, please follow the link to Fred’s site:
The you-know-what hit the proverbial fan today in the George Zimmerman case.
The prosecution released W9’s damning account of being raped and molested by George Zimmerman over a 10 year period that began when she was 6 years old. W9 is his cousin. She is two years younger than him. The rapes she endured involved digital penetration of her vagina and the molestations involved fondling.
She submitted out of fear. She feared him physically and she feared her family would not believe her because he was so good at charming everyone. She finally mustered up the courage to terminate the abuse by running away from him and leaving the house. She told her parents, who told his parents, but nothing happened except he stopped attending joint family get-togethers. Her parents discouraged her from reporting the crimes to the police and she did not do so until he was in custody after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. When asked by police investigators why she waited until then to report the crimes, she said she finally felt safe to do so.
I listened to her account and I thought it was very credible. Don’t kid yourselves, child victims of sex abuse rarely report the abuse because they are afraid they will not be believed and afraid of reprisals. This lady has a lot of guts and courage to come forward with these allegations knowing as she must have known that the information might become public.
Question: What impact will this have on selecting a jury in the murder case?
Answer: It will definitely complicate seating a fair and impartial jury, but the State of Florida was able to do that in the Casey Anthony case and I have no doubt they will be able to do so in the Zimmerman case.
We are immersed in this case, but many people are barely following it, if at all. The court will deal with the pretrial publicity issue by moving the trial to another county or importing a jury from another county, which is what happened in the Casey Anthony case. By questioning prospective jurors individually (i.e., out of the presence of other prospective jurors), the judge and the lawyers will be able to find out how much each juror knows about the case and whether a juror has formed an opinion about GZ’s guilt or innocence.
This precaution has worked in the past and it will work again.
Question: Is the evidence admissible at trial?
Answer: Not unless the defense opens the door by introducing evidence that GZ is a person of good character. If the defense opens the door, you will be able to hear a garbage truck backing up to the courtroom door with a load of bad character evidence to be provided in damning detail by W9 and anyone else they can find between now and the trial. According to W9, btw, there is another victim, but she is reluctant to come forward. Who knows, she might change her mind. For example, think of the recently concluded Sandusky case.
The rule in question is Rule 404(b) which prohibits the admissibility of uncharged misconduct unless it is probative of the defendant’s intent, knowledge, motive or opportunity, common scheme or plan, consciousness of guilt or absence of mistake or accident.
The evidence is inadmissible since it does not fall into any of these exceptions, unless the defense opens the door by introducing evidence of good character.
Like I said, Katie bar the door, if that happens.
While we are on the subject of uncharged misconduct evidence, let us not forget Shellie Zimmerman’s perjury and GZ’s role in putting her up to it and assisting her to conceal the Peter Pan account and lie about it in court (i.e., the internet donation account).
As Judge Lester said in his recent order setting bail, it would not have been unreasonable for the Court to have concluded that, but for the GPS bracelet, the defendant would have used his second passport to flee the country with $130,000 of other people’s money after he bailed out the first time.
If that was his intent, evidence of his role would be admissible under rule 404(b) as consciousness of guilt, for the same reason that evidence of flight to avoid prosecution is admissible to show consciousness of guilt.
I have written about this possibility before and, as I stated then, the prosecution probably will need Shellie Zimmerman’s cooperation and testimony against GZ to make that case.
Will W9’s statement be the straw that breaks Shellie Zimmerman’s back and sends her knock knock knockin’ on the door to the prosecutor’s office?
Who knows, she might even throw in an admission that GZ did not kill TM in self-defense.
Question: What about W9’s statements about racism in the Zimmerman family. Are they admissible?
Answer: No. W9’s testimony about family racism is not admissible because it’s not specific to GZ. She did not mention any specific instances where he expressed racist beliefs or epithets. and even if he had done so, it still would likely be inadmissible. Otherwise, it might be admissible under rule 404(b) to show evidence of motive.
Question: Are there any other foreseeable consequences?
Answer: Yes. The most immediate and probable consequence of this revelation today, other than a dramatic world-wide increase in disgust for George Zimmerman, should be a dramatic collapse of financial support via internet contributions to his defense fund.
Should be interesting to see what his supporters come up with to defend him. Are they vile enough to mount a full-fledged attack against W9 the way Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke?
Will Fox News reach a new low in entertainment reportage?
Question: What’s up with his lawyers?
Answer: The not-ready-for-prime-time defense team still isn’t ready. They should have filed an appeal on Friday or first thing this morning in the Court of Appeals along with a request for an emergency stay ordering the prosecution to not release the information pending the outcome of the appeal.
This inexplicable failure coming on the heels of the reckless and legally groundless motion to disqualify Judge Lester looks really bad.
Apparently, O’Mara has asked for reciprocal discovery on W9 and that is not a good move at this time because it looks so thuggish.
Why posture like that when she is unlikely to testify?
Question: Did Judge Lester really have to release W9’s statement to the media under the Sunshine Law?
Answer: I do not know, but if so, this is a perfect case to get before the State Supreme Court to carve out a privacy exception to protect victims of uncharged crimes, especially sexual crimes, from having their stories published for all the world to see when it is not likely that they will ever testify.
I am appalled by their failure to file a timely appeal.