Week 1 of what is arguably the most important criminal case in generations, is in the history books. Let's break down the action.
To say the least, the opening statements were bizarre. As we have discussed here in the past, opening statements are of immense importance, particularly for the defense. The opening statement is the first opportunity for an attorney to frame the facts and the issues for the jury. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Zimmerman's defense attorney, Don West, thought the best way to make a good first impression was to tell the worst knock-knock joke in the history of bad knock-knock jokes. I couldn't help but think that Mr. West was trying to out-do the stuttering defense attorney in the movie My Cousin Vinny. It's as though he was trying to give the worst opening statement in the history of the world.
Now, I think it goes without saying that even if the joke was really funny and clever and intelligent, it is nevertheless inappropriate to begin defending a murder case with a joke; let alone, a knock-knock joke. Let alone, an unfunny knock-knock joke. Let alone, an unfunny knock-knock joke that pokes fun at the members of the jury. It was so bad, Alan Dershowitz suggested that Mr. Zimmerman ask for a mistrial, arguing that the stupidity of the joke prejudiced the jury to such an extent, that Mr. Zimmerman could not receive a fair trial going forward.
However, after bombing (or should I say, self-immolating) before the jury, Mr. West did eventually get around to providing the jury with a framework with which to view the evidence. Unfortunately, Mr. West laid out the entirety of the Defense case, which may have been overkill. When making an opening statement, an attorney never wants to overcomplicate the matter. An attorney wants to provide a narrative and a theme within which the jury may view the evidence. It's an opportunity to provide a persuasive context. However, if an attorney lays out the entire theory of the case, the attorney risks confusing and losing the interest of the jury. Let's not forget, the jury hasn't actually seen or heard any evidence. Opening statements should be easy to follow and should establish a universally recognizable theme.
The prosecutor, John Guy, didn't exactly give the best opening statement either, although his presentation was miles better than Don West's. Mr. Guy did a fantastic job laying out a framework for the jury. What's more, he hit the right tone. However, Mr. Guy could not escape the fact that the State's evidence is, at it's best, horribly insufficient to sustain a verdict of guilty. He was forced to acknowledge that (1) no State witness saw the entire confrontation between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin; (2) that the State could only provide the jury with "slices" of what actually happened; and (3) that Trayvon Martin was on top of George Zimmerman during the fight. I would expect to hear that from the defense; not the prosecution. Mr. Guy might as well have said: "We don't have enough evidence to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, but in the end, we hope you think he's guilty...in your gut."
All in all, thanks to Mr. West's horrific knock-knock joke, the opening statements went better for the prosecution than the defense, even though the prosecution essentially admitted the weakness of its case.
THE STATE'S CASE-IN-CHIEF
The State's line-up of witnesses has been somewhat puzzling. They've taken a fairly chronological approach, which, although logical, doesn't make for a compelling or persuasive presentation. The result has been a slow start to the trial. What's more, most of the State's witnesses have either: (1) not provided much evidence that is necessary to establish the key elements of the criminal charge; or (2) have helped the Defense as much as the State; or (3) have helped the Defense more than the State.
The first witness was Chad Joseph, Trayvon Martin's friend. While he provided important context to the jury, introducing Mr. Martin as a typical high-schooler who liked video games, he didn't provide any evidence that established any of the material elements of the offense. I think it would have been better to call Mr. Joseph to the stand toward the end of the State's case-in-chief, to provide some emotional impact, and to remind the jury of Mr. Martin's youthful disposition. The testimony of waiting in vain for Mr. Martin to return home, not knowing that he'd been shot dead on the way back from the Seven Eleven, would have proven more powerful toward the end of the State's case.
The State's second witness was Andrew Gaugh, the Seven Eleven attendant who sold Trayvon Martin the famous can of Iced Tea and the bag of Skittles. Mr. Gaugh did little more than authenticate surveillance video of Mr. Martin at the Seven Eleven, which was recorded about forty-plus minutes before the shooting. He also testified that he didn't find Mr. Martin "suspicious."
All things considered, the testimony from these two witnesses didn't do much to push the ball forward for the State.
THIRD WITNESS: SEAN NOFFKE
The State's third witness was Sean Noffke, the police dispatcher who spoke with George Zimmerman before the shooting. Mr. Noffke was an important witness, because it was through his testimony that the State admitted into evidence the recorded telephone call that Mr. Zimmerman made to the police on the night of the incident.
The phone call itself is of immense importance to the prosecution, because in the recorded call, Mr. Zimmerman says the words: "these assholes always get away." He might also have said the words: "fucking punks," although those words are not perfectly clear in the call. It is certainly a plausible interpretation to believe Mr. Zimmerman said the words: "fucking punks."
Unfortunately for the State, this is probably the only credible evidence that it can rely upon when making the argument that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin with "ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent." The overwhelming weight of the evidence is that the shooting occurred in the course of a physical altercation between Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin. This context, by itself, doesn't readily lend itself to a charge of Second Degree Murder (it could, however, lend itself to a Manslaughter charge). However, the State is alleging something more: that Mr. Zimmerman provoked and sought out the fight with Trayvon Martin, with a "depraved mind and without regard for human life." It is the State's hope that the jury will believe that Mr. Zimmerman acted with "ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent," because Mr. Zimmerman, prior to shooting Trayvon Martin, said the words: "these assholes always get away," "fucking punks."
Beyond those statements, all of the other evidence simply suggests that George Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin with the intent of leading the police to Mr. Martin's location. There is very little (if any) credible evidence that Mr. Zimmerman initiated a physical confrontation with Mr. Martin. In fact, the phrase "these assholes always get away" and "fucking punks" doesn't necessarily indicate that Mr. Zimmerman acted with "ill will or hatred," or that he initiated physical contact. At most, it presents an arguable inference that (1) Zimmerman was frustrated and angry; (2) Zimmerman wanted to make sure that Trayvon Martin didn't get away; and thus (3) maybe Zimmerman was willing to do whatever it took to make sure that Mr. Martin didn't get away.
In light of the State's burden to prove each and every element beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, it should go without saying that to sustain a conviction for Second Degree Murder, the State will have to do better than just a "maybe."
Interestingly, Mr. Noffke's testimony laid to rest the State's allegation that George Zimmerman disregarded an "instruction" not to follow Trayvon Martin. Mr. Noffke acknowledged that he did not "instruct" Mr. Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon Martin, because, as a police dispatcher, he was specifically trained not to provide such an instruction.
Ultimately, this witness served a purpose for both the State and the Defense. For the State, the witness authenticated the recorded telephone call, which included the colorful language that arguably indicates that Zimmerman acted with "ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent." On the other hand, the witness acknowledged that he did not order Mr. Zimmerman to not follow Trayvon Martin. In fact, he admitted that he asked Mr. Zimmerman questions about Mr. Martin's whereabouts, which might have reasonably led Mr. Zimmerman to follow Mr. Martin. In the end, Mr. Noffke's testimony was a wash.
FOURTH WITNESS: RAMONA RUMPH
The State called Ramona Rumph in order to admit a series of non-emergency telephone calls made by Mr. Zimmerman in the months prior to the shooting. The State intends to use these phone calls to provide context to Mr. Zimmerman's state of mind on the night of the shooting. It is the State's contention that after making a series of fruitless phone calls to police, Mr. Zimmerman was frustrated and desperate that another "suspicious" individual not escape.
Clearly, the Defense didn't want these calls in evidence. However, at most, the State is asking the jury to draw a negative inference from what are otherwise benign non-emergency telephone calls to police, which arguably are consistent with Mr. Zimmerman's role as a member of the neighborhood watch. While it's possible that maybe these phone calls indicate a growing frustration on the part of Mr. Zimmerman, they certainly don't prove, beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, that Mr. Zimmerman acted with the requisite criminal intent.
Nevertheless, the phone calls do further the State's portrayal of Mr. Zimmerman as an overzealous neighborhood watchman.
FIFTH WITNESS: WENDY DORIVAL
Furthering their narrative that Mr. Zimmerman was an overzealous neighborhood watchman, the State called to the stand Wendy Dorival, the former neighborhood watch coordinator with the Sanford Police Department. Ms. Dorival testified that members of the neighborhood watch were instructed not to follow or attempt to confront suspicious individuals, but were instead cautioned to only call the police. The State will rely on this testimony to argue that Mr. Zimmerman broke from typical protocol when he got out of his car and followed Mr. Martin, indicating that Mr. Zimmerman acted with an "ill will" when he shot Mr. Martin (or, in the alternative, that he acted with "culpable negligence").
However, the Defense scored important points with Ms. Dorival. Ms. Dorival testified that Mr. Zimmerman was "professional" and dedicated to his volunteer position as a neighborhood watchman. She said it was apparent that Mr. Zimmerman wanted to help make the community a better place, particularly because the community had suffered a series of burglaries. Most importantly, she described Mr. Zimmerman as "meek."
All things considered, this witness was probably a wash.
SIXTH WITNESS: DONALD O'BRIEN
The State called Donald O'Brien to hammer home the narrative that Mr. Zimmerman acted inappropriately. Mr. O'Brien was the president of the HOA, and testified that he attended a neighborhood watch meeting, in which participants were instructed not to engage suspicious individuals. Essentially, his testimony was duplicative of Ms. Dorival's testimony.
SEVENTH WITNESS: OFFICER RAIMONDO
Finally, with the testimony of Officer Raimondo, the State presented evidence from a witness who could provide some testimony about what occurred at the scene of the alleged crime. Officer Raimondo didn't witness any portion of the altercation or the shooting, but he was the officer who attempted to provide life-saving aid to Trayvon Martin at the scene. His testimony was compelling and powerful.
For purposes of making a persuasive presentation, the State should not have waited until its seventh witness to provide this testimony. In a murder case, it is important that the State constantly remind the jury why the jury is seated in the first place: the defendant killed a human being. The State should confront the jury with pictures of the deceased victim immediately, to hammer home the seriousness of the case and the humanity of the victim. Nothing is so jarring than seeing pictures of a lifeless victim, still dressed in his clothes and in his shoes, lying peacefully in the wake of a violent confrontation.
What's more, Officer Raimondo testified as to how he tried to save the life of Mr. Martin. This provided the State with a golden opportunity to juxtapose the actions of Mr. Zimmerman with the actions of law enforcement. From the State's perspective, Mr. Zimmerman was a vigilante, unprofessionally and recklessly taking matters into his own hands; not only with "culpable negligence," but also with an "ill will" and "evil intent." Unlike Mr. Zimmerman, real members of law enforcement tried desperately to save Mr. Martin's life.
Ultimately, the State scored important emotional points with this witness. It was the first witness in the State's case that not only didn't backfire in any meaningful way, but who also moved the ball forward for the State. The admission of the death photos were jarring. For this reason, Officer Raimondo should have been the State's first witness.
From here on out, the State's case proceeds to nose-dive.
EIGHTH WITNESS: DIANA SMITH, CRIME SCENE TECHNICIAN
The State had to call Diana Smith, because she processed the crime scene. It was through Ms. Smith that the State admitted much of the physical evidence recovered at the crime scene, including the gun and the shell casing. However, Ms. Smith's testimony was far more important for the Defense, because she took pictures of Mr. Zimmerman that showed that Mr. Zimmerman suffered substantial injuries to his face and head, corroborating the Defense's theory of the case.
Again, the State had no option but to call Ms. Smith. Considering that it was inevitable that she would aid in the Defense's case, it was a smart move to bury her testimony in the middle of the third day of the trial. However, the fact that she testified immediately following Officer Raimondo illustrates the State's error in scheduling its witnesses.
Officer Raimondo scored important emotional points with the jury. While Ms. Smith also scored some emotional points by displaying Mr. Zimmerman's handgun, she also introduced the jury to bloody pictures of Mr. Zimmerman, which undoubtedly diluted the emotional impact of Officer Raimondo's testimony.
Certainly, Mr. West could have done a more persuasive job on cross examination, painstakingly drawing out the various individual cuts, abrasions, bruises, and swelling that Ms. Smith observed on Mr. Zimmerman's head and face. Nevertheless, the point was made: although the State claims that Mr. Zimmerman attacked Mr. Martin, the crime scene technician observed no injuries on Mr. Martin's body, other than the fatal gunshot wound. Mr. Zimmerman, however, who is claiming that he only fired his gun in self-defense after being viciously attacked, suffered numerous bloody injuries, including a broken nose, cuts to the back of his head, and multiple welts.
Without a doubt, through Ms. Smith's testimony, the Defense delivered its first major blow to the State's case.
NINTH WITNESS: SELENE BAHADOOR
I cannot imagine why the State chose to call Ms. Bahadoor as its first "eyewitness." It simply makes no sense, as a matter of chronology or logic, to have called her first. She essentially saw nothing in the darkness, other than flailing arms. She heard sounds coming from people outside, followed by a gunshot. She also testified that she heard movement that sounded as though individuals were moving from left to right. She could not provide any detail indicating who started the confrontation, or what specifically was happening during the confrontation.
The Defense tore Ms. Bahadoor apart. Despite claims that she didn't change her testimony, Mark O'Mara established that during numerous prior statements, Ms. Bahadoor had never once said she heard sounds moving from left to right. Instead of simply admitting this, Ms. Bahadoor evaded. It seriously damaged her credibility.
What's worse, Ms. Bahadoor denied bias, despite "liking" the Facebook page "Justice for Trayvon." Worse still, she "liked" a petition calling for the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman. Mark O'Mara did a wonderful job establishing that Ms. Bahadoor was not only motivated by bias, but that she allowed that bias to affect her testimony.
For a witness who, at best, couldn't provide the State with any meaningful insight into the nature of the physical confrontation between Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin, it is a mystery as to why the State would call her first. What's worse, the Defense portrayed the State's first eyewitness as a biased sympathizer of the Martin family. Fairly or not, that impression will likely color the testimony of future State witnesses, because it corroborates part of the Defense's theory and theme of the case.
Ms. Bahadoor was an unforced error.
TENTH WITNESS: JEANNE MANALO
While Ms. Manalo's testimony played better than Ms. Bahadoor's, she also couldn't provide the State with details sufficient to contradict the Defense's theory. Like Ms. Bahadoor, she didn't observe anything more than shadowy figures struggling with one another. She was of the opinion that one figure was bigger than the other, and she testified that the bigger figure was on top of the smaller figure. She was then allowed to testify that, having compared photographs of Mr. Zimmerman with photographs of Mr. Martin, it was her opinion that Mr. Martin was the smaller individual. She was further allowed to testify that it was her guess (what I'd call, impermissible speculation) that Mr. Martin was the individual calling for "help," because Mr. Martin was the smaller of the two individuals. Ostensibly a point for the prosecution.
However, Mark O'Mara confirmed that the pictures of Mr. Martin that Ms. Manalo used for purposes of comparison were photographs of an adolescent Mr. Martin. The news media, which in some quarters has consistently provided unfair coverage of the case, has plastered television sets across the nation with images of a young, smiling Trayvon Martin. One of the pictures Ms. Manalo used for comparison (in fact, it was the first photograph she referenced) was of an eleven-year-old Trayvon. She eventually admitted that perhaps she was wrong as to who was the smaller individual. What's more, the Defense established that Ms. Manalo didn't get a very good look at what was going on.
Ms. Manalo's testimony was probably a wash. However, the fact that she compared current pictures of Mr. Zimmerman with outdated pictures of Mr. Martin certainly plays into the Defense's theme of an unfair, biased and politicized prosecution.
ELEVENTH WITNESS: JANE SYRDYKA
Ms. Syrdyka's testimony was far more potent for the State than either Ms. Bahadoor's or Ms. Manalo's. However, she also couldn't provide any detailed eyewitness testimony describing the confrontation between Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin. Nevertheless, she testified that she heard a cry for help, which she "felt" had come from a boy. She also called 911, the recording of which was entered into evidence in its entirety. In the recorded call, Ms. Syrdyka is heard frantically crying out: "why did he shoot him?!"
Ms. Syrdyka's testimony scored important emotional points with the jury. From an evidentiary standpoint, however, she still could not provide the State with the level of detail necessary to contradict the Defense's theory of the case. She couldn't testify with certainty that Mr. Martin called for help, nor did she see the shooting itself, which is perhaps why she had to ask the question "why."
Still, the State scored some emotional points with her testimony.
TWELFTH WITNESS: RACHEL JEANTEL
Finally, twelve witnesses into the trial, the most anticipated witness in the State's case took the stand to testify. Ms. Jeantel is the individual who was speaking on the phone with Mr. Martin at the time Mr. Martin was walking away from Mr. Zimmerman. According to Ms. Jeantel, she was on the phone with Mr. Martin at the moment the confrontation took place.
Before analyzing her testimony, it is important to note, from the outset, how problematic it is for the State that its "star witness," whom the State is depending upon to establish that Mr. Martin did not instigate the physical confrontation, did not actually see anything. She wasn't there. She heard one side of a conversation from the other end of a telephone line, while doing her hair in Miami. That, in and of itself, is problematic. Unfortunately for the State, it turned out far worse than that.
Ms. Jeantel was a train-wreck of a witness. While television pundits have attempted to debate her performance, the punditry is pure television theatre. Her performance on the stand is not subject to rational debate (although, to be sure, juries are not always rational). Ms. Jeantel was objectively horrific. On a scale of 1-10, with "1" representing the catastrophic performance of Mr. West's terrible knock-knock joke, Ms. Jeantel easily scored a negative ten.
First, she acknowledged that it was Trayvon Martin who used racial epithets; not George Zimmerman. According to Ms. Jeantel, Mr. Martin described Mr. Zimmerman as a "crazy ass cracker." Ms. Jeantel suggested to Mr. Martin that perhaps Mr. Zimmerman was a "rapist." Not only did she confirm that Mr. Martin called Mr. Zimmerman a "cracker," she also confirmed that Mr. Martin called Mr. Zimmerman a "nigga." Then, rather pathetically, she tried to claim that in her culture (North Miami), "cracker" isn't a derogatory term. Riiiiiight.
Second, she acknowledged that on at least two prior occasions, including during a recorded interview, she failed to mention the most important part of the telephone call: that Mr. Martin allegedly said the words: "get off, get off."
Third, as though her bias wasn't already obvious, she acknowledged that she was brought into the case by the Martin family legal team.
Fourth, she acknowledged that she altered her version of events for the benefit of Mr. Martin's grieving mother. What's more, she admitted that during her initial interview with the prosecutor, the prosecutor inconceivably had Mr. Martin's mother sit next to her during the entirety of the interview. She admitted that during that interview, she omitted facts for the benefit of Mr. Martin's mother.
Fifth, she acknowledged that she lied to investigators on multiple occasions, including while under oath.
Under cross examination, she admitted that she could not testify as to whether Mr. Martin or Mr. Zimmerman initiated the physical confrontation.
None of this is to say anything about her inappropriate demeanor and her hostility toward the Defense. Not to mention the fact that she used the word "retarded" to describe a question under cross examination.
Now, as any criminal litigator with trial experience knows, sometimes the prosecution has to rely on colorful witnesses, who don't act appropriately on the stand. That's a given. And it's true that such witnesses often appear "authentic." However, Ms. Jeantel's "authenticity" doesn't change the substance of her testimony. Even if the jury were to disregard Ms. Jeantel's inappropriate demeanor and forgive her for her admitted lies in the past, the jury is still left with testimony that establishes: (1) Trayvon Martin called Mr. Zimmerman a "crazy ass cracker" and a "nigga;" (2) Trayvon Martin ran from Mr. Zimmerman, but chose not to go inside his house; (3) Trayvon Martin initiated verbal communication with Mr. Zimmerman; and (4) Ms. Jeantel doesn't know who threw the first punch.
While you never can be sure how a jury will react to a witness (let's not forget that a Central Florida jury actually acquitted Casey Anthony), it is hard to imagine a worse witness. She was a titanic failure, who undermined the State's theory of the case and bolstered the Defense.
THIRTEENTH WITNESS: RAYMOND MACDONALD
The State called Raymond MacDonald from T-Mobile to the stand, in order to admit Trayvon Martin's phone records.
FOURTEENTH WITNESS: JENNA LAUER
The State's fourth "eyewitness" provided testimony similar to Ms. Bahadoor, Ms. Manalo, and Ms. Syrdyka, in that she didn't see any details of the confrontation between Mr. Martin and Mr. Zimmerman, but she did hear cries for help. Interestingly, however, the voices were right outside her unit. She testified that she could not tell who was the individual calling for help, but that it sounded like the individual was desperate. She also confirmed, after looking at bloody pictures of George Zimmerman, that the calls for help were consistent with having come from someone who suffered injuries like Zimmerman's. Indeed, she also testified to knowing George Zimmerman. She testified that she had never seen Mr. Zimmerman act like a "hot-head" or act with a temper. She also testified that she thought Mr. Zimmerman was just trying to help the community.
In fact, Ms. Lauer came off more as a Defense witness than as a prosecution witness. Indeed, outside the presence of the jury, the prosecutor attempted to impeach Ms. Lauer as having a pro-Zimmerman bias, based on the fact that she purportedly "follows" George Zimmerman's brother on Twitter. It turned out, however, that the prosecutor didn't understand Twitter, and that Ms. Lauer doesn't in fact "follow" Mr. Zimmerman's brother.
Again, the State's witness probably did more for Defense than for the State.
FIFTEENTH WITNESS: SELMA MORA
Ms. Mora was the State's fifth "eyewitness," who, like the four prior "eyewitnesses," didn't actually see much detail of the confrontation. In fact, she was standing relatively far away from the incident. She did, however, importantly testify that she saw a man wearing red and black on top of another guy, as though he were "riding" the other person. This detail is important, because Zimmerman was wearing an orange and black jacket, which had a reddish appearance. If she had seen this prior to the gunshot, it would have provided a concrete contradiction to Mr. Zimmerman's version of events. However, what she saw occurred after the gunshot, and thus doesn't contradict Mr. Zimmerman's version of events.
SIXTEENTH WITNESS: GREG MCKINNEY
Mr. McKinney simply testified that not all of the community's security cameras were operable on the night of the incident, and that the incident was not captured on film.
SEVENTEENTH WITNESS: JONATHAN GOOD
The fact that the State called Jonathan Good as its seventeenth witness says quite a lot. Unlike the prior five "eyewitnesses," Mr. Good actually saw the physical confrontation up close and personal. It happened in his backyard. If this were a straightforward prosecution, Mr. Good would have been the State's "star witness." However, Mr. Good was a State's witness in name only. Make no mistake, Mr. Good's testimony was, from beginning to end, a corroboration of the Defense's case.
Unlike Ms. Mora, who witnessed the struggle in the dark from a distance, Mr. Good actually approached Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin, and told them to "get lost." Mr. Good testified that Trayvon Martin was on top of George Zimmerman, "MMA style," "throwing blows down" on Mr. Zimmerman and "ground and pounding" Mr. Zimmerman's head. According to Mr. Good, Mr. Zimmerman was "beat up." In Mr. Good's opinion, it was George Zimmerman calling for help.
The State had to call Mr. Good, because if they didn't, it would have appeared to the jury as though the State was trying to hide Mr. Good's testimony. Of all of the "eyewitness" testimony, his is clearly the most relevant. He struck a serious blow to the State's case.
EIGHTEENTH WITNESS: JONATHAN MANALO
Mr. Manalo was another of the State's witnesses who helped the Defense as much, if not more, than the State. Mr. Manalo didn't see the actual confrontation, but he rushed outside after the shooting. He described Mr. Zimmerman as looking like he had his "butt beat." In fact, Mr. Manalo snapped a photograph of the back of Mr. Zimmerman's bloody head. Mr. Manalo testified that Mr. Zimmerman said, immediately following the shooting and prior to police arrival, that Mr. Martin had attacked him and that he had defended himself by shooting Mr. Martin. On cross examination, Mr. Manalo testified that he had no reason to disbelieve Mr. Zimmerman's immediate claims of self defense.
The only part of Mr. Manalo's testimony that might arguably have favored the State involved a telephone call to Mr. Zimmerman's wife. Mr. Manalo testified that when he told Mr. Zimmerman's wife over the phone that Mr. Zimmerman was involved in a shooting and was being held for questioning, Mr. Zimmerman interjected: "Just tell her I shot somebody." He also testified that he didn't think Mr. Zimmerman was in shock, and that he was acting calm.
Weighing the totality of his testimony, he certainly seems to have aided the Defense's case more than the State's.
NINETEENTH WITNESS: OFFICER AYALA
Officer Ayala didn't shed any new light on the case. He testified that when he arrived at the scene, he and Officer Raimondo attempted to provide aid to Mr. Martin. Officer Ayala also testified that Mr. Zimmerman was compliant with officers.
TWENTIETH WITNESS: STACEY LIVINGSTON
Ms. Livingston testified that she treated Mr. Zimmerman's injuries at the scene. She confirmed that Mr. Zimmerman had a swollen nose, as well as two, one-inch cuts on the back of his head. She testified that she did not take Mr. Zimmerman to the hospital for his injuries. She further testified that Mr. Martin was declared dead at the scene.
Ultimately, Ms. Livingston's testimony was fairly neutral. While she established that Mr. Zimmerman didn't suffer any life-threatening injuries, she did testify that Mr. Zimmerman suffered bloody injuries to the back and front of his head.
TWENTY FIRST WITNESS: OFFICER SMITH
Just as the State buried the testimony of Jonathan Good, who had the most relevant eyewitness testimony of the actual confrontation, the State buried the testimony of Officer Smith, who was the first law enforcement officer to speak with George Zimmerman.
According to Officer Smith, Mr. Zimmerman was cooperative and didn't ask for an attorney. Not only did Mr. Zimmerman explain that he acted in self defense, but he also told Officer Smith that he was calling for help and that no one would come to his aid. Most importantly, Officer Smith testified that Mr. Zimmerman's back was wet an covered in grass, indicating that Mr. Zimmerman was on his back during part of the confrontation. This testimony will prove essential during closing arguments, when Defense will remind the jury that photographs of Trayvon Martin show grass stains on the knees, whereas Mr. Zimmerman had grass stains on his back.
Yet again, Officer Smith provided more evidence for the Defense than for the State. He did, however, establish that Mr. Zimmerman didn't want to go to the hospital for his injuries.
TWENTY SECOND WITNESS: LINDZEE FOLGATE
Ms. Folgate is a physician's assistant, who treated Mr. Zimmerman before and after the shooting. Interestingly, she testified that in September 2011, Mr. Zimmerman claimed to be taking mixed martial arts classes three times a week. If Mr. Zimmerman was taking MMA classes three times a week since Septemeber, 2011, it might suggest that Mr. Zimmerman wasn't the "meek," defenseless victim of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin.
On the other hand, Ms. Folgate also confirmed that in her diagnostic opinion, Mr. Zimmerman suffered a broken nose on the night of the shooting. It was yet another occasion of a State's witness providing important testimony for the Defense.
THE TAKE AWAY
After one week and twenty two witnesses, the State has not presented any evidence that George Zimmerman initiated physical contact with Trayvon Martin. The closest the State came was through the testimony of Ms. Jeantel, who bombed horrifically. Ultimately, she testified that she could not confirm who hit who first. What's more, the State has presented precious little evidence showing that Mr. Zimmerman acted with an "ill will" or an "evil intent."
The State has laid some groundwork for the lesser-included offense of Manslaughter. They've established that Mr. Zimmerman deviated from typical protocol when he got out of his car and followed Trayvon Martin. Possibly, that deviation might serve as the basis for a finding that Mr. Zimmerman acted with "culpable negligence," but that is certainly a stretch. Negligence? Sure. Culpable negligence? Probably not.
The Defense, meanwhile, has already established key facts in support of its theory of self-defense. The jury now knows that Trayvon Martin was also agitated prior to the incident, calling George Zimmerman a "cracker" and a "nigga." The jury has heard testimony that Trayvon Martin was "ground and pounding" Mr. Zimmerman "MMA style." We've heard from another witness that Mr. Zimmerman looked like he got his "butt beat." The jury has seen bloody photos of Mr. Zimmerman's head and face, as well as testimony establishing that Mr. Zimmerman's nose was broken. The jury has seen photos establishing that Mr. Martin had grass stains on his knees, while hearing testimony that Mr. Zimmerman had grass stains on his back. Moreover, the State has heard evidence that Mr. Zimmerman cooperated at the scene, and claimed instantly that he was crying for help and acted in self-defense.
Unless the State turns things around in the next week, the Defense won't have to put on a case. The State's doing it for them.