I want to start and end this comment by acknowledging the tragedy that Trayvon Martin is dead and that his death wasn't remotely necessary.
But given that this blog deals with issues of legal ethics and professionalism, it's worth commenting that I had been critical of the prosecutor praying with the lawyer for the Martin's and had criticized the decision to avoid a grand jury and charge murder two. (I had also listed issues that PR profs can use if they decide to disucss the matter.)
Now that the predictable "not guilty" verdict is back, the various local prosecutors and police who were by-passed by the prosecutor Angela Corey may step up their criticism publicly and anonymously and there will no doubt be increased criticism of how Corey handled the whole matter.
The chief prosecutor in the court room was hamstrung by the murder two charge, which required him to stretch facts, pre-emptively put on witnesses who undermined the state's own case, and to spend most of his case, paradoxically, trying to create a reasonable doubt about the defense's theory. One wonders what would have happened if the state had simply gone with manslaughter and presented their case with confidence and integrity.
We also still have the lingering issue of supposed/alleged spoliation of evidence by the prosecutors. As I understand it, the state's technician who was the ultimate source of that claim was terminated today in a scathing letter that reads like a lawyer's demand letter. It's way too early to gauge what happened, but the defense lawyer, Mark O'Mara, has promised to pursue it. He also suggested that the prosecutors' behavior during discovery needs to be reviewed.
Gustave LeBon once commented that electorates, legislatures, and juries are special purpose mobs. Legal procedure and prosecutorial judgment are necessary counter-weights to that. I wish that the prosecutor's office had shown more judgment. The media deserves critcism as well. I saw a few minutes of MSNBC coverage earlier today and am worried that they are more concerned about rooting in a political sense, which can be another exercise in mob-building. Hopefully, the public will remain calm.
Again, to finish, Martin's death is the sad core of this event.
[Links to earlier posts by me and some of our other bloggers here.]
Talk Left blog has had fantastic coverage of the trial.
The conflict issue that led an earlier judge to recuse itself.
The disqualification of an earlier judge in the matter (not the judge who presided over the trial).
Professor Dershowitz's claim that the probable cause affidavit was unethical.
Criticism of Angela Corey's performance.
An earlier round-up of ethics issues.
At the post-verdict press conference, the two defense lawyers were asked what they thought of the judge. O'Mara complimented the judge. West declined to answer, saying that he wished to keep his bar license.
O'Mara was classy and subdued throughout his press conference and then in the same calm tone gave a blistering critique of the media's role and mis-statements. I agree with him on that.
Here is an early article in which I was quoted in support of the decision of defense lawyer Mark O'Mara to use the internet to promote the story of his client. "But some say the strategy makes sense as Zimmerman seeks to protect and bolster his image in preparation for a jury trial: 'Zimmerman was getting trashed in the press for weeks, so I think he has to come out swinging a little bit,' said California attorney and legal ethicist John Steele, who perceives that cable television coverage of the case is slanted against Zimmerman. 'If you’re Mark O’Mara, why rely on Anderson Cooper, Al Sharpton, or Soledad O’Brien to get your story out?'”
John Burriss, on MSNBC, had several good insights about the trial and the difficulties the prosecution faced. He suggested it was a manslaughter case, that the prosecutor was on the defensive, and that the jury instructions were confusing.
The Wall Street Journal has a nice article on the theme I discuss above: the prosecutors' decision to charge murder was a massive error in judgment -- and just bad lawyering.
Alan Dershowitz is attacking Corey again. You may recall that Dershowitz harshly attacked Corey for filing a probable cause affidavit that ignore all kinds of exculpatory acts. (At that time I asked my readers if anyone knew the governing law of the duty of candor as applied to those affidavits. Can the prosecutor tell just her half, or is she required to lay out what the material facts? I still don't have that answer.)