In this ABC interview, the prosecutors who showed such bad judgment in the Zimmerman matter do it again, just in case you had any doubts. When you bring the wrong charge, try the wrong case, and decisively lose the case, you shouldn't mug for the camera, cya, talk about how well you would have done if the trial had been completely different, mock the acquitted accused for a supposed lack of courage, disparage the defendant for exercising his constitutional rights, etc. I recall that one of the bases for disciplining Michael Nifong (the prosecutor of the Duke lacrosse players) was that he called the accused "hooligans." Mr. de la Rionda could use a taste of that kind of discipline. (But note: Florida's version of rule 3.8 does not include the ABA's prohibition against heightening the condemnation of the accused.)
The charging decision was foolish, but under the Florida rule, the prosecutor need only have probable cause to bring the matter. That's not a high standard. The Florida rules say that they incorporate the ABA Standards regarding the prosecutorial function -- something I haven't seen other states do. I can't tell if the Standards themselves can be a basis for disciplinary action. The Standards set a high bar for the prosecutors to follow, and many of the points I discuss here (and perhaps other points as well) could be violations of the Standards.
Post-trial, the prosecutors still cling to a version of the events that failed to convince anyone. They still fail to account for undisputed facts. They still assert speculations that have no evidentiary support. Literally, they speculate. Here's the quote from lead trial prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda (emphasis added):
“Our belief as to what happened: He chased down Trayvon Martin, he wanted to make sure Travyon Martin did not get away,” said de la Rionda. “Now at what point he pulled out the gun? We could speculate as to what happened. My theory is that he pulled it out early. He was going to make sure he didn’t get away. He wanted to be a cop.”
What ever happened to quitely saying that "we are disappointed but accept the judgment of the jury"? Btw, de la Rionda also wants us to know that if he had had the chance to cross-examine Zimmerman, he would have asked Zimmerman a series of open-ended softball questions that Zimmerman could have easily turned around against the prosecutor.
The defense lawyers responded in an interview that's available on the same page. Mark O'Mara continues to be a model of effective advocacy and professionalism, especially given how sensitive the case has become. Based on other news stories, it appears that O'Mara will resolutely pursue the alleged Brady violations. (Short version: it's way too early to know what happened, and Colin Miller at Evidence Prof Blog is skeptical about the ultimate success of O'Mara's motion, but there is credible evidence that the prosecutors withheld evidence until they learned that the evidence technician had alerted the defense counsel about the existence of the un-produced evidence. At that point, the prosecutors hurredly turned it over and prepared to fire the technician, which they did on the day that the matter went to the jury. The key question is whether the withheld evidence was material and exculpatory. The fired technician says he will file a whistle-blower suit, targeting Corey. The suit will apparently be filed by a former prosecutor who had been hired by Corey but quit in disagreement over her choice of priorities. Sounds like we're in for quite a throw-down. Make a bucket of popcorn and stay tuned.)
In this interview, prosecutor Angela Corey describes Zimmerman as a "murderer." I know that the pre-trial publicity rule may no longer apply in that case and that Florida does not have the "heightening condemnation" provision, but since when does a defendant get acquitted of murder and the prosecutor acts like that?
As I've said before, it's important to acknowledge that the death of Trayvon Martin was tragic. But this is a legal ethics blog and it's also important to evaluate the behavior of the lawyers.
On some listserv conversations, it's being suggested that the Florida bar believes that it cannot discipline a sitting constitutional officer (like Corey). I can't find a firm cite or source for that, but the lawyers making the claim are pretty knowledgable about Florida ethics law, so I thought I'd pass on the notion (if only provisionally).
My earlier post, with round-ups, was here.
[edited several times since posting]