SANFORD, Fla. — The credibility of Trayvon Martin’s shooter could become an issue at trial after a Florida judge said that George Zimmerman and his wife lied to the court about their finances to obtain a bond, legal experts say.No, Zimmerman is claiming self-defense under the same notion of self-defense that exists in every state. The "stand your ground" has been an issue among the Martin supporters, but Zimmerman has shown no sign of intending to rely on it.
That’s because the case hinges on jurors believing Zimmerman’s account of what happened the night that the 17-year-old Martin was killed. Zimmerman wasn’t charged in the case until more than a month after the shooting, as the former neighborhood watch volunteer maintained that he shot Martin in selfdefense under Florida’s socalled stand your ground law. Protests were held across the nation, and the case spurred debate about whether race was a factor in Zimmerman’s actions and in the initial police handling of the case. Martin was black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.
So what was the lie? When the main point of a news article is that Zimmerman lied, I think that the paper ought to print the lie. The closest it comes is this:
Zimmerman was arrested 44 days after the killing, and during a bond hearing in April, his wife, Shellie, testified that the couple had limited funds available. Zimmerman took the stand at the hearing and apologized to Martin's parents.Got that? It says "she said she didn't know". If the amount was somehow important to the bail hearing, then the prosecutor should have demanded more specific. It is not clear to me that defense fund-raising should automatically cause a higher bail, but if that was the argument that the prosecutor intended to make, then he should have said so.
Prosecutors pointed out in their motion that Zimmerman had $135,000 available then. It had been raised from donations through a website he had set up. They suggested more has been collected since and deposited in a bank account.
Shellie Zimmerman was asked about the website at the hearing, but she said she didn't know how much money had been raised.
In spite of all these stories casting aspersions on Zimmerman, the release facts are overwhelmingly in favor of self-defense. For a detailed discussion of the evidence, see TalkLeft's account.
I heard someone argue that it is wrong to form an opinion about this case before trial. But a major point of the stand-your-ground law is that a man should not have to face trial when there is clear evidence of self-defense. In this case, Zimmerman called 911. He was attacked while going back to his car. The attacker was bigger, stronger, and on drugs. Zimmerman was punched and knocked to the ground. His nose was broken. His head was being pounded into the pavement. His head was bleeding. He cried "help" 20 times. About a dozen witness all tell more or less the same story. If this is not a legitimate case of self-defense, then what is?
Update: I have criticized Alan M. Dershowitz, but I agree with him here about Corey:
State Attorney Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman case, recently called the Dean of Harvard Law School to complain about my criticism of some of her actions.Threatening to sue Dershowitz for libel seems foolish to me. I posted some similar criticisms of Corey, but it never occurred to me that she would be calling commentators and accusing them of libel. I guess I assumed that she was competent enough to know that she was lying to the court. Now I think that she is a bully who is used to getting her way in court, and she will use her power to frame Zimmerman.
Update: The Legal Insurrection blog explains the weakness of the perjury charge. While Mrs. Zimmerman is somewhat evasive, she is more honest than the prosecution affidavits. If the prosecutor wanted a specific answer, he should have asked a specific question. She had no way of knowing that she was supposed to volunteer details of the website fundraising.
The perjury precedent is Bronston v US, 409 US 352 (1973):
Federal perjury statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1621, does not reach a witness' answer that is literally true, but unresponsive, even assuming the witness intends to mislead his questioner by the answer, and even assuming the answer is arguably "false by negative implication." A perjury prosecution is not, in our adversary system, the primary safeguard against errant testimony; given the incongruity of an unresponsive answer, it is the questioner's burden to frame his interrogation acutely to elicit the precise information he seeks.Wikipedia summarizes:
Bronston v. United States, 409 U.S. 352 (1973), is a seminal United States Supreme Court decision strictly construing the federal perjury statute. Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote for a unanimous Court that responses to questions made under oath that relayed truthful information in and of themselves but were intended to mislead or evade the examiner could not be prosecuted. Instead, the criminal-justice system had to rely on more carefully worded followup questions.Based on this, I think that Barry Bonds' conviction should be reversed on appeal, even tho it was not for perjury.