Reporter's Notebook: Former federal prosecutor's progress report
'Don West was certainly surprised, but he wasn't tricked'
The charge conference proved to provide some last minute excitement and to show that a trial lawyer must be prepared for anything at all times.
The State attempted to change the road map for deliberations by using an argument that few people noticed was buried in the charging document.
While it didn't succeed, the argument presented for the lesser included offense of Third Degree Felony Murder actually made more sense than the stretch for aggravated assault.
The State uses every word in the charging document for a reason. They included the fact that Trayvon Martin was "a human being under the age of eighteen" for a purpose.
Don West was certainly surprised, but he wasn't tricked. Give the State credit for thinking outside of the box. Judge Nelson focused on the facts and the law and made the correct decision.
Bernie De la Rionda did a very good job with his closing. He is a veteran prosecutor and has presented a large number of closing arguments. He knows that the nation is watching him.
He knows how to work a jury and to make sure that he gets his points across using the evidence that the state has admitted. He knows what the burden of proof is and how to tie that in with the elements of the crime charged.
He walked the jury through the evidence and pointed out the inconsistencies with the defense's arguments. He was confident in the job that his team has done and he ended with a sympathetic tug on the jurors hearts. He was not overly dramatic.
I would have been disappointed had his performance been anything less than as convincing as it was. He believes that the State has proven their case and that the defendant is guilty as charged. That's what he wants the jury to do and he sent them out tonight thinking just that.
You never argue about lesser included offenses in your opening closing. There is no point in conceding anything now. Save that for rebuttal if you think that the defense has put a hole in your main argument.
However, the funny thing about trials is that when we review how Mark O'Mara's closing went tomorrow, (assuming that he doesn't fall completely on his face and I have no reason to believe that he will) we will probably say the same things about his closing. When the defense is done, we will be convinced that the State's case didn't hold up.
That the defense put holes all over the state's case. That's what a jury trial is all about.
Then the State will have rebuttal and the case will go to the jury. Six people we know the least about."