SANFORD, Fla. - Before the judge sealed Trayvon Martin's murder case -- a move news organizations are now challenging -- one of the documents filed raises a significant question about the timing of George Zimmerman's arrest. The prosecutor made a point to say her decision to charge was unaffected by public outcry or pressure. A look at the Probable Cause Affidavit indicates otherwise.
The Probable Cause Affidavit is the outline of the specific evidence on which prosecutors base their decision to file charges, second degree murder in this case.
Every piece of evidence cited on that affidavit had been available to investigators for weeks, much of it since the night of the shooting. So why did it take almost seven weeks to charge?
We've asked prosecutors more than once. They do not answer directly.
You can read the two-page affidavit for yourself here.
The evidence cited:
- Zimmerman's account of "profiling" Martin, and assuming he was "a criminal." (Zimmerman, himself, told that to police that night.)
- His disparaging words about people who had gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood. (That was on the 911 recording. Police had that the next day.)
- The friend of Martin's on the cell phone with him just before the shooting who described Martin's fear about being followed by a man he didn't know. (Martin's family attorney provided that through traced cell records on March 20th)
- Zimmerman's disregard for a dispatcher's warning against following a suspicious person. (That was also on the 911 recording police had the next day)
- Witness accounts of an argument and calls for help. (Police collected those that night and in the following days.)
- Zimmerman fired the bullet that killed Martin. (Zimmerman said so himself that night at the police station and ballistics confirmed it.)
If there is some fact, some link, some witness, some testimony prosecutors unearthed since the governor-appointed the special prosecution team on March 22nd, they didn't include it in their argument for probable cause.
And if they didn't include it, they didn't need it to support their second-degree murder charge.
And if they didn't need it, if they had all those elements in the days after the shooting, certainly by week three, why didn't they file then? Why didn't they arrest and charge Zimmerman before the outcry, before the rallies, before the 24/7 media blitzkrieg?
To be clear, at the other end of this judicial process, Zimmerman may well be cleared of this charge, or found not guilty. But the standard to start that process is probable cause. And prosecutors, by their own account, had that, almost from the beginning.
Public pressure didn't matter? Really?
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