Reporter's Notebook: Former federal prosecutor issues progress report

Former federal prosecutor David Weinstein on George Zimmerman trial

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter
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David S. Weinstein is a former Assistant United States Attorney for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.  He held that position from 1998 to 2009.


David Weinstein has 25 years of practice in criminal law and his courtroom experience includes more than 100 jury trials ranging from burglaries and homicides through international money laundering and drug trafficking cases.

After the rough start at openings, the defense has made progress through their cross examination of the State's witnesses.

While "get off, get off" were words that played a big role in today's testimony, a single witnesses' testimony does not establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Trayvon Martin was in fear of harm from George Zimmerman. Nor does it prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman is guilty of second degree murder.

Picking apart the testimony, if the gun was in Zimmerman's  waistband and was not seen by Trayvon, how would Trayvon know that he was armed?  There has also been testimony that would support an argument that Zimmerman was just pursuing an out of place individual who he was trying to question and who had just run away from his questioning.  Were Zimmerman's actions from that point forward reckless or just stupid and ill advised?

We don't really know how the final confrontation started.  If Trayvon was in such great fear, why did he stop and let Zimmerman engage him? Why didn't he just keep running?  Who threw the first punch or made the first grab?  A struggle that is observed at different vantage points by different people can have a different person on top at different times.  No one has testified that they saw who attacked who.  We are all just drawing conclusions from the evidence as it unfolds.  We have also been influenced by events that have occurred outside of the Courtroom.  The jurors must make their decision based only upon what they see and hear inside the Courtroom.

In order to sustain a conviction for second degree murder, the prosecution must show ill will, hatred or spite and indifference to human life.  After four days and 15 witnesses, the State is not there yet.  They have shown arrogance, bravado, frustration  and perhaps bad decision making. They might even be moving their way towards culpable negligence.  But that will only sustain a manslaughter conviction.

We are still in the first quarter, maybe approaching the beginning of the second quarter.  If baseball is your favorite analogy, we are at the bottom of the second inning.

We have a long way to go before I am willing to state with any certainty that anyone has proven anything beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt.

When George Zimmerman was first arrested, some suggested that the case was overcharged and that manslaughter was what occurred on that dark and rainy night.  Until the courtroom clerk announces the jury's verdict, there is still a very real possibility that George  Zimmerman will be acquitted or at best convicted of only manslaughter.

What does each side need to do tomorrow?  The State needs to keep presenting witnesses who will build their case for George Zimmerman being the aggressor and having ill will before the encounter.  The defense needs to keep picking apart the witnesses testimony and showing inconsistencies, discrepancies and lack of evidence.  The experts will start testifying soon.  The defense needs to use those experts to show what beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt really is.

It's the end of the week, each side wants to finish strong tomorrow and send the jury home for the weekend thinking that they have the upper hand.  In some ways, they have already forgotten about the bad knock-knock joke or the swearing that the prosecution used to open the trial.  They don't see clips played over and over again.  It's all about how you finish.