Reporter's Notebook: Former federal prosecutor's progress report

Day 9 of George Zimmerman trial

By Christina Vazquez - Reporter
Headline Goes Here

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.

Analysis by Miami-based former federal prosecutor David Weinstein:

Wednesday's witnesses addressed George Zimmerman's knowledge of the criminal justice system, the operation of firearms, gunshot residue and DNA.

We also learned that the end of the prosecution's case in chief is in sight, potentially on Friday.

Two witnesses who we know will be testifying are one or both of Trayvon Martin's parents and the medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Trayvon. A portion of these witnesses testimony will provide the two remaining elements missing from the prosecution's proof, identity of the victim and that the victim is dead.

Did either side gain an advantage from Wednesday's testimony?

The prosecution has committed themselves to showing proof of George Zimmerman's ill will, hatred, spite and evil intent through his prior statements, both to law enforcement and to the public.

Wednesday's testimony regarding his criminal justice studies was presumably introduced to show his knowledge of the system, his desire to become a law enforcement officer and "to prove motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, absence of mistake, or lack of accident."

The last category, what the lawyers referred to as 404(b) evidence (in addition to relevance), is what the prosecution and defense were arguing about in the morning as it related to Zimmerman's criminal justice studies.

Did his knowledge of the system and his desire to be a law enforcement officer color his previously admitted statements and translate to "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" as to ill will, hatred, spite, evil intent and an indifference to human life? 

The prosecution also introduced testimony related to the operation of firearms, gunshot residue and DNA to poke holes in his prior statements. Did that testimony highlight inconsistencies in his statements and build on the proof needed to convict the defendant of second degree murder? The prosecution will argue that the answers to both of those questions are yes.

Even if the answer is maybe, perhaps Wednesday's testimony created pressure on the defense to put George Zimmerman on the stand.

The defense yet again made the most of the opportunities that were offered to them. They used the witnesses who testified about George Zimmerman's criminal justice studies to teach the jury about self defense and stand your ground.

They used the firearms expert and the DNA expert to tell the jury what scientific tests cannot prove. They also used the DNA witnesses to filibuster their way to the end of the day and prevent the prosecution from closing the session with a high value, potentially emotional witness to send the jury into their July 4th holiday break. Nonetheless, it seems that the prosecution's case in chief could end on Friday, with the same result.

The case is moving forward and the end is closer than it was at the beginning of jury selection, but this is far from over.

Once the prosecution rests their case in chief, it is time for the defense to make their argument for a judgment of acquittal and if that is denied, present a case if they choose to do so.

After the defense rests their case, the prosecution is entitled to present a rebuttal case and then the defense will against argue their motion for a judgment of acquittal. Both of the defense motions for judgment of acquittal are made outside the presence of the jury.

After that there will be a charge conference to consider instructions on lesser included offenses, manslaughter and closing arguments. The prosecution will go first, the defense will follow and then the prosecution will deliver their rebuttal --  the last word.

Then the case goes to the jury and everyone waits for the verdict.

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.