When I wrote about the Casey Anthony case — All Those Years Ago, to paraphrase the late, great George Harrison — I said I thought she was a good looking girl. Of course, this was early into it, when it was all the rage to call her the ugliest woman on the planet. I said that, had I met her in a bar, prior to her daughter dying and, of course, me being in my late twenties, which I was not; I probably would have hit on her. All hypothetical. Some of my readers left me in disgust. Sometimes, honesty is not the best policy, but only in the sense that I never should have mentioned it. I was simply trying to say that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Backfire! Heck, they all knew I was in my fifties!
A television cameraman I have gotten to be friends with recently told me that his son did, in fact, meet Casey in a bar a year before anything took place, and he did hit on her. How can one look into another’s eyes and see the future? You can’t, but upon talking to her, he ultimately found her to be quite strange and chose to move on. There were plenty of other good looking girls hanging around that night and he was on the prowl. While you may think I am trying to make a point about good looking girls and book covers, I am not. It’s all about putting too much weight on how someone looks. Weight is the common thread between Casey and George Zimmerman. While she was cute and petite, he is not. He keeps growing, and I hope that is not a detriment during the trial. While texting my closest connection yesterday, I made the observation that he looked like a big ol’ toad sitting on a log.
I didn’t mean it as a direct insult; let me assure you of that. But he does seem dazed, like he’s on tranquilizers or something, and I wonder if he will snap out of it by the time the trial starts. I don’t care if he weighs 300 pounds, so let me make that clear; however, is he content or overwhelmed by it all? Whatever, he seems indifferent and complacent, and that’s not a good thing for the defense in my humble opinion.
I had to be outside the courtroom door by 8:00 am in order to pick a seat. We were selected by lottery and I came up number 14 out of 24 media organizations. I chose my place and that’s where I’ll be for the duration; meaning all future hearings and the entire trial, sitting in the same spot. After the selection process ended, I saw Robert Zimmerman and we exchanged greetings. Just before the hearing began, I had a chance to talk to Frank Taaffe, too. We have gotten to be friends. Let me just say that I’ve dated women who were more liberal than me, and I’ve dated women who were more conservative than me. That’s very true of my friends, too. What difference does it make when it comes to friends and lovers? That’s something I hold close to the vest. Fairness to all. Everyone has an opinion, and all are welcome in my mind.
Judge Nelson likes to get right down to business. There had been a lot of sniping going on between the prosecution and defense the past month or so, and she made it quite clear that she wouldn’t tolerate it. At 8:58 am. She didn’t wait until 9:00, in other words. Both sides were getting nasty and acting like school children; like siblings fighting for attention from their parents. Over a toy. WAH! WAH! To those who think the prosecution is right, and to those who think O’Mara is a saint, the judge doesn’t share your opinions, and that’s what counts in this case. Her job is to maintain peace and to interpret law as both sides present it, and that’s the way it went in the courtroom on April 30, 2013, Common Era or Anno Domini, depending on your beliefs.
Over a half-dozen motions were heard. While some may view the hearing as a victory for the State, I didn’t see it that way. In other words, it wasn’t that clear-cut. Defense Attorney Don West wanted assurances that the State would turn over all cell phone records it has in its possession. The judge agreed and ordered it done. Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda did say it had nothing new to add; that everything was turned over. The defense also wanted any 911 tapes that may have been enhanced by Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys for Trayvon’s parents. Initially, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, told Sanford police detectives that the screams for help were not his son’s. Later, he changed his mind. The judge had already ruled that Crump cannot be deposed because of his status as the family attorney. “Your Honor,” de la Rionda stated, “I am not Ben Crump.” The judge ruled that any enhanced tapes must be turned over to the Defense in 24 hours, but only if they are in the State’s possession.
April 17 was the Court’s deadline for adding any witnesses, but Nelson granted the Defense request to add five new ones, only named A, B, C, D & E. The State did not object, as long as it is given the same opportunity.
Turning the wheel, Judge Nelson ordered the redaction of personal information mistakenly released by the Defense, and closed the door on publicly announcing the amount of the lawsuit settlement between the Martin family and the Retreat at Twin Lakes, where Trayvon was shot and killed. It will remain under seal unless it becomes an issue at trial. I will delve more into this subject in a later article, but suffice it to say the Defense argued that it could potentially show prejudice from the Martin family in trial testimony and the State disagreed. What relevance would it have after the fact? Trayvon was dead long before his family sued.
Two other issues arose that were quite newsworthy. One, of course, was Zimmerman’s swearing in by the judge in order to question his understanding of O’Mara’s decision to not seek an immunity hearing before the trial. The judge had set aside the final two weeks of April (4/22 and 4/29) to hold an immunity hearing. O’Mara told the judge at the last hearing on March 5 that it would not be necessary; that it could take place during the trial, not outside of it. Judge Nelson needed to hear it from his client because a motion was filed by de la Rionda requesting that Zimmerman make it clear himself. [See: STATE’S MOTION REQUESTING COURT INQUIRY OF DEFENDANT REGARDING DEFENSE COUNSEL’S WAIVER OF ANY PROCEEDING TO INVOKE IMMUNITY (SELF-DEFENSE/STAND YOUR GROUND HEARING) UNDER F.S. 776.032]
In the State’s motion, de la Rionda noted that the defendant was not present at the March 5 hearing when his attorney waived the immunity hearing.
Failing to ensure that the Defendant has knowingly waived this statutory right has the potential to result in Defendant after being found guilty attempting to invoke such an issue in any post conviction proceeding.
The State formally requested that the Court conduct a full inquiry of the defendant. Ask him if he is aware of this. The judge obliged over concerted protests from O’Mara, who wanted it to be in the form of an affidavit. George personally waived his right, but it can still be brought up during the trial, as O’Mara has said for some time. Significantly, it could potentially mean that the Defense can move to drop the charge after the State rests, if it feels it’s a proper time to invoke immunity. More than likely, it would happen after both sides rest, but, if, and/or, when it does, it would be up to the judge to render a decision. If the judge denies it, the jury would decide on a verdict; however, the Defense also risks one important thing — that the judge turned down the immunity request for some reason. Would that impact or influence the panel of six jurors?
O’Mara did make one thing clear about that, though, regarding the judge. “We’d much rather have the jury address the issue of criminal liability or lack thereof,” so it may never go to the judge.
O’Mara brought up the blistering attack by de la Rionda in his response to sanctions requested by the Defense against the State for discovery violations, particularly from Witness 8, who lied about her age and a trip to the hospital she didn’t take. She used the excuse as an explanation for not attending Trayvon’s funeral; that she was too sick. The Defense contends it spent over $4,000 investigating and finding the truth — something the State was well aware of since last August and withheld.
O’Mara told the judge that de la Rionda’s response was unethical, inappropriate and scurrilous. He said it was a horrific personal attack that should be stricken from the record. Judge Nelson gave O’Mara five days to come up with a list of what he wants redacted. While not coming out and agreeing to do that, she did say she found things the court wishes were not in the State’s response.
While pleading his case, O’Mara put West on the stand. He reiterated the claims made by the Defense that Witness 8’s age was first reported by Crump to be 16 when, in reality, she was 18. He also spoke about the the hospital trip she never took.
When de la Rionda cross-examined West, he reminded him that the Defense had plenty of opportunity to interview Witness 8 long before the State did. He also said he could request sanctions against them, too, for violations, because they had caused undue delays. I don’t really see it that way. The defense has not caused any delays that I am aware of, but in the end, the judge did not see any violations from the State, either. “The court does not make a finding that there was a discovery violation.”
The judge did leave the door open. After denying O’Mara’s claim that he spent “hours and hours of work” investigating discovery not disclosed by the State, which de la Rionda vehemently denied and claimed was inadvertent, she said she had no problem holding a hearing after the trial to determine whether the State should have to pay the Defense for some of the costs incurred. In my opinion, the Defense may have a good claim.
The hearing lasted about three hours and ended around noon. As I left the courtroom, rode down the elevator, and entered the main lobby, Robert Zimmerman was sitting in a chair. I walked toward him, stopped, and we talked. He is a soft-spoken, gentle man. I asked him if he knew who I was. He did. I didn’t ask for egotistical reasons. I realized he must have known about my position in the case. After all, I still firmly believe his brother would never have exited his vehicle without a gun, and he did so despite it being the job of experienced law enforcement personnel.
While I have maintained an excellent rapport with Benjamin Crump and Natalie Jackson since the beginning of the case, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to speak with the other side, except for Frank Taaffe, who is really an independent person in all of this. Robert will always defend his family, no matter what. I understand that as surely as I understand Lee Anthony defending his sister. I told Robert that I would be fair in this case from now on. I said I would not take sides in reporting about the trial. I will tell it like I see it, but I will make no remarks about guilt or innocence. Why? This is my last hurrah. After the Anthony trial ended, people left me in droves. There were other trials and scandals to follow. Yes, some people remained and still do, but it’s the cases readers are interested in, wherever they occur. Yes, they like my take on crimes, but in the end, it’s the crime that matters. When this trial is over, what will happen? I am not the late Dominick Dunne. I cannot travel across the country writing about case after case, nor would I want to. After this, I am free to go; free to do whatever I want. My door will open. I will be able to write as I please and hope readers continue spying on me. I can move around. I can write music and kiss crime good bye…
Oh wait! One of my journalist friends just had to remind me that Casey’s civil trial will probably take place before the end of the year; the one filed by Zenaida Gonzalez. I guess that means I’ll have to wait to retire my crime writing laptop. Darn, I hope you don’t mind.