George Zimmerman: Is the prosecution damaging his credibility?
Before the trial of George Zimmerman begins in the killing of Trayvon Martin, the prosecution has made public material that may not be admissible in court but raises questions about his character and credibility.
With the trial of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman pending in the killing of Trayvon Martin, information released by the prosecution is creating questions about Mr. Zimmerman’s character and credibility, which legal experts say could be damaging in the courtroom.Skip to next paragraph
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Zimmerman is pleading not guilty to second-degree murder charges in the killing of Mr. Martin, a Florida teenager. The case has attracted international attention both for possible racial motives in the case and questions about Zimmerman, who remains an elusive and, according to the presiding judge, deceptive figure.
Tapes made public Monday by prosecutors involved material whose admissibility as evidence is far from assured, including allegations that for years, as a minor, he sexually groped a girl two years his junior whom he saw at family gatherings, as well as evidence that he lied to the judge about his family’s finances.
Zimmerman’s attorneys tried and failed to block the release of the tapes.
The tapes suggest Zimmerman knew of fundraising efforts on his behalf before a bond hearing in April at which his wife testified that the couple was destitute in an effort to get a reduced bond. A $150,000 bond was granted.
After prosecutors revealed that Zimmerman’s family had transferred about $135,000 in online donations into their personal bank account five days prior to the hearing, Seminole County Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester sent Zimmerman back to jail and last week charged Shellie Zimmerman, his wife, with perjury.
Judge Lester also noted Zimmerman failed to disclose a second passport held in a safe deposit box and suggested he was a possible flight risk.
A jailhouse tape, one of 150 released Monday, suggest Zimmerman and his defense attorney knew of the donations before the initial bond hearing. In an April 14 phone conversation between Zimmerman and a family friend, Zimmerman is heard saying he told his defense attorney of his attempt to transfer $37,000 from his online legal defense fund site into an online banking account, but was blocked because the amount was too high.
Zimmerman told the friend his attorney was going to have him “declared indigent.” “I told him I didn’t think that would be possible [in light of the attempted transfer].… He said: ‘Well, that doesn’t matter. Right now you’re not working. You’re not providing an income for your family. You’re probably not going to be employable for the rest of your life.’ ”
Defense Attorney Mark O’Mara told the Miami Herald Monday he was not aware of the conversation. “It’s not the type of thing you would risk your license to practice law over,” he said.
In a second bond hearing, Lester set a $1 million bail for Zimmerman. Mr. O’Mara filed a motion Friday to remove Judge Lester from the case, claiming bias against Zimmerman based on statements Lester made in his order to set bail that accused Zimmerman of “deception” and flouting “the system.” O’Mara’s motion described the remarks as “gratuitous, disparaging.” “Because of this prejudice, [Zimmerman] cannot receive a fair and impartial trial or hearing by this Court,” the motion reads.