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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.

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In April, O’Mara successfully removed the first judge handling the Zimmerman case after they revealed her husband works for a law firm that provides legal analysis for CNN and had been considered as a prospective defense attorney in the case.

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The legal wrangling in the case to date will present difficulties for Zimmerman in the eventual trial to maintain credibility to jurors, legal experts say.

“There are potential enormous negative ramifications presented as a result of this entire bail debacle,” says Marcellus McRae, a former US prosecutor now in private practice in Los Angeles. “You already have someone the judge has signaled in this context has credibility problems. You have to think you don’t get that many missteps before it becomes even more critical.”

Zimmerman did not testify in the bail hearing, which Mr. McRae says suggest his attorneys are planning to keep him off the stand during a trial. That decision, McRae says, “will significantly undermine his effort to get his story across,” which might otherwise be considered powerful testimony when compared to prosecutorial witnesses who were not present at the time of the killing.

Another complication for Zimmerman is his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, who is now embroiled in criminal charges of her own. That makes her credibility suffer, which is a loss considering spouses of criminal defendants are often powerful advocates in the courtroom.

“You’ve got a situation where perhaps two of the chief advocates for Mr. Zimmerman may be silenced. Or, if they aren’t silenced, significantly undermine his credibility,” McRae says.

Another tape released Monday is of an unnamed woman, identified by the defense as a cousin of Zimmerman's, who is heard telling investigators he sexually groped her when they were young children. The woman said Zimmerman first molested her when she was 6 and the episodes continued until she was around 16. Zimmerman is two years older than the accuser.

Her family confronted Zimmerman years later but they failed to file criminal charges, she said.

Although it is not yet known how prosecutors plan to use the woman’s accusations, Jules Epstein, a law professor at Widener University of Law in Philadelphia who specializes in cases involving sex crimes, finds it “unimaginable” the statements would be admissible in the trial.

The tape “doesn’t provide context, it doesn’t explain motive, it doesn’t do anything” related to the Martin killing, Mr. Epstein says. Another difficulty with the admission is that the incidents allegedly took place so far in the past.

O’Mara’s motion on Friday to disqualify Lester included a request to prevent the release of the tapes, which was denied. In a statement released Monday, he said the defense “will victoriously defend” Zimmerman against the allegation and promised to release new information regarding the accuser’s statement “in the next several weeks.”

Zimmerman is currently out on bond. His travel is restricted within Seminole County and he is barred from the local airport. He is required to wear an electronic monitoring device and is not allowed to drink alcohol. 

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