Oops! The script of reasonable expectation would never have included this. It appears that somebody goofed. Big time.
I am referring to the in-court statement made by George Zimmerman at his bail hearing on Friday, 4/20/2012. He said, referring to the deceased, Trayvon Martin, "I did not know if he was armed or not."
All delete buttons in the world of criminal defense work were instinctively pressed, but it was too late. Unscripted declarations by a defendant are an accepted no-no and should never happen. They can be severely incriminating and this one was, indeed, potentially fatal to Zimmerman's anticipated defense of self-defense.
Here's why: At trial, Zimmerman must show that he reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. Only then could the use of deadly force against Martin have been justified. Question: How can he bear this burden if he cannot say that he (reasonably) believed Martin had a weapon? Theoretically, he could rely upon the distinction between "know" and "believe" but this is dancing with the dictionary at a time which calls for unequivocal language. Any way you look at it, his in-court statement is perilously inconsistent with his bottom-line justification of the shooting. On top of everything else he may have said to investigating authorities, who needs this unnecessary baggage?
Why, then, did this happen? Whenever a defendant plans to make a statement in open court, he must be obsessively prepared. Every word must be edited and rehearsed. If walking this mine field is deemed too dangerous, he keeps his mouth shut. Were his words, therefore, planned for a purpose or was he a wild horse? Either way, the question focuses a spotlight upon his attorney, who enjoys a splendid reputation. As he listened to his client, was he suffering the pain of a thousand cuts or playing a well-thought- out card?
We won't know until much farther down the line. But, one thing is for sure: If these words come back to haunt Zimmerman at trial, an verbal attempt to self-defend may have significantly undermined the claim of self-defense.
Unanticipated things happen in the practice of criminal defense law. This is recognized. But when they are within the control of the defendant and, therefore, should not have occured, foreheads furrow and heads are scratched.
'Tis a puzzlement.
Early this A.M. (the morning after my post) the Associated Press quoted Zimmerman's attorney as saying that his client's in-court apology was "ill-timed." No regrets for, or any reference to, the damning words of which I wrote.
I re-affirm my suspicion that Zimmerman's remarks were the result of pilot (read lawyer) error.
It sometimes happens----but shouldn't.