Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Update: The Unethical “Witness Nine”

She looks credible to me!

Now where were we?

When we last left this ongoing orgy of unethical conduct in every corner, Mr. and Mrs. Zimmerman were caught lying to the judge about their financial resources, claiming to be destitute for bail purposes, and trying to hide all the money that had come in through contributions to their website. Now the judge is buying a ticket, and has ordered the release of the tape recordings of a woman only known now as “Witness 9.”

Witness 9 has a story that is old, irrelevant, but certainly calculated to inflame the public and the jury pool against the defendant. She says…

  • Zimmerman began sexually molesting Witness 9 when she was six years old and Zimmerman was about 8.
  • It continued until she when she was 16.
  • The molestation included forced kissing, fondling, groping, and inserting his fingers into her vagina.
  •  “We would all lay in front of the TV” to watch movies, “and he would reach under the blankets and try to do things. … I would try to push him off, but he was bigger and stronger and older.”
  • Zimmerman’s family doesn’t “like black people if they don’t act like white people. They like black people if they act white.”
  •  Zimmerman also does not like blacks, though she personally she had never seen him disparage blacks or act as though he hated blacks.

Let’s see:

1. An allegation of sexual molestation that is decades old, very strange (Uh, why did you keep watching movies under a blanket with a molester for ten years, ma’am?), impossible to substantiate, and 100% irrelevant to the crime Zimmerman is charged with committing..

2. A bizarre allegation about Zimmerman’s family, that is incoherent. So do they “like” blacks, or don’t they? I don’t like whites who act like idiots. Does that make me racist? And what is “not acting like a white person,” anyway? Not listening to Donny Osmond music? Not playing cricket? What? Is wandering around  in the rain and looking like you are casing houses acting white, acting black, or just acting like a crook?

3. An assertion about Zimmerman’s opinions of blacks that the witness can’t support with any statements or conduct…

4. …that is apparently not based on any recent evidence.

In addition, we know nothing about this woman on which to assess her credibility, except that she has a grudge against George Zimmerman.

There is a technical term for testimony like this: garbage. It was no less than malicious to release it, and is proof, as if more was needed, that the prosecution in this case is not interested in justice, but serving the agenda of activists who have threatened social unrest and violence if Zimmerman isn’t summarily sacrificed on the altar of racial politics. Fair trial? Can’t risk that.

I suppose, in an ethics train wreck of six months duration, it shouldn’t be surprising that George Zimmerman is being railroaded.

CORRECTION: In the original version of this post, I wrote that Witness 9’s testimony was released by the prosecution, and laid blame on prosecutor Angela Corey, who has tried to poison the jury pool in this case already. A helpful commenter produced an earlier news report that indicates that both the defense and the prosecution opposed releasing the testimony.

______________________________________________

Source: Slate

Facts: Orlando Sentinel

Graphic: tramthuynh

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

19 thoughts on “Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman Ethics Train Wreck Update: The Unethical “Witness Nine”

  1. Looks like the prosecution did not want it released either:
    Two weeks ago, Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. issued an order, spelling out what public records prosecutors must release and which ones they should withhold. He ordered witness 9’s statements released.

    O’Mara then filed paperwork, asking the judge to reconsider. Prosecutors also want it withheld.

    Lawyers for more than a dozen news companies, including the Orlando Sentinel, however, have argued that the statement should come out.

    http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2012-07-02/news/os-george-zimmerman-witness-9-20120702_1_prosecutors-statements-witness

  2. While I 100% agree the information is going to taint the jury pool, I don’t see it as necessarily irrelevant at trial. If Zimmerman claims self defense (I’m going out on a limb here), this witness’s testimony, along with other testimony about Zimmerman’s behavior around the alleged incidents, could be used to impeach the credibility of Zimmerman’s statements. “Would an ordinary guy who just killed someone in cold blood be able to lie to the police successfully? Not likely.” vs. “Would someone practiced at lying to cover his crimes be able to lie to cover up another crime on short notice? Yes.”

    The benefit of this change would have to be weighed against how prejudicial the allegations would be, but I think that’s a question for the judge at trial….hopefully it will be a different, possibly rational judge.

    • By that argument, tgt, anything is relevant. My guess is that the witness’s dubious molestation story would be inadmissible as too prejudicial for its relevance (which is nil), and admitting it would be grounds for reversal. I don’t want to go all blameblakeart here, but I’m beginnging to wonder if that’s the plan—get a tainted guilty verdict, and hope things calm down by the time it’s reversed—and meanwhile, Zimmerman rots in jail for a year or three. The witness’s claims about racial bias might be relevant to the hate crime angle, if 1) they made any sense 2) were actually based on something other than air. And they don’t seem to be.

      • Given how people have ended up dead thanks to some of the riots Sharpton’s been involved in (Crown Heights, Freddie’s Fashion Mart), it seems plausible to me.

      • If the witness’s statements aren’t supported, their inadmissability is obvious. We don’t know, though, whether the statements are supported. you seem to be leaping to a conclusion that we don’t have evidence for.

        I deny that everything is made relevant from my argument. Can you explain the logic behind that?

        • Here is what I meant: If the claim is that the Witness might be able to substantiate an event that Zimmerman denies, and thus impeach his credibility, then any unsubstantiated accusation of anything–cross0-dressing, bestiality, membership in the Nazi Party meets that low bar. It might be total bullshit, or it might be a way to catch Zimmerman in a lie. What couldn’t be called “relevant” under such a low standard?

          • I may not have been clear. I didn’t mean to suggest using the incident to generally impeach Zimmerman’s credibility on the stand. My thought is that his experience in a similar situation could change how his actions during this situation would be viewed. In response to “Do you think he could do X in weird situation Y on short notice?” Instead of an obvious no, it becomes a plausible yes. It shuts down one possible line of defense. Is that clearer? The accusations of molestation are likely to be more prejudicial than useful in general, but if Zimmerman’s defense claims his behavior is more credible based on his unfamiliarity with the situation, the accusations may cross the bar into validity.

            The miscommunication makes your argument moot, but there is a piece of it I still want to call out. You, again, are assuming the accusations are not substantiated. That looks inappropriate to me. If the allegations are substantiated and Zimmerman denies them, then they would go just as much to his general credibility as lies about non prejudicial conduct.

            • Thanks, that helps. As to the substantiated issue: The allegation that is prejudicial without relevance is subtantiatable; the vague one about the kinds of blacks Zimmerman “likes” is not.

            • Regardless if he did what witness 9 says he did or not, how exactly does it pertain to the Murder 2 charge against him? This claim comes from his childhood and adolescence yet there are no other supporting incidents since then that have been made public. Your point seems to be that this would impeach his character more than anything else. I don’t think the reactionary argument goes very far as he was not interviewed by the police at the time this incident took place. This is simply an accusation, and the truth of it could be complete or somewhere between inappropriate child experimentation and character assassination. I would have hoped before even seeking admission to evidence it would have been vetted and at least partially substantiated, if not it is very prejudicial.

  3. I think the release of these records is just a result of Florida’s famed “sunshine laws”, where most government records are made public, unless there is an overwhelmingly compelling reason not to release them. As interest in this case is high, I’m sure they are getting requests from many organizations on both sides of the issue to release evidence so it can be examined.

  4. You should remove the insinuation that Angela Corey “was trying to violate Florida’s Rule 4-3.6 on trial publicity”.

    Sure, she is the kind of prosecutor who, if she had been in charge of prosecuting Jerry Sandusky, would have resulted in Sandusky being Penn State’s Head Coach Emeritus, with the Board of Trustees ordering up a gold statue of him to install next to Joe Paterno’s statue. But it is clear that she opposed this release of information.

    • I will, Michael. I sometimes leave errors like that in that the thread corrects, but I’ll flag it.
      Of course, she’s already violated the trial publicity rule, and I am a liiiitle dubious about the throw-away line in one article that says she did oppose it. No, I don’t trust her, and I don’t trust press accounts in this story.

  5. Correction, Jack. The technical term for testimony like this is not “garbage”. The technical term for testimony like this is “horse manure”.

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