George Zimmerman, right, stands up at the defense table with his attorneys, Mark O’Mara, left, and Don West, center, as he is identified by state witness Doris Singleton, a Sanford police officer, during her testimony in Zimmerman’s trial in Seminole circuit court, in Sanford, Fla., Monday, July 1, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)
The prosecution may rest on Friday and the million dollar question is whether George Zimmerman will testify or not. The answer is simple: He would be a fool to do so.
There are very few reasons for Zimmerman to testify in this trial. For one, he has had his statements entered into evidence through various witnesses and sources. Also, the prosecution played multiple tapes, interviews and had testimony from Zimmerman’s best friend, Mark Osterman.
The statements provided Zimmerman’s versions of events, including his statements about fearing for his life and him stating he had to shoot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. Osterman testified to Zimmerman’s words the night of the murder.
Although this evidence may be well utilized to show inconsistencies in the versions of stories for Zimmerman, he has made conflicting statements, such as Trayvon reached for the gun and Trayvon grabbed the gun. Another inconsistent statement Zimmerman made is that Trayvon circled him in the car making threats. However, that was not heard while Zimmerman was on the phone with the non-emergency operator.
Another inconsistency is Zimmerman stated he was looking for an address to tell the 911 operator and that he was not chasing or following Martin, even though there was an address very close to where Zimmerman was standing when he made the 911 call. Moreover, Zimmerman had a flashlight to help him see.
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Inconsistencies like these are critical in assisting a jury make a determination in believing Zimmerman’s account or not. In a self-defense case, the believability and plausibility of the defendant’s version of accounts is fundamental to whether he is found not guilty.
Without cross-examination, the prosecution cannot directly ask Zimmerman about the differences in versions he has given, the believability of his story, and the motives that he may have had to lie. With Zimmerman’s statements made on direct examination, he would be asked questions to check for contradictions in his stories to show he had reasons to lie about the incident to save himself from conviction.
When a jury considers the testimony of a witness, they may look at various things to determine the weight of the evidence. There are many factors they are allowed to consider, including the person’s motive, bias, possible gain, and relationship to the defendant or personal interest in a verdict.
Zimmerman would obviously have a bias in testimony because if he is convicted, he will serve prison time. The witnesses, such as his best friend, Osterman, definitely have a bias because he does not want his friend to go to prison. Perhaps the jury will consider those biases not only if Zimmerman testifies, but in reference to his videotaped statements as well.
This trial has had many interesting twists and turns and we cannot wait to see what evidence Zimmerman’s trial team will present in his defense.
Eric L. Welch Guster is founder and managing attorney of Guster Law Firm in Birmingham, Ala., handling criminal and civil matters, catastrophic injuries, criminal defense, and civil rights litigation. Mr. Guster has become a go-to lawyer for the New York Times, NewsOne, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Black America Web, and various radio programs about various court issues and high-profile cases.