Dershowitz: Fire Prosecutor in Trayvon Martin Case

Friday, 04 May 2012 04:49 PM

By Martin Gould and Kathleen Walter

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The special prosecutor in charge of trying Trayvon Martin’s killer should be fired from the case because she has made it clear that her priority is to “get” George Zimmerman, says leading appeals case lawyer Alan Dershowitz in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott should never have appointed Angela Corey to the racially sensitive case in the first place, added the Harvard law professor.

“She has a terrible reputation in Florida for over-charging and being political and holding her finger to the wind and seeing which way the wind is blowing,” said Dershowitz, who has been an outspoken critic of the handling of the case.

See our exclusive interview below. Story continues below video.




And Corey has already made missteps in her handling of Zimmerman’s prosecution, Dershowitz charged.

“This prosecutor says she is here to do justice for Trayvon Martin and that is not the job of a prosecutor. The job of a prosecutor is to do justice period, to let the chips fall where they may, and even to resolve doubts in favor of the defendant.

“Remember, it’s only the defendant who is on trial.”

Dershowitz was speaking as the sensational case took another new twist with the Orlando Sentinel reporting Friday that Zimmerman now claims that Martin “circled” his vehicle while he was phoning police. An unnamed source said that Zimmerman said he rolled up his window because he was unnerved by the teen’s behavior.

The source also said police have doubts about Zimmerman’s story because of inconsistencies which include a claim that during a struggle Martin had his hand over the neighborhood watch captain’s mouth.

“Authorities do not believe that happened,” the Sentinel quotes the source as saying. “On one 911 call, someone can be heard screaming for help. If it were Zimmerman, as he claims, his cries were not muffled.”

To read Dershowitz's analysis of polo magnate John Goodman's manslaughter case, click here. 

Dershowitz said the evidence that Corey has presented does not justify a charge of second-degree murder, and he does not believe a jury will find Zimmerman guilty of that charge. “The issue is whether or not there will be a verdict of either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter or a verdict of acquittal,” he said, drawing parallels with last year’s trial of Casey Anthony, who was charged in the murder of her daughter.

“In the Casey Anthony case, the Florida prosecutor made the same mistake this prosecutor made – over-charged, charged murder. The jurors looked around and said I don’t see the evidence, so they acquitted completely. There is a risk that there will be an acquittal in this case even if there is some justification for a conviction if the charge is too great.”

Dershowitz said he worries that the case could lead to civil unrest because of its racial undertones. “My fear is that the prosecutor has raised expectations and if you raise expectations and then the jury lowers the expectations, that has the ingredient for a potential riot.

“The prosecutor has acted irresponsibly by charging second-degree murder in a case where the evidence just doesn’t seem to support that verdict.”

But he said that jurors must be careful not to be influenced by the potential for violence when they consider the verdict, and that is why he favors a change of venue from Seminole County, where Martin was killed on Feb. 26.

“There cannot be justice for Zimmerman in any of the county where this case took place. It has to be moved to somewhere where the jurors will feel that they could come to either verdict without having to worry about their safety or the safety of their family.

“Right now if a juror were to vote for an acquittal they would have to be concerned about what the implications would be. Would the New Black Panther Party put out a bounty on their lives? Would their families’ safety be influenced? It is very important that jurors feel free to come to whatever verdict is the just one.

“You can’t have a criminal justice system held hostage to the mob,” he said. “There was a very scary article in the Daily Beast recently where some lawyer urged the defense lawyer in the Zimmerman case to please plead his client guilty to avoid riots. You just can’t deal with situations that way.

“A defense attorney’s job is to get his client the best possible verdict he can. The justice system simply cannot be influenced by outside mobs and outside pressures.

“The Supreme Court has held that repeatedly. Most of the cases in which they have held up, the pressures have been against black defendants in the segregated South in the 1930s and 1940s, but the same principles apply here too. You can’t worry that there might be Rodney King-type demonstrations or riots and let that influence your verdict.”

Dershowitz said the Zimmerman case should not center on race, but on Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law. “It’s a subtle case. It’s not obvious what the result should be. It’s very fact-driven and fact-specific and people shouldn’t be rooting for an outcome before all the facts are known. They should be rooting for justice.”

He said it is time for the Stand Your Ground law – which he called “far too broad” – to be re-examined.

“Assume I’m driving the sort of fancy car that can go from 0 to 60 in two seconds and somebody comes up to my window with a knife. I have two options, I can take my gun out and kill him or I can put my foot on the gas and escape. Under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, you can pull out your gun and kill him because that’s the macho, manly thing to do.

“But most reasonable people would think that in a situation like that, you should put your foot on the gas and run away and not take a human life.”

He also said it is good that the case has focused attention on gun laws, claiming that most law enforcement officials oppose laws that allow weapons to be sold in flea markets without background checks.

“We have seen a clash between a lobby on the one hand, the National Rifle Association, which represents gun sellers, manufacturers and gun owners and users, and on the other hand, people concerned about law enforcement.

“There is a right under the Constitution, under the Second Amendment, to have guns for self-defense and for family protection and presumably for hunting, but reasonable regulations of such guns are the essence of a free society.”  

Comments from Dershowitz on other topics are in the video, below.


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