Last night saw an extraordinary confrontation between the defense and the court in the George Zimmerman trial. The defense is seeking to use photos and material from the phone of Martin. The most serious issue is that the defense claims that the government had this material since January and only recently gave it to the defense — another allegation of withholding evidence by the prosecution. The judge and the lawyers are clearly exhausted and I think the schedule is a bit too punishing. I realize that the jury is sequestered and want to go home. However, these days are diminishing the professional ability and clearly the personal restraint of the judge and lawyers alike. While I do not think that the defense should get a few days to rest, I do think that schedule has been unnecessarily demanding and even a few hours of more rest would be in order. I realize the jurors and courts have limited time but I have never agreed with the punishing schedule of many trials. However, I am more concerned with the delay in turning over this evidence until June.
The defense has a valid objection that they are being denied evidence due to the failure of the prosecution to turn over the evidence in a timely manner — to allow for authentication. Judge Debra Nelson clearly does not want to acknowledge the allegation of prosecutorial abuse and then refuses to deal with the objection that the attorneys are exhausted. I think the defense has a valid objection on both the misconduct and the schedule. However, Nelson just walks out on the defense and says that she will deal, not with the allegation of misconduct, but an alleged defense sequestration violation.
Defense attorney, Don West, objects that “I’m not physically able to keep up this pace much longer” as the judge walks out.
The judge has barred the use of a simulation of the scene. However, there are also those text messages on Martin’s phone where he refers to fighting. The prosecution has been able to introduce past comments from Zimmerman, but the court has barred the use of comments from Martin. In this case, she insisted that there was no authentication that it was Martin but the defense noted that they were denied the opportunity to authenticate by the prosecution.
I think most of the rulings in the case have been fair, though I have reservations about some of the excluded evidence and serious reservations about the failure to address the claims of withholding evidence. Judges regularly avoid dealing with such claims in trials, which only encourages prosecutors to game the system by holding on to evidence as long as possible before a trial.