This week’s legal round-up had some drama, some truth and a few lies, too. Starting with the drama, the John Edwards trial ended with a not guilty on one count and a hung jury on the remaining counts. However, just like the trial, the jury deliberations had its fair share of drama too. First, the jury alternates began to wear color coordinated clothes. And the judge had to privately remind them to refrain from discussing the case in “cliques” outside of jury service. Then when the foreperson announced the jury had a verdict on all counts, they did not have one. And they were sent back for more deliberations. Finally, they came out with the one count not-guilty and a mistrial as to the remaining counts. The names of the jurors will not be released for another week to the media. Of course, that will not prevent the jurors from contacting the media, if they choose to do so. I expect we will hear more about the jury room drama in the upcoming week.
Now for the lies. Apparently George Zimmerman lied not once but at least twice to the Judge during his bail review. He and his attorney made it seem as if he was a indigent pauper with no funds. As it turns out, he had at least $200,000 from funds raised online at the time of the bail review and his parents own a home in the gated community where Trayvon Martin was killed. I remember his lawyer saying that his client was not able to readily come up with the $15,000 needed for bail because he was a man of little means. He could have posted a cash bail at the time of his hearing. His bail was set at $150,000.00 based on his limited financial means.
But the plot thickens. Zimmerman was told to turn in his passport as is customary in these types of cases. What is not customary is that Zimmerman had two passports. The Seminole county jail recorded a conversation between Zimmerman and his wife. She reminded him that he had a second passport in a safe deposit box. The one he turned in was reported as stolen in 2004 and expired in May, 2012. The remaining one which allegedly replaced the stolen one expired in 2014. And Zimmerman will not now be able to use the passport because the state prosecutor alerted the authorities before they filed the motion to revoke his bail. The Trayvon Martin’s family team of lawyers must be commended along with the prosecutors who asked for $1 million bail. Martin’s family lawyers urged the prosecutor to look into the finances due to the web site that had requested funds for his defense. Zimmerman has 48 hours to turn himself in, now that his bail has been revoked. The Trayvon Martin prosecution case just got stronger. It rests on the credibility of Zimmerman and he’s been found out by the Judge to be a liar.
And now maybe the prosecution will charge Shelly Zimmerman with obstruction of justice for aiding and abetting her husband in his scheme to withhold and lie about known information concerning his passport and financial situation to procure a low bail. One the day before the hearing , she had access to $135,000. Perhaps, she can join her husband in jail.
As for the truth, a federal appeals judge struck down Florida’s voter suppression law stating that it does not protect the vote but suppresses it. The League of Women voters for the first time had declined to register voters in Florida as a result of the new law. And they were proven right as the appeals judge noted the law placed an unfair burden on groups attempting to register voters. Now these voter registration groups can do what they do best—register voters without undue impediment from the State of Florida.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal /political commentator appearing in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.