Women will play a critical role in the murder trial of George Zimmerman. From the judge, special prosecutor, jurors, Travyon’s girlfriend identified only as witness number 8 and the quiet presence of Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, women will have a major impact on the outcome of this case. Beginning with Governor Rick Scott’s appointment of Special Prosecutor Angela Corey, women have been at the helm of this case.
Republican Governor Rick Scott assigned the case to Angela Corey to investigate last year after no immediate charges were filed against George Zimmerman. Her team of lawyers conducted a thorough investigation. It was due to her diligent efforts and those of her office that second degree murder charges were finally filed. And thus, the case against George Zimmerman began through the efforts of an aggressive yet compassionate woman.
State Prosecutor Angela Corey is known for being an advocate for victims and an aggressive prosecutor. She has often been criticized for her aggressiveness. According to sources, she has tried more than 50 homicides which is an extraordinary amount. She assigned two veteran prosecutors, Bernie de la Rionda and John Guy to the Zimmerman case. She is still the captain of the ship. Through the investigative efforts led by Angela Corey, the prosecution discovered that Zimmerman’s defense lied about his sources of income at his initial bail hearing. Due to Corey’s tenacious efforts, Zimmerman was hauled back into court and ordered to jail, after initially being placed on bail. He was later released on a much higher bail due to the findings of her investigation.
After numerous judges were removed at the defendant’s requests for various reasons, Judge Debra Nelson is now the presiding judge over the case. And she has shown that she’s a no-nonsense, hardworking and thorough judge. She has repeatedly denied the defense’s requests to further delay the trial beyond the June 10 trial date. Judge Nelson has also repeatedly denied the prosecution’s requests for a gag order. And she has ruled with a swift and stern hand on pre-trial issues in the case. Judge Nelson has so far denied the defense’s request to portray Trayvon Martin as an alleged gun wielding, school missing, fighting thug through social media photos and phone texts, as having no bearing on the issues in the case. Judge Nelson heard continued motions on the Saturday before the start of the trial. Holding court in session on Saturday is rare for any judge to do. Court is rarely held on Saturdays. Most judges would have deferred the hearing until Monday rather than continue on Saturday. Judge Nelson is not an ordinary judge.
And perhaps the most crucial women will be the women jurors sitting on the case. Both sides are focused on the jurors deemed best to decide the case. Often times, older white men are considered more conservative and better jurors for the prosecution’s side in a murder case. But this case is different. They may actually be better for the defense. The killing of an unarmed 17 year old African American teenager may evoke the sympathies of women who are mothers, sisters or aunts who have sons, brothers or nephews. While sympathy is not to be considered as a factor in ever deciding or reaching a verdict, jurors still do not set aside their feelings once inside the court room. While the make- up of the jurors is not yet known, women jurors would probably be more likely to support the state’s case against Zimmerman. There are many factors that go into selecting jurors such as the questions that are answered on the jury questionnaire, occupation, age, education, race and perceived bias-one way or another. Gender is but one factor that may have a huge impact on the outcome.
A young woman who is being identified as witness no. 8 is the person who was talking to Trayvon Martin on his cell phone as he was being followed by George Zimmerman. Trayvon told her that he was being followed. Moments before the call dropped, she recalls hearing Trayvon ask Zimmerman why was he following him. She will be one of the most important witnesses to watch.
And lastly the quiet presence of Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, in the court room each day will speak volumes. A picture is worth a thousand words. Perhaps, the woman with the most words will be the one who will not speak during the trial. A mother in the court room grieving the loss of her teenage son will speak volumes.
No matter what the outcome, women will play a vital role in the George Zimmerman trial.
Debbie Hines is a practicing trial lawyer and former prosecutor who frequently appears in the media as a legal commentator addressing legal issues at the intersection of gender and race in crime.