John Fund writes in The National Review, Injudicious Criminal Justice in Florida
The prosecutorial misconduct in Zimmerman’s trial reveals a judicial system run amok:
Recall that the investigation of Trayvon Martin’s shooting was taken out of the hands of local authorities and placed with an appointed special prosecutor named Angela Corey. She said her job was to rise above public pressure to indict Zimmerman, but within weeks she claimed her job was “to do justice for Trayvon Martin.” She quickly decided to charge Zimmerman with second-degree murder, a charge that may have satisfied public opinion but which required her to prove that the former Neighborhood Watch volunteer harbored ill will and spite against Trayvon Martin, whom he had never met until minutes before the shooting.
The Florida Bar’s rules state that the government’s attorneys shall “refrain from prosecuting a charge that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause . . . [and] make timely disclosure to the defense of all evidence or information known to the prosecutor that tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense.”
Angela Corey flagrantly violated those standards. Her prosecutors waited months before giving the defense photos showing the extent of George Zimmerman’s injuries the night of the shooting. Ben Kruidbos, the information-technology director for the state attorney’s office, was shocked when he learned that prosecutors hadn’t turned over to the defense evidence of photos and text messages that Kruidbos had recovered from Martin’s cell phone. The photos included images of a pile of jewelry on a bed, underage nude females, marijuana, and a hand menacingly holding a semiautomatic weapon.
Kruidbos feared he would put his job in jeopardy if he came forward with this information, but he also was concerned about a possible miscarriage of justice, so he directed his attorneys to alert Zimmerman’s defense team about the withheld evidence. He turned over the photos in late May, and the state placed Kruidbos on administrative leave until this past Friday, the day the Zimmerman case went to the jury. That morning, according to the Florida Times-Union, he received a hand-delivered letter from Corey informing him that he was fired and that he “can never again be trusted to step foot in this office.” The treatment he received for telling the defense about government misconduct will discourage others from becoming whistleblowers.
In addition, Corey’s deputies interviewed key witnesses with Trayvon Martin’s family present. Jonathan Turley, a self-proclaimed liberal and a law professor at George Washington University, called such behavior “a highly unusual and improper practice.”
Some have criticized the judge for questioning Zimnmerman about his decision to testify but this judge explains why he supports her action:
from Glenn Harlan Reynolds’ Instapundit:
A COMMENT FROM JUDGE ROBERT STEIGMANN:
Conservative commentators (like Mark Levin) and bloggers are completely wrong to criticize the trial judge in the Zimmerman case for questioning the defendant to ensure his decision not to testify is knowingly made. Here’s why.
A defendant’s decision whether to testify is personal to him, just like his decisions whether (1) to plead guilty or not guilty and (2) to have a jury trial or a bench trial. His attorney can and should advise him about his decision to testify, but that decision remains the defendant’s to make.
Many cases have arisen in which convicted defendants have filed postconviction petitions claiming their rights were violated because they wanted to testify and their attorneys wouldn’t let them. Similarly, many other cases have arisen in which convicted defendants claim that they never wanted to testify but their lawyers forced them to. An often troubling aspect of these cases is that what the defendants allege is true because their lawyers, out of ignorance, did not know that the decision about testifying is personal to the defendant.
As a judge on the Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court, I wrote a decision 14 years ago urging trial judges to make a record regarding a defendant’s decision to testify precisely as the trial judge did with George Zimmerman, which, of course, must take place out of the presence of the jury. (See People v. Frieberg, 305 Ill. App. 3d 840, 852, 238 Ill. Dec. 964, 973, 713 N.E.2d 210, 219 (4th Dist. 1999).) I’m gratified to report that trial judges throughout Illinois are following my advice and admonishing defendants accordingly.
This case is a shallow victory and the tragedy remains. It is a cold reminder to those of us who carry guns to understand that the empowerment you have should not replace the judgement to avoid violence when you can.
I am no lawyer, but I have a problem knowing that when acquitted that he could still face civil prosecution. It seems like double jeopardy, no matter how it is explained. Recall that OJ Simpson was also tried and convicted on civil charges after he was acquitted of his wife’s murder. I also had a problem then.