Zimmerman Bail Hearing: State Had Better Have More Than They Showed Us Here

And, of course they do. They don’t want to show all their cards here. They are anticipating the Main Event, which is not the actual trial, but the hearing on justifiable homicide, commonly known as the “Stand Your Ground” hearing. If the defense is successful with that affirmative defense, game over. So, while the prosecution did fight Zimmerman’s request for bail, it not fight so hard that it would have to show all of its evidence.

There were a few interesting aspects to this hearing, specifically:

(1) The fact that the motion for bail was granted might lead some believe that the prosecution will not be able to meet its burden of proof at trial by demonstrating Zimmerman’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It may surprise many to learn that, in Florida, the burden the prosecution must meet in a bail hearing is actually HIGHER than the burden at trial. From TalkLeft, the blog of criminal defense attorney Jeralyn E. Merritt:

In Florida, to establish that “proof of guilt is evident” and the “presumption is great,” the state’s burden is aptly described in the 2011 ruling in State v. Wyche:

It “is actually a greater degree of proof than that which is required to establish guilt merely to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt.” … Even when the prosecution’s evidence is sufficient to convict on a capital or life offense, but there is some doubt arising from other evidence, contradictions, or discrepancies, this exacting standard is not met and the accused is entitled to reasonable bail.

Thus a Florida defendant charged with a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment has a substantive constitutional entitlement to bail unless the prosecution can show that proof of his guilt is evident or presumption of his guilt great, i.e., unless the prosecution can, at a pretrial hearing, establish the defendant’s culpability to a standard higher even than that required for a sustainable conviction at trial. (my emphasis.)

So the grant of bail was unsurprising. The Florida constitution makes it practically mandatory in a case where the defendant has substantial ties to the community, no serious prior offenses, and who has turned himself in when requested to do so by law enforcement.

(2) Apparently some of the lynch mob that gathered in response to the fine efforts of Al Sharpton and other race hucksters are upset about the amount of the bail. Their outrage is unwarranted. The reason that the defense had Zimmerman’s parents testify about their limited means is because once it is determined that bail must be granted for the reasons stated in the previous paragraph, the amount must be within the means of the defendant.

(3) The defense decision to put George Zimmerman on the stand was quite risky, and I’m not sure it was justified. The statement he made to the family about his sorrow for their loss doesn’t justify the chance that he might say something that would bite him on the butt come the actual trial. His attorney was successful at limiting the scope of cross-examination, and nothing bad for the defense happened, so I guess Mr. O’Mara knows what he’s doing.

(4) Speaking of that, Mr. O’Mara got Dale Gilbreath, one of the state’s investigators to admit, that despite the very declarative and pointed wording of the probable cause affidavit, the state has no evidence about who started the fight. He also admitted that there was no evidence that Zimmerman’s story of walking back to the car after following Trayvon Martin is not true. Obviously, these admissions are very significant.

(5) During their cross-examination of Zimmerman, the prosecutor Bernado De La Rionada mentioned that  Zimmerman had surrendered his phone to the police, and that they had copied its contents. He then asked some intriguing questions about that, alluding to text messages, specifically, whether Zimmerman had texted anything about a “reverend” or Trayvon’s father. It’s not clear when the phone was surrendered, but these questions were quite intriguing. Stay tuned.


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