As the closing arguments are being delivered in the Zimmerman trial, Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School takes a look at the Prosecutor’s case so far. He asserts in his most recent take on the case that the prosecution made THE mistake in the trial when it “introduced in its own case the several audio and video statements made by George Zimmerman to the police after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin” and therefore the prosecutor “allow[ed] Zimmerman’s statements to be heard by the jury, and his demeanor seen by the jury, without being able to confront and cross-examine him in court.” What do you think – will this blunder cost the prosecutor a victory?
Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School continues to cover the Zimmerman trial. This time he focuses on the judge’s instruction to the jury to disregard a witness’ testimony that Zimmerman had testified truthfully. As often occurs during trials, statements that should have not been made are made, and the jury hears them. The judge then follows with a simple instruction that tells the jury to “disregard the statement.”
However, Prof. Gershman asks, “Are juries capable or willing to follow such instructions?” In fact, as he points out, it isn’t just that something improper was said but also that it was followed by the explicit instruction to disregard that something. This instruction makes it even more difficult for the jury to, as Prof. Gershman puts it, “un-ring the bell.”
What do you think? Will the jury in Zimmerman trial be able to disregard the witness’ statement about Mr. Zimmerman testifying truthfully? But more generally, does a judge’s instruction to disregard evidence make it harder for the jury to disregard it?
In his most recent Huffington Post blog post titled Overcharging George Zimmerman With Murder, Prof. Bennett L. Gershman of Pace Law School analyzes the implications of prosecutors charging defendants with crimes “that cannot reasonably be supported by the evidence.” He points out the extraordinary discretionary power prosecutor possesses and the potential for abuse this power can lead to. Prof. Gershman takes the Florida George Zimmerman case in which the defendant was charged with second degree murder and demonstrates the considerations and the decision process the prosecutor engages in when charging a defendant.
What do you think – did the prosecutor in the Zimmerman case overcharge to create leverage for plea bargain, was it a trial tactic, or was she pressured by public?