The man who got Zimmerman off: Don West‘s defense strategy and the prosecution’s mistakes that helped him to victory
By Daily Mail Reporter PUBLISHED:, 14 July 2013
Even on the very first day, George Zimmerman’s defense attorney shocked many by starting the controversial murder trial breaking into a knock knock joke.
Though the unusual move left a jarring first impression for the thousands watching the trial online, many in the Florida legal community already very familiar with attorney Don West.
He is known for his experience dealing with high-profile murder cases, including some of the most notorious killers the Sunshine State has ever seen.
One of his biggest victories in the past came in 1998 when he argued that a motorcycle gang member named Joseph ‘Crazy Joe‘ Spaziano should avoid death row after he was convicted of raping and murdering a teenager.
He has been selected as one of the state’s Super Lawyers (by the magazine of the same title) four of the last seven years.
Mr West has served as the head of such groups like the Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
His familiarity with Florida law- which comes from his thirty years of experience working in Orlando- will certainly be a bonus in the case as the state’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws are expected to come into play in the trial.
A couple of weeks ago, eyebrows were raised after an Instagram photo was posted by Don West’s daughter.
The photo shows his daughter Molly holding up ice cream cones.
The caption reads ‘We beat stupidity celebration cones’ and ‘#dadkilledit.’
The prosecution motion said the photo was posted after West’s often tense cross-examination with prosecution witness Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin in the moments before he was fatally shot by Zimmerman during a fight.
Prosecutors said an inquiry is necessary ‘to ensure that witnesses and court proceedings are treated with respect and not as occasions for inappropriate jokes’.
But spokesman Shawn Vincent released a statement saying West’s daughter wasn’t responding to a specific witness.
‘The defense team is highly sensitive to the issues that surround this case, and we understand that the way we conduct ourselves during trial is at least as important as the verdict,’ the statement said.
‘And Molly’s comments on Instagram are contrary to everything we stand for.’
When West was asked about the photo during a break in proceedings, he confirmed that he had taken it on his camera phone and he was ‘doing something he does almost every day, an old tradition with his daughters’.Mr Vincent added that the defense attorney had no idea his daughter had put the picture, which was taken on the opening day of the trial on Monday, on Instagram.
In a statement Mr West said: ‘As a parent, we’re not always proud of things our children do, but we love them anyway, and then we move on.’
During three weeks of testimony, state prosecutors called 38 people to the stand to paint Zimmerman as a spiteful, frustrated man who profiled and killed an unarmed teenager.
Defense attorneys countered by calling 18 witnesses — but not Zimmerman — to explain that Zimmerman feared for his life and was being pummeled by Trayvon Martin.
When the fatal gunshot was fired in the dark, nobody was close enough to see what happened — other than Zimmerman and Trayvon.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors tried to shine some light on that night and show jurors what they believe happened, but most experts think there were few concrete answers in the testimony.
Defense attorneys have maintained that Zimmerman was in fear for his life when he shot Trayvon Martin. Throughout the trial they painted Zimmerman as a hardworking, quiet, calm man who started a neighborhood watch group to help his community.
Prosecutors worked hard to convince the jury that Zimmerman wasn’t fighting for his life and was in fact shooting an unarmed teenager. In his rebuttal Friday, Assistant State Attorney John Guy put up a split screen of pictures: Trayvon’s dead body on the grass and the bloody head of George Zimmerman after the shooting.
While Zimmerman was on the phone with a police dispatcher, he began following Trayvon. Soon after, the dispatcher told Zimmerman it was not necessary for him to pursue the teen.
The prosecution’s most important witness may have been Rachel Jeantel, 19, a young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon moments before he died.
Jeantel said Zimmerman stared at and then followed Trayvon, who tried several times to run away.
Trayvon was out of breath, she said. ‘It was kind of strange that a person kept watching and following,’ she said. ‘It was like being stalked.’
Jurors, the judge and defense attorney Don West, however, had a hard time understanding Jeantel as she spoke. It hurt her credibility.
‘Jurors struggled and struggled and then they got to the point where they disengaged,’ said Susan Constantine, a jury consultant and body language expert who was in court during Jeantel’s testimony.
Another pivotol momenent in the case came when a 911 call recorded screams and the fatal gunshot moments before the shooting. Who was screaming is a critical question before the jury.
The defense called nine people, including both of Zimmerman’s parents, to testify that the screams belonged to Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, Sr., was the last to testify that the voice heard screaming on a 911 call was George Zimmerman. ‘It’s my son,’ he said.
The prosecution called both of Trayvon’s parents, who said their son was screaming moments before he was shot.
Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s dad, testified he listened to the 911 call at least 20 times at the Sanford mayor’s office. After that, he said, he was convinced the voice screaming was Trayvon’s.
‘I was listening to my son’s last cry for help,’ Tracy Martin said. ‘I was listening to his life being taken.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362844/The-man-got-Zimmerman-Don-West–prosecutions-failures-Trayvon-Martins-incoherent-girlfriend-deadlock-screams-heard-dramatic-911-call.html#ixzz2Z0LcM9wF
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