On Friday, May 10th the prosecution in the case of State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman, filed 9 motions in court, in an attempt to shore up its case and prevent some evidence from being brought forth at trial. In a peremptory move the State filed the following “In limine”, which is Latin for “from the start” or in other words before the trial testimony in presented to the jury. I will be breaking them down; provide my analysis of what the purpose or the goal of each motion is, and what effects they will have at trial. These are my own opinions which will be based on my research and that of some people who are far more knowledgeable than I am. As we will see later, some of the motions the State filed are very common, with one caveat, it is usually the defense that would be the one to file them. The nine motions are as follows,click on links,for filings: Regarding Trayvon Martin Here the State is trying to suppress from the beginning any evidence or opinions about TM in particularly: · Had ever been suspended from school · Had ever used marijuana or talked about the use of marijuana · Had ever been in a fight(s) · Had posted anything on Social Media sites or his screen name(s) · Had a set of gold teeth · Any mention of his schools or his grades · Any texts he might have sent before Feb 26th · Any texts he sent on Feb 26th unless they can be tied to the incident and they are ruled admissible by the court The State is trying to hide any reference of TM’s actions prior to the incident. They want the jury to only consider their version of TM or in the abstract to hide TM personality. We know that TM is guilty of those offenses but the law does not allow prior bad acts unless they are felonies. In this case GZ is claiming self-defense as such; the Judge may allow some testimony that is relevant. Any history of violence, may be relevant, as well as drug use, since GZ is claiming that this was part of the reason for his calling the police, he thought TM was high. The issue of his suspension may be relevant as well as this was the reason TM was staying in Sanford, because of the suspension. Prediction; The law seems clear on prior bad acts, but it does give some lee-way in self-defense cases, I believe the Judge will rule on it as the issues come up. Prediction Denied State’s motion in limine regarding calling of witnesses The State has listed some witnesses that it may not call, and it wants to prevent the defense from stating that the reason for not calling in the witnesses is because the testimony is adverse to the prosecution. Some think this is in reference to Serino who was the lead investigator from the Sanford Police Department or other cops. It is also a possibility that this refers to the testimony of the FBI sound expert or one of the other sound experts whose reports are contrary to the findings on the third sound expert. The FBI determined that due to the quality and interference it could not determine who was screaming on the 911 tapes, the second sound expert, though admitting the problems and the marginality of the recording could only make a partial determination, but it determined that the lasts screams on the tape were more likely from GZ but definitely not from TM. To me this scenario seems likely as the defense is unlikely to call them to testify if the prosecution fails to have them appear. I believe the Judge will tell the defense that if there is a witness, they can call them to the stand themselves. Prediction- Granted Motion in limine regarding opinion as to appropriate penalty or disregard of law This motion is interesting as the State is concerned that the jurors would disregard the law and acquit if they find the sentence too harsh or just decide to nullify the verdict. The US 2nd Court of Appeals in 1997 has decided that jury nullification in “just cause” to return a verdict of not guilty. There is also a movement currently present in Florida that aims to instruct jurors on their right to nullify a law if they feel the State was abusing its power, for instance. What the State is concerned is that jurors could find GZ guilty as charged or some lesser included charge but that the sentence he would receive would be harsher punishment than what the jury feels that GZ deserves. Last year in April, 2012 a person was arrested for trying to impart pamphlets informing jurors of their rights to nullify a verdict. The Federal District Court in Southern Florida dismissed the indictment as the judge saw informing a juror was not jury tampering in any stretch of the meaning. Sentencing guidelines are not part of the normal jury instructions, and neither is anything related to jury nullification. I believe that if MOM wants special instructions that he must file a motion requesting the judge to add any other instruction. Standard Jury Instructions for Florida, (click for link) Prediction-Granted Motion for protective order/motion in limine regarding toxicology The State wants a protective order to suppress any mention of the marijuana traces found on TM on that night as the State says: “No witness has suggested that the level of marijuana reflected in the victim’s blood sample has any bearing whatsoever on the cause of his death. Nor is there any evidence to suggest the victim ingested the marijuana at or even near the time of death; that he was under the influence; or that being under the influence would in any way be relevant to the actions of either vict.” This is not entirely true, as GZ mentioned that he thought that TM was under the influence which might have been causing his unusual actions. This argument also fails to mention that as there are no witnesses on record, besides the ear-witness, that had observed TM, to say his actions were not impaired is not established it is only alleged by the prosecution. Prediction- Denied Motion in limine regarding self-serving hearsay statements of defendant The State wants to exclude self-serving statements; it is unclear to what the State is referring to. The thought is that the State considers the statement that GZ made such as “I was screaming for help, and no one came” as self-serving. That particular statement was an “excited utterance” which is a covered exemption to the Hearsay Rule. I believe that the State is referring to statements made on the Hannity Show, or any such comments made to family and friends. Prediction- Granted Motion to limit/exclude improper opinion evidence The State seeks to prevent the police or the previous State Attorney from providing their opinions as to why GZ was not charged, immediately after the event. They cite that in Florida “witnesses opinions” as to the guilt or innocence of the accused are not admissible. This motion again seems to be aimed at the law enforcement personnel and SA Wolfinger, to limit testimony for the lack of charges following the incident. Not sure what is the State trying to limit here, the release of GZ without charges are well-known, as are the reasons for that. The State might be trying to prevent or limit the scope of the testimony of SPD officers that there was not enough evidence for a charge, and that this was the consensus within the department and the local State’s Attorney office. Thereby preventing any testimony as to why they felt that way, and undermine the State’s case. The State might also be trying to prevent testimony that implies that there was undue pressure on the police to make an arrest against their determination from outside parties. The police only have the power to arrest, which they did, at which time the evidence gathered that night did not prove sufficient to hold GZ at which time he was released. Only the State’s Attorney can charge a person with a crime, which they could have done if they felt that the police was wrong in their assessment. That neither felt the evidence warranted an arrest should be admissible. I think the State knows this but wants to limit the discussion. The SPD and SA are not just ordinary witnesses, it is their duty to opine how the law applies and to make determinations based on that, personal opinions aside, testimony should be allowed. Prediction-Denied Motion in limine regarding prior criminal history The State seeks to suppress GZ lack of criminal history, as mentioning this is an improper way to introduce character or reputation evidence. This is a change from the prosecution which for many hearings would bring up GZ’s prior arrest, as proof of both criminal past and violent nature. Introducing this at trial could open the window for testimony about TM’s own criminal activities. It could also open the door for GZ to introduce further rebuttal testimony about his general character and reputation, to contrast that of TM. Not mentioning GZ past arrest is a minor concession but it has big dividends for the State as it keeps the Defense from introducing both evidence damaging to TM regarding his general character, but it also prevents good character references from being introduced this way by the Defense. Prediction-Granted Motion to Compel Discovery The State wants the Defense discovery turned in. This motion is very broad and non-specific, the State would need something more specific for the Judge to rule on. Prediction-Denied State’s Response to Evidentiary Hearing Request The State does not want a Frye Hearing conducted regarding the voice experts. The State contends that a Frye hearing is not needed as the experts used accepted methodology to come their conclusions. The techniques are not new or novel; as such no hearing is needed. This is not accurate as Frye hearings are sometimes used in cases where accepted techniques are used in unusual circumstances. The 911 recording with the screams is one of those special circumstances, as the voices trying to be identified are from a low quality recording from a cell phone conversation, interspersed by ambient noise, the 911 caller, the 911 operator and a TV on the background. In addition the results the 3 State’s experts, the FBI, Harnsberger/Hollien, and Alan R. Reich are contradictory, and inconclusive. Prediction-Denied Final tally 5 granted, 4 denied.
In conclusion, the motions make clear that the State is well aware of
Trayvon Martin’s past drug use, criminal activity, school issues, lack of
violent history from George Zimmerman, and most important of all, that
the events as described by GZ are more that probable. In order to
counter these facts, the State is trying to paint a completely different
picture of Trayvon Martin, hiding his activities during that day and in
his past. The State is doing this, while at the same time denying the
defense’s ability to put up a defense. The State is trying to prevent the
Defense from rectifying the record, regarding both GZ and TM, giving
the jury an inaccurate picture on which to determine the guilt or
innocence of GZ. This is a shameful abuse of state power, it is my
earnest hope that they fail. Trial is set to begin June 10th.