Judge Orders Release of George Zimmerman's Statements to Police
The Judge in the George Zimmerman case has ruled that George Zimmerman's police interviews and statements are not confessions because they contain no admission of guilt and therefore must be supplied to the media within 15 days. A copy of the order is here. It states:
Upon an in camera review of the Defendant's statements, they do not qualify as confessions, as the Defendant does not acknowledge guilt of the essential elements of the crime. The only element conceded by the Defendant is that he shot and killed the victim, but he does not concede any other elements of second-degree murder. Fla. Stat. §119.071(2)(e) does not exempt the statements from the public record. Since the Defendant admitted at his bond hearing that he shot the victim, disclosure of those statements will not impact the Defendant's right to a fair trial.
Does this include the video of his walk-through at the shooting scene the day after the shooting?
Also to be disclosed: all crime scene photos and the full autopsy report. Only photos showing the body of Trayvon Martin will be withheld.
The names and addresses of witnesses will be redacted, except for those who voluntarily went on TV or other media. The order doesn't say the redaction only applies to those who disclosed their identities on TV. It could be an oversight or the Judge may believe anonymity on TV is no shield.
These findings apply only to previously unidentified witnesses. The media interveners may provide to the parties the name of any person who has voluntarily appeared or given a statement in a media outlet, including the time and date of the appearance or interview. The State shall, within fifteen days, provide the person's full identity as required by Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.220 and shall identify which statement in evidence was provided by that person. The State shall satisfy this burden by tiling a Notice of Supplemental Discovery in the Court file.
This requirement would not apply to witnesses who were filmed from afar on the night of the incident while speaking with law enforcement. The above limitations apply also to audio or video recorded statements. The State may remove the speaker's name and address from the copy of the recording.
Witness #9's uncorroborated accusation of some past act of Zimmerman's that she believes shows his racial animus will be provided. Her identity will not be provided. That doesn't seem fair. The state says it was unable to corroborate her information. She clearly has some agenda (she called in on Feb. 28, 2 days after the shooting, and spoke with Inv. Perkins. While the call is not date-stamped, Inv. Serino provides the date on page 6 of his 13 page report dated 3/13/12.) It's obvious from listening to the call who she is. If she's not going to be a witness and she's smearing the defendant, I don't see why her identity is being withheld.
The "test results" (voice stress test which Zimmerman passed) will be disclosed. (The order states the parties wanted it sealed, but I think only the state to seal it on the grounds it wasn't clear it would be admissible, which as the judge and media noted, is not the test.) Was this request just an attempt by the state to shield items that might favor the defense from public view?
Also unclear (the Judge's style of writing renders his orders difficult to comprehend: Cell phone records. He never mentions Dee Dee or Trayvon's records. George Zimmerman's cell phone records to Sanford Police emergency or 911 the night of Feb 26 will be released. His later cell phone records will not be.
CELL PHONE RECORDS: The Court has not been provided basis to find that the Defendant's cell phone records are relevant or should even be considered evidence. The persons contacted by the Defendant in the days surrounding the incident should not be connected to the case merely because their telephone numbers appear on the Defendant's bill.
The State shall provide a list of dates and times that the Defendant contacted the Sanford Police Department, either on its non-emergency line or via 911. All other cell phone records should be exempt.
What about his text messages after the day of the shooting? The judge doesn't say.
In the state's motion for protective order which the court denied on June 1, the state asked to seal:
Cell phone records of the Victim, the witness identified in Redacted Discovery Reply as W8, and the Defendant. The telephone records would identify witness W8, the Victim's parents, and other innocent people whose telephone numbers are listed in said records. Additionally, the dissemination of such information would subject all of them to potential harassment and concerns for their safety. See Section 119.071 (S)(d) and cases already cied.
I assume that means DeeDee and Trayvon's cell phone records won't be released but he didn't say so. According to the media lawyer, the court can redact only the name and address of the subscriber, which would be DeeDee or Trayvon, not the numbers of those they called or got calls from. Cell phone records don't have the names of the person called or calling in, just the city and phone numbers. Couldn't the numbers be partially redacted, leaving the date, city, time and length of call and say last four digits of the phone number? DeeDee's calls in particular seem to me to be relevant both the night of the shooting and after, when she was in contact with the Martin family and Team Crump, and do Trayvon's calls the day and night of the shooting.
The state acknowledged in its Redacted List of Discovery Exhibits it has:
- Cell phone records ---Victim (11/1/11- 3/1/12) (CD)
- Cell phone records ---W8 (DeeDee) (2/26/12- 4/2/12) (CD)
What about Zimmerman's medical records. They were described in the discovery provided but not released as far as I know:
Medical records- Altamonte Family Practice --Defendant 2/27112
Another unknown: On the jail calls, the Judge rules that transcripts of those calls the state has transcribed have to be turned over but the state doesn't have to make transcripts of the other calls.
RECORDED TELEPHONE CALLS FROM The JAIL;
The State cited to excerpts of conversations held between the Defendant and his wife, Shelly Zimmerman. which were recorded while the Defendant was incarcerated at the jail To the extent that those particular conversations have already been transcribed, the transcripts should be released. The State is under no obligation to transcribe any additional transcripts. If there are any confessions by the Defendant in those statements, as defined above, the State shall provide the transcripts to the Court for an in camera review. The transcripts should be provided within fifteen days of this order.
But the state supplied audio recordings of all Zimmerman's calls calls to the judge. Shouldn't the media get the tapes? Under Florida records laws, anything the state gives the defense that is not exempt must be turned over.
I hope there are no attorney client calls in Zimmerman's jail calls. Florida's open records law is really extreme. It also seems to provide a way to game the system. All the state has to do to get something into the hands of the media is request it and turn it over to the defense as discovery. Clearly all of Zimmerman's jail calls as opposed to those pertaining to the bond funds, are nobody's business but his, yet the state, having asked for all of them and turned them over to the defense, now gets to turn them over to the media.
Moving on: E-mails to the city of Sanford will be released, but if they are from witnesses, their names will be redacted.
Basically, anything that the defendant says, whether relevant tot he case or not, and accusations against him by anonymous people will be released, even though the state has no intention of calling them as witnesses and has not corroborated their accusations (W-9 and W-22.) But names of witnesses and their addresses will not be. I disagree with the court as to addresses, since connecting the witnesses to their homes is essential for analysis of their statements about the shooting. For example, were they in a position to see what they claimed to see?
I have a hard time comprehending this Judge's orders and rulings. Today's order seems confusing in some respects and incomplete in others.
Ideally, in my view, no discovery would be public until trial. Trials are public, criminal investigations should not be. Evidence may be released that is later suppressed by the court. The public (and potential jury pool) will already have heard it. You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube. Being charged with a crime or a witness to a crime shouldn't result in the lives of either becoming an open book. But since Florida's law is what it is, it needs to be applied.
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