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Black Lives Matter Movement Resulted From Prosecutor Throwing George Zimmerman Case

This Black life, Trayvon Martin’s, did not matter to George Zimmerman, nor law enforcement.

Florida prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda threw the case against George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013. The prosecutor discredited his key witnesses and excluded an eyewitness to the murder. This writing examines parts of his closing argument to jurors and reveals the excluded eyewitness.

Bernie de la Rionda’s Trial Experience

Bernie de la Rionda has worked as an attorney for the state of Florida for 30 years. In 2010, the FBI honored him with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for being an “exceptional prosecutor.” A press release said he was involved in more than 250 jury trials, 67 being homicide cases. Also, state attorney Angela B. Corey wrote, “It is an honor for our young lawyers to have the great privilege of learning from his wealth of information and experience.”

Discrediting Key Witnesses

Rachel Jeantel

Rachel Jeantel was a friend of Trayvon Martin, and she held a phone conversation with him while Martin said he was being followed.

De la Rionda stated that Rachel Jeantel “could have embellished or lied about what Trayvon Martin said and no one would have known the difference.” He cast doubt on a key witness who asserted that George Zimmerman approached and attacked Martin.

Bernie de la Rionda said the following:

But did [Rachel Jeantel]speak the truth? Because when you think of it, she was the person that was speaking to the victim. And really the conversation that she had with the victim, nobody would know whether she’s telling the truth or not other than her. I mean, we have the phone records that established it. That there’s no dispute that they were talking. But what I’m saying is, she didn’t have to — she could have embellished. She could have lied about what the victim said … But she didn’t come in here and lie to you about that. I mean, she could have and nobody would have known the difference. It wasn’t like her conversation was being recorded.

De la Rionda suggested Rachel Jeantel may have lied, says there is no proof that she did not lie, and he points out each of her “lies” to the jurors. An experienced attorney knows he must speak convincingly to persuade jurors on an issue when reasonable doubt largely determines the outcome of the case. He did not do this. He even suggested to jurors that they may want to disregard Jeantel’s testimony:

You decide whether she was telling the truth…. Now, she did lie about [attending Martin’s] funeral and about her age originally to the police, to me, to the mother. Why? OK. She’s guilty of that. She didn’t want to go have to see the body. She didn’t want to deal with it. And she lied to the mother of Trayvon Martin. So you could disregard her testimony because of that. She lied about her age because she didn’t want to come forward. Maybe she realized that she might have to testify and people would find out that she can’t read cursive, unfortunately. (Emphasis added.)

Jayne Surdyka

Jayne Surdyka saw the struggle between Trayvon Martin and another man on the ground. She also saw Zimmerman hit himself on the back of his head.

De la Rionda cast doubt on Surdyka’s testimony:

Ms. Surdyka, you heard from her, too. And you’ve got the vantage point in terms of there of where her place was…. She was looking out. She was reading. She got up. She looked. She had a good vantage point. She did observe something. And what does she tell you? That in her opinion based on what she saw, she thought the bigger man was on top. And she told you that the voice she heard, she thought was of a child versus an older person. Now, is she an expert? Had she ever heard these voices before? No. She’s just telling you what she believes. (Emphasis added.)

De la Rionda said “[Surdyka] did observe something” instead of asserting that she saw Zimmerman on top of Martin. He created doubt by saying she is no expert and never heard the voices before. If you closed your eyes and heard this person talking, would you think he is on the defense team or the prosecution team?

Bernie de la Rionda said the following:

Just like you’ve had a bunch of other people come in and say, that is George Zimmerman’s voice and that is Trayvon Martin’s voice. You decide, but she told you as best she could what she observed. And what’s consistent in terms of what she observed and what happened. Because, see, the issue is at that time, when there was contact between the defendant and the victim, did it occur as the defendant claims?

He completely discounted Surdyka’s testimony about the voice she heard. Here, he used his favorite phrase, “You decide.” On the other hand, the defense did not tell the jurors to decide for themselves. They told jurors with certainty what they wanted them to believe. They did not leave room for the jurors to doubt. Here, the prosecution took every opportunity to introduce doubt.

To suggest a scenario that works in the defendant’s favor causes jurors to think about that. On the other hand, to assert a scenario that works against the defense helps remove reasonable doubt.

Bernie de la Rionda said the following:

First of all, you really have to believe he really wasn’t following him and he was just kind of minding his own business. He was going out for a walk. His walk got interrupted because some guy attacked him. You’ve got to believe that. You’ve got to believe he wasn’t following anybody. He wasn’t up to doing anything. He was just kind of minding his own business.

The Excluded Eyewitnesses

Several witnesses who had information supporting Trayvon Martin did not testify, two of which were Mary Cutcher and Jeremy Weinberg. Jeremy Weinberg saw more than he told since he is heard in the background of a 911 call saying, “He warned me he’d shoot him.” His mate is also heard telling him to get inside. Yes, Zimmerman had a conversation with someone before shooting Trayvon Martin. Weinberg also saw Zimmerman and Martin together before Zimmerman shot Martin. However, none of this information or this eyewitness was presented at trial to show Zimmerman lied about what happened.

This Black life, Trayvon Martin’s, did not matter to George Zimmerman, nor law enforcement. Trayvon Martin was innocent, but denied justice for his murder from the police to the prosecutor. The Black Lives Matter movement was created during this time because of the prevailing belief among Black Americans that justice had not been served.

Click here to watch Bernie de la Rionda’s closing argument.

Most of the above material is taken from the author’s book, Accessories After the Fact: The Trayvon Martin Murder Cover-Up. The remainder are the author’s comments for this writing.