George Zimmerman: Did skipping prosecutor slip?

Staff writer

What did you make of prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda's delivery Thursday in his  closing argument at the George Zimmerman trial?

My take: His singsong screaming grew tiresome over several hours, and his rising voice sounded like Foghorn Leghorn -- not good in a trial setting. And the prosecutor's skipping? Oh, brother. That looked all wrong in such a serious situation.

Style aside, TV analysts blasted de la Rionda's content.

WFTV-Channel 9's Bill Sheaffer was most critical. During a break in the prosecutor's closing, Sheaffer said the law was not about finding guilt or innocence based on emotions.

"It's about facts and evidence presented to the jury that establishes guilt" beyond a reasonable doubt, Sheaffer said. The legal analyst, a former prosecutor, said de la Rionda did not have a winning argument.

After de la Rionda finished, Sheaffer said: "It got a little better, but not good enough. It's not the prosecutor's job to raise reasonable doubt."

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

On WOFL-Channel 35, Brad Conway was withering. "The defense is sitting back and letting the state do their job for 'em," he said. De la Rionda didn't talk about facts or law or the state's burden, Conway complained at the halfway point.

"When he's done defining reasonable doubt for the defense and done being a defense attorney, he might want to think about going to work for the state," Conway said.

WOFL legal analyst Diana Tennis was not impressed by de la Rionda, either. "He asked question after question after question," Tennis said. "Unfortunately, telling the jury that George Zimmerman is lying and that these things can't be true is not quite the same as proving what is the state's theory, and we did not hear anything definitive about who threw the first punch."

But the state did "a fine job" of playing on emotion and making Zimmerman look like a monster, Tennis added.


Mark NeJame of Central Florida News 13 said the state was going down one path, then changed its strategy two or three days ago, and the jury couldn't help but notice. NeJame complained that the state's whole foundation was flawed because of the approach prosecutors had taken.

"I think they completely blew it by their strategy," NeJame said. His verdict: That destroyed the state's case.

WESH-Channel 2 legal analyst Richard Hornsby said de la Rionda never discussed the fight between Zimmerman and Trayvon and never gave a theory about what happened. The state couldn't rely on the moral high ground to convict, Hornsby said.

WKMG-Channel 6 anchor Lauren Rowe found its "corny" that de la Rionda used witness Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon's friend, in a version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech.

WKMG's Tony Pipitone said that bit landed with a thud in the courtroom.

Luis Calderon, legal analyst for WKMG, criticized de la Rionda's sarcasctic comments, because they didn't help the prosecutor make points in such a serious trial.

Even so, Calderon gave de la Rionda's performance on Thursday a B grade because the prosecutor had done the best he could with the evidence he had.

WFTV's Sheaffer undoubtedly would have given a lower grade. He faulted de la Rionda for misstating the facts about what the defense had to prove -- a point that drew an objection from defense attorney Mark O'Mara.

Sheaffer's verdict: "This was not a technically proficient closing argument." He was harsher later: "They failed miserably."

What did you think?

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