For reasons that I find hard to understand, the prosecution in the George Zimmerman case played for the jury today recordings of two interviews of Zimmerman that were conducted by the police. The New York Post describes them:
Zimmerman said he lost sight of Martin, got out of his car to call police and was walking back to his vehicle when the 17-year-old attacked him.
“He jumped out of the bushes and he said ‘What the f..k is your problem, homie?’” Zimmerman said on the tape.
“And I got my cell phone out to call 911 this time, and I said ‘I don’t have a problem.’ And he goes, ‘No, now you have a problem,’ and he punched me in the nose.”
In court, jurors listened closely to the tape, while Zimmerman showed no emotion and Martin’s father closed his eyes from time to time.
Zimmerman told police he fell down to the ground after being punched repeatedly. “I tried to defend myself. He just started punching me in the face, and I started screaming for help. I couldn’t see. I couldn’t breathe.”
“He puts his hand on my nose and mouth, and he says ‘You are going to die tonight.’
He said “the suspect” was “mounted on top of me” and began to bang his head onto the ground.
“As he banged my head again, I just pulled out my firearm and shot him,” Zimmerman said.
He said Martin fell backward. “And he’s like ‘Alright, you got me, you got me.’”
Under questioning, Officer Doris Singleton, who conducted the audio interview, said Zimmerman appeared shocked when he learned Martin’s wound was fatal.
“He’s dead!?” she quoted him as saying.
“I thought you knew that,” she said she replied.
Zimmerman “kinda slung his head and shook it,” she said.
The toughest decision in nearly any criminal defense is whether to put the defendant on the stand. Most defendants don’t testify, and most defendants are convicted. Testifying, however, opens the defendant up to various avenues of cross-examination. By playing tapes of Zimmerman’s statements to the jury, it seems that the prosecution has let the defense off the hook. Zimmerman has had a chance to tell his story, in a manner that is inherently relatively credible and without cross-examination.
I am not sure why the prosecutors would do this. Perhaps they think they can impeach the account that Zimmerman gave to the police–although they certainly haven’t done so thus far. My guess is that, having had the opportunity to tell the jury what happened via video and audio recording, Zimmerman will not take the stand in his own defense.