“Just when I thought this case couldn’t get any more bizarre…!!” exclaimed an exasperated, outraged, and incredulous defense attorney Don West, in response to the prosecution’s sudden introduction of a new, previously (until 7:30 this morning, that is) undisclosed charge against his client, George Zimmerman.
Along with the lesser charge of manslaughter, to be considered by the jury if they found Zimmerman not guilty of 2nd degree murder, prosecutors suddenly announced that they would also seek to include the charge of “3rd degree felony murder resulting from child abuse” for the jury’s deliberations as well.
Zimmerman’s defense team was basically blindsided by what West called yet another “trick” of treachery by the prosecution, and his highly alarmed frustration was also largely in reaction to Judge Debra Nelson’s continued refusal to allow defense attorneys Mark O’Mara and himself (and their volunteer staff interns) enough time to do the behind-the-scenes work of preparing their responses to each new development, each new revelation of state chicanery officially approved by this judge.
Today, Don West had enough. He threw down the gauntlet over a wide array of what he described as totally unacceptable misconduct by Nelson and the prosecutors. It was quite a spectacle, to watch West stand there and essentially, boldly read Nelson the riot act, as Nelson loudly responded by claiming she had warned him repeatedly about conducting himself “professionally.”
When West brought up the fact that State’s Attorney Angela “Nifong” Corey was sitting there in the front row of the courtroom, smarmily egging on the prosecutors and in close clutch with their maneuvers, Nelson snapped at him not to go there.
West had previously cited outright lying and withholding of exculpatory evidence by the state going back as far as over a year ago, along with Nelson’s seemingly deliberate strategy of running her court so as to physically exhaust the frazzled and financially challenged defense team, while favorably indulging virtually every whim and tactical foray on the part of prosecutors to the benefit of Zimmerman’s accusers.
A gruff and angry Nelson actually walked right out of the courtroom despite the ongoing, beseeching protests of West and O’Mara after keeping them there long into the night until 10pm on Tuesday, declaring loudly again and again that her court was adjourned and berating them for daring to object to what they saw as the unreasonableness of her rulings and timetables. Veteran legal observers and pundits expressed astonishment.
Fortunately for West and company, after what climaxed in the almost the explosive confrontation in open court between he and Nelson today, he finally got Nelson to acknowledge that the prosecution had taken things a step too far. After she reluctantly allowed a brief recess in which applicable case law was frantically researched and brought forth by the defense, she eventually reviewed their rebuttal to the prosecution’s ploy, and somberly ruled that West was right–that the 3rd degree felony murder charge was not legitimate for consideration by the jury.