George Zimmerman: Trayvon Martin’s Shooting Was “All God’s Plan.”

For some reason, George Zimmerman sat down for an hour-long interview last night.

I’ve always been a bit befuddled when an attorney in a high-profile criminal case lets their client grant media interviews before trial. In some cases, perhaps, there may be a public relations reason for doing so, such as when the Duke Lacrosse players were interview on 60 Minutes while the criminal case against them was still pending. In most cases, though, it seems like a disaster waiting to happen. Under the 5th Amendment, defendants have the right to remain silent but whenever they speak they waive that right and open up the possibility that their statements can be used against the at trial, or that they can be used to impeach their credibility by pointing out contradictions between public statements and their trial testimony or statements made to police. The latest example of this came last night when George Zimmerman sat down for an interview with Sean Hannity:

George Zimmerman told a national TV audience on Wednesday that he doesn’t regret anything that happened the night he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

“I feel like it was all God’s plan,” he told conservative talk show host Sean Hannity in Zimmerman’s first interview since the shooting.

Toward the end of the hourlong interview, however, Zimmerman backtracked on that statement.

“I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn’t have put me in a position where I would have had to take a life,” he said. “I do want to tell everyone I’m sorry that this happened. I hate to think that because of this incident, because of my actions, it has polarized, divided America. I’m truly sorry.”

There were few surprises in the interview on Fox News. Zimmerman, with attorney Mark O’Mara sitting next to him, was calm, unemotional and accepted no responsibility for the violence that night.

“I am not a racist. I am not a murderer,” he said.

He apologized again to Trayvon’s parents.

“I would tell them that again I’m sorry. I don’t have, my wife and I don’t have any children. … I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily,” he said.

Zimmerman, 28, killed the unarmed black teenager on a sidewalk not far from where Trayvon was staying Feb. 26.

The site was a few blocks from Zimmerman’s town home. He told Sanford police he killed Trayvon in self-defense after the teenager knocked him to the ground and began pounding his head into a sidewalk.

Prosecutors say he’s guilty of profiling, that he assumed Trayvon was about to commit a crime, began following him and then murdered him.

“I just think it’s a tragic situation,” Zimmerman told Hannity. “I hope it’s the most difficult thing I’ll ever go through in my life.”

He was troubled by all the media attention, he said.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “I don’t like that they’ve rushed to judgment the way they have.”

Hannity also asked Zimmerman about allegations from a young woman who claims he sexually molested her when the two were children. The improper touching began, the unidentified woman said, when she was 6 and ended when she was 16.

The woman, who also accused Zimmerman of disliking black people, said Zimmerman was about two years older than her.

Zimmerman did not directly address the molestation claim.

It is ironic that the only witness who says he’s a racist, Zimmerman said, also claims he molested her.

I suppose it’s at least good that, unlike Jerry Sandusky who gave a bizarre interview to Bob Costas shortly after the charges against him became public, Zimmerman had his attorney sitting there next to him. Potentially, if the questions started going in an unacceptable manner, O’Mara could’ve shut the interview down and walked away. Nonetheless, the fact that Zimmerman talked about the whole incident being part of “God’s plan,” while not necessarily incriminating in any way, creates a really odd impression that prosecutors will no doubt seek to convey to the jury when this cases goes to trial.

Additionally, there seemed to be something of a contradiction in Zimmerman’s description of what happened that night and what he said contemporaneously to the 911 dispatcher. During the 911 call, Zimmerman said that he saw Martin running, but in the interview he described it is more of a “fast walk.” Zimmerman also said that he didn’t think Martin was afraid of him because he wasn’t acting like he was, but that contradicts what Martin supposedly told his girlfriend, whom he was talking to on the phone while walking through the neighborhood on his way back from the 7-11. How could Zimmerman know what Martin was thinking?

These are the kind of problems that get created when a defendant gives an interview like this. In addition to telling the truth, the most important thing for a criminal defendant to do is to make sure that the story they tell remains consistent. Deviations from what they’ve previously said, even minor ones, leave the door open for the prosecution to argue that they are contradicting themselves, which allows them to argue to the jury that the Defendant’s version of events isn’t necessarily believable. Since this is a case that is going to rely heavily on Zimmerman’s credibility from the defense perspective, that’s a problem.

Fox News legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano focused on this aspect of the interview this morning:

Judge Andrew Napolitano stopped by Fox & Friends Thursday to weigh in on Sean Hannity’s exclusive interview with George Zimmerman, the volunteer watchman charged with shooting Florida teen Trayvon Martin. While Napolitano found Hannity’s questions to be “superb,” he ultimately thought it was a bad idea on the part of Zimmerman’s lawyer to allow his client to do an interview regarding the case.

The Judge specifically pointed to a portion of the interview when Zimmerman and Hannity discussed whether Martin had been “running,” as Zimmerman had originally stated, or whether he was “skipping” or simply walking quickly. The speculation over whether the young man was “running or walking or skipping provides a field day for the prosecutors to explore,” said Napolitano. What essentially happened, he said, is that Zimmerman took the witness stand with Hannity acting as cross-examiner.

Host Gretchen Carlson asked whether comments from the interview — specifically Zimmerman telling Hannity that the events of that night were “God’s plan” and that he has “no regrets” — will factor into the case. Napolitano thought they could very well be used as statements in court.

This is all well-taken, and it’s why I really don’t understand why Zimmerman’s attorney would ever have agreed to this.

Here’s the full interview:

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Chad S says:

    Zimmerman’s story keeps changing everytime he repeats it.

  2. Gromitt Gunn says:

    If I was on his jury, I would find the “God’s plan” comment grotesque regardless of whether I found the prosecution or the defence more believable.

  3. MBunge says:

    It’s good to know that if I ever shoot an unarmed black kid to death, I can count on Sean Hannity becoming my new best friend.

    Mike

  4. PJ says:

    Shooting unarmed kids is God’s plan?
    What kind of god does Zimmerman believe in?

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @MBunge:

    Dude, it wouldn’t be you shooting an unarmed black kid, it would be God.

  6. Jeremy R says:

    What really strains credibility is how Zimmerman’s dialogue for Martin seems so self-servingly tailored for a SYG defense, in a cartoon villain sort of way.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/19/justice/florida-zimmerman-interview/index.html

    George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer at the center of a national firestorm over racial profiling, crime and gun rights, gave his first television interview Wednesday, saying he had to act after Trayvon Martin said “you are going to die tonight” and reached for Zimmerman’s gun holster.

    Suuure Zimmerman — that’s totally believable. :rolleyes:

  7. Fiona says:

    I can’t believe Zimmerman’s lawyer let him give an interview, although I suppose he thought he had a sympathetic interviewer in Hannity–someone who would ask only softball questions and take Zimmerman’s side.

    The “it was G-d’s plan” comment is appalling. What does it mean? That G-d decided to put Martin in Zimmerman’s sites that evening and compel him to get out of his truck and go after the kid?

  8. Jr says:

    Jesus…….I know the jury are suppose to be non-biased…..but damn this looks bad.

  9. steve says:

    Guns dont kill people, God kills people.

    Steve

  10. Herb says:

    Hannity? Not Nancy Grace?

    From the get-go, it’s been previous obvious Zimmerman has been going “Help me, right wing. You’re my only hope.” And various members are more than willing to sign onto the effort. Pathetic.

  11. mattb says:

    Zimmerman: “I do wish there was something, anything I could have done that wouldn’t have put me in a position where I would have had to take a life,”

    Police report: “The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement, or conversely if he had identified himself to Martin as a concerned citizen and initiated dialog (sic) in an effort to dispel each party’s concern.”

    I don’t see how any of this interview helps Zimmerman.

  12. mantis says:

    What a scumbag.

  13. Dazedandconfused says:

    I hear the guy has little money and apparently no income. This is going to be an expensive trial.

  14. mattb says:

    These appeals to utterly avoidable things being “God’s Plan” is disgusting when anyone uses it in this fashion. It was bad when John Edwards used it recently. It was bad when Zimmerman used it here.

    Or perhaps Zimmerman also accepts that it may in fact be “God’s Plan” for him to do a stint of jail time in order to serve as an example of what one should not do.

    As far as using God as a justification, the Onion issue published in the wake of 9/11 still is the definitive word on this subject:
    God Angrily Clarifies ‘Don’t Kill’ Rule
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-angrily-clarifies-dont-kill-rule,222/

    “Look, I don’t know, maybe I haven’t made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again,” said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. “Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don’t. And to be honest, I’m really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand.”

  15. Rob in CT says:

    @steve:

    Reminds me of the Far Side comic “God at his computer” with his finger hovering over the button labeled “SMITE.”

  16. Herb says:

    @Dazedandconfused: You’re joking, right?

  17. al-Ameda says:

    God has strange plans.
    This must be the Old Testament God.

  18. PJ says:

    I guess Zimmerman’s attorney is going with the “There’s no free will” defense.

  19. MM says:

    @Dazedandconfused: And that right there is probably why Zimmerman’s attorney let them go on Fox News. Zimmerman had $200,000 donated on his website and $150,000 went to a bail bondsman.

  20. hoob says:

    It’s really not that bad. He’s a very religious person as the public jailhouse calls show. He’s simply once again reiterating how religious he is.. ie whatever happened did so because god intended it. That’s a pretty common view amongst many religious people. It’s being twisted to sound bad, as are many things surrounding him.

    It seems likely they gave the interview to get more funds and a better public opinion. Idk if it worked or not. He didn’t say anything incriminating. The running or ‘kinda skipping’ isn’t changing stories, just describing the same thing with a little more thought/words. While making 911 calls you typically blurt things out quickly, not sit and describe how a person is running.

    Read talkleft.com for some good discussion on the case.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    @hoob:
    No doubt God also intended Jerry Sandusky to rape little boys. That God, he’s a tricky one.

  22. J-Dub says:

    God always seems to plan shitty things. All I’m saying is, keep him away from my bachelor party plans. The last thing I need is a dead stripper on my hands.

  23. Dazedandconfused says:

    @Herb:

    Not at all. I don’t think his lawyer is stupid and there is no system which provides food, housing, and the like to people awaiting trial, and he is in an especially bad situation on finding a job. Who would hire him with all this baggage? Paparazzi are sure to be a part of that.

    I recall some time ago watching his lawyer answer a question about what all this was going to cost in legal bills. O’Mara ventured a guess: “About a million”.

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @hoob:

    It’s really not that bad. He’s a very religious person as the public jailhouse calls show. He’s simply once again reiterating how religious he is.. ie whatever happened did so because god intended it. That’s a pretty common view amongst many religious people. It’s being twisted to sound bad, as are many things surrounding him.

    I don’t know, shooting someone and then claiming it was God’s plan seems to be pretty straight forward to me, and does not seem to me to be twisted by others at all. It was out of his hands, nothing he could do, it was preordained. What’s to twist in that? It’s Florida, he’s going to skate – no witnesses, SYG law …..

  25. al-Ameda says:

    @J-Dub:

    God always seems to plan shitty things. All I’m saying is, keep him away from my bachelor party plans. The last thing I need is a dead stripper on my hands.

    The Old Testament God would require you to provide him/her with a dead stripper.
    The New Testament God would simply resurrect the dead stripper.

    Either way, Buddha is the only ‘deity’ that I would invite to a Bachelor Party, because the Buddha’s eyes are always turned within, and thus would not see what’s going on at the party.

  26. I saw the “God’s plan” more as a sign he’s probably suffering from some sort of post traumatic stress as a result of the shooting. Various forms of dissociation (in this case depersonalization) are a common result of traumatic experiences.

  27. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Maybe there’s a method to the madness.

    In a jury trial the most important thing arguably is the demographic breakdown of the jury, not the facts and certainly not the law. Along those lines there are a lot of thumpers in Florida. It’s highly likely a material plurality of the jury on this case will be thumpers. Perhaps even a majority of the jurors. The “God’s plan” thing might have been designed to be a dog whistle of sorts for the eventual jury array. I know it’s a thin reed, but stranger trial strategies have been attempted.

    I don’t necessarily agree that it’s a bad idea for criminal defendants to give interviews before their trials. Provided of course their attorneys are present an interview can be a good idea.

    Ultimately trials are about telling and selling a story to the jurors. By giving a media interview it’s an opportunity for a defendant to tell and sell his story to prospective jurors without having to be cross-examined by a learned and seasoned professional. Greasing the skids, so to speak.

    Were I representing Zimmerman I might have pulled a similar stunt, but I would have done so on a local Florida affiliate, not on Fox News. Very few people in the greater scheme of things watch Fox News, and if you’re Zimmerman it doesn’t really matter what people think outside the specific county in which you’re going to be tried.

  28. The Q says:

    What if Zimmerman was Muslim and said it was “Allah’s plan.”

    Boy, that would be great fun watching the wingnuts head spin like the lady at the spaceport in Total Recall before it explodes.

    Lets see, a muslim (bad) killing a negro (good)..

    I can just see Frank Luntz and his little hand meters gauging the redneck audience response as Zimmerman describes gunning down Travvon (off the charts approval) followed by the “ah fuck” letdown when the ‘Allah’s plan” is uttered..

  29. DRS says:

    Presumably the kind of person who’d hit the PayPal link on Zimmerman’s website watch Fox News, and that’s probably the reason they’re doing this. It’s really hard to believe that there’s any other reason.

  30. hoob says:

    @michael reynolds:
    I don’t get your response mike. If you are that religious and you say things like its all god’s plan, then yes that does include bad things. And yes it includes sandusky. I know you thought you were being clever, but really you’re simply sticking your head in the sand.

  31. hoob says:

    @al-Ameda:
    I’m a little dumbfounded I have to explain this. If you believe god is omnipotent, which many Christians do, then you have to accept that what we consider bad is being allowed by the omnipotent god. It’s not to say it was pre ordained anymore than saying anything you do is preordained. It might not sound right to you or me, but its a perfectly legitimate thing for a religious person to say.

  32. Ron Beasley says:

    @al-Ameda: Buddha is not a deity. In fact the writings of Buddha don’t even reference a deity.

  33. michael reynolds says:

    @hoob:

    I understand the religious mind. So, two points:

    First, it’s actually heresy according to most Christian denominations to say that evil is part of God’s plan. A Jesuit would smack you for that. Most Christians don’t know this, because most Christians don’t really know theology and believe whatever sounds right to them.

    Second, religious folks believe a lot of really stupid crap, including that God is omnipotent and yet somehow not “responsible” yet simultaneously is making detailed plans. The fact that they believe things like this does not require me to respect them or their beliefs. So I ridiculed that belief. I respect their right to believe stupid things, but not the stupidity itself.

  34. bk says:

    Before I read this, I was of the firm opinion that Sean Hannity was the stupidest person on tv. Then I read Napolitano saying that Hannity’s questions were “superb”. I am now forced to reconsider that opinion.

  35. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I respect their right to believe stupid things, but not the stupidity itself.

    Fair on some level. But I think there are a number of Christians (and people of all faith) who have a more nuanced argument/justification for their belief. Admittedly, at some point, there is a gap in logic/reason that can only be crossed via faith.

    But, there are a lot of beliefs which, while one might not agree with, can be justified in a way that is not simply as “stupid.”

  36. DRS says:

    When Voltaire was asked if he believed in God, he said something like yes, he did because if he was right he had everything to gain and if he was wrong he had nothing to lose.

    It was comments like this that gave the official Church the willies for years where Voltaire was concerned.

  37. Lib Cap says:

    @hoob:

    I’m a little dumbfounded I have to explain this. If you believe god is omnipotent, which many Christians do, then you have to accept that what we consider bad is being allowed by the omnipotent god. It’s not to say it was pre ordained anymore than saying anything you do is preordained. It might not sound right to you or me, but its a perfectly legitimate thing for a religious person to say.

    Absolutely.

    I could not agree more.

    If you buy into the whole invisible-sky-pal thing, then you must accept this as a fact of your functional construct.

    For to believe in a supreme being AND somehow pretend that one has a free will… well, no.

    Either a supposed supreme being is supreme, or not.

    I, for one, and glad to be atheist, and do not shy from the knowledge that 83 % of Americans must continuously lie to themselves to validate their existence and justify their actions.

    (83% source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States )
    .

    Harsh? Maybe.

    But I don’t live in fear of the disapproval of an imaginary father-figure.

    Your mileage may vary.

  38. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    @al-Ameda: Buddha is not a deity. In fact the writings of Buddha don’t even reference a deity.

    I know that, Ron. It’s why I used the term “deity” in quotes.

  39. al-Ameda says:

    @hoob:

    @al-Ameda:
    I’m a little dumbfounded I have to explain this. If you believe god is omnipotent, which many Christians do, then you have to accept that what we consider bad is being allowed by the omnipotent god. It’s not to say it was pre ordained anymore than saying anything you do is preordained. It might not sound right to you or me, but its a perfectly legitimate thing for a religious person to say.

    Maybe it’s just that I have a problem with the notion that a “loving” god would plan the murder of innocent people, or even the annihilation of 2 million Cambodians, 30 million Russians, 6 million Jews, or a 1 million Rwandans and Ugandans, just name a few possibly planned crimes.