Panama City Trial Attorneys Weigh In On Zimmerman Verdict - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Panama City Trial Attorneys Weigh In On Zimmerman Verdict

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George Zimmerman George Zimmerman
Steve Meadows Steve Meadows
Waylon Graham Waylon Graham

Jurors in the George Zimmerman murder trial have spoken and not everyone likes what they said.

In the wake of Saturday's not guilty verdict, demonstrations are being held across the country, Trayvon Martin's parents are considering a wrongful death lawsuit and the federal government is looking for potential civil rights violations.

Was justice served?

Local trial attorneys Steve Meadows and Waylon Graham say the Zimmerman case should never have gone to trial.  "From the evidence that I saw, it was a real stretch for the state to try to bring a charge," said Meadows, who served as 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney from 2004-08.

"I thought it was a horrible case of over reaching," said Graham, a prominent Panama City-based defense attorney.  "The man was overcharged and it showed all the way through the trial... it was as if they were straining to make the case."

Meadows said state prosecutors should have asked a grand jury to decide whether the case against Zimmerman was worth pursuing.  "Instead of doing that, they unilaterally decided to file murder charges without giving the citizens of Sanford the opportunity to have their citizen representatives make that decision," Meadows said.

Graham said the case against Zimmerman was weakened by his claim of self defense in the fatal shooting of Martin.  "Once the defense raises the issue of self defense, the burden then shifts and the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there is no self defense," Graham said.  "That is a heavy burden… and in a case like this it's impossible to do."

During the two week trial, prosecutors weren't able to convince the jury that Zimmerman was guilty of murder.  "There may have been six different interpretations of what reasonable doubt is on that jury," Meadows said.  "You can't look into the hearts and minds of those jurors to know what their interpretation was."

"They have to know with certainty that it was not self defense and if there is any doubt about that issue, you have to find this man not guilty," Graham said.

Do juries always get it right?  "They don't always get it right, but there's finality to a jury's verdict that should bring closure to a community," Meadows said.  "Whether it's for or against you, the decision needs to be respected."

Graham dismisses claims that the six woman jury could not fairly pass judgment on the fatal encounter between an African-American teenager and a Hispanic man.  "Trayvon Martin was not entitled to a trial by a jury of his peers... he was not on trial, George Zimmerman was," he said.

Meadows blamed the national media and legal analysts for the growing tide of unrest in the aftermath of Zimmerman's acquittal.

"It's a perfect example of how outside influences that really don't know all of the evidence take strong positions on both sides that aren't necessarily supported by what happened in the courtroom," Meadows said.  "They mislead the public with that type of commentary and they inflame their passions."