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Joe Henderson

Henderson: Zimmerman case no laughing matter

Published:   |   Updated: June 25, 2013 at 07:04 AM

Let's set the scene: The second-degree murder trial of neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman began Monday in Sanford. A guilty verdict could put him in prison for the rest of his life.

The case is rife with racial overtones and gun rights, wrapped around Florida's Stand Your Ground law. There is international interest in the proceedings and it will be highly controversial no matter how this case is decided.

Let's not forget the jurors, either. No matter what they decide, their lives will be changed forever.

So was this really the best spot for Zimmerman's lawyer, Don West, to open a murder trial with something better suited for Comedy Central? Or Sesame Street?

But that's just what West did. His opening statement began with ... a knock-knock joke.

Yep. For his first impression with the jurors who will decide his client's fate, Zimmerman's lawyer looked those six people in their collective eye and went:

Knock-knock.

Who's there?

George Zimmerman.

George Zimmerman who?

You're on the jury!

Just spit-balling here, but let's say you're one of the jurors who has to decide this case. This may be the most serious thing you'll ever be asked to do. Was Zimmerman defending himself when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, or was he using vigilante justice on a kid carrying nothing more lethal than a bag of Skittles?

All we know for sure right now is that Martin died from a bullet fired from Zimmerman's gun, and the defense began its case with a juvenile joke.

If I'm on that jury, I'm scribbling "idiot" on my note pad.

According to reports, the jury was stone-faced during this lame attempt at humor - apparently concluding the courtroom isn't the best place to audition for a night at the improv. Juries are funny like that, especially those looking at a month of being sequestered and facing who-knows-what from the public when it's over.

It's an interesting legal gambit, though. It could lay groundwork of an appeal for attorney incompetence if Zimmerman is convicted.

On the other side of the aisle, prosecutor John Guy used at least four f-bombs in his opening statement.

He was quoting from Zimmerman's 911 call the night of the shooting, referring to "f-ing punks" (this is a family newspaper; hence, the less-graphic wording).

The language went out live over several Orlando TV stations.

So here we go.

I don't envy the jurors because none of us can say for sure what went through Zimmerman's mind on that fateful night. I'm also not sure the trial will completely clear that up.

These people should get a permanent release from further jury duty after serving on a trial like this, or at least a permanent injunction from lame jokes in a case that is no laughing matter.

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