George Zimmerman is a thug with anger management issues but he is smart enough to have manipulated the 911 emergency system to lay the groundwork for his defense first in the Trayvon Martin tragedy, and now in the domestic violence incident he is now charged with. Apparently his days with volunteering for neighborhood watch duty and being a cop wannabe have served him well in his avoidance of jail time.
When George Zimmerman and his girlfriend called 911 in the heat of a domestic dispute, they almost certainly knew that they were not just talking to the emergency dispatcher. In the age of Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle, experts say a call to central dispatch can quickly become public, and is often manipulated to spin a story or even lay the groundwork for a criminal defense.
"There really has been what I would call a multiyear training program in place, frankly" to use 911 calls strategically, says former Massachusetts prosecutor Wendy Murphy. "And folks, especially people who understand high-profile crimes and the nature of evidence and the rules of evidence and domestic abuse generally, they (know) the power of a 911 call to change not only the trajectory of the case, but to change public opinion and to affect the jury pool."
This is the third time since Zimmerman's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager in February 2012 that 911 calls have played a major role in the Florida man's future. Not long after his July acquittal in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, Shellie Zimmerman initially told a dispatcher that her estranged husband had smashed the iPad on which she was recording him, and was threatening her and her father with a gun.As Joan Walsh of Salon said today, this latest call is a bizarre concoction of Zimmerman's brain:
In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the use of some 911 calls as evidence did not violate a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront and cross-examine his accuser. These "excited utterance" exceptions to the rules involving hearsay are especially crucial in domestic violence cases, in which the victim might be reluctant or even unable to testify, says Murphy.
As a result, she says, victims began to think "strategically" about using 911 calls as a way to have their accusations entered into the record without necessarily having to testify, says Murphy, now an adjunct professor at New England Law in Boston.
Rubino says it behooved Zimmerman to come across as un-excited as possible.
"It's like he was trying to be really calm and saying, `My crazy girlfriend is doing all this stuff,'" Rubino says. "I think he was trying to create a defense."
Bizarrely, after the cops arrived, Zimmerman made a 911 call of his own, to say “my girlfriend is, for lack of a better word, going crazy on me.” The dispatcher logically suggested that since Zimmerman is calling the police, he might want to talk to the officers who are banging on his front door. But he demurs. “No, they’re pretty upset, I think,” he tells her. “They’re banging on the door and windows.” He’s calling simply because “I just want people to know the truth.”And as she further says, she'd hate today to be a former juror who set Zimmerman free after killing Trayvon Martin. When is this menace to society going to be locked up?
But the call is one big lie. He goes on to claim that Scheibe is the one who smashed the table, and that she also has a weapon. He also concocts a story about her being pregnant with his baby, which the police have since denied. That’s a creepy and controlling touch. It’s not victim-blaming to say I hope Scheibe avails herself of counseling to understand why she moved in with someone like Zimmerman a month after his acquittal.