July 17th, 2013
11:00 PM ET
9 months ago

Spitzer: Prosecutors ‘overreached’ in Zimmerman trial

(CNN) - Democrat Eliot Spitzer, a former state attorney general and governor of New York, said Wednesday that prosecutors went too far in seeking a second-degree murder charge of George Zimmerman, and argued as a result “justice has not been served” in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

In an interview with CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live,” the New York City comptroller candidate also said he hopes President Barack Obama will address the racial and legal tensions surrounding the recent trial.

“An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed,” he said. Not pleased with the trial’s outcome, he added “something is wrong when there is no judicial response to that.”

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Martin in February 2012, was acquitted by a jury late Saturday on state criminal charges. Zimmerman said he was acting in self-defense when Martin was shot.

Large protests and petitions have since erupted around the country.

Tapping into his background as a high-profile prosecutor, Spitzer said the state should not have pursued the second-degree murder charge. Instead, Florida prosecutors should have focused solely on manslaughter, he said.

“I always worried as a prosecutor, if you overcharge, you lose credibility,” he said, adding there was not overwhelming evidence to get a conviction, especially when the state has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. “It was always a tough case. I think they overreached a bit and that probably hurt them.”

Spitzer also took issue with the jury selection, saying in hindsight prosecutors should have been able to detect a sense of sympathy for Zimmerman from the beginning.

In the end, Spitzer said the case is “troubling” and “frames a debate.”

“I would hope that the president would actually give us a good speech on these things. He's done great things at those moments when we need to crystallize,” he said.

Obama released a statement Sunday, but has not publicly spoken about the verdict. His administration currently faces questions over whether the Justice Department should bring federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, a legal matter that Attorney General Eric Holder has acknowledged would be difficult to take up.

In his statement, the president called for “calm reflection” following the acquittal of Zimmerman. While he nodded to the emotionally charged climate, he concluded that "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

Attempting to make a political comeback, Spitzer shocked the political world when he announced a late entry this month for city comptroller race in this year’s elections. Less than two weeks into his campaign, two recent polls indicate he’s now the front-runner. Spitzer stepped down from governor in 2008 after getting caught in a prostitution scandal.


Filed under: Eliot Spitzer • New York
soundoff (195 Responses)
  1. Ben

    Sorry America, but there are much more important things going on right now. This entire case has proven that the media has a very powerful influence on our society and how we think/feel about certain topics. Imagine what it would be like if they dug into every homicide. It would be crazy. 90% of murders are intra-racial, 94% of black homicides being black on black. So why these protests are happening is beyond me. There are much bigger issues we should be protesting. We are all Americans and we better start acting like it or I see another revolution/civil war coming our way in the next 20-30 years.

    July 18, 2013 06:08 am at 6:08 am |
  2. Merlin

    Yet another politician trying to "toot his own horn" to get notoriety prior to upcoming elections and hopefully take everyone's mind off his own prior misdeeds. Regardless of the outcome of this trial, it is over. Martin's family now has the option to seek civil action against Zimmerman. The sad fact is this situation was entirely preventable and there were several opportunities to change the outcome that did not materialize. As a result, one young man lost his life and the other will have no successful future. Who won? Nobody.

    July 18, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  3. The Elephant In The Room

    Elliot if you want to impress me, where was this sage cpmmentary when Angela Correy 1st made her recommendation. Have the decency to say "no comment" instead of trying to be a MMQB.
    The president can not compensate for people who lack the common sense, empathy, accountability, reasonable civic behavior, genes. [and that includes O'Mara & West]. The guns-at-all-costs people are NOT GOOD CITIZENS. There, I said it.

    July 18, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  4. wellhellothere

    What the heck is this? The Spitzer campaign launch promotional story and video?

    July 18, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  5. Reddog

    Just keep stirring the pot. When the riots finally break out, CNN will be there to bring us all the coverage. BTW, I wonder why CNN and others have neglected to give us daily news about the 6 teenagers who robbed and beat a man to death just for fun? It's a good thing that the victim didn't have a gun to defend himself or there would be another story about innocent children who didn't need to die. The way I see it, the media would have only been happy if Trayvon Martin had succeed in killing George Zimmerman and himself been executed after being found guilty of murder. That would have been a win-win all around. Right?

    July 18, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  6. aCriticalEye

    There is No "Self Defense", when you have the gun and you are taking an offensive posture moving towards someone.
    Travon Martin WAS justified in self defense.

    Although, "Stand Your Ground", does have some merits, it should not be part of this case. Zimmerman was clearly on the attack.

    BUT..... the NRA wants a gun for everybody, including children. Wild Wild West, here we come, next will be public hangings.

    July 18, 2013 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  7. Cj Laycock

    What a tool. Justice was not served. An innocent man was doing what he was lawfully allowed to be doing when he was attacked by Trayvon Martin, brutally beaten and forced to defend himself. Then he was wrongfully charged and had to fight for his life all over again because of weak willed politicians who think popularity is more important than the rule of law. After justice rights itself and this innocent man is exonerated by jury the politicians start wringing their hands again claiming that Mr. Zimmerman once more be sacrificed on the alter of political expedience. Mr. Spritzer you should be ashamed of yourself.

    July 18, 2013 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  8. betterdays

    A young man was walking where he had every right to be and then he viciously assaulted someone and was shot and killed.

    July 18, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  9. Name

    He's just furthering the liberal agenda. Take rights away from all because of the acts of few. Only if the same fallacy applied to congress. Geesh, he wants to talk like the case had any evidence to prove beyond a doubt that Zimmerman wasn't hit in the face and had his head not slammed on ground and wasn't bleeding and fearful. Yea, they'd like you to think that he's not Hispanic, he's white and just hopped out his car and wanted to shoot a black kid because he's frustrated. Like there's absolutely no possibility that Trayvon may have escalated the confrontation. Yea, okay.

    July 18, 2013 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  10. ronjayaz

    Who really cares what U think, sir? How dare U run for any office, even dog catcher!

    July 18, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  11. scott

    sense of sympathy for Zimmerman from the beginning.? You must be kidding. Zimmerman has been hammered and set up to take the fall and the Jury found him innocent. They were right. Martin came back to Zimmerman looking for trouble and he found it. End of story. Lesson learned is if you are going to attack someone you need to be ready, Martin did not respect this fact, had a chip on his shoulder, new he was bigger and stronger than Zimmerman and took the chance. As a result of attacking Zimmerman, Martin is now dead.

    July 18, 2013 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  12. Frank

    "His administration currently faces questions over whether the Justice Department should bring federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman, a legal matter that Attorney General Eric Holder has acknowledged would be difficult to take up." – Probably because it's unconstitutional. The DOJ cannot LEGALLY investigate Civil rights violations by and individual unless he works for the State or Federal Government.

    “I would hope that the president would actually give us a good speech on these things. He's done great things at those moments when we need to crystallize,” he said. What President are you talking about? The bum in office now? He has done more to divide this Nation than any President in history. The only ones who think he's great are Liberal Politicans and people who are barely smart enough to write their name on a ballot!

    July 18, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  13. betterdays

    Prosecutors overreached. You're just figuring that out now? Anyone who understands law knew this from the moment the charge was made public. The self-defense evidence was already out there. People are still acting as if Martin was walking when he was shot. No, the evidence indicates that he was assaulting when he got shot. It's actually quite simple.

    July 18, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  14. William R. Hill

    I will never understand how murder is justified by a bloody nose and a few scrapes on the head. The way existing laws are written is being used as an excuse for a failed prosecution and an unjust verdict. An all-female jury with only one minority person obviously was governed by emotion and had more sympathy for white, armed vigilante George Zimmerman than an unarmed black teenager walking through his neighborhood. The defense was more clever than the prosecution and "won" the case. Both sides should be ashamed that they participated in such a miscarriage of justice.

    July 18, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  15. M

    Having watched the entire video tape of Zimmerman's interrogation by the police, I am convinced that when Zimmerman reached into his pocket for his phone, that Martin thought he was going to be shot, and then attacked Zimmerman. Zimmerman then believed Martin was assaulting him. Then Matin sees the gun, confirming his thoughts that Zimmerman was reaching for it. The rest we know.

    July 18, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  16. Gregg 3 Gs

    Prosecutors did not "overreach" in the charges they brought, except in that they brought charges at all. The prosecution had a poor case and I'm pretty sure they knew it, but they gave it a shot anyhow. There were no solid eyewitnesses who could testify and Rachel Jeantel sorely lacked credibility and certainty. It was like they were blindfolded but threw the dart at the board anyway, hoping maybe somehow it might hit the bull's-eye.

    Mr. Spitzer, just like the jurors and the rest of America, you don't know what happened, so you can't say with any authority that there was a miscarriage of justice. It is entirely possible that Trayvon Martin was an instigator and acted with aggression. Mr. Spitzer, you didn't sit in the jury box and watch every moment of the testimony from only a few feet away, hear the full dialog of opening and closing arguments, read and hear the detailed jury instructions, or carefully examine every piece of evidence, so you are much less qualified than the jurors to render a verdict. Remember, the only evidence that matters is the evidence presented in court, evidence that has passed muster for relevance and credibility. Speculation is merely speculation.

    July 18, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  17. Donna

    The first jury member to speak was never going to convict Zimmerman. During jury selection, she referred to African Americans as colored people and referred to the original peaceful demonstrations in Sanford as riots.

    This jury member was biased and never going to convict.

    Se also said she considered the lead detectives statement that he believed Zimmerman as honest in his explanation of what happened. The judge said disregard that opinion, but the jury member did not

    It was obvious that she was biased toward Rachel Jeantel. I do not believe she even considered her testimony. Rachel was the most honest witness of all.

    I think this jury member spent 14 hours convincing the 3 jury members to switch from guilty to not guilty.
    The animation the defense presented in their closing was highly prejudicial. Should have never been allowed.

    I think the prosecution should try to get the verdict overturned and have a total do-over

    July 18, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  18. Say What?

    Once again, someone gets it WRONG. This wasnt about "“An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed,” .

    Its about a young man, being treated like he was 12, walking on a street when he noticed someone following him and decides to attack him. That young man had NO RIGHT to attack someone just because they were following him. The kid was a racist, a thug and he got what he deserved. If someone is following you, use that cell you are talking with to call 911, or go to a safe place, ect, but you never have a right to attack someone that is legally on the street too.

    July 18, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  19. Joe

    The only over reaching that was done was the federal government getting involved in state affairs and forcing an investigation, an arrest, and a trial.

    July 18, 2013 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  20. Aimleft

    Say what you want about Spitzer, but this makes more sense than anything else I've heard about the trial. I never wanted to see Zimmerman convicted of murder, but I couldn't believe it when he didn't get convicted for manslaughter.

    July 18, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  21. VVVVV

    It's called prejudice! Look it up in the dictionary. The only thing the media has gotten right to not do and with this story they are sheeting all over it.

    July 18, 2013 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  22. Joe Blough

    So yet another liberal politician 'speaks out' when he has nothing to say but worthless, inflammatory comments. The jury in the Zimmerman/Martin case listened to all the evidence, which is 'partaker of prostitutes' did NOT, and yet he 'proclaims' the innocence of the victim, when the JURY did not. The trial is over, Martin is dead and no longer cares and all THIS politician is doing is fomenting turmoil. I hope he is seriously trounced in his 'comeback' political desires. For SHAME!

    July 18, 2013 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  23. Colleen Kelly Mellor

    Why is Spitzer, inglorious in his own right for consorting with prostitutes, in contrast to his public, clean-guy image, now the resident expert weighing in on the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case?

    July 18, 2013 07:03 am at 7:03 am |
  24. JomoDaMusicMan

    Spitzer said what I've said when this jury was picked. The all white jury could relate to and had sympathy for GZ. None of these white women could relate to or did they have sympathy for Trayvon. Juror, #37B, was so fascinated with Zimmerman and his main witness (Good) that I don't think it was acquired during the Trial. I truly believe she knew something about these individuals or defense attorneys before the trial. The Prosecutors, made me believe that they didn't want to go against the Sanford Police and this is the reason they kept calling them as witnesses for prosecution when they were all witnesses for the defense. Why would the prosecution call Zimmerman's Friend (Good) as their witness when they already knew he was witness for defense. THIS PROSECUTION WAS AS PHONY AS A THREE DOLLAR BILL, THEY DID NOT WANT GZ TO BE CONVICTED. WHEN HAS A JUDGE DISALLOWED THE EXPERT WITNESSES OF THE PROSECUTION LIKE SHE DID IN THIS CASE. WHEN HAS A JUDGE ALLOWED A DEAD MINOR'S MARIJUANA USE, TO BE USED AS EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM WHEN HE WAS THE VICTIM. THIS IS UNHEARD OF, IN FACT GZ, WAS NEVER ON TRIAL HERE. TRAYVON AND JEANTEL WAS THE ONES ON TRIAL HERE

    July 18, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  25. TommytheT

    Really Now we have an admitted criminal telling us how messed up our system is as he tries to get folks to forgive him for his criminal actions and apparent lack of integrity while in a high public office and put in back into public service?

    You what Mr Spitzer, maybe best for you to just quietly go away instead of lecturing us on things like this.

    July 18, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
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