July 17th, 2013
11:00 PM ET
9 years 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. Boo

    Guess what people? Just because someone tells you something (in this case, Zimmerman) DOESN'T MAKE IT TRUE.....duh!

    July 18, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. Mad Jayhawk

    Want to separate those who didn't watch 30 minutes of the trial from those who watched the entire thing? read their comments or listen to the remarks. This includes the grossly stupid clowns we have in our media. Those who haven't watched more than 30 minutes of the trial still ignorantly talk about irrelevant issues like 'stalking,following, hunting", 'getting out of his truck', 'college classes', 'being Hispanic', etc. Those who have watched most, if not, all of the trial talk about what was in Zimmerman's mind when he pulled the trigger. That is all that matters. The liberal media and the Hispanic haters (one in the same in some cases) have to have Zimmerman be white, he has to be a racist, he has to have 'stalked' Martin or 'hunted him down like a dog', and they have to have Martin be an innocent Skittles/Arizona Ice Tea-carrying 13 year old (most people do not know that Lean which is a mixture of Skittles, Arizona Iced Tea, and codeine, is a dangerous mixture that killed Pimp C, a rapper -- there is no evidence that Martin, who used drugs, bought that particular combination of products to make Lean but it is possible).

    July 18, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. hgflyer

    Mr. Spitzer, there was a judicial response...it resulted in a "NOT GUILTY" verdict. They also tried to get a guilty verdict for manslaughter, but that didn't work, either. I did not watch the entire trial, but viewing most of the available evidence and some the key testimony of witnesses on both sides, I cannot see how anyone would objectively say that GZ was guilty of anything beyond a reasonable doubt. Being a trained investigator, I can tell you that GZ's responses and level of cooperation throughout the process were consistent with non-deceptive behavior, meaning that his version is LIKELY an accurate depiction of the events; not to mention that collaboration from multiple witnesses, including those of the prosecution, increased the likelihood of GZ's depiction.

    July 18, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. Pete

    It's funny being here in Florida all the different statements ..Zimmerman plain and simple is guilty and Floridas prosecutors should of been strung up for again screwing up a simple trial considering how many times Zimmerman changed his alibies...He saw Trayvon and followed him from the community,store and back,isn't stalking,isn't profiling in the rain no less,right!!He was told stay put in his car till police arrived ,he didn't and don't you think Trayvon didn't realize Zimmerman was following him,again right!!Wouldn't you be looking around ,over your shoulder waiting for a Zimmerman to come out from a dark area and attack not knowing where is is..Wouldn't you try to protect your brother by not going all the way home because you don't want him involved if confronted by Zimmerman as well ,the one he went to the store for that was all alone at the time!!And did Zimmerman in confronting Trayvon identify himself as a watch volunteer ,I seriously doubt it or this would've never happened!!Too much against Zimmerman before the actual shooting ,murder took place and if questioned properly Zimmerman might be sitting in jail instead of hiding out the rest of his life knowing it was premeditated in his yearning to be a police officer at any cost and in this case it was Trayvon ,an innocent minor at that!!And boy did the state screw up putting just women in as jurors because they let their feelings take them over the emotional breaking point and one was about to leave but stayed and they judged irrationally because really all they wanted was to go home period,they were over their heads on this case and these women knew it!!

    July 18, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  5. wiseup:

    I feel gz provoked the situation by getting out of car and following Martin GZ did not identify himself and simply ask what he was doing and where was he headed. If martin came toward GZ he could have warned Martin to back off he had a gun. But as we know that didn't happen. The other question comes to mind. it was stated that GZ had his gun in the waist ban in the back of his pants if as gz claims martin was on top of GZ. how was GZ able to get his gun out of his holster behind his back with martin on top of him. unless he already had his gun out before the confrontation

    July 18, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  6. mwp3233

    In my opinion this verdict was completely wrong. Three of the Jurors had Zimmerman Guilty before deliberations. So for 16+ hours they changed their minds not only from 2nd Degree Murder, Manslaughter to Innocent! Were they looking to go home for the weekend and get out of there and convinced to vote as innocent and change their minds? This was the most absurd (among other trials) that I have ever seen. For days I got out of work and went home and watched the Trial on delay just to see the facts and listen to the witnesses. This hold your ground, and self defense theory was BS from the start. So here it is how I see it. You are a neighborhood watch guy, and you see a kid walking home looking like he is on drugs (you never spoke to him before), he looks to be black (racial profiling as he is a troublemaker because he) has darker skin than you, you do not tell him who you are, you follow him around in your car, you are carrying a gun, you can not fight per the (witness fitness instructor MMA, mind you), you get out of your car (after Police tell you not to follow Trayvon), you get out of the car and lose him, so you look for him on foot, the kid is scared and ask you what your problem is, and (you still do not identify yourself), he is scared maybe throws a first punch, kicks your ass, and through the whole scuffle you still do not identify yourself. How is this self defense if you never identify yourself, and shoot this kid. It is beyond me how people want to start a fight because they have a gun. If he did not have the gun, he would have called the Police still, they would have arrived and Zimmerman would never have left his car, because he is a pussy ass that should mind his own business. At the end of the day no one wins here, but for god sake this guy should have been punished for this killing. At least 10 years, just to learn a lesson. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS....call the Police, this is what they are for! Peace to everyone, but this verdict was wrong.

    July 18, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  7. wiseup:

    People including the judge did not want racial profiling used during the trial. but in the tapes with the dispatcher who was talking to GZ GZ made the comment that this person(Martin) was a young black male and looked like he was up to no good GZ said that several homes had been broke into 19 times by blacks. I have to wonder how many arrest were made and how many were convicted? as GZ attorneys said that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Had Martin been white GZ would not have given a second thought about martin.

    July 18, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. papaduke

    I like to get an answer to a few very simple question:
    1. what makes people thing that George Zimmerman is quilty other then for self defense?
    2. what make s people think that Trevon was not capaple of being the attacher?
    3. what was Trevon doing within a private community, could he had been looking to commit an crime or try to get drugs?
    4. why wasn't justice done by a no quilty charge there was no resonable dought to belive otherwise, the system works sometimes we don't like the outcome because it is not in our favor,but that is justice.
    All I can see from the media is that they are drying to find a way to say Zimmerman is guilty and I believe that is not the case. I think that the 6 juriors made the right decision especially since the evidence presented was in favor of Zimmerman.
    I feel very sorry for the parents of Trevon and any other parents who lose a child.
    The world we live in is not perfect and adults as well as children commit crimes every day and unfortunatly someone suffers the results.
    I think we need to move on and let this not be a racel issue as it is being played up to be.

    July 18, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. LB

    Please stop doing stories on the Zimmerman trial. You are making too much out of the only situation. It is very sad, but, since no one wants to say it...I will. No one will talk about Trayvon and the issues he had. Many news reports had come out before the trial. Trayvon was a troubled teen, kicked out of school, his mother had him stay with his father because she couldn't handle him anymore. That has been said in news reports. He had a bad temper. Everyone is making him out to be an angel, that he couldn't do any harm. Has anyone checked to see if he was part of gang? He became violent when he saw someone following him. Why didn't he just use his words and not his fists. It is not a black or white issue. The parents have already made money off of his death from the homeowners association. If they go to a civil trial, then I believe they are just wanting to make more money off of his untimely death. Please stop doing these stories. It is done with!

    July 18, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. dja1

    The Zimmerman case: 1) Zimmerman is not guilty per a jury of his peers. 2) Think of this as a tragic accident and not a miscarriage of justice. 3) People needs to get to stop the overbearing sanctimony and self serviing melodrama with no solutions.
    4) Both Martin and Zimmerman were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like all accidents it is a truly tragic event.
    5) To all who criticize the verdict– it was delivered in accordance with the law so get with the program. Agitate to get the law changed not to ignore the law and it's verdict.

    July 18, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  11. Abraham Paz

    There was a fight between George and Trayvon as there are hundreds in our country, every year and George used a gun to
    beat Trayvon. I think this is at least manslaughter

    July 18, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. jstantoine

    Story is dead, someone still beating it to death.
    No sign of racism, going no place ever.

    July 18, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  13. betina

    This case is not about race and racism. I wish people stopped pulling the race card whenever they want to change an outcome! By pulling the race card inappropriately we have had a murder like O.J Simpson walk free and an innocent man under the law like Zimmerman who feared for his life about to get prosecuted for a hate crime unjustifiably. This case is not about racism. IT IS ABOUT SELF DEFENSE. Some cases, on the other hand, like the Rodney King case did fall under the statue of civil rights BUT that is not the case here. If the race card is pulled every time it will violate the rights of sometimes victims (O.J's wife and her friend) and at other times of defendants.

    July 18, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. Sheila

    GZ was innocent – why ? b/c everyone that I know, has had the same problem w/ people of color, who is always tryin to be the aggressor, in every situation.

    July 18, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. Susan

    Ahh yes, Mr Spitzer pandering to the black vote. You haven't changed or learned anything have you eliot, still dirty as ever.

    July 18, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  16. b0bc@t

    Answers to your questions:
    1) George Zimmerman claims to act as a neighborhood watch volunteer, but follows Trayvon, going against his training and the instructions provided by the dispatcher, his conduit to the police as their agent. He follows Trayvon and sets up the fear of his situation, backed by the testimony of his friend on the phone, and did not tell police that he ever formally identified himself as neighborhood watch or his purpose when the confrontation ensued.
    2) Trayvon was capable to be the attacker, but due to Zimmerman's actions and Florida law, Trayvon has the right to confront his pursuer, rather than a requirement to flee home. He was more capable than George, apparently as witnessed by Trayvon getting command over him and inflicting those injuries on hiis pursuer. Why lead him to his home?
    3) Sure he could have been looking to get drugs or commit a crime, but that is speculation, while it is known that his father's girlfriend's house, the place Trayvon was heading for, was a short distance through the gated community. Being it was night and raining, should Trayvon have had to walk in brightly lit streets and stay out in the rain, rather than take a shortcut through the common area of the community? Easy to project your fears on Trayvon's motives, just as George did, without ever George identifying himself outright before Trayvon decided to ask him why he was following.
    4) There was reasonable doubt to question George Zimmerman; his story changed multiple times; he was not seriously wounded, as was suggested by George, and even refused medical attention beyond wiping the blood from his scalp; he had made forty something calls to police about blacks in the neighborhood, and suggested this could be a black youth, on drugs and looking for trouble, when all he saw was a boy with a bag of deli items, suggesting a premeditated motive that these punks always get away with it; and he used deadly force, which was beyond his neighborhood watch duties. It was not able to be prooved beyond a reasonable doubt that he had intent to kill; racial motivation; and malice of forethought, but there certainly was evidence against Zimmerman, including his deception to the court as to his financial condition, the money that he raised, and his attempt to divert and use those funds outside of his legal costs. Does his assistance in prior police matters, such as ride alongs with patrolmen give him a free pass to take police matters into his own hands, beyond the scope of neighborhood watch, I think not. The prosecutors overcharged, tried for 2nd degree murder, rather than manslaughter, which worked to their detriment, as Zimmerman had a sympathetic jury, and the prosecution left open many possibilities for George's version, rather then directing the attention back to Trayvon's rights to walk home, instead of George's right to fight off his losing battle that George helped initiate.

    The verdict is what it is, which is unfortunate, in my opinion, in that a precedent was set to let neighborhood watch kill with impunity, or at least take police matters into their own hands, and not be held responsible for the ultimate outcome.

    July 18, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. Marcus Pea

    The controversial dilemma in the George Zimmerman case centers on the controversy in the jury and questionable facts. The detailed facts about the fight and the shooting tend to have flaws and holes in it and contain many possibilities of what took place or what happen between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. The dispatch continue to claim George Zimmerman's fault in the result or the outcome because George didn't follow the dispatch instructions. Normally, the jury contains twelve members. I am looking forward to another trial whether it's a civil case or civil rights case.

    July 18, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  18. Richard Right

    I'm impressed. Apparently a lot of people thing Zimmerman, on the bottom from being knocked down, should have simply allowed Martin to punch him one more time or thirty more times until Zimmerman was dead. Think about how you would feel if you were on the ground like Zimmerman was. And if you're some big muscular guy don't tell me you would have outfought him. Because he chose to attack someone smaller than him, not bigger than him.

    July 18, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. b0bc@t

    This was a perfect storm of sorts with the conduct of both individuals bringing about the outcome of a dead boy, and a villified neighborhood watch volunteer. If either had let common sense and proper civil communication occur, this whole mess could have been avoided. If Trayvon walked on the public streets instead of through back yard coomon grounds, he probably would never have caught the attention of George Zimmerman. If George Zimmerman had followed his Neighborhood Watch training, or listened to the dispatcher, not to follow, and stayed in his car, he could have pointed the way to the police and let professionals do their job of public safety. I don't think Trayvon would have reacted with a punch to the face of a questioning police officer, as opposed to a stranger following him in the night. If Trayvon had headed straight home, rather than circle back, or communicated with George without using his fists, George would not have gotten overwhelmed and feel the need to use deadly force in self defense or self preservation. If George had initially spoken to the boy and identified himeself, rather than following him without notice, he could have defused the situation, or at least then Zimmerman would have been more in line with a Neighborhood Watch protocol, and justified should Trayvon have acted with similar violence. If George Zimmerman did not have the weapon, he would not be defending his actions and in fear of his life, but his fight would have been more protracted with Trayvon, and his injuries might have been more in line with the sensational reports of bashing his skull. That outcome might have been worse for George, but he would not have had to take justice into his own hands and would not have neded to take a life. ALL FAIL

    July 18, 2013 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. James C.

    I have been on a jury before and I believe the jury did what they were suppose to do go by the facts. Some people may not be happy but emotions can not convict someone. I also do not believe politics should be involved in our judicial system.

    July 18, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
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