July 17th, 2013
11:00 PM ET
7 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. norma jean

    See it any way you want to....but a seventeen year old unarmed boy was shot ...... on his way home from a store..in the dark..............

    July 17, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  2. Name Uche Agonsi

    This 'self defence plea thing' now sickens me. It reminds me of South African Pistorious(blade runner). How can you be defending yourself in American Streets with a gun against unarmed child walking the street. Even in your own house, the defence will be justifiable only with a commeasurate/justifiable force. Whatever is the legal justification for this act, nobody among the jury members or even President Catter would be so supportive of Zimmerman if his own son was Martin. I guess Pistorious would be grinning at this development.

    July 18, 2013 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  3. Al Megill

    Spitzer is as incompetent as the prosecutors were. Either he didn't read the evidence presented or didn't read the law, to say the jurors were showing sympathy towards Zimmrman is ludicrous. Also ask him what would have happened if Trayvon who was on top of Zimmerman had gotten the gun and killed Zimmerman? With out a stand your ground law he would have nothing to fall back on, Eric Holder wants self defense to require someone to run if able, to be able to claim it Trayvon didn't he attacked Zimmerman who was already heading back to his truck.

    July 18, 2013 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  4. Ron

    No doubt they overreached and in fact there was not probable cause for any trial. But the key is that without the gun laws the shooting could not have occurred. Maybe Zimmerman may have been beaten to death instead, but who would care about that?

    July 18, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  5. California

    That's only one of many things the prosecution did wrong.

    July 18, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  6. sabre546

    What was Spitzer charged with?

    July 18, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  7. SusanStoHelit

    A young man was walking where he had a right to walk. And so was another man, George. And then the young man did what he doesn't have the right to do – he assaulted George, bashed his head against concrete, and did enough that George was in fear for his life if he did not stop this assault.

    July 18, 2013 01:35 am at 1:35 am |
  8. BLE7481

    If only that young man walking where he had every right to be hadn't decided to break George Zimmerman's nose, knock him to the ground and strike him repeatedly.

    Of course, Elliot Spitzer's forgotten his love affair with whores, and expects that everyone else has, too.

    July 18, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  9. BLE7481

    Not pleased with the trial’s outcome, he added “something is wrong when there is no judicial response to that.”

    Something's also wrong when a dimwit like Spitzer is constantly treated as some sort of oracle.

    July 18, 2013 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  10. Lily

    This case is very troubling and no after which way the verdict had gone there would have been no satisfaction. The truth is that Zimmerman should have stayed in his car and Artin shoud not have confronted Zimmerman, then tried to beat him up. The obe thing i ate issue with s that no be who is on Martin's side mentions that he was in the throws of severely harming Zimmerman at the time of the shot. How could Zimmerman keep himself from eing permanently hurt?

    July 18, 2013 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  11. jon

    Spitzer is surely correct on this one.

    July 18, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  12. Silent Majority

    I'm tired of hearing Trayvon being mentioned as a 'innocent young man'. The only crime that was committed that night was Trayvon assaulting Zimmerman. Its not illegal to racially profile someone, its not illegal to follow someone, and its not illegal to kill someone in self defense. Trayvon is the only criminal here!

    July 18, 2013 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  13. Mr. Blackman

    Not really worth a comment.

    July 18, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  14. steve p.

    How in the heck do you prosecute someone and not cross examine ? With that kind of prosecution cain would have gotten acquitted for killing abel !

    July 18, 2013 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  15. thequeenbee9

    I said at the time of the charge that the prosecution DELIBERATELY set the bar this high so that in the end, there would be an acquittal. If we remember, they did not want to even bother charging or investigating this death in the first place.

    July 18, 2013 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  16. Fritz Hohenheim

    “I always worried as a prosecutor, if you overcharge, you lose credibility,” – Like making going to a prostitue a crime for ordinary people but not for Elliot Spritzer?

    July 18, 2013 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  17. Californian

    Want to propel yourself into the limelight? Spew anti Zimmerman verdict propaganda. He may be in the spotlight, but I think in the long run it will hurt him more than it may help him. The majority believe the verdict was correct, hopefully those same majority will get out and vote.

    July 18, 2013 02:11 am at 2:11 am |
  18. Joe

    " 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."

    According to our country's legal system, justice has been served. Perhaps Spitzer needs to go back to law school. That statement is not any better than the prosecutor saying after the fact that GZ is a "murderer".

    6 people on a jury would disagree with those comments.

    July 18, 2013 02:18 am at 2:18 am |
  19. Anonymous

    There have been tons of cases where the verdict has not been according to the liking of many.

    OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony, in that case a 2 year old girl was killed.

    Angela Corey recently described Zimmerman in one word as a 'murderer'. When she was assigned to the case, she said in one of her first speeches that cases are not tried in public or on the media but in courtrooms. Piece by piece, evidence by evidence. And now that the case has been tried and concluded, and if the verdict is not to the liking of many and Angela Corey still says that Zimmerman is a murderer.

    There have also been numerous stories, right here on CNN of innocent people set free decades after being imprisoned for a crime which they never committed, meaning they were innocent all along.

    Then the problem lies with our judicial system, legal system, laws, stand your ground laws and other elements. I think one can also not be tried more then once for the same violation.

    So if George Zimmerman is in fact a murderer and did not act in self defense, then we need to re evaluate our laws, judicial system and the elements which led to the not guilty verdict.

    The same incidence or similar incidences can happen again in the future, again claiming self defense and again may not be able to convict of anything, because after all it was self defense.

    But then again what if George Zimmerman did in fact act in self defense and the not guilty verdict was in fact correct, what do we do then.

    July 18, 2013 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  20. matt

    What is also most urgent to address as well is the police brutality against minorities, especially blacks !
    The majority of the police is still white ! There is institutional racism and it's so real !

    Police training, policies and laws need to be changed how to deal and treat minorities !
    It's horrific to see how police officers abuse their powers ! A white man is allowed to reply to the police when they are stopped. A black man has no rights and needs to shut up.

    Harsher punishments against Police officers who violates basic civil rights ! Most of the time they get fired and that's it.
    They need to serve time and their pensions need to be revoked.

    July 18, 2013 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  21. Enzo

    "we are a nation of laws..." Yes. And soliciting prostitutes apparently fell off this man's list. Hypocrite...

    July 18, 2013 02:30 am at 2:30 am |
  22. Susan

    Everybody seems to omit the fact that Zimmerman was pinned to the ground getting his head smashed in.

    July 18, 2013 02:57 am at 2:57 am |
  23. ashley

    i agree with everything he said

    July 18, 2013 03:02 am at 3:02 am |
  24. Kman1966

    People have been very successful in the past using protests to pressure public figures into making certain decisions. However, in this case, they are asking our leaders to ignore a legal exoneration simply to satisfy their need for vengeance. If public officials bow to the pressure in this particular case, they will be violating the constitution. and possibly ending their careers. It would be a tragic mistake for the country.

    July 18, 2013 03:06 am at 3:06 am |
  25. Jan

    How do politicians who feel the need to butt their heads into trials that doesn't concern them, and frankly trials that they don't even bother to research about before giving public speeches, get to become governor?

    July 18, 2013 03:09 am at 3:09 am |
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