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. ridiculousness

    Spitzer "“An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed,”
    A young man who assaulted someone, without provocation or cause, was shot and killed. That happens EVERY day in this country. The ONLY reason anyone has sympathy for Martin in this case is because he was black, and the shooter was white. Change that race situation around anyway you like, and there is NO story here. Just another violent attacker getting shot.

    July 18, 2013 03:12 am at 3:12 am |
  2. cjacja

    The cops at first just let him go. Then I'm sure they over charged him knowing they'd never get a conviction.

    July 18, 2013 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  3. rickyricardo

    Whatzzz? Always. MR Spitzer you want handled the same way in you prostitution scandals and irs taxes due. You better shut you mouth and in the Zimmerman how you know Trayvon is“An innocent young man A YOU THERE WHEN HAPPEN? NO

    July 18, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  4. voice of reason

    this guy was not there and has no idea about justice being served. The jurors had the option of manslaughter. It is difficult to take these idiots seriously when they say this garbage. How about letting Florida deal with Florida...

    July 18, 2013 03:26 am at 3:26 am |
  5. jerome

    Wrong title. Overreacted is the real word. The prosecutors and governor walk on eggshells scared of being Anti PC.
    Scared of being labeled racist.
    When reality was there was no case, we don't have a justice system that works on the gang mentality.
    It works on evidence. Not how many sign a petition.
    The good people like Natalie Jackson, Ben Crump, file civil rights lawsuits daily, its their business, lawsuits.
    Next time please just stick with the evidence and facts Mr.Prosecutor, not what a civil rights group tells you
    to do.

    July 18, 2013 03:43 am at 3:43 am |
  6. youdontknowjacque

    totally agree... been saying the same thing myself

    July 18, 2013 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  7. Hugh Lowery

    This man has no credibility.

    July 18, 2013 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  8. josh rogen

    Anyone who watched the trail could see that GZ was telling the truth as he saw it, and there was no evidence to prove anything else, so the shocking thing would of been if they found him guilty. proof or lack there of has never stopped a lynch mob. it takes backbone and courage to do that. Democrats (who've historically have always enjoyed a good lynching) don't seem to have either. it seems the slaves have become the masters and paybacks a B.

    July 18, 2013 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  9. snottynoze bratt

    uh, yeah, thing is.... with this narrative you failed one point – we don't know if he was innocent and they failed to prove their charges.

    Obama and Holder are attempting to breech double jeopardy laws.

    IF they had not chosen to try him by inflaming racist charges, might have worked out better.

    As it is – actually – justice was served up to obama.

    "my son" indeed. Inflammatory to the point of screaming fire in a crowded room.

    July 18, 2013 04:07 am at 4:07 am |
  10. Daddyofjas

    I have to admit that I did not pay much attention to this case so I had to do quite a bit of research to get the facts. After researching this I am convinced that people in Florida have some major issues. Zimmerman should have at the very least been convicted of manslaughter. When you strip away all the rhetoric the fact still remains that Zimmerman saw a African American teen who he viewed as being suspicious. He called the police who specifically told him NOT to follow or engage the teen. He ignored the police and confronted the teen who had no idea who Zimmerman was (not that it should have mattered since Zimmerman is not a cop). Then after getting into an altercation with the teen that he, Zimmerman, could have avoided Zimmerman shoots the unarmed teen. The defense asserts that Zimmerman feared for his life yet would Zimmerman have had a reason to fear for his life had he not followed the teen and gotten into an altercation? The answer is obviously no. The reason I have such an issue with this is because I am white, muscular, shaved head and goatee and have been told I can come off as rather intimidating since I do not come off as a Mr. Rogers. Based on Florida law and this case if I am walking down the street in Florida and I come across someone who becomes fearful of me due to how I look they have the right to shoot me. Folks 99% of the time when I hear cases of racism I ignore it because it is normally BS but in this case I have to agree that race played a major part (and that is an understatement). Not long ago, in Florida, a black woman gets into an altercation and fires a gun into the air because she stated she was fearful for her life and was "standing her ground" . She does not hurt anyone yet is sentenced to 20 years. Zimmerman chases someone down who was not committing a crime and kills the young man and he is not guilty? Florida just went to the top of my list of places I will not be traveling to anytime soon.

    July 18, 2013 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  11. Wayne J

    This tragic incident has saddened the nation. A nearly emancipated teenager who wound up in an altercation with a stranger following him, as he perceived it, for no good reason, on a dark rainy night, lost his life. Tragic too was the lack of communication identifying each to the other, the suddenness of the hostilities and lack of overall civility resulting in a death. This teenager's world and how he viewed it is quite different than that of the other person involved. Potentially lethal situations do not afford the time and pleasure of sorting things out. Rather, in today's culture, rapid action and violence is too often the answer. Was it the impetuousness of youth or the lack of controlling his anger?
    I remember the movie "The Odyssey" where Odysseus saves his son from a trap by persuading him to back out of a touted fight. He instructs him to tell his mother he has now controlled his anger. Did this young man fall into a legal cultural trap by confronting a stranger in such a manner? Already, more cases are occurring where the legal system seems to fail on the same side. Is this "stand your ground" thing backfiring? What kind of culture has involved where
    crossing the line from a squabble to a violent life threatening attack takes precedence over self defence?

    July 18, 2013 04:36 am at 4:36 am |
  12. jake

    Spitzer is staging a political comeback. He is hardly a paragon of integrity himself having abused his power as governor to use the State Police to spy on a state senator for political purposes. His comments about an innocent young man being shot and killed are certainly not representative of the facts. All useless comments like his do is inflame an already tense situation. As a former state AG, it would behoove him to call for support of the rule of law. I wonder what he would have had to say about the OJ verdict.

    July 18, 2013 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
  13. J. Sidney Fox

    This is about the most logical, sane minded response I have read so far to the Martin/Zimmerman debacle. That an unarmed youth, simply walking in a location he had every legal right to be was accosted and subsequently shot dead without any legal real repercussions is a travesty at every possible level.

    July 18, 2013 05:09 am at 5:09 am |
  14. Ima Mused

    ENOUGH, CNN! Just enough.

    July 18, 2013 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  15. Dikran

    Prosecutors really are idiots and hypocrites for the most part. And here their lunacy cost other people undue stress. They should have charged him with lower counts and done a good job but they were pathetic. I hope they get fired.

    July 18, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  16. USMC1371

    What stupidity. ...... Let me guess he has a re-election coming in the near future.

    July 18, 2013 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  17. Randy

    Gee I really don't want to hear anything that comes out of Spitzer's mouth. You never know where its been. Was justice served when you prosecuted people for crimes that you yourself were guilty of? I do hope the people of New York will elect Spitzer and Weiner back into public office. They will get the government they deserve. I am sure all the liberal feminist will be happy with this as long as they are democrats.

    July 18, 2013 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  18. Harleigh Kiffer

    Spitzer as usual is pandering to the mob for votes which he should get plenty of in NYC from those that like the corrupt.

    July 18, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
  19. rswon

    When someone has you on the ground, is punching you in the face and banging your head on the pavement are you supposed to NOT defend yourself? I wonder what the outcome would be if Trayvon had left George in a coma and unable to work?

    July 18, 2013 05:42 am at 5:42 am |
  20. Christopher Delarosa

    Martin had a right to walk anywhere he wanted to. Zimmerman also had a right to walk anywhere he wanted to. What Martin did not have a right to do was to jump Zimmerman and repeatedly bash his head into a concrete sidewalk. When Martin CHOSE to take that action, Zimmerman had a RIGHT to defend himself.

    July 18, 2013 05:48 am at 5:48 am |
  21. John Tucker

    Another person that commented before actually reading the evidence. Or just another politician that says whatever for a vote.

    July 18, 2013 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  22. The_Independant

    YES, justice has not been served!

    July 18, 2013 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  23. pfffftt

    If the president needs to use up his time debating on this type of issue it should be centered around the huge issue of black on black violence in this country, not wasted here. The jury has already reached their verdict. End of discussion.

    July 18, 2013 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  24. Eric

    There was never enough evidence to support a charge of any crime in this case. The Media is to blame for any and all actions made against Zimmerman. From the start the media twisted the truth, and played on the emotions of the black lower to middle class by trying to turn this into a crime about race. What alot of people don't understand is while any death of a young man or teenage child is tragic, what happen that night was legal under the stand your ground law and the basic human right to self defense

    July 18, 2013 06:01 am at 6:01 am |
  25. Noah

    Why are we even entertaining anything that this man says, does anybody remember his resignation as governor? Hello? Illegal activities and he's going to try and any kind of statement about this case!

    July 18, 2013 06:02 am at 6:02 am |
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