July 17th, 2013
11:00 PM ET
8 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. Mike M.

    Once again, notice how the media never mentions how Trayvon attacked (threw the first punches) Zimmerman. Without that, it gives the impression Zimmerman just shot him for walking.

    July 18, 2013 07:07 am at 7:07 am |
  2. paginger

    Overcharged? They couldn't even get manslaughter. The fact that this scumbag is still in politics tells you how much of a joke our government is.

    July 18, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  3. Michael Hunt, Esq.

    "An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed"
    He stopped being innocent the instant he committed assault. Should have dialed 911 instead.

    July 18, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  4. S. B. Stein

    There was something wrong. The jury was wrong not convict. He admitted killing Martin when he was told not to and should have considered that as manslaughter. There should have also been assault & battery charges.

    July 18, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  5. Jennifer NY

    I used to respect Eliot's legal mind, but he clearly did not read the evidence. Stupid to speak out on non-facts.

    July 18, 2013 07:12 am at 7:12 am |
  6. minecut

    “An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed", he makes it sound as if there was no likely reciprocal confrontation, no encounter, no struggle, no fight, no argument, nothing to worry about...just walking with his Skittles and Z walked up to him and shot him....wondered if Spitzer was on a trip during the trial? or what his agenda is?

    July 18, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  7. Steve Crowley

    Spitzer is over reaching by running for office again.

    July 18, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  8. Robpierre

    The only reason he was charged in the first place was due to political pressure. He defended himself legally, despite all the other unfortunate circumstances surrounding the case. This case will continue to be political.

    July 18, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  9. sanityrules

    I agree with that, but you have to back to the time period after the crime. The police didn't think they had a good case given the way the law was written. It was only after political pressure from Eric Holder and the President that the state reversed course and charged Zimmerman with second degree murder.

    Let's face it, there was little or no justice done here. Either for Zimmerman or for Trayvon. This whole thing has been a political exercise for the African American community to vent and for the President to pander.

    July 18, 2013 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  10. Karl

    Gee...I wonder why prosecutors went after Zimmerman with 2nd degree murder charges to begin with? Is it just remotely possible they caved into the media frenzy and mob mentality who would settle for nothing less? I'm sad for the Martin family, I'm ashamed of this country. And the media coverage of this ordeal was a crime in and of itself!

    July 18, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  11. ed

    It seems that the only justice anyone will accept is Zimmerman dead.

    July 18, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  12. Seth

    Who cares what Spitzer has to say? Shouldn't he have lost all credibility? True colors of CNN on display: Everything is forgivable as long as you're with us!

    July 18, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  13. Hmmm

    Spritzer should worry about his own problems

    July 18, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  14. Harrison Ford

    There is nothing left here, it was bait and hook by black groups and liberals, there needs to be a better acid test for cases to go to trial, the state of Florida and those pushing and enforcing this false sense of racism upon us all, where there was none, divides us and destroys us all from within.
    When do the people commiting the real crime go to jail?

    July 18, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  15. David

    Wow, how is it that statements like this are allowed to go unchecked. Sure, walking isn't illegal, but ASSAULTING SOMEONE IS ILLEGAL!!!!!!! THAT is why he was shot, not for just walking with a bag of skittles as the ignorant like to portray!

    July 18, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  16. wayne

    I agree with Spitzer. There was not enough evidence for a murder charge.

    July 18, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  17. TD

    He never once suggested that Zimmerman was not guilty. He's no better than all of the actors, mainstream media reporters, and activists demanding "justice for Trayvon." Guess what? Justice was served. Move on. Please!

    July 18, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  18. The AF Chief

    I can't believe this mass hesteria. A majority of the country actually thinks this kid did doing nothing wrong? Just goes to show how this country is failing.

    July 18, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  19. Confused

    I don't understand why TM keeps getting portrayed as a sweet, little lamb....

    July 18, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  20. Anonymous

    The fault of this case lies totally in the lap of the prosecution. Zimmerman has complied in everything the state required. He is a free man.

    July 18, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  21. ralphco

    Justice was not served? There was a trial, a jury of peers, and a verdict – that is justice you ninny. Now, perhaps you didn't get the verdict YOU want. The prosecution did overcharge thanks to the political pressure (including from our president) brought to bear on the case trying to make it a race issue which it never has been from the beginning.

    July 18, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  22. Gardenia

    Spitzer himself 'overreached', some might say on too many occasions to count. His views on morality or prosecution
    given both his professional and personal history are worthless. What is staggering is that he would be asked his
    opinion on anything by media.

    July 18, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  23. xjdavid

    Self-defense, plain and simple. Zimmerman had every right to leave his truck in his own neighborhood without being attacked. Saying he shouldn't have gotten out of the truck is like saying "She shouldn't have been wearing that."

    July 18, 2013 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  24. Tsah from Virginia

    B37 told the whole story; she ran the show in there; she most likely "bolstered" the fact that "her husband" is a lawyer and she knows the laws. The vote was originally split; the jurors ASKED for clarification on the manslaughter charge but NEVER came back with a more specific question. That's because "Ms B37" overruled that and the other jurors fell for it!!! Trayvon Martin will NEVER get justice; but George Zimmerman will live the rest of his life as a "Black Man" CONSTANTLY looking from side to side and over his shoulders for NO REASON !!!!

    July 18, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  25. The View From Here

    Zimmerman also was not legally doing anything wrong. Only performing his job as a neighborhood watch captain when he was attacked by Martin. Martin made a bad choice when he chose to attack Zimmerman and paid the ultimate price. Case closed!

    July 18, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
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