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. WillnAtlanta

    Let it go CNN, move on to the next big story. Let it go. A jury has spoken, let it go.

    July 18, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  2. Jim

    What is amazing is that we have gotten to the point as a country where we are so afraid of what someone else might call us or accuse us of being that we throw common sense to the wind and agree with whatever seems to be the concesus at the time. We don't spend any time think for ourselves, we just regurgitate whatever we hear folks saying. If Zimmerman was simply stalking Martin, how did martin ever get his hands on Zimmerman? Would Zimmerman not have had his gun out and at the ready? How was Martin able to jump Zimmerman, straddle him, and begin to smash his head against the concrete if Zimmerman had a gun and was out to get him? He wouldn't have been. He would have been shot before he was within 10 feet of Zimmerman. Everyone seems to just sweep away the fact that Martin was smashing Zimmerman's head against the concrete, an action that could have killed Zimmerman. Would that have been ok? It would have been ok for Zimmerman to have dided, because society has no problem with that? Fools regurgitating foolishness because they are worried about what someone might say about them, and a media without a shred of credibility loving every minute of it. The prosecutors had no choice, because our idiocy demanded it.

    July 18, 2013 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  3. JB Dunn

    YES! And...the Florida State's Attorney General's and Office should be held accountable for this. It's time justice included accountability. It's the only way to prevent this 'overcharging' mess from happening again. For god's sake, even one of their office IT staff hired an attorney to protect himself from what he witnessed as abuse of power from that office. AND...they fired him for speaking out. There are so many behind the scene's deals and missteps with this trial it's not even funny. Another issue is that the boy's mother didn't even raise him. He had a step mom almost all of his life. The obvious question.."Where was the step mom in court?" After you scratch the media frenzied surface of this trial, one begins to understand how deep the rabbit hole truly goes in this case. Tragic event all around.

    July 18, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  4. GustavoP

    So he admits he hasn't reviewed the evidence completely yet he can so confidently say that Trayvon Martin didn't do anything wrong and Zimmerman should have been found guilty; that's ludicrous.

    July 18, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  5. Martha

    I agree justice was not served in this case. The case was lost with jury selection . We are nation of laws, but when those laws provide a license to kill if you are a nutcase like Zimmerman & are permitted to carry a gun then something needs to be changed. I would welcome some leadership & lofty speech from President Obama on the issues this case brings forward. As a 70 year old white woman I remember the 60'S & the civil rights movement. I am appalled our country is still so racist.

    July 18, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  6. ryan

    Nice, using the tm gm fiasco for political gain. I guess supporting a kid who beats the snot out of a man for asking him a question is better than our right to defend ourselves.

    July 18, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  7. Ron j

    its a shame how far we have "NOT" gotten as a so called nation of people. Makes you wonder or it should unless you are dead like Trayvon Martin

    July 18, 2013 07:51 am at 7:51 am |

    Im still so confused. The gov says trayvon was "innocent". If everyone thinks/thought that GZ was/is guilty. Why did he even get a trial? Why didnt we just say "he is guilty, lets get our revenge" because thats what everone want...revenge NOT JUSTICE.

    July 18, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  9. John

    Everyone keeps saying what Spitzer is saying, that there was "no judicial response." There was a judicial response, he was found not guilty. Move on.

    July 18, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  10. Dean Morron

    Dear Mr. Spitzer,

    First and foremost, I'm using the the word mister with great reserve as I can see no justified honor in your recent babble concerning the Zimmerman trail. We all have opinions, but you stated , “An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed,” Were you at the scene of the crime ? Did you witness firsthand any part of the shooting, fight, or struggle ? It seems to me you are on a political bandwagon to gain votes and that is all !!!! Any sane sensible man/woman would accept the jury's decision and move on with life, unfortunately, since you're a politician, you squawk at anything that might get you noticed ..... that is the real tragedy here "mister" Spitzer.

    July 18, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  11. The Historian

    Shame on you Mr. Spitzler for trying to use this case as a stepping stone to help you reach your political aspirations. Do you think everyone has forgotten the scandal you were wrapped up in? Nothing like the political world where one candidate can use someone else's problems as a cover for his own.

    I hope the public wakes up to the fact that a lot of the people who have jumped on this band wagon are doing so for the wrong reasons.

    July 18, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  12. Michael Hunt, Esq.

    "An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed"
    That young man stopped being innocent the instant he committed FELONY assault and battery against a stranger.
    Had he simply dialed 911 instead he would still be alive today.

    July 18, 2013 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  13. Lord Toronaga

    If you believe the TM camp....the verdict was wrong. If you believe the GZ camp....the verdict was right on. I'm going with GZ. TM was NOT innocent. His phone texts/photos certainly prove that. Fighting, guns, drugs, hostility. Even RJ said TM recognized GZ as a security guard. So.. Spitzer shows his true colors. WORM.

    July 18, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  14. Ted

    I believe that since manslaughter was also charged – that if they had enough evidence to find him guilty of that – they would have. Obviously, they did not. Focusing a barrage of evidence on the lesser charge may overwhelm the jurors brains and allow a manslaughter convinction, but presumeably the same evidence was presented at the trail. Over and over again.

    Like how a gun is so horrible. How loading a gun is so horrible. How having more than 6 bullets in the gun is so horrible. How the caliber of the bullet was so horrible.

    Critical things like that – that went on for hours and hours.

    July 18, 2013 08:02 am at 8:02 am |
  15. voiceinthewind

    Why do we care about what this guy thinks?

    July 18, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  16. WillB

    Ok, but why? Anyone otherwise out of work can see they overreached. The question is why? Remember, the police said there was not enough evidence. The District Attorney said there was not enough evidence. Even the Grand Jury was about to issue it's determination that "there was not enough evidence (for a conviction)." So, why did Angela Corey take the case away from the Grand Jury at the last minute? And even after she filed charges, the first Judge assigned to the case got himself intentionally removed, so did the 2nd Judge. No clues yet.......................Spitzer is just trying to be politically correct, he's running for office, so he surely does not want to point the finger at Angela Corey who's also running for office. They both have one thing in common.............using the dead to advance their careers.

    July 18, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  17. Ashantii Shakur

    Elliot Spitzer was a hard hitting prosecutor here in NY. He wasn't afraid of the big boys. Despite his personal short comings,
    I'd vote for him for Comptroller. When I first saw this Headline, I nearly thought, come on but! I said Elliot Spitzer was a great prosecutor, so let me have a read. I must say I agree 100%. Doesn't make him nor I right but you gotta start somewhere and knowing his prosecutor knowledge, experience and success rate, I'd definitely choose him over 97% of American prosecutors and always an unknown. I never saw Elliot come out with prejudice and prosecute. He was a facts prosecutor and always willing to give you a chance to come clean without sinking yourself.

    "You can't ask for than that."


    July 18, 2013 08:06 am at 8:06 am |
  18. Ashantii Shakur

    Pardon me, I mean, "You can't ask for more than that."

    A Shakur

    July 18, 2013 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  19. frank landa

    Spitzer has no credibility. He lied to his best friend. He paid huge sums of money for sex while he was married. He lied to his family. His word to you is worthless.

    July 18, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  20. falllendown

    In response to your statement “An innocent young man was walking where he had every right to be and ended up being shot and killed,” Zimmerman had every right to follow Trayvon, there is no law on the books, short of a restraining order which, forbades following someone. It was Zimmerman's right as a concerned citizen to follow Trayvon and report his movements to law enforcement. Secondly, Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon. So your argument, just as it was for the prosecution, is null and void. The focus of this case(thanks to the media) has been about race instead of self defense. This always seems to be the case when it is a person of color who is the victim at the hands of a lighter skinned person. Which makes little sense to me. The facts are: Both had the right to be where they were, one put his hands on the other, a fight occurred, one used lawful deadly force, and one died. Hence a Not Guity verdict.

    July 18, 2013 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  21. Tim Schmal

    It is true Zimmerman followed Martin. It is true, he overstepped his authority by leaving his car. Neither of these things is a crime. It was Travon Martin who said he was going to mess up that "cracker." Nobody emphasizes his racist comment. Nobody emphasizes the fact that Martin attacked Zimmerman, beating his head on the sidewalk, punching his face, over and over. Ever person in America, crying for "justice," ignores these facts. As long as people in America are only concerned with their opinions while ignoring fact, there will never be progress between the races, which shouldn't be an issue, but will always be. I am sorry Martin is dead; I do not celebrate this situation. The entire thing is a travesty. But, he was not an innocent child. Zimmerman may have been defending himself, may have used the "stand your ground" defense; but, he will live with this picture, having shot and killed someone, for the rest of his life. I don't think he's getting off scott-free. People want justice outside of the boundaries of the law. Years ago, this was called vigilante justice, by mobs. It was called lynching. I'm shocked that so many people who know the history of lynch mobs would be screaming so vehemently for another. Hypocrisy? Probably. Justified? No. Nobody seems to want to fix the laws; they just want "justice." Sad that it seems this will never change.

    July 18, 2013 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  22. kenny

    This is very sad that justice hasn't been done for the young men, who was still in highschool. In first round. Who knows what he mite have become. Its very sad

    July 18, 2013 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  23. Krhodes

    I guess he would know about overreaching.

    July 18, 2013 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  24. Bill in VA

    Pritzer is certainly right when he said the prosecution over reached. But I think manslaughter may have been a reach as well. The jury had that option and rejected it. Criminally negligent homicide would have been a better choice assuming that exists in FLorida. But when he says “something is wrong when there is no judicial response to that.” There was a response. He was charged, a trial was held and the prosecution did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was guilty of anyhting. That is the judicial response. As Obama said, The jury has spoken.

    July 18, 2013 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  25. smith

    Doesn`t really matter what they charged him with. The reason GZ was found not guilty was the pics of him all beat up. No pics he would have been convicted easily. I think alot of people forget that the state has to prove their case. GZ didn`t have to prove he was innocent. Like or not that`s the law.

    July 18, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
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