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. Davis

    a do over? ha ha ha ROTF That was great, Thank You

    July 18, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. ST

    What about George Zimmerman raising their son telling him killing a person is the worst thing any person can do on earth. You can see what kind of life their son has put them in. Hiding; not to walk freely anywhere as they used to do; their son also going through the same path! Mmmh, the coin always consists two sides and not ONLY one.

    July 18, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  3. Marie MD

    If the judge had allowed previous calls to the police from gm it might have made a difference in the verdict. The killer had a thing about blacks in general. He saw trayvon and decided immediately that he was a suspect. That is why he zeroed in on him.
    On hindsight gm shoud have gone to jail for assaulting a cop or domestic violence but his daddy being a judge took care of that so he was able to purchase a gun to kill which he did.
    Even his brother talking about him living now looking "around" his shoulder because of vigilantes makes it a case about what his own brother did and killing an unarmed teenager.
    Anyone of us if walking and being stalked would have been scared and if confronted probably would have fought back. As a woman, I would have in a nanosecond. The only difference is that I don't have X-ray vision as trayvon must have had to see gm's gun under his pants and behind me. The only way the gun came into play was because gm had it out and was going to be a hero instead he became a murderer. I alo can't believe that if you are shot in the heart at point blank range that trayvon could have spoken to tell gm you got me.
    The prosecutors were horrible and andrea corey must have had one too many before the press conference because she seemed too happy in losing or maybe that was the plan all along!

    July 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. ST

    Sorry, I was quick to press the "Post" button as am sharing my working time with CNN. My first sentence should read: What about George Zimmerman parents raising their son telling him.................

    July 18, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  5. Tsah from Virginia

    @The View From Here – That is ONLY if you believe Zimmerman's story that Martin attacked him!! He lied and changed his story – On tape he said "when I approached Martin I..." then he changed his story and said Martin JUMPED out of the bushes and attacked him. What Zimmerman did that was "legally" wrong was doing Neighborhood Watch while carrying a loaded pistol ??? Was he on duty ??? If not, and thought he should have put himself "on duty" because he saw someone "suspicious" – then why carry his gun – LOADED????

    Come on now, he knew the LAW and from the moment he shot Trayvon he plotted his alibi – Period !!!

    July 18, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. anon

    Everyone protesting saying that justice has failed etc has forgot the first rules in our justice system: Innocent until proven guilty. While I personally feel he was guilty of manslaughter that doesn't change the fact that justice was served through the justice system. People seem to have a way of thinking that our justice system only functions properly when the verdict is to their liking. Unfortunately the state failed to prove it's case. While we may all feel that he should have been convicted lady justice is blind to our beliefs and relies on the principle of law without prejudice or corruption. The people you should be mad at are the prosecution here. They failed miserably to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

    July 18, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. Marie MD

    Poor george. It's embarrassing that he can't defend himself from a young man he stalked after being told he didnt need to do so or forget three street names in his neighborhood or had his gun already out for no other reason that trayvon was walking home with a bag of skittles.
    I hope he lives in fear for his life for the rest of his sorry life. Whoever bought him those suits can continue to take care of him. He will live in his own jail until the day he takes his last breath. He might not be in a true jail cell where he belongs but he is!

    July 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. justicecreep

    How come they did not do a simple pitch analysis of the scream ? Since only 2 people at the scene, the pitch is almost like fingerprint and would eliminate doubt who screamed help, also GZ is alive to cross verify. The juror B37 seems to have assumed TM guilty because he was looking behind himself, instead of assuming he was scared. Also GZ could have easily Faked his injury by using TM hands AFTER. Killing him and self punching himself and then banging his own back of his head against the concrete. Almost all of jury analysis was and could only be a guess of what happened, but they gave benefit of doubt to the killer and not to victim. Why the Stand Your Ground was not applied to TM defending himself with his bear arms against an attacker with a gun ??

    July 18, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. Just A Thought

    For the most part I agree with Spitzer's analysis. The prosecutors allowed 4 white women in the jury, and then overreached. Makes sense only if the prosecutors always intended to bring on a weak case on Zimmerman.

    Where I don't agree is that the President will make a great speech etc. Hispanics have been a huge vote base for Obama, as have the blacks. So the best way out is to insure a predominantly white jury that acquits Zimmerman, and then blame it all on race. I have to believe that the President and team would have silently given the prosecution the go-ahead. Having studied the President's political style...this is the only analysis that makes sense.

    Plus, Angela Corey sounds like a western name, but she looks to be of Hispanic origin. Where do you think her sympathies lie? She has made statements that they brought the best case forward against Zimmerman. Nothing that the prosecution did corroborates the view.

    All in all, Martin's parents come across as being extremely naive and trusting, and should have kept a better watch on the prosecution.

    July 18, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. ????

    @Marie MD
    "Poor george. It's embarrassing that he can't defend himself from a young man he stalked after being told he didnt need to do so or forget three street names in his neighborhood or had his gun already out for no other reason that trayvon was walking home with a bag of skittles."
    If someone is on top of you slamming your head on concrete on concrete, they are trying to kill you. It is not a matter of "embarrassment", it is a matter of life and death.

    July 18, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  11. Joi Gibson

    I am deeply saddened by the verdict and Juror B37 only made it worse. What really irks me is, it appears the jury, or some of them, did not give young Mr. Martin any benefit of the doubt. Did it ever occur to them how scared he might have been. If GZ had stayed in his car, none of this would have happened. How can you cause a confrontation, and then say you were scared for your life, bang, bang. These "stand your ground" laws are abhorent and in my opinion, lead to vigilante behavior. This case is a stark reminder of that. Let us not forget, a 17 year old child was killed and no one seems to care about that or his rights.

    July 18, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. concernedcitizen

    What I hear quite often about the trial is that GZ was using the 'Stand your ground' law, but in fact his defense team went with self-defense, which is exactly what happened in the confrontation between TM and GZ. Assault is never justified in the eyes of the judicial system, nor should it be overlooked by sympathetic onlookers in this case. If you put yourself in GZ postion, where you're head is repeatedly smashed on the ground, would you not defend yourself in anyway you could? The prosecution never had a strong case against Zimmerman, yet they pursued it due to the overwhelming call for a guilty party in the shooting.

    July 18, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. logicalboomer81

    I agree.

    The over charge created a loss of credibility in the begining for the prosecution.

    In addition, the prosecution did not do enough to point out the inconsistencies in Zimmerman's statements and they also should have objected to some of the characterization statements describing Martin.

    It looked like the fix was in – remember, this is the office that did not even want to arrest Zimmerman initially let alone prosecute him.

    I grieve for the parents.

    July 18, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. john joyce

    Am I right that you can't pick or reject someone as a juror on race alone .

    July 18, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  15. dwight

    The prosecution did not have any reach at all, but tried to turn something over. If this was a black-black or white-white crime, this prosecution against the victim, Zimmerman, would never have seen the light of day.
    And where is LULAC? Isn't Zimmerman hispanic or is the term "white Hispanic" enough to make him not Hispanic. He sure doens't look like a "white cracker". People can't handle the truth, so they want to believe the lie and the facts and the witnesses and the evidence. The real tragedy here is that Trayvon didn't have a home to go to and was going down the road that led him to his death, smoking pot, kicked out by his mother, no father in his life, school fights, etc.

    July 18, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. Anonymous

    The trajectory of the bullet indicates the TM was laying on the ground or GZ was laying and TM was standing. the right to left trajectory indicates firing from an unstable position supporting GZ claim. The shot was at close range, usually shooters prefer distance when executing a victim except for sociopaths. Also the pattern of the shirt entrance wound vs the body entrance wound indicates that TM was leaning over the source of the bullet. Yes the injuries could have been faked but unlikely as there would have likely been hesitation wounds from a few previous attempts, much like a suicide attempt slashing her wrist. This is an unfortunate incident and I didn't follow the case at all I just read the autopsy report and I am a pathology resident so forensic examination is part of my training and I just looked into it for academic interest. Anyway that is my 2 cents.

    July 18, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Steveo

    @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 !!!!
    This whole thing is emotionally charged but made much worse with speculation. How do you actually KNOW B27 overruled anything? The same goes for everyone else who seems to KNOW exactly what happened that night. All spectulation and wild guesses. This serves NO purpose other than to charge some people up and give the "Revs" some camera time. Yes it is tragic and yes the arm chair lawyers are making it worse.



    July 18, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  18. miele

    This is just a VERY LAME attempt by Elliot Spitzer to get his name into the lime light. There was nothing that Zimmerman could be charged with as he broke no laws. Get over weirdo.

    July 18, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  19. Steven The shadow

    @ all that think zimmerman fear for his life- You all have obviously never held a 9mm. when you are packing a 9mm gun no matter what your not scared of anything. You could take down a bear if u wanted to. he knew he was following a young adult, he was being stereotypical because he saw that trayvon had a hoodie on and maybe walked a certain way. The kid was innocent and should of NEVER BEEN FOLLOWED IN THE FIRST PLACE. i would be offended if someone followed me too. not because of race but because your judging my generation. im young and i get this, y dont any of you. To be honest Zimmerman would of got someone sooner or later believe me, when your not a cop or you havent had proper training, your just trigger happy, especially if your a rent a cop, which in a way is what he was doing as a neighborhood watch, WITH A GUN!!! you kidding me.

    July 18, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  20. John Coco

    PEOPLE LISTEN TO YOUR SELFS! This isnt about race. This is about right and wrong. Zimmerman was wrong for following Travon but its not against the law. Altercation was made Zimmerman got beatup and feared for his life. He had the right to shoot Travon because Travon was smashing George's head. It was dark there was no way ZImmerman can tell it was a black male. This is whats wrong with the country. Media should play a netural part in all criminal cases. IF riots occur I say we blame the media

    July 18, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    I wonder if that was your son Miele if you would get over it???

    July 18, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. Willow

    You know the more I listen to this case, the more inconsistencies I find. The fact is the only one who knows what happened is George Zimmerman, and his word cannot be taken for it as he already changed his story from Trayvon was running to he's wasn't runnning. Now Zimmerman says that Trayvon confronted him and attacked him, but why would he want to confront him when he was running away to begin with. Second, human nature will tell you, if you're in confrontation of someone you're scared with and your armed with a gun, the first thing you're going to do is show it off or even hold it in the holster. How we do know that Trayvon didn't see the gun before hand and then "stand his ground" out of fear and attacked him first. We don't, all we know is Trayvon is dead!! Three of the jury's also said that they wanted to find him guilty, but couldn't because of the way the law was written!! I can almost guarantee that the at least half of the jury regrets their verdict. This should have been a mistrial and tried again... especially with B-37 juror having a lawyer as a husband probably influencing the vote. And how can you ever "prove without reasonable doubt" on such a circumstantial case??? These questions need to be asked!!! Very disappointed

    July 18, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    John Coco

    PEOPLE LISTEN TO YOUR SELFS! This isnt about race. This is about right and wrong. Zimmerman was wrong for following Travon but its not against the law. Altercation was made Zimmerman got beatup and feared for his life. He had the right to shoot Travon because Travon was smashing George's head.
    No, if Zimmerman povoked the altercation, then Zimmerman did not have the right to pull out a gun and shoot someone dead just because he was loosing the fight. Florida's SYG does not apply if you start the fight. GZ's story was not "fact". The neighbor who testified to seeing Martin on top was outvoted by three who testified that they saw GZ on top.

    July 18, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. The Truth

    ROFL ... Spitzer complaining about someone skirting the legal system is rich. Abuse of power, campaign fund abuse, hiring hookers - yep, he sure does know a lot about how to break the law and get away with it. What a phony!

    July 18, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. Jo Anderson

    Has anyone else thought that the prosecution could have used the "Stand Your Ground" law for Trayvonn too... He was followed then approached by an unknown grown NON POLICE man. By law didn't he have the right 2 stand his ground too... Not be bullied, profiled, and harassed???

    July 18, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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