NEW YORK (Reuters) - George Zimmermans chief defense lawyer on Monday called Florida prosecutors "a disgrace to my profession" for holding back evidence for months and pledged a new effort to impose sanctions against them.
Mark OMara and co-counsel Don West argued the self-defense case that helped Zimmerman win an acquittal of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges on Saturday for the 2012 shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.
The law requires prosecutors to share evidence with defense attorneys, especially if it helps exonerate defendants. The requirement is known as the Brady disclosure.OMara accused prosecutors of several Brady violations, which were heard by Judge Debra Nelson before the trial. Nelson postponed some of her decisions on sanctions until after trial, saying the process was time-consuming.
"This is not acceptable, and is not going to be tolerated in any case that Im involved in," OMara told Reuters in New York on Monday, accusing special prosecutor Angela Corey and lead trial attorney Bernie de la Rionda of Brady violations.
"They are a disgrace to my profession," OMara said, referring specifically to de la Rionda and Corey. "They said my client was lucky to have been acquitted. Really?"
Corey responded that OMaras comments were unprofessional and challenged him to point to any judges ruling that her office improperly withheld evidence."Our office adhered to the highest standards of ethical behavior," Corey told Reuters in a telephone interview. "Our rules of professional conduct regulate comments like that. I dont think those are the kind of comments that are appropriate."
Her office confirmed last week that it had fired its information technology director, Ben Kruidbos, who had testified in a pre-trial hearing that files he created with text messages and images he retrieved from Martins phone were not handed to the defense.
Kruidbos testified last month that he found embarrassing photos on Martins phone that included pictures of a clump of jewelry on a bed, underage nude females, marijuana plants and a hand holding a semi-automatic pistol.
OMara said he intends to amend his request for sanctions against the prosecutors in light of testimony from the trial, calling prosecutors failure to turn over data from Martins phone records for months "an undeniable Brady violation."
Prosecutors handed over raw data from Martins phone, but OMara accused them of withholding additional data that had been extracted by Kruidbos. Corey countered that the judge determined the defense was in possession.
OMara has quarreled with the prosecutors since they charged Zimmerman last year and has become increasingly aggressive in his criticism of the prosecution since his clients acquittal.
A jury in Sanford, Florida, found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter after a three-week trial in which defense lawyers argued that the neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin in self-defense.
The young friend of slain teenager Trayvon Martin made her first public remarks since George Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday, vigorously defending Martins reputation and saying race played a role in his death and Zimmermans acquittal.
Appearing on CNN’s “Piers Morgan” program, Rachel Jeantel responded to avalanche of public attention following her testimony as Zimmerman’s trial.
“Don West is lucky I’m a Christian,” Jeantel, 19, said when asked how she was treated in the courtroom by defense attorney Don West. “The only reason I have not said anything to Don West is because my parents have taught me better.”
Asked for her response to the jury’s not guilty verdict, Jeantel was circumspect, saying, “Disappointed. Upset. Angry. Question [sic]. And mad.”
She also added that while Trayvon Martin did occasionally smoke marijuana, he never displayed aggressive behavior or expressed an interest in firearms. She said that Martin likely smoked marijuana about two times per week, and that it was a normal amount for teens in the area. “In my area, weed for Trayvon, weed don’t make him go crazy,” she said. “It just make him hungry.”
And despite recent comments from one of the jurors in the case, Jeantel says she does believe race played a role in Zimmerman’s actions and in the jury’s decision to acquit him.
“It was racial. Let’s be honest,” she said. “If Trayvon was white and he had a hoodie on, would that have happened? It happened around 7 o’clock, that’s when people walk their dogs.”
And on the jury saying race played no role: “They’re white.”
Jeantel says she “had a feeling” that Zimmerman would be found not guilty.