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Zimmerman trial: Lawyer apologizes for knock-knock joke in opening statements

By CAROLINE LEE, UPI.com   |   June 26, 2013 at 10:05 AM  |  Updated June 26, 2013 at 1:51 PM   |   Comments

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June 26 (UPI) -- Defense attorney Don West began his opening statements in the George Zimmerman trial Monday and has since been under fire for telling inappropriate knock-knock joke to jurors.

"Knock, knock," West said.
"Who's there?"
"George Zimmerman."
"George Zimmerman who?"
"All right, good. You're on the jury."

The joke was met with silence in the courtroom, but widespread criticism has led West to rethink his moment as a stand-up attorney.

Columnist Kathleen Parker said, "When it comes to knock-knock jokes, it helps to be 5 years old: You can slap your head, roll your eyes and run outside and play.

"In a courtroom where the defendant is charged with second-degree murder, a knock-knock joke has all the appeal of a bar of soap on the shower floor."

West has since apologized.

"No more bad jokes, I promise that," he said. "I was convinced it was the delivery."

West can blame it on the delivery of the joke, but he is still taking heat for his comments.

"This is a murder case,” said Alan Dershowitz, a law professor at Harvard. “The victim's family is sitting in the courtroom with tears in their eyes and he's telling a knock-knock joke? I just don’t get it."

Dershowitz continued, saying that West should reconsider his career.

"If a student ever did that in a mock court in my class, I would ask him, are you in the right school? Maybe you want to be a stand-up comedian or an entertainer."

West is known for his experience in high-profile Florida murder cases, including a 1998 case when he argued Joseph 'Crazy Joe' Spaziano should avoid death row after being convicted of raping and murdering a teenager. He was selected for his familiarity with Florida law, especially his familiarity with the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.

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