Zimmerman trial joke: Lawyer slammed for 'knock-knock' flop

By GABRIELLE LEVY, UPI.com  |  June 25, 2013 at 3:47 PM
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"Knock knock." "Who's there?" "George Zimmerman." "George Zimmerman who?"

"All right, good, you're on the jury!"

That thud you're hearing was this joke, attorney Don West's idea for how to start his opening statement in the defense of George Zimmerman, falling completely flat.

When the jury stared back at him, silent, West covered for his ill-timed attempted at humor.

"Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying," he explained. "“The young man lost his life. Another is fighting for his. The evidence will show this is a sad case; no monsters here."

But West's explanation didn't seem to fly. Criticism poured in, from local media and other lawyers.

"Just spit-balling here, but let's say you're one of the jurors who has to decide this case," wrote Joe Henderson of the Tampa Tribune. "This may be the most serious thing you'll ever be asked to do."

"All we know for sure right now is that Martin died from a bullet fired from Zimmerman's gun, and the defense began its case with a juvenile joke," he wrote. "If I'm on that jury, I'm scribbling "idiot" on my note pad.

And Jose Baez, the attorney who represented Casey Anthony in another high-profile Florida murder trial, said West's decision was in extremely poor taste.

"It showed tremendous insensitivity in starting out with a joke, especially a bad one," Baez said, whereas the prosecution's use of profanity "perks up the jurors" and "grabs their attention."

But legal analyst Mark NeJame said West has time to make up for his stumble at the start.

"Although we're holding on to every word, and we're all talking about knock-knock jokes...rare is it that any case is linear," NeJames said. "There will be good days for the state and good days for the defense."

And at the very least, if there was any doubt the trial of Zimmerman, who has been charged with the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, both legal teams have thoroughly dispelled that notion.

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