Talk about your dirty lawyer tricks! That’s what MSNBC’s Karen Finney and the network social critic Goldie Taylor seemed to think they were did last Friday.
The two were taking the temperature of the George Zimmerman murder trial when Taylor offered up the possibility that the defendant altered his appearance — most notably by putting on pounds — in a ploy to appear less ominous to the jury:
Are we seeing the same George Zimmerman in court now as Trayvon Martin encountered that night? You know, he is 100 pounds heavier, he is clean-shaven, he no longer is sort of this buff, tanned guy with a goatee that, to me, is simply more imposing. I’m not sure that if I saw this George Zimmerman at night confronting me that I would feel nearly as intimidated as the George Zimmerman we’ve seen in some of these photographs. I wonder if that weight gain has something to do with the stress and pressure of being under house arrest. I wonder if that weight gain has something to do with a concerted effort by the defense to make sure that their client appears as non-imposing, as non-threatening, as possible. You know, those are all of the things in the toolkit that the defense has to work with. And I think we’ve got to see these two men as they saw each other that night.
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, who has been following the trial, notes that “expert analysis so far “has been quite good,” adding that “commentators have made strong points about the various witnesses and have for the most part stayed away from ridiculous speculation and bombast. Until now.”
Wemple quotes a second analyst, Lisa Bloom, who offers up a different explanation for the changes in Zimmerman’s appearance:
Of course defendants are always going to come into court in a suit and a tie, cleaned up, well groomed.
As for the weight gain, she observes that it might be a by-product of trial-induced stress but expresses a reluctance to engage in idle speculation, noting “we don’t have any evidence to substantiate that.”
But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that Taylor’s theory is right — that Zimmerman’s legal team urged him to pudge up for the trial. How is that any different from the prosecution withholding evidence, including cell phone photos and text messages that might cast the victim in a negative light? Or from portraying Trayvon Martin in its opening statement as a “defenseless child,” rather than as a strapping adolescent who, at 6-foot-1, had a 4-inch height advantage on Zimmerman. True, Zimmerman had a 20-pound weight advantage, but that would seem to indicate the two were evenly matched (unless of course one accepts the prosecutor’s as-yet unsubstantiated claim that Zimmerman was the aggressor and approached the teen with his weapon drawn).
And where was Goldie Taylor’s indignation when the mainstream media for the 6 months after the story of the killing broke published and republished the same prepubescent photos of an angelic-looking child clad in a hoodie?