With 25 years in jail for their client at stake, with the most watched criminal trial of the year already off to a profane opening day, and with the mother of Trayvon Martin escorted out in tears, George Zimmerman's lead attorney, Don West, the high-powered new public face of a legal team that received over $315,000 to help build a not-guilty argument for one of the most hated men in America, opened up his defense — and the latest chapter in a national conversation on race — with ... a "knock-knock" joke. We're not kidding.
Knock knock. Who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right. Good. You're on the jury.
Sure, jury selection in the trial focused on finding those few people in the pool who hadn't followed the killing of Martin as closely as the rest of the nation. So it's an inside joke on a national stage. But the defense got the jury it wanted. And, yes, Mr. West, it did sound a little bit weird to begin opening arguments in a major televised murder trial with a joke. Even Nancy Grace is getting more serious than that! Still, the joke did not appear to go over well with the jury, so maybe Zimmerman should stick with Mark O'Mara, who was trying to paint Martin as a "violent" drug user — although that didn't go over so well with the judge. (Update: Later in Day One, O'Mara apologized for his prepared opening line. "No more bad jokes, I promise that," he said to the jury. "I was convinced it was the delivery.")
West's bad joke was just one of the dramatic events of the opening statements, which were preceded by Martin's family in tears after an emotional opening statement and a subsequent escorting from the courtroom. The prosecution's arguments started with prosecutor John Guy saying the words "fucking punks," to quote Zimmerman himself and take the hyperbole up a notch on Day One. If you weren't ready for a spectacle of the absurd, this case, with very serious implications, may be well on its way.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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