NEW YORK (Reuters) - George Zimmerman’s 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 O‘Mara 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.
O‘Mara 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 I‘m involved in,” O‘Mara 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,” O‘Mara said, referring specifically to de la Rionda and Corey. “They said my client was ‘lucky’ to have been acquitted. Really?”
Corey responded that O‘Mara’s comments were unprofessional and challenged him to point to any judge’s 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 don’t 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 Martin’s phone were not handed to the defense.
Kruidbos testified last month that he found embarrassing photos on Martin’s 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.
O‘Mara 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 Martin’s phone records for months “an undeniable Brady violation.”
Prosecutors handed over raw data from Martin’s phone, but O‘Mara accused them of withholding additional data that had been extracted by Kruidbos. Corey countered that the judge determined the defense was in possession.
O‘Mara has quarreled with the prosecutors since they charged Zimmerman last year and has become increasingly aggressive in his criticism of the prosecution since his client’s 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.
Additional reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Christopher Wilson