Kendall Coffey: Lead investigator in Trayvon Martin Case ignored

On Feb. 26, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin at an apartment complex in Florida’s Sanford County.  According to Zimmerman, the killing resulted from an act of self-defense. According to prosecutor Angela Corey, it was second-degree murder, which is what she charged him with April 11.


Initially the ‘facts’ were mere speculation and bits and pieces were released to an inconclusive end. MSNBC reviewed the case with Miami political commentator and former US Attorney Kendall Coffey in an interview following the crime.


The day of the killing, Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee and State Attorney Norm Wolfinger overruled lead investigator Chris Serino’s request for the arrest of George Zimmerman. “…The lead investigator, the person that normally law enforcement would say is in the best position to assess whether or not there’s probable cause [for arrest, was] effectively overruled by people sitting back at the office,” said Kendall Coffey, adding that the scenario raised questions. Though it is not apparent whether Zimmerman is guilty or innocent, the police didn’t so much as detain the suspect after it was confirmed that he killed a 17-year-old boy.


This case is far from simple, especially considering Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law that permits victims of violent situations to forcibly attack their assailants in the presence of danger or an imminent threat. ‘Stand your ground’ is the type of law that could alleviate the legal turmoil an individual would face for having protected himself in a dangerous situation. However, it is also the kind of law that allows guilty individuals with histories of violence to escape the consequences the legal system would impose.


The principle query raised by the actions of the Sanford police department the day the crime took place is, “How can you so quickly dismiss what the lead investigator said when you have somebody dead – an unarmed somebody – that was killed by somebody with a gun?” said Kendall Coffey.


Though no definitive answer has emerged, the case continues to unravel, triggering emotional responses from those following the case.

Trayvon Martin in the Court of Public Opinion

The Trayvon Martin case continues, although the court of public opinion seems undecided on whether or not George Zimmerman is guilty.  While the initial decision by the media seemed to be that Zimmerman was an aggressive vigilante who had of course shot Martin unprovoked, the public seems to have changed its tune in the last couple days.


Kendall Coffey on the George Zimmerman trial

Kendall Coffey on the George Zimmerman trial

According to Joy-Ann Reid over at, the change is partially based on the photos that were taken of the wounds on the back of Zimmerman’s head.   News groups like ABC have suggested that these wounds may give enough credence to his claims of self-defense that perhaps the second degree murder charges should be dropped.


But, that’s really just speculation.  Legal experts like Kendall Coffey say that the pictures don’t prove that  Zimmerman is innocent by a long shot.


Kendall Coffey says pictures might not prove anything

Kendall Coffey says pictures might not prove anything


“What it proves is that [he’s] got credible evidence on one of the elements of Stand Your Ground,’ which is the claim that he was in reasonable fear of serious bodily injury. But that doesn’t answer the question of who stated the fight, or the other critical question: did Zimmerman have to finish the fight by killing Trayvon Martin?”

Just because someone strikes you does not mean that you are justified in shooting to kill, even under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  And as Catherine Crier, a former distict court judge and TV legal analyst, explains, “”There’s an interesting provision right at the end of the statute [that says] you can’t use ‘Stand Your Ground’ if you initially provoke the use of force, unless that person is coming at you with such great force that you really are fearful for your life, and you’ve exhausted every other means of escape other than force.”

“You’re telling me that George Zimmerman — armed — has a gun, and he is terrified that Trayvon Martin is going to get him, and he has really tried to run?” Crier asks.

Of course, before the media starts calling for prosecutors to drop the case against Zimmerman they should probably remember that the prosecution has already seen those images.

“They were fully aware of that information, and yet reached a conclusion that they could prove second degree murder beyond a reasonable doubt,” Coffey explained.  “Rushing to judgment that Zimmerman is innocent is equally as wrong as rushing to judgment that he is guilty.”

As it stands now, the group representing Zimmerman is taking steps to try to quell the media sensation that has arisen, although it might well be too late.  They’ve urged the public to remember that “the only proper place to determine the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman is in court,” partially because the only people who will have all of the information at their fingertips will be the jury.