The State v. George Zimmerman trial continued today with opening statements by each side. Besides opening statements, there was something else that happened. There was a discussion, held in open court, about Trayvon Martin’s parents being allowed in the courtroom but George Zimmerman’s parents being excluded. Think of it this way – the Defense is stating it is not “FAIR” for the victim’s family to be in the courtroom but not Zimmerman’s family. Why does this matter? The Defense is arguing that the Jury is able to see who is in the courtroom and who is not and seeing a party’s family members and supporters in the courtroom does make a difference. So, it is not “fair” to Zimmerman, who has a right to a fair trial, to not allow his parents in the courtroom.
The Rule of Exclusion (a.k.a. The Rule) applies in ALL trials and hearings as long as one side “invokes” the Rule. Basically all it means is that if someone, who is not one of the parties, is on the witness list and/or is expected to testify in the trial or hearing, they are not allowed to sit in the courtroom and listen to other witnesses testify. The purpose behind the Rule is to keep each testifying witness from changing their story to fit someone else’s testimony and to keep their testimony “pure.” If the witness is allowed to hear what others are saying they may consciously, or subconsciously, change their story based on another’s testimony. It all comes down to the intent to get at the truth and to be fair.
The parties are always allowed to be in the courtroom and hear all testimony, whether they themselves are going to testify or not. They are not subject to the Rule. This includes the victim’s family. As the Judge pointed out, the Supreme Court ruled that the victim’s family has an absolute right to be in the courtroom at all times. I do think the Judge was being very abrupt and refused to see the common sense part of the argument the Defense was making and often resorted to making extreme statements which were not necessary. A simple statement such as “I understand your argument Mr. O’Mara and although I have the discretion to allow the Defendant’s parents to stay in the Courtroom, I will not grant your motion.” The attorneys go to extremes enough, the judges do not need to do it also.
The Defense also brought up the issue that Trayvon’s father cursed at one of Zimmerman’s friends/supporters and as a result, Mr. Martin should be ejected from the courtroom. The Judge did not seem to like this accusation at all and curtly told Mr. O’Mara that he needs to prove prejudice to George Zimmerman in order for her to remove Mr. Martin from her courtroom. In light of this, Judge Nelson admonished everyone that they needed to behave themselves in the courtroom. After the witness testified the Judge made her ruling.
In conclusion, the Judge denied the motions. Trayvon’s parents are allowed in the Courtroom and George Zimmerman’s parents are not until they testify or are released.