The trial of George Zimmerman has finally begun in a Florida courtroom, where attorneys have been questioning potential jurors since last week. On Friday, we caught up with Attorney Daryl D. Parks of Parks and Crump LLC, the law firm that is representing Trayvon Martin’s parents.
The Parks & Crump law firm was founded in 1995 by Daryl Parks and Benjamin Crump, best friends who attended law school together at Florida State University. The firm specializes in civil rights, personal injury and wrongful death cases. A Florida native, Parks is also an alumnus of Florida A & M University, where he was student body president twice and was intitiated as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. He has appeared as a legal expert on NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN among other outlets and served as the 69th president of the National Bar Association.
While the State of Florida is prosecuting Zimmerman in the current criminal trial, Parks and Crump has been assisting Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin in their civil matters, including a recently settled civil suit against the Retreat at Twin Lakes homeowner’s association where Trayvon was killed. They also plan to pursue a civil lawsuit against Zimmerman. Here, Parks discusses the developments in the criminal case to date and what we can expect in the weeks to come.
EBONY: How do Trayvon’s parents feel about how the trial is going so far?
Daryl Parks: His parents are very encouraged that they can get justice for Trayvon and that the jurors who they have seen so far seem to be very fair minded people. They believe that in the end George Zimmerman will be convicted.
EBONY: So they feel fine about the 29 potential jurors that are being asked to come back?
DP: Yes. They feel very encouraged.
EBONY: Were there any that were dismissed that you guys thought shouldn’t have been?
DP:Obviously there were various opinions that were expressed during jury selection so far; some are false, some based on truth. That’s why it’s so important that [the jury] weigh the evidence that will be admitted in court versus the information that may have been put in the public domain.
EBONY: Was there any effort to have the proceeding moved somewhere else?
DP: No, there wasn’t.
EBONY: So that wasn’t an issue for anyone, in terms of wondering if you could get a fair trial in Seminole County, Florida?
DP:You can tell from just what we’ve seen so far, that he can get a fair trial.
EBONY: A lot has been said in the media recently about the 911 tape that has been released. What do you think is going to happen with that?
DP:The judge is going to decide the issue of whether any experts will be able to testify and give their opinions. However the conversation about the 911 call has been very short-minded. There’s far more evidence that this jury is going to hear that goes far beyond whose voice is coming in on the 911 call. I think it was a good strategy on the part of the defense to try and make that the only conversation. There’s plenty of other evidence that goes to the motive and intent of the killer of Trayvon Martin.
There are various phone calls that were made that will be part of the evidence. The full body of evidence that he will have to face at trial goes far beyond just that one 911 call. It’s the full weight of the evidence that will get him convicted, not whether that’s him screaming or not. The conversation has been simplified to who’s crying for help, but it’s not that. It’s a far bigger conversation. It was great for the defense because they’ve reduced the conversation to just that. But at the trial, that won’t be the only evidence.
EBONY: Do you think the photos where it appears that George Zimmerman is injured will come into play?
DP: Let me say this. And this is important. Those are the two pieces of evidence that they have decided that helps his self-defense theory. The identification of who’s yelling on the 911 tape and the blood on the back of his head.
Well the full body of the evidence is that Trayvon Martin was doing nothing. Trayvon Martin was a pedestrian. You have to understand that you have a pedestrian walking and a guy in a truck. The pedestrian cannot attack Zimmerman in the truck. The fight didn’t happen in the truck. The fight happened in the grass behind the townhouses. That’s number one—it shows who initiated this. A pedestrian can’t beat a guy in a vehicle. It doesn’t happen. Number two, you’ve got one guy armed and one guy unarmed. Trust me, I may not be bigger than you but with a gun, I don’t feel scared.
At the end of the day it’s going to be very clear who initiated the interaction that happened. The full body of the evidence will clearly, clearly show who is at fault…there’s no question that Zimmerman killed Trayvon.
EBONY: How much longer do you think the jury selection is going to take?
DP:Man, we were just talking about that. If today was any indication, we know for sure that the process of jury selection is going to keep going up until at least Tuesday.
EBONY: The potential jurors that are coming back are going to be asked further questions. What’s the nature of the questions they’ll be asked?
DP:What you saw this week was just questioning on trial publicity. That was not a full voir dire [questioning of potential jurors, so now they’re going to move into the full jury selection and that opens it up to everything. There are so many questions you can ask a person to find out if they have some kind of bias. Especially in a case like this one. And the lawyers are aware that there’s a certain type of person that just wants to say things to get on the jury.
EBONY: There are still some people left that you haven’t questioned at all. Right?
EBONY: The judge says the case will only be 2 to 4 weeks. Why so short?
DP:In this case there are not a lot of witnesses. The people who are going to testify are going to talk about what they heard. And you have to be careful because you’ll get to a point where you’ll start pissing people off to some degree asking the same questions different ways. You don’t want to lose your jury. When you’re trying a case you’re trying to build rapport with the jury. And there are some people who are good with that and some people who are not good with that.
EBONY: Zimmerman could get second degree murder and life in prison, or he could get a lesser charge like manslaughter. What are Trayvon’s parents looking for in terms of a conviction?
DP:Without question they’d like to see him get the most severe punishment that the law will allow. Their son lost his life. They want him punished.
EBONY: The defense has made an issue of texts and photos on Trayvon’s cellphone. Are we out of the woods yet in terms of that being shown to the jury or is that still a possibility?
DP:Those pictures have nothing, zero, to do with Trayvon’s death.
EBONY: They don’t but there’s a way that they’re trying to paint an image.
DP:And you know what, that happens to be one of the regrets of our system—that it allows you to get certain information about someone and misuse the information.
EBONY:There were some potential jurors who mentioned that they had already seen some of that stuff.
DP:And they have. There are a few that did and as you see us get into the full jury selection, those are the kind of issues that you’ll probably hear come out more.
EBONY: So do you think it’s possible the actual trial could begin [this] week?
DP:Maybe by Thursday or Friday.
Given the fact that there are still some pre-trial motions being heard, we don’t know how that might affect things.
EBONY: What pre-trial motions are still being heard?
DP:The Frye hearing –the hearing about what scientific evidence can be presented —is still being heard. They still need to determine if the 911 tape that had the screams on it, whether or not any expert will be able to testify as to whose voice that was heard on the tape. They are still putting on expert testimony so [Judge Nelson] can decide one way or the other.
EBONY: Will the jury be able to hear the tape whether or not an expert testifies about whose voice it is?
DP:You can let the jury hear it for themselves and they can try to determine it for themselves, if they can decide. But the defense is trying to stop any experts from telling the jury whose voice they think it is crying for help.
EBONY:There some people who say it might be prejudicial for the jury to hear the tape. Since it’s hard to tell who it is they may just say who they think it is.
DP:That’s right and that’s just what the judge has to decide whether it has a probative value or a prejudicial value