On Wednesday, Judge Debra Nelson, who is presiding over the trial of George Zimmerman, repeatedly asked Zimmerman whether he would be testifying, over the objections of his attorneys. Nelson told Zimmerman that he had the “absolute right to remain silent” and then asked him whether he wanted to testify. Don West, Zimmerman’s attorney, objected; Nelson overruled him and said, “The court is entitled to inquire if Mr. Zimmerman’s determination as to whether or not he wants to testify.”
She asked Zimmerman how much time he wanted to figure out if he wanted to testify, to which West objected. Nelson then said, irritated, “Your objection is overruled!” Mark O’Mara, another of the defense attorneys whispered, “What is going on?”
Such exchanges are very unusual in criminal trials. Judges rarely confront possible witnesses or defendants on whether they will testify over the objections of attorneys.
A few minutes later, Judge Nelson continued to ask Zimmerman about whether he would testify. She gave him a few minutes to consider. Then she returned to Zimmerman and asked him whether he would testify; he said he would not. She then repeatedly asked whether it was his decision not to testify in the case, rather than the decision of his attorneys.
The defense has rested. After 18 witnesses over the course of the last week, the defense closed its case, then motioned for dismissal; that motion was denied. Prosecutors are calling two rebuttal witnesses, the first of whom, Adam Pollock, Zimmerman’s trainer, already testified for the defense. Both sides are currently drafting jury instructions. Presumably, the case will be sent to the jury tomorrow, after the prosecution’s final rebuttal witness.
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).