While there were two lawyers at the defense table, there were three at the State’s: Bernie de la Rionda, John Guy, and Richard Mantei. With about a hundred lawyers to pick from, knowing her office would be in the spotlight, State’s Attorney Angela Corey wouldn’t have put anyone on the team she thought would make her look bad.
Mantei was third chair, and the lowest guy on the totem pole gets the scut work in any organization. For instance, he was the one they sent in to argue that the state had proven its case when it hadn’t during the argument for judgment of acquittal. Perhaps the two senior guys didn’t want to be on film forever BS-ing the judge. I suspect Mantei is a good prosecutor when he actually has a case.
The lead prosecutor in the courtroom was de la Rionda. He’s the only one of the three I’ve seen live in a courtroom, and I can tell you that he knows the law and presents himself with articulate confidence. De la Rionda is said to have an extraordinarily high conviction rate. Why he accepted a case like this, as close as he is to retirement age, I cannot understand. His frustration was obvious throughout the Zimmerman trial; I can’t imagine a man with his skill and experience being so abrasive in front of a jury for any other reason.
In second seat was Guy, by far the best orator on that prosecution team. My students have heard me warn them about attorneys who seem to have majored in drama and minored in law, and Guy certainly fit that mold in Zimmerman. Remember his “Fucking punks” opening, and his breathless assertion that the defendant killed the deceased “because he wanted to”? If he is as good a prosecutor as I hope he was when he really had a case, he may be disgusted enough after this trial to quit. If so, he’ll have a future in theater. I would suggest something Shakespearean, because the Zimmerman case gave him experience in things that were “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
I’ve seen other cases, more than one in Florida, where assistant prosecutors flatly refused to argue a case for conviction when the evidence showed the defendant wasn’t guilty. That didn’t happen here. Perhaps they truly believed Zimmerman was guilty, though it’s hard for me to believe that, given the evidence they must have studied at great length. On the other hand, they worked for Angela Corey, who does not have a public history of treating kindly those employees who go against her wishes.
I’ve seen many people on many a forum and blog call these prosecutors incompetent. I don’t think they were. They simply had no case. If you hired the greatest chefs in the world to cook for you, and you stocked the larder with feces, the best you could hope for them to put on the table would be a big, steaming pile of shit. And in the end, through no lack of argumentation skills on their end, that’s how these three prosecutors’ case ended up.
Now, forevermore among their peers, they’re stuck with the blemish of this case, and the accusations of withholding evidence which have come along with it, and which don’t seem to have been fully resolved at this writing. When retirement comes to each, I doubt that any will consider trying this case to have been their best career move.
Before you blame the team, blame the coach who sent them into a game that never should have been played. We’ll discuss their coach later.