Of all the key figures in the courtroom during the Zimmerman trial, I found Judge Debra Nelson the most enigmatic.

Some of Zimmerman’s advocates called her the fourth prosecutor. It’s true that she granted more approaches to the bench to the prosecution than to the defense, and those who kept count said she sustained far more objections from the prosecution than from the defense. Her insistent questioning of the defendant himself as to whether he chose not to testify is something I haven’t seen before in more than 40 years in the criminal justice system.


I would have liked it if she had allowed prior bad acts by the late Trayvon Martin to come in to the jury.  At the same time, as I’ve explained earlier in this blog series , she was well within judicial prerogative to make the decision to keep that material out.


The trial lasted a month, and it’s been more than a month since the jury delivered a verdict. I’m still waiting to hear how she will rule on the requests the defense made for sanctions against the prosecution for the prosecution’s failure to provide discovery material – evidence – in a timely manner.

But, hey: did you watch Judge Nelson when the jury verdict was read?  Is it my imagination, or was she wearing a very slight smile, a smile as inscrutable as the Mona Lisa’s?



  1. I didn’t necessarily see a smile. But if you think one is there, then the explanation for granting the prosecution’s motions, objections, and other requests more frequently than the defense’s could be as simple as “there’s no way this results in a conviction; I’m going to give the prosecution enough rope to hang themselves with so that this doesn’t get overturned on appeal.”

  2. I believe the judge, like every actor in this parody of a political injustice was trapped into a situation that she felt she could not extricate herself. This whole situation was a trap laid by liberal politics. The judge was aware of Trayvon’s prior propensity for anti-social activities, but she, like the prosecution had to have known that the possibility of Zimmerman’s conviction was slim. She probably felt that, politically, she should show an inclination to favor the prosecution. When the verdict was read, I think her facial expressions closely resembled those of Zimmerman. Zimmerman externally displayed relief, while inside he probably was screaming “thank God” and doing back flips. The judge was displaying relief while inside she was screaming ” thank God, they got it right”. It is a sad commentary that our leadership has degenerated to place that they will risk the life of an innocent man to protect their position in the political arena. In a more perfect world the judge would have issued a directed verdict of innocent, but the whole purpose of this trial was to be a vehicle for politicians to abdicate their responsibilities and place them on the backs of the jurors .

  3. If she does not throw Satan’s Angel into jail for a year, she is an accessory to this attempted lynch mob.

  4. Dennis, I have a major problem with your post. Everything you say is right and I agree with it. HOWEVER! You refer to the perpetrator as Trayvon. as in “poor Trayvon”, “precious Trayvaon”, “victim Trayvon” while you refer to the victim as Zimmerman, as in “eeeevlil Zimmerman”, “rrrrracist Zimmerman”. This type of thing, along with the picture pair of Martin and George is what helped cause this and keeps it going.

  5. In this country NOW…what we all have just seen, is the problem that Gun owners and law abiding citizens face everyday, every where….when you win in court…you still lose…there will never be any peace and tranquility again in this country…until the 2nd stands alone..and has been used for what IT was intended…….Semper Fi

  6. I believe that judging by her prior facial expressions that there was a hint of a smile. She probably would have broken out in a full fledged smile but figured she would be the next target of the media’s disdain.

  7. The judge was definately one sided for the prosecution. In all her rulings and her behavior towards the defence was so unprofessional. In discussing her with fellow police officer’s they were of the opinion she was definately hand selceted to be hostile towards Mr. Zimmerman

    There games back fired on them all…..

  8. Mas :
    You are very observant, she did indeed smile at the verdict . Ever so slightly and brief; but it was there… Judge Nelson was in an unenviable position ,placed there by very powerful people who wanted a conviction (or a Crucifixion ) The Judge can honestly say she did not stand in the way of the prosecution … Can she help it if the facts of the case led the jurors to a “Not Guilty ” Verdict ?
    Great work ,as always ,Mas… Thanks

  9. Kabuki Theater for the distraction of those who must hyphenate American, how easily they are entertained with glittering glass beads.

  10. The way She went after West, was almost like they were a couple, years before
    West DUMPED her then and here was her chance for payback !

  11. Concur with the review, and I’m waiting for the follow on rulings. Especially in light of the new case Corey is pursuing over in Jacksonville.

  12. I don’t think that was a smile. It looked more to me that she clenched her jaws. Bottom line on this for me. SYG laws were put on the books because of the actions of anti-gun/anti-self defense prosecutorial misconduct. Just like what we saw in this case.

  13. Lind, I may have done a poor job of making my thoughts clear. I assure you I have never believed Zimmerman was the aggressor. Quite the contrary, my sympathies have been with Zimmerman from the point that the facts started trickling out and the media’s propaganda started falling apart. I have more background than most dealing with these issues after 34 years with a big city police department. Believe it or not these cases are not as rare as one might think. They usually play themselves out locally without the national media spotlight that we witnessed with Martin/Zimmerman. After re-reading my earlier post, I fail to see how I painted Trayvon as a victim or Zimmerman as an aggressor. It was my intent to point out that Zimmerman and the judge displayed an outward appearance that belied the emotions inside. I stand guilty as charged of using Mr. Martin’s first name and so callously using Mr. Zimmerman’s last name. Maybe that’s because most refer to this incident as Trayvon/ Zimmerman. Please inform myself and others how to identify the actors so we we don’t anger others to read into our post something that is not there. P.S.; I believe that trying to project other people’s biases into George Zimmerman’s thought processes as this incident played itself out led to much of anguish that is still going on. I apologize if their is still a misunderstanding.LOL

  14. That smile looks like the one you see on a fish pulled out of the water with a hook in its mouths. I think that was her attempt at a poker face – lots of tension in there. It’s possible that she’s just not used to the amount of scrutiny and publicity.

    My belief is that her actions and decisions during the trial, calculated or not, speak volumes. And I’m also very interested in whatever fallouts this case should keep generating.

    I greatly enjoyed Mas’ awesome commentary, as usual, and the very astute responses!

  15. Dennis,
    Please accept my apology. I didn’t mean to imply that you were sympathetic toward Martin or thought that George was the aggressor. Actually I was commenting on how Martin was, and still is, being referred to by his first name while George was, and still is, being referred to by his last name.

    That, along with the continued display a picture of the hooded, 13 or 14 year old Martin paired with a picture of George in what appears to be some kind of jail uniform, is something that sets the tone of the continued liberal efforts.

    My previous post was meant to show how that phrasing sounded, not to say anything about you.

    Again, please accept my apology.

  16. Long Time Lurker- First Time Poster.
    I noticed the smile the day the verdict was read. My thoughts were that she had to have known, (surely colleagues must’ve told her), that she had handed down rulings that the DCA would have overturned. Judge Nelson aspires for a higher seat, and having a scolding from the DCA along with an overturned verdict based on her illegal rulings on the most high profile case since OJ, would surely put the kibosh on those aspirations. I do believe she was very biased against the defense, but she recognized toward the end that a guilty verdict would not be in her best interests. Not Guilty means the DCA will not be involved. Guilty, and they would’ve been all up in her business and it would not have been pretty.
    thanks for allowing me to add my 2 cents.

  17. Dennis, I don’t hide my bias, its Mr Zimmerman, or George, and the Thug or St Skittles. Not calling you biased, just saying that I am. I believe that George deserves respect, and St Skittles? Not so much. he was a thief, a drug dealer, and a common petty thug.

  18. Massad, will you please share the rulings you mentioned in your newsletter, when the come. I live in North GA mountains after 42 years with the Tampa PD and will probably not hear of them.

  19. I think the judge was in a very tough spot politically. She was on the bench long enough to know that the prosecution had little evidence on murder two. But had she given the defense an inch, the media would have been up in arms that the judge is catering to the defense, grounds for a retrial, threats on her life, rioting, and so on.

    She had little to gain after the trial by being fair to the defense.

    In her position, I probably would have done something similar. There’s the right thing to do and the smart thing, and I think she played it beautifully to walk away from this case without being indicted for racism by the Al Sharptons and the Jessie Jacksons.

  20. This is probably the most favorable review of any component of this court, Mas. A judge’s primary characteristic is to be an impartial and transparent administrator of the written law. I certainly don’t like that she granted more objections to one side, but administering a grand jury trial with an enigmatic shroud concealing your position is an admirable ideal.

  21. Those of us who have not yet left New Jersey have some good news to report. New Jersey’s bad gun laws are not going to get worse for now. Governor Christie just vetoed some bad gun laws. He was known as an anti-gun politician, but I guess he was smart enough to know that NJ has too many bad gun laws already. As we know, criminals don’t obey laws anyway.

    I will be sending the governor a “thank you” note. Scott Bach and the grass roots probably had a lot to do with the turn around. I actually made up my mind to leave the state back in January, when NJ decided to follow the misguided lead of NY. I actually left my job and the state, only to return because I am a financial loser. Oh well, I will spare you the details.

    I guess it’s all relative. NJ gun laws are worse then at least forty states, but they are still better than the United Kingdom and Japan. I’m still going to leave…………..sometime. Better to be poor and free than poor and oppressed.

  22. I find it sad that, just like the prosecutors, it appears that this judge may have been more concerned with her career and image than with doing her job ethically, i.e. here fairly and impartially. Why would she show any kind of emotion, period, when a verdict is rendered? And if that was faked and calculated, just like the amount of slack she cut the prosecution, then she has shown herself to give in to media and political pressure.

    Biased or shrewd tactician? When is any of that supposed to be allowed in her position? I know I’m being harsh, but when people decide whether to send me to jail for 30 years or not I sure hope they’ll be on their A-game. In fact, this may be the lesson from this case: hostile media and amateurish legal pros are the norm so think REAL hard before doing the right thing in the face of crime, and God forbid, pulling the trigger.

  23. Lind, JeremyR- No apologies needed and those offered accepted. I believe we are all on the same page and have the same emotions concerning this case. George Zimmerman should never have been subjected to this miscarriage of justice. Trayvon Martin was a product of liberal social policies that have been in place for half a century. As a retired law enforcement officer,I am a product of years of trying to understand both sides of an incident and making decisions based on the facts I’ve gleaned and trying to keep my emotions in check. Nothing wrong with emotion or anger, but my posts may tend to more resemble an incident report than a blog comment. The real reason I used Martin’s first name is because I get a kick out of my spell check refusing to recognize Trayvon as a proper name. Oops!

  24. Regarding the judge’s apparent slant for the prosecution during trial, I had heard she had the reputation of favoring the prosecution generally anyway.

    On the other hand, especially in motions, sometimes a judge will appear to be giving one side a lot of grief and worry, when what the judge is actually doing is making a solid record to support a ruling in that side’s favor (as some of you suggested). I’ll also be very interested to see those later rulings which Mr. Ayoob mentions.

    Dennis, Lind, et al.: Good note and good discussion regarding use of the names. I’m sure you all know this, but since I also think it is very important, I wanted to emphasize it. (Mr. Ayoob discusses bias in language and terminology very well, linked to earlier in this series, IIRC).

    Cutting Dennis some slack, it was easy in this case for us to fall in to the style of calling the folks “Trayvon and Zimmerman”, since those are the less common options, and that identifies the case more strongly. (“Martin and George” just has less pizzaz, too.) Seems natural.

    BUT, it is also the clear design of attorneys to personalize their clients in trial, while de-personalizing the opposition. (‘Course, in this case, it also goes with the “innocent child/vicious stalker” story.) As we also know, politicians and the media also tend to know the effects of, and use, language and labeling to mold perceptions.

    This kind of covert advocacy is done constantly, and it falls often outside of our primary attention. Because our attention is often diverted by momentarily important issues, we do not always pay attention to or address such biased labels and terms right then. Left alone, they can become commonly used. Either way, these terms help to mold and manipulate public attitudes.

    (Example, lack of differentiation between the terms “gun violence”, and “violence” in many public speeches and discussions.)

  25. Watching very closely on a HD 55 inch, it did ideed appear she showed very positive relief to the vedict as opposed to negative.

  26. Does anyone think that the apparent smile that Judge Nelson couldn’t hide might simply mean that she was relieved that the deliberations were over, one way or another? Plus while addressing the jury prior to that moment she had always seemed to me to be putting extra sugar on top. Maybe that’s her ways or she was compensating for some of the dryness she’d shown towards the defense.

  27. Totally, Judge Nelson smiled ever so subtly.

    Without her as a fourth prosecutor, I suppose there would not have been a show at all. The prosecution needed a boost; whatever to satisfy the mob/the political agenda.

  28. I watched a good bit of the trial and did not get the impression that the judge was biased for one side or the other. The biggest rulings in the case went the defense’s way, namely, the ruling on the prosecution’s voice witness who was prepared to testify that the screams were from Martin. I am interested to see the sanctions rulings. As a former prosecuter, I was amazed at the prosecutions conduct and comments post-trial. It was shameful. If half the stuff about Corey is true, like the call to Harvard, then she needs help and discipline.