Many advise people involved in shootings to say nothing to the police.  I’m not among them. I’ve seen too many cases where declining to speak is heard as “I ain’t sayin’ nuttin’ ‘til my mouthpiece gets here,” and only the bad guy’s side of the story gets told or assumed.  I do recommend that people caught up in these things tell the responding officers the nature of the attack on them which forced them to fire, and indicate that they’ll sign a complaint on the perpetrator. I also recommend pointing out evidence and witnesses, because both tend to disappear otherwise. From there on, I strongly suggest that they advise the police that they’ll fully cooperate after they’ve spoken with counsel.

Zimmerman did otherwise, answering all questions that night and in the time that followed, and he prevailed at trial.  He convinced the investigators that he was telling the truth about being a victim, not a murderer.  He even passed a lie detector test (voice stress analysis) administered by the police shortly after the shooting.  When defense lawyer Mark O’Mara got lead investigator Chris Serino to say that he believed Zimmerman was telling the truth, it was crushingly powerful for his client. Even though the judge ordered the jury to disregard that statement the next morning in court, it was a bell that simply could not be unrung.  It turned out that his having done a videotaped walk-through of the scene was also critical to his acquittal: it allowed the jury to see the complicated layout of the scene, all the more important since Judge Nelson denied the defense’s request to have the jury visit that scene.

I also advise my students to expect to take the stand on their own behalf after a self-defense shooting.  Since both sides are going to stipulate as to who shot who, it’s going to come down to why you shot him…and, in the last analysis, that’s something the defendant can answer better than anyone else.  Sometimes, only the defendant can really answer that question.

Why didn’t Zimmerman take the stand? When I talked to Mark O’Mara a year before the trial, I got the impression he was expecting Zimmerman to testify; that Zimmerman wanted to testify; and that O’Mara thought his client would handle it well.  After the trial was over, O’Mara confirmed that Zimmerman wanted to take the stand.

I personally think he would have done well.  He certainly did when he was talking to the cops.  If he’s as articulate as his brother Robert, he would have done fine.  Shortly after the acquittal, Robert Zimmerman went into the lion’s den in an interview by hostile Piers Morgan on CNN, and the young man absolutely handed Morgan’s pompous, prejudiced ass back to him on a silver platter.



Only Zimmerman and his defense lawyers can tell you why he didn’t take the stand, but I can give you an educated guess: He didn’t have to.  The state’s case had imploded even before the defense began theirs, with virtually every prosecution witness turning into a defense witness. Zimmerman’s walk-through at the scene, when everything was fresh in his mind, was already in to the jury…and it was the best evidence.  There was simply nothing important enough to add.

I will continue to recommend that people involved in these confusing, high-stress incidents not submit themselves to detailed questioning and re-enactment in the immediate aftermath.  That said, it worked for George Zimmerman.  I will continue to warn my students that they can expect to take the stand to explain why they shot their attacker…but in this case, George Zimmerman had already done that very well during police interrogation, and had nothing to gain by repeating himself.


  1. Robert handed Pierce Morgan his behind. Morgan has never made a reasonable argument to anyone on his show.

  2. Mas:

    Thanks again for your analysis. Your advice is priceless to anyone who has to go through this kind of ordeal. When people ask me about self-defense shooting, I tell them, in addition to the other skills, they need to learn to think like a lawyer.

    George Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon Martin. Then he was attacked by our criminal justice system, then he was viciously attacked by The Main Stream Media, and he may still be attacked by a vigilante. The MSM reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, putting on a big show to scare us.

    Most of our government, the Main Stream Media, militant liberals, and democratic voters are domestic enemies of the Constitution.

    If Robert Zimmerman is not a lawyer, he should be. He was excellent.

  3. GZ was fortunate, or perhaps blessed, with bright and professional responders and up the line through the DA. These folks saw the incident for what it was. Had it not been for the interference of the race-baiters and the POTUS, this trial would not have had to take place. My point is that Mass’s warnings to minimize testimony to the first responders is still the best advice and course of action in most situations. I would like to believe that all LEOs are in the top ten percent but I would rather not bet my life on it.

  4. In Duncan Oklahoma there is a deafening silence coming from the black “community” from the African American “community”.
    There is no conversation coming out of the White House.
    Jesse Jackson made some lame statement in a tweet that had the
    force and conviction of sheep baa-ing.

  5. Mas, I don’t think I have ever seen this convoluted, contorted trial scene and the outcome explained better…thank you and Amen. best, Redclay7 in NC 8/22

  6. Wow! I’ve never seen Piers Morgan handled better than that. This interview should become the textbook for anyone going on this idiot’s show.

  7. Morgan absolutely had his ass handed back to him numerous times in that twenty minute interview. He’s not a stupid man. He knows full well he was bested, but he hung in there trying to inject his commentary to get a rise out of Mr. Zimmerman. Robert Zimmerman handled himself well, kudos to him.

    The idiot at the end who wanted to try his hand was still trying to make a race issue from the verdict. Through the interview, the only person making allusions to race was Morgan (at least that’s my perception). The commentators question should have been (at that time) what will the president say. When The One did finally speak on the case, it was to align himself with Martin to intentionally make a race issue of it instead of standing for the concept that we are a nation of laws, and that the law will decide what the outcome will be. That whatever the outcome, we as a people should respect it.

    No, the better spokesman was Robert Zimmerman. Kudos to him and his family.

  8. I can’t help but look at Robert Zimmerman handle Morgan’s loaded questions and think “this guy should run for president” because he did what so many professional politicians won’t of can’t do: he rejected the premise of every question designed to implicate his brother. He refused to let Morgan frame the narrative, and God bless him for doing so.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled at the TV screen when some hapless political hopeful allows some stupid reporter to ask him if he’s stopped beating his wife yet. It’s an old, dirty trick, and reporters shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it as often as they do. Good for Robert!

  9. Actually, in regard to Morgan, I don’t think he was “Piers Morgan” in that interview. Not so bad. In fact, he did a great service to all of us in setting Zimmerman’s brother up for those brilliantly expressed counterpoints.

    I kept finding myself saying, “Wait a minute — Piers let him finish the sentence? That’s not like Piers at all.”

    He never left his agenda, of course. And he phrased stupid questions stupidly. But this time I saw Piers actually representing some of the dolts in our society who share the perspective on this he does. And he time he tried to pin Zimmerman’s brother down, Zimmerman got a chance to set those people straight.

    For Piers, this was a great interview (compared to so many others where he just runs over his victims — er, “guests”).

    Piers did all of us CCW folks a service in this interview. He presented Zimmerman’s brother to us. And that voice wasn’t preaching to the choir: Zimmerman was talking directly to the CNN audience. All those haters and bigots who would have asked the questions exactly as Piers did.

    In that sense, Zimmerman’s brother handed all of them their asses — and Piers was just the right person to set up that opportunity.

    Beautiful! (If only we all had a brother like that. Marvelous man)

  10. Wow. I never liked Piers Morgan, on anything I’ve had the displeasure of watching him in. Watching this, every time he opened his mouth, I felt like I needed to go take a long shower to get rid of the contamination. The flip-side to that coin was listening to Robert’s replies. That man had his act together, was very frank and calm and logical and never resorted to emotion or stooped to Piers’ level. If I ever meet either George or Robert, their next drink (or box of ammo at the range) is on me. Piers….no wonder England kicked him out! I wouldnt’ want to admit he was from my country either.

  11. Mas & Readers:

    I think I see an opportunity for a gun issues talk show on the most popular radio station in NYC. I constantly listen to WABC 770AM. They have Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, Bob Grant and others. I noticed that their Saturday programming is very sparse. They fill the airtime with infomercials instead of big name talk shows. Today Rush announced that on January 1st his program was going to move to WOR 710AM. This tells me that WABC is running out of ideas for shows, or, some rich liberal is buying off their shows one at a time, to get rid of them.

    I think it would be great if a firearm issues program could be aired there. {Maybe call it “Gun Talk”} It would certainly be a money maker.

    Imagine the liberals hearing a radio program about those icky,evil guns (eew), in their city, where King Bloomberg reigns!

  12. Richard, you’ll find the “Stand Your Ground” element discussed in part four of this particular series in this blog.

  13. Mas, I think it’s absolutely crucial that any such discussions with the police, if you’re going to go there at all, be done with video and audio recording.

    Put simply, there are some police out there who will twist your words all around and in extreme cases fabricate evidence against you. This agency appears to have handled this case right but that isn’t something you can bet your life on, sad to say. We both know of that pathetic case in Tucson where a guy stood trial at least twice, the prosecution tried to claim that because he had no holster he must have run back into his house to get his gun. Once the prosecution failed for the last time and he got his property back, what did Tucson PD have checked in? His holster.

    So. Video and audio is an absolute must.

  14. I too thought that speaking immediately to the cops was in Zimmerman’s favor. He assumed they were there to know the truth, and it appears he was mostly treated with the same respect in return.

    I was literally blown away by Robert Zimmerman in the Piers interview. He didn’t miss one single detail, never submitted to Morgan’s silly tactics. I can’t help but ask; did he really think Robert was going to say ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna celebrate and drink the night away!!’

    Robert is fierce, I have to admit to almost feeling sorry for poor Morgan at times!

  15. I have to confess that (at the time) I thought that Zimmerman made a serious mistake in talking to the police so completely. I had taken Mas’s MAG-40 class in which the issue of talking to the police was discussed (in-depth) and I agreed with his approach. Point out the evidence and witnesses and tell the police just enough to establish yourself as a good guy and then wait for your lawyer before saying anything else. I thought that Zimmerman might have handed the prosecution the “rope to hang him” with his in-depth video statement. As it turns out, this was not the case. Zimmerman told his side of the incident well and covered all the “self-defense” bases. He also sidestepped any traps set for him by the police. For example, when they gave him the misinformation that the incident might have been caught on video, Zimmerman reacted well and did not incriminate himself. I am not sure that I could handle something like this as well as Zimmerman. It is so easy to say something (under the stress of the moment) that can be twisted into rope for your neck! I guess the point is that taking to the police complietely is fine if you can be cool and strictly maintain control over your tongue. If you are uncertain about that and want to avoid any traps, then Mas’s advice is still the best.

  16. The media made this into a witch hunt against Zimmerman and that is because a public relations man used dishonest tactics to pitch the story, see “Zimmerman Trial & Trayvon Martin Media Manipulation Exposed”

  17. Robert in a very nice way told Piers to take a long walk on a short pier.

    The highlights to me were first Robert telling Piers in regard to the jury verdict, “that may be the way it is in your country, but in my country…..” Then when Piers asked Robert about being sorry, Robert mention sorry some people feel the need to take lean. This right after Piers told this story of innocent Trayvon going to store for skittles, an ingredient in lean.

    And I also enjoyed how the reporter who thought he would trick Robert with racial loaded question, could not go to commercial break fast enough, when Robert began his answer. And was it me or did the reporter’s jaw literally drop?

    I have enjoyed Mas’s commentary on this issue. I hope there is more to come. I would especially like Mas’s thoughts on what we should take away from this whole incident. What I take away is basically avoid. Specifically, I will spend extra money and sacrifice in other areas to live in a good location. George maybe could have done this, as I understand he was a renter and not a homeowner underwater on his house. And I would think long and hard about joining a neighborhood watch group.

    I believe, George may be award some money in his various civil suits and if so I expect the Martin family to in turn suit George, as he will now have money. Also George may get a book, movie or TV deal.

    I believe Robert and the Zimmerman family realize those who would physically harm George or their family are not going to change their attitude based on anything Robert can say. However, there may be people out there, who are potential jury members in a civil suit and they, I believe, are part of the group Robert is addressing.

    I expect this saga to continue.

  18. I agree with Terry L.: Mas’ SOP will work every time, while what Zimmerman did worked for him that time, but carries too much risk in general. Same reasoning when it comes to his not taking the stand: he didn’t because he had very little to gain and much to lose in doing so. SPD was not out to get him and he felt that openness with them was the best policy (a gamble that paid off)… but in court he would’ve been facing the Inquisition (you know what I mean).

    Also, when Mas recommends saying the minimum, he doesn’t know who is reading or listening to him so his advice must be tailored to apply to everyone . Some people I know should never open their mouth and in their case Mas’ advice is the only option.

  19. detective serino commented in the report to the FBI that zimmerman’s story seemed “scripted; as in he knew the rite things to say to the police”.

    in this case it did not seem to have challenged zimmerman’s integrity. is that ever an issue or has it ever caused an issue — where a person follows a ‘script’ of the rite things to say and do in the aftermath?

  20. Thank you Mas for your advise on this subject. No talking without attorney except small details such as possible witnesses and minor details such as your the victim…

    I have a question for you.
    What about advising people to go get checked out immediately at a hospital or nearest medical facility if your in a rural area following a self defense shooting?
    I was always told to get your blood pressure, heart rate and examined for any injuries. What is your take on this? Thank You!

  21. From the caselaw and commentary that I have read and my uncle’s advice as a criminal defense lawyer, Mr. Ayoob’s advice on how to talk to the police is spot on. Short and sweet is better and the approach that Mas takes gives minimum required information to the police for an affirmative self defense claim but preserves the defendant’s ability to later be more specific under a lawyer’s guidance.

    Even Zimmerman’s lawyers had to deal with prosecutors claiming inconsistencies in prior statements using the Hannity interview, Zimmerman’s police statements, and the walk through despite Zimmerman never taking the stand.

  22. Once again, Mr. Ayoob, thanks for this great commentary. Very enlightening, as usual, and extremely refreshing. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

    Thank you also for your description of Mr. Morgan — though I’m sure you could have gone in to much more detail if you felt he was worth burning the time over, your assessment was a splendidly accurate summation. “Pompous, prejudiced ass” indeed.

    George Zimmerman’s brother Robert represented the family admirably. This seems to be an accomplished family all the way around, and I am sure many do truly wish them well.

  23. How is it that CNN, still has any reputation remaining even among the extreme left. Its embarrassing to have your lead anchor to have his head handed to him by almost anyone. From Ted Nugent, Trace Akins, Zimmerman’s brother, maybe soon a 12 year old imbecile (apologies to the handicapped, I don’t mean that the way it sounds). This guy comes out of the corner every night with an obvious bias, challenges “ordinary people” to a battle of wit, and gets trounced every time. Its great entertainment if it wasn’t so sad that may stupid people think “he made good points” while he parrots the liberal talking points that have no validity and don’t usually relate directly to the question.

    This ass-hoper still keeps claiming that GZ assaulted Travon, with “an automatic weapon” ignoring even the prosecutors statements that the shot was fired while Travon was sitting on the surviving victims chest.

    Pierce Morgan is a piece of crap.