George Zimmerman

Stupid Defense Lawyer Tricks

Buried in the copious stories and analyses of the George Zimmerman murder trial verdict were two bonehead moments by his attorney. They serve as a reminder that in this 24/7 world, you are never off-stage.

Attorney Don West began his opening argument at the trial with a knock-knock joke. After the not guilty verdict was handed down, West and his daughters celebrated with ice cream cones, which they documented on Instagram with the comment, "We beat stupidity."

West went into apology mode for both blunders, but you have to wonder, what was this guy thinking? He was representing a client in a high-profile murder case with deep racial overtones where every comment would receive national scrutiny and the verdict could spark huge protests. And he starts off with a knock-knock joke.

This kind of tone-deaf behavior can damage your standing, make people question your judgment and undermine otherwise credible arguments. It is insensitive and, frankly, stupid. 

One reporter said the knock-knock joke "was met with complete, life-sucking silence in the courtroom." Stephen Colbert "praised" the attempt at humor, calling it another great moment in "America's long history of murder humor."

Despite that flat-footed beginning and not calling Zimmerman to testify, West prevailed. You would have thought, savor the victory — in private.

But fueled with the endorphins from ice cream, the Wests gloated on Instagram with a comment widely seen as a further verbal slap at Rachel Jeantel, the young woman who talked with Trayvon Martin just before he was shot by Zimmerman. West was brutal in his cross-examination of the 19-year-old Jeantel, whose performance as a witness after the murder and at the trial prompted reams of commentary about the "cultural nuances" she represented in her testimony.