Prosecutors disappointed in Zimmerman verdict

State Attorney Angela Corey, Assistant Bernie de la Rionda discuss trial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - State Attorney Angel Corey and lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda spoke Monday about their disappointment in the not guilty verdict returned in the George Zimmerman trial, and also defended their handling of the high-profile case.

"I'm disappointed. It's obvious we expected a guilty verdict," de la Rionda said. "We thought the process was very long and very thorough. We thought we did the best we could based on the evidence we had, but we we're convinced that it was going to come back guilty."

Corey and her team were assigned the Sanford case by Gov. Rick Scott weeks after Martin had been shot and killed. Looking back on the case, de la Rionda said that may have been one possible weakness in collecting all the facts and evidence early on.

"We had witnesses we had to deal with. We were not involved in the beginning, which is what we would have preferred," de la Rionda said. "The police were still in the process of investigating the case when we had it. Here in Jacksonville, we have a great sheriff's office that we are able to deal with on a daily basis and we're able to deal with it from the beginning. So if this had happened in Jacksonville, the investigation would have been different than it was in Sanford."

The lack of reliable eyewitness reports and lack of physical evidence made it impossible for the prosecutors to tell the jurors exactly what happened during the fight between Zimmerman and Martin.

"We never said Trayvon didn't do something to George Zimmerman. What we said is you can't take a concealed weapon and encourage or incite a fistfight -- which is what he did by stalking a teenager who didn't know who he was -- and then whip your gun out and shoot," said Corey.

On a Fox News program discussing the trial, Howard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz says the Department of Justice should investigate Corey's handling of the Zimmerman trial.

"She submitted an affidavit that was, if not perjurious, completely misleading. She violated all kinds of rules of the profession and her conduct bordered on criminal conduct."

Corey dismissed the criticism, saying at every stage of the proceedings a judge ruled that there was enough evidence for this case to go to a jury.

"It's difficult to respond to someone who wants to yap in the media without actual facts," Corey said. "Any concerns about the way that this case was prosecuted would have been addressed by the judges of this court of law. If any of those issues had been relevant, I feel the defense team would have addressed them in court, where these issues should be addressed."

Corey also talked for the first time Monday about her firing of her department's IT director, Ben Kruidbos, who testified at a pretrial hearing about concerns that prosecutors didn't turn over photos and text messages retrieved from Trayon Martin's cell phone to the defense in a timely manner. 

Corey says he leaked confidential information from the State Attorney's Office and his firing was necessary.

"Ben Kruidbos not only gave evidence outside of this office which is strictly prohibited by Florida law, he then gave it to someone who took it to the defense," Corey said. "This man was the head of our entire IT department. We could not allow him to have access to our other records."

Kruidbos attorney, Wesley White, wouldn't comment for this article, but issued a statement saying: "Mr. Kruidbos and I will respond in the courtroom pursuant to the whistle-blower law."

During Monday's review of the trial, Corey and de la Rionda both said social media made the case a bit more challenging.  They agreed this case will go down in history as a reminder that profiling of any kind is wrong and dangerous.

"We have to realize, we have to assume the best in people and not the worst," de la Rionda said.

Both applauded both the Martin and Zimmerman families for promoting peace after the not guilty verdict.

"I also understand (Zimmerman's brother) Robert Zimmerman Jr. said after the verdict this is not a cause for celebration; people need to quietly reflect and move on," Corey said. "I have to say if that's the statement he made, I have to appreciate that, too. We appreciate all the public leaders who are so admirable to promote peace and tranquility and let the justice system work."

The attorneys have not spoken to the Martin family, saying they want to give them some space -- but plan to in the near future.

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