The wife of suspected Trayvon Martin gunman George Zimmerman has been charged with perjury, after a judge determined she lied under oath about how much money was accessible to her husband.
Broward perjury defense lawyers know that with high profile cases such as this, prosecutors and judges may wish to make an example.
There are a number of defenses to this – and you will want to hire a defense attorney, as under FL Statute 837.02, perjury in official proceedings is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
Possible defenses include: forgetfulness, not understanding the question or literal truth. We’ll explore those more momentarily. First, let’s examine what happened in the Zimmerman case:
According to The Miami Herald, Shellie Zimmerman was reportedly arrested on one count of perjury after prosecutors say she lied under oath at a bond hearing for her husband, who is accused of gunning down teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida in February. He was not charged for several month, as local police believed his actions were permissible under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law. A special prosecutor appointed by the governor later disagreed, and Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, was arrested.
The case has gained national coverage amid claims of blatant racism.
That brings us to the bond hearing in April. At the time, Shellie Zimmerman, 25, was asked whether the couple had any money. She responded that they had none they were aware of.
However, prosecutors later brought forth evidence indicating that Shellie had put away cash in a safe deposit box and had also transferred an estimated $75,000 from her husband’s bank account to her own. After her husband was released from jail, prosecutor’s said, she returned the money to her husband’s bank account.
George Zimmerman, who is already facing a charge of second-degree murder, was not charged with perjury, prosecutors said, because he was never asked directly about the money.
An attorney for Martin’s family said that Shellie Zimmerman’s arrest “sends a strong message” regarding the credibility of some of the witnesses involved.
Jailhouse calls between husband and wife were recorded prior to that April bond hearing. In those calls, she reportedly told her husband that more than $100,000 had been raised for her husband’s defense in an online account. The prosecution contends the two planned to try to hide the money.
Prosecutors say the pair were careful to speak in code when they discussed these matters over the phone.
It was this same conversation that reportedly led the judge in the case to revoke George Zimmerman’s bond.
An attorney for Zimmerman’s wife later said that she had lied out of “fear, mistrust and confusion.”
It’s that last part that may hold the most weight in terms of an actual perjury defense.
One solid defense in perjury cases is that you did not understand the question being asked of you. The burden will be on the prosecution to to prove that the accused person clearly understood the questions but also in the correct context. One challenge to this would be if the question was asked repeatedly and in multiple ways. It’s not clear whether that was the case here.
If you are facing criminal perjury charges in Broward or Palm Beach counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
George Zimmerman’s wife charged with perjury, By Frances Robles, The Miami Herald