The Interrogator's Notebook

Join a former interrogator in asking the hard questions.

Lost Opportunities in the Interrogation of George Zimmerman by Police

In late June, Esquire John H. Richardson from Esquire rightly pointed out a quote from a police interview with George Zimmerman that he thought was important and named his article: The Quote that Should End the Trayvon Trial.

Here's is an excerpt from that interrogation:

A few moments later, he asks Zimmerman why he kept following Martin even after the police dispatcher told him not to. Zimmerman’s answer is staggering.

“I wanted to give them an address.”

An address? This may be the moment that will convict him. It means that even he suspected that Martin was a legitimate visitor to the complex, staying in an apartment and legally on the property, Zimmerman continued to pursue him. And it makes sense that Martin was staying there because of the terrain, the complex being isolated from other complexes and a mile distant from the nearest shopping center. A professional thief would be moving intentionally, not wandering down the middle of the street in the full light of the streetlamps. Although Zimmerman’s fear supposedly hinges on the series of robberies that the police believed had been addressed already with an arrest, it seems clear that even Zimmerman didn’t really believe his own alibi. More likely, even in his mind, Martin was a kid from the neighborhood out smoking a joint and at the worst, looking for a little illicit excitement — a “fking punk.”

At this point, the officer asks again why he was following Martin — and Zimmerman flat-out lies. “I wasn’t following him, I was just going in the same direction he was.” The cop just laughs.

The admission of Zimmerman wanting to give police an address was not a smoking gun, though. He could have been referring to an address of a place that Trayvon Martin would be attempting to break into rather than his knowledge that this stranger in a hoodie was probably staying nearby.

The real lost opportunity here was in the police not recognizing the two areas to follow up on in the interrogation:

- George Zimmerman's belief in his own words about what the "address" meant. If he thought that Martin was a guest in the neighborhood, the interrogators needed to make Zimmerman say it in his own words.

- Calling out the easily refutable lie that Zimmerman wasn't following Trayvon Martin as a way to put Zimmerman on the defensive throughout the rest of the interview

It's easy for me as a former interrogator to be a Monday morning quarterback here , but the real artistry in interrogation is to seize upon the one or two opportunities during an interview that may yield an admission.

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