This I gotta tell ya, it’s hard to be in show biz/law these days. In his opening line during today’s first day of the trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, Zimmmerman’s lawyer Don West told a knock knock joke that badly bombed.
Don West, Zimmerman’s defense counsel, started with a tale about his own upbringing that drew an objection from the prosecution, which the presiding judge, Debra Nelson, sustained. Thus rerouted, West tried a novel opening approach. After telling the jury not to hold his own humor against his client, he offered them this:
George Zimmerman who?
Ah, good. You’re on the jury.
If there was ever anything that called for a “gag order,” this was it.
West apologized for the gag later, but told the courtroom he suspected the problem was in the delivery—not in the fact that he’d just told a knock-knock joke about a murder trial. (If you have to preface a joke by asking a jury not to hold it against your client, perhaps it’s a joke that ought not be told.) By the end of his comments, he’d advanced the intriguing legal theory that a man walking down the street is not unarmed if that street is paved. Though Martin was not actually holding a weapon, West argued, he might as well have had a brick in his hand, given his alleged slamming of Zimmerman’s head on the sidewalk.
Don West who?
DON TOLD THE WEST KNOCK KNOCK JOKE I’VE EVER HEARD.
Yes, the joke didn’t perform like George Zimmerman: it didn’t kill.
And it was a bit jarring.
West later apologized for the joke, saying he was sorry if he offended anyone.
Prior to the failed attempt at humor, West told a somber version of events, one that portrayed his client as a victim who acted to save his own life.
“The young man lost his life. Another is fighting for his,” West said. “The evidence will show that this is a sad case. There are no monsters here.”
West then proceeded to explain to jurors the sequence of events that led to Trayvon Martin’s death.
You have to wonder what went through West’s mind when his joke led to more silence than you hear at a meditation retreat in Kashmir.
“Drat! They didn’t like that joke! And I worked so hard on it all night! I guess I’ll have to skip throwing the pie in the prosecutor’s face, and that battery operated break-wind machine will also have to be out.”
And what could Zimmerman have been thinking?
Even if you forget about all the racial, cultural and legal implications surrounding the trial, we’re talking about the violent, controversial death of a teenager.
Imagine for one second that you are George Zimmerman. You probably want to hear your attorney begin by talking about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law or by showing pictures of your bloodied head or by playing the audio recording of the attack or by talking about self defense. Instead, he stands up, walks toward the jury and says, “I would like to tell you a little joke.”
But perhaps West should have tried some more humor. Such as:
Some people are trying to turn this case into a racial case. For instance, take Al Sharpton. Please.
Why aren’t you laughing?
Are you an audience or a jury?