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CNN Anchor Asks: Does Zimmerman Attorney’s Tone Toward Judge Have ‘Element Of Sexism?’

Following several tempestuous exchanges between Judge Debra Nelson and defense attorney Don West during the George Zimmerman trial Thursday afternoon, CNN host Suzanne Malveaux asked two legal experts if West’s antagonistic relationship with the judge was verging on sexism, and if it might affect the all-female jury.

“I know when you’re representing someone you become very passionate about it,” said Natalie Jackson, an attorney for the Martin family. “But I think what he has to worry about is that you have a jury full of women, and they’re watching the way he has treated this judge, and the attitudes that he’s given this judge, so I think he needs to watch that aspect, just from the legal perspective of the jury…This is her courtroom, this is her domain.”

“Does this seem like an element of sexism?” Malveaux asked.

“Yes,” Jackson said. “Lay people don’t understand the difference between being a passionate advocate and being just plain rude.”

“Most of this has all taken place outside the presence of the jury,” defense attorney Mark NeJame countered. “You can tell this judge and Don West, they have issues with each other. That’s just palpable. But the presence in front of the jury, particularly after the first few days, you’ve seen Mark O’Mara take over all of these type of witnesses where you’re wanting to make an impact, you’re wanting to show a nice guy, you’re wanting to be personable.”

“I think that if you kept Don West on,” NeJame continued, “because of the antagonism between him and the judge, it could have gone exactly laong the path y’all are talking about. But they caught themselves, they reversed the direction they were going, and I think you’ve seen the charm that Mark O’Mara has been pretty much exuding with the jury. He’s been very much of a gentlemen, kept it soft, kept it very, very even-keeled, without a lot of drama and a lot of theatrics. That probably plays well, particularly in a case like this, where you have the death of a seventeen year old teenager.”

Watch the exchange here, via CNN:


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