After the bond hearing on 6/1/2012– the one in which Judge Kenneth Lester revoked George Zimmerman’s Bond for lying about the money he had on hand at the time of the hearing–Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara made a curious comment while attempting to downplay the code Zimmerman and his wife used to discuss money on recorded phone conversations while he was in jail.
In case you’re unaware of what happened, George Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie Zimmerman, were caught on jailhouse recordings discussing how to move and spend more than $135,000 dollars donated Zimmerman’s website. In the bond hearing on 4/20/2012 Zimmerman, his wife, and other family members testified under oath to their indigence, resulting in a low bond mount. Of course, this was a lie, because Zimmerman and his wife knew full well that they had thousands of dollars at that time. Judge Kenneth Lester revoked Zimmerman’s bond during a hearing on 6/1/2012 after hearing proof that Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about their financial means.
The Watermelon Comment
After the hearing where Zimmerman’s bail was revoked, his attorney, Mark O’Mara, spoke to reporters. One of the reporters asks him about Zimmerman and his wife talking in code about tens of thousands of dollars on the jailhouse recordings. O’Mara gives the following response (see video below):
If you consider talking about ten, and twenty, and one fifty-five as being code, then maybe you’re accurate. [...] I’ve involved myself in cases where drug dealers talk, and they talk about watermelons and things like that.
When you talk about nine or ten, I’m not certain that that is so much of a code for eight- or ninety-thousand dollars–that that’s legitimately trying to deceive anything.
And again, If deception was their intent, why did they disclose it to me the first day that it was discussed? And, why did he forward all of the money I asked him to forward, you know, the day we asked him to forward it? So again, we’ll vet that out with the judge when we have a hearing.
Issues With The Watermelon Comment
While it is understandable that O’Mara was trying to downplay the fact that his client got caught using a rudimentary code to discuss the money he claimed he didn’t have, the example he gave about drug dealers and watermelons made me cringe.
Mark O’Mara’s racist association between drug dealers and watermelons is unacceptable, and the fact that this was his default reference is problematic for a number of reasons. He never actually says “Black,” but the code words he uses are enough for the listener to make that association–even if not on a conscious level. Consequently, the message becomes, “Zimmerman’s coded talk wasn’t sophisticated like the codes that Black drug dealers use.”
From the beginning, O’Mara has tried to present Zimmerman as this innocent, unassuming, tolerant, compliant, and honest person who respects “authority”. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Zimmerman has a PROVEN history of being an aggressive, intolerant, racist, non-compliant, and dishonest person who has no respect for “authority”.
In a case where race is significant–significant because it became a debate over the value of the life of a young Black male and the perpetrator’s history of racial profiling–and the victim has been publicly accused of being a drug dealer and/or and addict, the mention of drug dealers who use the coded language of watermelons crosses the line.