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Zimmerman Trial: Opening Statements Shouldn't Be Stand-Up Comedy

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

Humor can be a great way to build rapport with an audience. Laughter brings endorphins and other happy feelings, which are then associated with you. We're big fans of humor and sarcasm around here, but as with all things, there is a time and place where stand-up comedy is inappropriate, such as your opening remarks in a murder defense trial.

George Zimmerman's attorney Don West knows this. There is a reason why his ill-fated "knock knock" joke was preceded by a five-minute disclaimer. (Hint: if the joke needs a "don't be offended" disclaimer, it is not funny!) Don't let us spoil it for you, however. Take a look yourself:

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"Knock knock. Who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? That's why you're on the jury."

Oh, we get it. So what he was saying was that they are on the jury because they don't know anything about the Zimmerman case from the media. Fascinating. They were surely unaware of their ignorance and needed to be reminded in the context of a non-humorous joke.

To be clear, the joke wasn't offensive (as far as we can tell). It just wasn't funny. It wasn't presented in a proper context. And according to the Huffington Post, and the failed comedian-attorney's response in the video, the jurors were were dead silent,

Here is a free tip for trial attorneys: you can't tell "knock knock" jokes in general (are "knock knock" jokes ever funny?), let alone when you are defending some guy that shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.

Today, the Onion hilariously faux-reported that, on the second day of the trial, West opened his team's remarks with a comedic impression of Trayvon Martin, complete with a hoodie, bag of Skittles, and a "nearly 10-minute-long freestyle rap, which sources said received no visible reaction from the jury."

(For those unfamilar with the The Onion, it is a news-parody site. He did not impersonate the deceased ... we hope.)

His failed attempt at humor wasn't quite as bad as the Onion suggests, but it certainly didn't help his client's case. Let's hope the five-minute monologue in the closing arguments works a little better.

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