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Analysis: George Zimmerman Probably Won't Be Convicted of Murder or Manslaughter -- Here's Why


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I drew a legal conclusion on "Good Morning America" Saturday that would have surprised the Dan Abrams who covered the George Zimmerman case leading up to, and shortly after, his arrest.

Now that the prosecution's case against Zimmerman is in, as a legal matter, I just don't see how a jury convicts him of second degree murder or even manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

So what happened? How can an armed man who shot and killed an unarmed teen after being told by the police that he didn't need to keep following him, likely be found not guilty of those crimes?

 

I certainly sympathize with the anger and frustration of the Martin family and doubt that a jury will accept the entirety of George Zimmerman's account as credible. But based on the legal standard and evidence presented by prosecutors it is difficult to see how jurors find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn't self defense.

 

Prosecutors are at a distinct legal disadvantage.

 

They have the burden to prove that Zimmerman did not "reasonably believe" that the gunshot was "necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm" to himself. That is no easy feat based on the evidence presented in their case. Almost every prosecution witness was called to discredit the only eyewitness who unquestionably saw everything that occurred that night, George Zimmerman.

 

The essence of Zimmerman's account is basically as follows:

He spotted Martin, became suspicious, called police, was told he didn't need to follow him, was only out of his car to give the authorities an address, was jumped and then pummeled by Martin and as he was being punched and having his head knocked into the ground, Martin went for Zimmerman's firearm and Zimmerman shot him once in the chest.

 

The prosecution, on the other hand, called 38 witnesses to try to show: Zimmerman was a wannabe cop who regularly reported black strangers in his neighborhood; initiated and was at least at one point, on top during the encounter; that Zimmerman's injuries were minor and that many aspects of his accounts to the police and media were inconsistent and/or lies.

 

For a moment, lets put aside the fact that many of the prosecution witnesses seemed to help Zimmerman in one way or another.

 

As a legal matter, even if jurors find parts of Zimmerman's story fishy, that is not enough to convict. Even if they believe that Zimmerman initiated the altercation, and that his injuries were relatively minor, that too would be insufficient evidence to convict. Prosecutors have to effectively disprove self defense beyond a reasonable doubt. So what exactly would that mean based on the facts as we know them?

 

Let's take a hypothetical, but realistic, scenario whereby jurors don't believe Zimmerman when he says he wasn't following Martin (the lead detective who seemed to find Zimmerman's account credible had a problem with this part of Zimmerman's account).

 

Let's also assume they believe Zimmerman approached Martin and it is only because Zimmerman was tailing Trayvon Martin that a fight ensued. First of all, the fact that there was a fight at all makes a murder conviction difficult. To win a murder conviction, they have to show he had the intent to kill and did so with "depraved mind, hatred, malice, evil intent or ill will."

 

While prosecutors argue that Zimmerman's statements to the 911 operator about the "f------ punks" always "getting away," shows ill will, most legal analysts felt from the beginning that with a fight, a murder charge was overreaching.

 

Manslaughter is far more likely to create debate in that jury room (there could also be even lesser crimes they consider, where they could find him guilty of something).

 

Zimmerman's injuries alone -- his broken nose and cuts on the back of his head -- are objective evidence to support his account that he shot Martin as he was being pummeled.

 

Just as important is the testimony of neighbor John Good, who lived directly in front of the location where Martin was shot. He very precisely (but reluctantly) testified that he saw the lighter skinned man in the red jacket on the bottom of the scuffle with the darker skinned man with the darker clothing on the top in a "mixed martial arts position." He said he now believes that Trayvon Martin was on top of Zimmerman.

 

But wait, another witness said she thought Zimmerman was likely on top. Put aside the fact that Good's home is the closest to the incident and that her testimony didn't seem nearly as credible or definitive as Good's, that doesn't change the legal reality that one does not negate the other.

 

The prosecution has the burden to prove the case and so if there is reasonable doubt, the defense wins. Good's testimony in conjunction with Zimmerman's injuries are likely enough to cast reasonable doubt on the key question, which is whether Zimmerman reasonably believed he needed to shoot Martin to prevent "great bodily injury."

 

Of course, the jurors could also accept all or the vast majority of Zimmerman's account, making an acquittal that much easier.

 

What about the fact that prosecution witnesses have testified that his injuries were not that significant? While interesting (and debatable), the only relevant legal question is what was Zimmerman thinking or fearing at the time, not what already occurred.

 

In many self defense cases the person who shoots a fatal bullet suffers no injuries at all and instead argues he or she protected himself or herself from injury by shooting the attacker.

 

So wait, let's take a step back. If jurors believe Zimmerman followed Martin, maybe even racially profiled him and initiated the altercation, can Zimmerman still legally claim he needed to defend himself and walk free? Yes.

 

If these jurors have questions or doubts about whether, at the moment he fired the fatal shot, Zimmerman "reasonably" feared that this was the only way to stop from getting beaten further, then they have to find him not guilty.

 

To be clear, if we were talking about Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground Law, who initiated the encounter would be crucial and the defendant would have the burden to prove that he should not be held legally responsible for the shooting. That law, which can protect a shooter from even going to trial, wasn't designed for someone who starts a fight and then loses the fight he initiated.

Zimmerman waived a pre-trial Stand Your Ground hearing and went directly to trial (likely because his lawyers knew they would lose) and simply argued classic self-defense, which is different. Now no matter how it started, if Zimmerman shot Martin because he reasonably believed it was the only way to protect himself from "great bodily harm" then he is not guilty. That's the law.

 

With all of this said, juries are notoriously impossible to predict and the deliberation process can take on a life of its own, but if they follow the letter of the law, it's hard to see, based on everything we know now, how they find him guilty of either murder or even manslaughter.

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I wondered why they waved the "stand your ground" option, but your second to last paragraph totally explained why. I see - says the blind man.

I too cannot see any verdict but innocent. There is just too much reasonable doubt. I hope the police are preparing for more crimes / riots. It would be great if they could catch every single rioter.

Edited by trottigy
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I wondered why they waved the "stand your ground" option, but your second to last paragraph totally explained why. I see - says the blind man.

I too cannot see any verdict but innocent. There is just too much reasonable doubt. I hope the police are preparing for more crimes / riots. It would be great if they could catch every single rioter.

 

 

I lived in LA when Rodney King went down and grew up around the Watts Riots .. it's insane when it happens. The interesting part was both times they destroyed their own neighborhoods and never left them--- You would think they would take the rioting to the mayors office or even somewhere other then their own homes.. Crazy ...

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I think they rioted over the King verdict because it was expected of them. The police chief at the time (Darryl Gates) was in the middle of a power struggle with the city, so he kept warning about how the riots would start if the police officers weren't convicted. Many feel he talked about it so much that he inspired the rioters!  

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I think they rioted over the King verdict because it was expected of them. The police chief at the time (Darryl Gates) was in the middle of a power struggle with the city, so he kept warning about how the riots would start if the police officers weren't convicted. Many feel he talked about it so much that he inspired the rioters!  

 

 

It's quite possible, they do such things in other places deliberately - job security, fear keeps the public reliant on Satan's government to be sure. I think something similar is happening with the Zimmerman case. The media keeps playfully suggesting that there will be a good chance of rioting if he gets off - more reason to use their newly equipped military style police.  

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(Ecclesiastes 7:7) . . .mere oppression may make a wise one act crazy,. . .

 

I met a small business owner in Oakland who had been a small business owner in LA when the riots occurred after the Rodney King verdict.  He talked about watching people from the neighborhood that he knew and felt comfortable around get caught up in the "torches and pitchforks" mentality of the time.  He was so disgusted by what he witnessed, he moved to Northern CA.

 

These types of legal issues are sensational and "justice" is not really a matter of genuine concern.  (Isaiah 59:14, 15) . . .justice was forced to move back, and righteousness itself kept standing simply far off. For truth has stumbled even in the public square, and what is straightforward is unable to enter. 15 And the truth proves to be missing, and anyone turning away from badness is being despoiled.. . .

 

They constantly fall back on "it's legal" even though it's not right.  Human law trumps justice and fairness all the time.  Can we say "too big to fail / too big to jail".  Life is extremely cheap in this system.  Some people's pets are thought more highly than the lives of some people.

 

Man really can't direct his own step.  Those charged with managing this system work to ensure the status quo is maintained.  My dad grew up in the south (1936) under Jim Crow legislation.  In the mid-70s, as a direct result of affirmative action, he became the first person of color to be hired by the city of Greenville NC in a position of oversight.  He had a budge and staff and retired after almost 30 years of service.  He thinks this system is absolutely great.  He constantly talks about how impressive "white folks" are and what they've accomplished.  He speaks horribly about black folks, more specifically poor black folks.  It's pretty incredible to watch.  He sounds like the Israelites complaining about being in the wilderness and how great it was when they were in Egypt.  Truly unbelievable.

 

And me being a Witness and having to come back home with nothing materially and being unable to maintain gainful employment doesn't help.  Poor thing, he's so embarrassed.  He constantly tells me what a piss poor job I'm doing with my girls.  When I lived in CA and built a brand new home, he was always coming out to see us, video taping everything, telling everyone about "how well" we were doing in "big time CA".  

 

People with no material / economic standing have no value in this system and that truth is color blind.  It's just not sensational when people of the same color kill each other and one gets a slap on the wrist.  (Psalm 37:7) . . .Keep silent before Jehovah And wait longingly for him. Do not show yourself heated up at anyone making his way successful, At the man carrying out [his] ideas.

 

I can't imagine facing the challenges of this system without Jehovah.  It's heart wrenching to watch others attempt to do it.

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http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/07/08/Broward-county-sheriff-riots

 

Broward County Sheriff's Office Prepares Zimmerman Verdict Riot Plan. On Monday, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released a video calling on the public not to riot in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, expected this week or next in Florida. The Sheriff’s Office released a statement explaining that it was “working closely with the Sanford Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies” to coordinate “a response plan in anticipation of the verdict.”

 

 

The video, titled “Raise Your Voice, Not Your Hands,” focuses on attempting to channel reaction into non-violent response. It depicts two youngsters, one black teenage boy, one Hispanic teenage girl. “Raise your voice!” says the girl. “And not your hands!” says the boy. “We need to stand together as one, no cuffs, no guns,” says the girl. “Let’s give violence a rest, because we can easily end up arrested,” says the boy. “I know your patience will be tested,” says the girl, and then both conclude, “but law enforcement has your back!”

 

 

“Let’s back up and choose not to act up, and deputies are with us, so no need to act up,” says the boy. “Let it roll off your shoulders,” says the girl, “it’s water off your back, don’t lack composure, because in one instant it could be over.” Both conclude: “So let’s make the choice to raise your voice and not your hands.” Sheriff Scott Israel says, “I’m Sheriff Scott Israel, and law enforcement does have your back.”

 

 

“Freedom of expression is a constitutional right,” the Sheriff’s Department states. “While raising your voice is encouraged, using your hands is not. BSO has created a public service announcement with the help of kids from the Jason Taylor Foundation, H.A.N.D.Y. (Helping Abused, Neglected, Disadvantaged Youth) and basketball star James Jones of the championship Miami Heat team urging young people not to let their emotions get the best of them.”

 

 

Sheriff Scott Israel said, “We don’t have information about a specific event that might take place at the conclusion of the trial, but we encourage everyone to keep any protests peaceful.”

 

 

The Department says that it is keeping its channels of communication open with “community leaders, civic activists, members of the clergy, as well as local, state and federal agencies.”

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