Saturday, July 13, 2013

UPDATE: Zimmerman - Not Guilty...


Jury Finds George Zimmerman NOT GUILTY on all counts.

On Wednesday, the Defense attorneys for George Zimmerman rested and Mr. Zimmerman himself told the judge on the record that, after consulting with his attorneys, he had decided not to take the stand.  In criminal trials, this tends to signify confidence on the part of the defense - sort of like choosing to pull your starters out of the game during the final minutes when your team has a comfortable lead.

Now everybody wants to know one thing: will Zimmerman be found guilty or not guilty for the killing of unarmed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin?

Whether Zimmerman will be found guilty or not depends on whether the Florida state prosecutors carried the state's burden to prove Zimmerman's guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt."  To be sure, "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the highest legal burden provided in the law.  Civil trials, by contrast, only require a person to prove their case by a "preponderance of the evidence" which essentially means that something was more likely than not.  To put it into numeric terms, in order to win a civil trial, you need to score at least a 51%.  In order to convict somebody in a criminal trial, the state needs to score at least a 90%.   Keep this number in mind.

Now that we've heard all of the evidence from both the prosecution and the defense, the general consensus is that the state has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman is guilty of 2nd Degree Murder.  Both the prosecution and the defense have offered two completely reasonable versions of what may have happened that night.  The bad news for the prosecution is that a "tie" in a criminal trial goes to the defendant.  Remember, the prosecution can't win if it's 50/50.  It has to be 90/10, and we just haven't seen any "smoking gun" evidence in this trial that would push the needle to 90/10 in favor of 2nd Degree Murder.

But Zimmerman has not made it out of the woods yet.  The prosecution has asked the judge to instruct the jury with the lesser included offenses of Manslaughter and Aggravated Assault which are much easier to prove than 2nd Degree Murder.  In order for Zimmerman to beat these charges, it will be crucial that his self-defense argument is believed by the jury.  To be sure, the prosecution has revealed several inconsistencies with the self-defense argument.  First, as most people who have been following the trial are aware, the 911 tape clearly proves that Zimmerman was told by the police dispatcher not to pursue Trayvon that night and that he (Zimmerman) disobeyed that request.  This tends to invalidate the self-defense argument by showing that Zimmerman, at the very least, acted recklessly in deciding to pursue Martin against police instruction - an act which would suggest that Zimmerman was the initial aggressor.  As we discussed HERE, if the jury finds that Zimmerman was the aggressor, or that Zimmerman provoked the initial aggression, then self-defense is not available to him as a matter of Florida law.

Equally as critical, the prosecution used a full-sized human dummy to demonstrate to the jury that if we believe Zimmerman's self-defense story -- that Trayvon Martin was on top of his chest with his knees pressed into Zimmerman's underarms while he slammed Zimmerman's head into the sidewalk -- then there is no possible way that Zimmerman could have reached his holstered gun which was on his right hip behind Trayvon's left leg and fired up at Martin because the bullet trajectory from that position would not line up with how we know Martin was shot (several reporters in the courtroom noted that the jury was visibly more attentive during the prosecution's dummy demonstration than they had been during the entire trial; some jurors even stood up from their seats to have a better view).

Last but not least, the prosecution played a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity where Zimmerman stated flat out that he had never heard of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" defense.  Moments later, the prosecution brought in Zimmerman's Criminal Litigation professor (a class in which Zimmerman earned an "A") who testified that Zimmerman and the other students specifically covered the "Stand Your Ground" defense in his class.  Not only does this inconsistency go to impeach Zimmerman's credibility, but it also calls into question whether Zimmerman -- a person knowledgeable in Florida's self defense laws -- fabricated the facts in his story to specifically make them fit into a self-defense scenario.

These were just a few of the inconsistencies with the self-defense story.

If, the jury believes Zimmerman's self-defense story, then the jury will be instructed to acquit him of all charges.  If, on the other hand, the jury does not buy Zimmerman's self-defense story then it is likely that they will convict Zimmerman on one of the lesser included offenses (Manslaughter or Aggravated Assault).

What say you?
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