Practicum: Do You Have a Reasonable Doubt that George Zimmerman Killed in Self-Defense?

Posted: June 25, 2012 in criminal justice system
Tags: , , ,

by Frederick Leatherman
Cross posted from Frederick Leatherman Law Blog.

note: To join the discussion(s) about the Zimmerman case, please follow the link above to the law blog.

Good morning, everyone. Yesterday was my birthday, so I took a little time off from blogging and did not post a new article or do a very good job of responding to many of your excellent comments. Y’all have a great discussion going on.

Commenter JD has asked what effect will all of GZ’s inconsistent statements and lies have on a jury, assuming this case goes to trial?

Put another way, just because he’s a liar, does that also mean he’s a murderer?

In this article, I propose that the answer to the question is, it depends on what he lied about and why he lied he about it.

Okay, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that y’all are members of the jury that will decide this case.

Let’s keep it simple today and just focus on GZ’s self-defense claim.

First, let’s start with some standard jury instructions.

The defendant has admitted to killing TM so that is an established fact.

The defendant claims he killed TM in self-defense and you are to presume that he did unless you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not kill in self-defense.

The defendant has no burden to prove he acted in self-defense. Since you must presume that he acted in self-defense, he has no burden to produce any evidence.

A reasonable doubt is a doubt for which a reason exists and it may arise from the evidence or lack of evidence. It is such a doubt as would exist in the mind of a reasonable person after fully and carefully considering all of the evidence or lack of evidence.

Evidence may be direct or circumstantial. Direct evidence is evidence that is perceived through the senses. Circumstantial evidence is evidence of a chain of circumstances that, according to knowledge and common experience, lead to a conclusion. One is not necessarily better or more reliable than the other. As members of the jury, it is for you to decide how much weight to give to any evidence admitted in this case.

A person may use deadly force in self-defense, if he reasonably believes that

a. he is imminent danger of being killed or suffering grievous bodily injury and

b. the amount of force he uses to defend himself is reasonably necessary to prevent being killed or suffering grievous bodily injury.

An aggressor cannot claim self-defense.

Okay, now some evidence with which to work.

The prosecution will be able to introduce during it’s case in chief some, none or all of the statements GZ made. This means that before he ever takes the stand, assuming he chooses to testify on his own behalf, the prosecution will have introduced all of his statements to the police, including his conversation with the dispatcher.

Recall that the dispatcher told him not to follow TM and, as a student in his last semester of Criminology, he was taught that an aggressor cannot claim self-defense.

The prosecution also will have introduced evidence that he had been advised that a neighborhood watch person is limited to watching the neighborhood and calling the police to report crimes and suspicious activity. He was specifically instructed not to contact or attempt to detain a suspect because that is a job for the police to handle.

Assume the autopsy report has been admitted and the Assistant ME who performed it testified that the muzzle of the gun was 2 to 4 inches away from TM when GZ fired the fatal shot. The bullet entered TM’s chest 1″ to the left of the midline and 1/4 inch below the nipple and penetrated the chest cavity proceeding straight through from front to back destroying the right ventricle of the heart, the lower lobe of the right lung, and collapsed both lungs.

Assume the rest of the evidence that has been released and y’all have discussed has been admitted.

The prosecution will argue that, given the nature of what he knew at the time and the lies he told, there is no question that he lied to conceal that he followed TM with intent to find him after he lost sight of him and detain him, using force if necessary, until the police arrived.

“These assholes, they always get away,” likely will repeated over and over at every opportunity by the prosecution, particularly in closing argument.

The defense will argue that there is a reasonable doubt in this case, given the nature of GZ’s injuries that show TM was the aggressor, not GZ.

Now assume you are a juror. Are you going to have a reasonable doubt (i.e., a doubt for which a reason exists) that he killed in self-defense?

Come on in, the water is fine.

By the way, please suggest any topics on this case that you would like me to write about.

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Comments
  1. ed nelson says:

    well… I am feeling like I got played… yet again… I mean: in the sense that I was on the side of… [against GZ] initially, for the normal reasons I think… but now there are other stuff coming out… namely: that the photos of Trave were old photos, back when he was just 12 yrs old and a nice kid. (and that was sure obvious, that he was, a nice friendly sweet kid, in those photos… vs… the not very friendly or attractive, overweight obnoxious AH, photos of the other… one… )

    Looking at what all of what they’ll are say’in… Maybe like the poster: “Fairleft” kind of is putting forth… and that other who put her down pretty good… MFI… but still the same:

    what the devils advocate position is: is: that what the court allows, and what the court will find from what the court… allows!

    “It will be determined in court”, said MFI, and that is similar to what Fairleft is saying to me anyway… Hell it is a thing that a Kangaroo would know!

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