Zimmerman Trial Jury Instructions

In trying to assess the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, two seemingly conflicting truths emerge. Based on the case presented by the state, and based on Florida law, George Zimmerman should not have been convicted of second degree murder or manslaughter. It’s important to take a very hard look at the qualifications allowed for aggressors by Florida’s self-defense statute:

Use of force by aggressor.–The justification described in the preceding sections of this chapter is not available to a person who:(1) Is attempting to commit, committing, or escaping after the commission of, a forcible felony; or

(2) Initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself, unless: (a) Such force is so great that the person reasonably believes that he or she is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that he or she has exhausted every reasonable means to escape such danger other than the use of force which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to the assailant; or (b) In good faith, the person withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he or she desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.

The importance of this isn’t being appreciated. Effectively, one can bait you into a fight and if he/she starts losing, they can can legally kill you, provided they “believe” they’re subject to “great bodily harm.” It is then the state’s job to prove — beyond a reasonable doubt — that they either did not actually fear for their life, or thier fear was unreasonable. In the case of George Zimmerman, even if the state proved that he baited an encounter (and it not certain they did) they still must prove that he had no reasonable justification to fear for his life. You see very similar language in the actual instructions given to the jury:

In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

There has been a lot of complaint that “stand your ground” has nothing to do with this case. That contention is contravened by the fact it is cited in the instructions to the jury. Taken together, it is important to understand it is not enough for the state to prove George Zimmerman acted unwisely in following Martin. Under Florida law, George Zimmerman had no responsibility to — at any point — retreat. The state was required to prove Zimmerman had no reasonable fear for his life. Moreover, it is not enough for the jury to find Zimmerman’s story fishy. Again the jury instructions:

George Zimmerman has entered a plea of not guilty. This means you must presume or believe George Zimmerman is innocent. The presumption stays with George Zimmerman as to each material allegation in the Information through each stage of the trial unless it has been overcome by the evidence to the exclusion of and beyond a reasonable doubt. To overcome George Zimmerman’s presumption of innocence, the State has the burden of proving the crime with which George Zimmerman is charged was committed and George Zimmerman is the person who committed the crime. George Zimmerman is not required to present evidence or prove anything.

Whenever the words “reasonable doubt” are used you must consider the following: A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt. Such a doubt must not influence you to return a verdict of not guilty if you have an abiding conviction of guilt. On the other hand if, after carefully considering, comparing and weighing all the evidence, there is not an abiding conviction of guilt, or, if having a conviction, it is one which is not stable but one which wavers and vacillates, then the charge is not proved beyond every reasonable doubt and you must find George Zimmerman not guilty because the doubt is reasonable.

It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.

A reasonable doubt as to the guilt of George Zimmerman may arise from the evidence, conflict in the evidence, or the lack of evidence.

If you have a reasonable doubt, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty. If you have no reasonable doubt, you should find George Zimmerman guilty.

This was the job given to the state of Florida. Nothing was seen within the actual case presented by the prosecution that allowed for a stable and unwavering belief George Zimmerman was guilty.

“To blame the poor for subsisting on welfare has no justice unless we are also willing to judge every rich member of society by how productive he or she is. Taken individual by individual, it is likely there is more idleness and abuse of government favors among the economically privileged than within the ranks of the disadvantaged.” -Norman Mailer-

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10 Responses to Zimmerman Trial Jury Instructions

  1. The State presented nothing to support 2ndº murder? Then why was juror B-29 convinced of 2ndº murder when she entered jury deliberations? I guess the author of this article is calling her a liar. Did I read that correctly??? Yes, I see that I did.

    • admin says:

      Because she hadn’t had time to fully process the legal requirement to refrain from convicting somebody of murder based on speculation.

      • Yeah, riiiiight. *wink* *wink* The speculation here is the State didn’t present any evidence to convict on 2ndº murder, and that speculation is YOURS.

        • admin says:

          That would have required a showing Zimmerman bore ill will toward Martin based on something other than he suspected criminal activity. The state failed to demonstrate such ill will and the other prerequisites beyond a reasonable doubt for a murder conviction. All the rest is polemics, the undercurrents of racism, gun control, and SYG critics. A jury is not charged with solving the nation’s race relations problems or the other issues, but the guilt (or not) of the individual charged based on the facts, evidence, and testimony presented combined with the instructions given and arguments heard. The state could not make the case a man who had relatives who were black and took a black co-ed to his high school prom was racist or motivated by racism. Zimmerman never identified as ‘white’. White Hispanic was a term coined by the media to identify him.

    • nameofthepen says:

      Che – Would you be surprised to learn that ABC heavily edited that interview?


      (I expect you, as a thoughtful truthseeker, will also read the supporting links in the article.)

      • admin says:

        Nope, not at all–Zimmerman only referenced skin color/ethnicity when the 911 dispatcher asked for a description of the subject. Some of Zimmerman’s family were black and he took a black girl to his high school prom. The case for Zimmerman being motivated by racism can’t be rationally made, which is why both the prosecution and the defense told the jury the trial was not about race. Zimmerman was motivated by a bias against criminals in his neighborhood…a bias many Americans share. Nobody, however, prompted Martin to use the racial slur ‘cracker’ when he described Zimmerman to the girl on his cell phone. If there was any evidence of racism or prejudice, it weighed against Martin. Some have suggested Martin may have been influenced during his cell conversation to believe Zimmerman was a homosexual intent on propositioning him…or worse. Whose judgment was worse or more given to unfounded preconceptions remains debatable. The verdict, however, is final and not subject to appeal. One must go to Canada’s judicial system for that where they, indeed, do appeal acquittals.

  2. renosweeney says:

    If the state proved ANYTHING, it INDUBITABLY proved ill will. They MAY not have spoon fed the jury as to who was the initial aggressor, (although a careful look at the evidence shows they did provide the evidence overall), but they DEFINITELY proved ill will. There’s absolutely no doubt Zimmerman evinced the very definition of spite and ill will.

    • admin says:

      The state never even attempted to prove racial bias. Both sides conceded the case was not about ‘race’. It was the media who fanned that flame. The state did show bias on Zimmerman’s part against a suspected criminal, but that’s allowed and isn’t prohibited by law. It’s a bias lots, even most Americans share. Martin advocates claim it was tantamount to ‘profiling’ something law enforcement does to ethnic minorities, et ux, on a regular basis. No proof Zimmerman profiled Martin on the basis of his skin color/ethnicity was demonstrated–which makes sense given members of Zimmerman’s family are black and his date to his high school prom was a black girl.

      It was dark. It was raining. The convenience store was a 10-minute walk from Martin’s house. Though he didn’t know this at the time, Martin had left that store 40 minutes earlier. He was seen pausing and staring at homes. The neighborhood had undergone a recent crime wave of burglaries, thefts, and break-ins. Zimmerman may well have followed Martin despite dispatch (who has no legal authority to order anything) cautioning him that wasn’t necessary. Zimmerman didn’t want the suspect to get away (which he claimed they always did). Zimmerman got out of his vehicle–poor judgment for his own safety and that of others. Martin jumped him from the dark or behind a bush, sucker punched him, broke his nose, tackled him as Zimmerman tried to retreat, pinned him to the ground (straddling him and getting grass stains on his knees), then proceeded to pound Zimmerman’s head on the pavement. At THAT point, Zimmerman drew his pistol and shot Martin in self-defense. Some SYG critics argue Zimmerman may have inflicted his own injures (broke his own nose?), but that’s utter speculation and strains belief. In any event, the prosecution did not prove this recount of events advanced at trial was false beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the jury responsibly returned a not-guilty verdict.

    • nameofthepen says:

      Che – Would you be surprised to learn that ABC heavily edited that NEN call?

      “…he looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black” – NBC broadcast

      (I hope you, as a thoughtful truthseeker, may eventually also wonder at the many sinister twists and turns the media and the prosecution have taken against this small man, and ask yourself, “Why?”)

  3. nameofthepen says:

    Ooops, sorry. I think I hit the wrong “reply” button. That was aimed at Che Wua.

    Sorry. And yes, I agree with everything you answered. 🙂

    (Well, actually, I take EVERYTHING Rachel said with a grain of salt.)

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