Now that things have cooled down a bit since the George Zimmerman trial
verdict, I thought it best to briefly reflect on the case and its impact
upon America. The case really did not present itself with any facts that
were out of the ordinary. From my understanding, the defense put forth
by George Zimmerman’s criminal defense attorneys was that the client
had no choice but to defend himself against the actions of Trayvon Martin.
Accordingly, self-defense was the theory that ultimately led to his acquittal
by the jury. Cases that are based around
weapons violations evoke strong emotions from a variety of people.
I have been involved in a multitude of trials throughout my career. A self-defense
theory is one that is utilized in many cases involving physical harm to
another. The cases normally rest upon the veracity of the defense claim
that he or she acted simply because there was no other option but to utilize
physical force to combat the physical attack brought by another. Should
the jury believe the claims put forth by the defense, then an acquittal
is the only result that can legally be reached by the trier of fact. If
not, then the client is found guilty on the basis that he or she did not
act reasonably under the circumstances.
I have thoroughly reviewed the
legal instructions read to the jury in the George Zimmerman trial verdict. The crucial jury
instructions provided were:
“An issue in this case is whether George Zimmerman acted in self-defense.
It is a defense to the crime of Second Degree Murder, and the lesser includedoffense
of Manslaughter, if the death of Trayvon Martin resulted from the justifiable
use of deadly force . . . 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.”
It is clear from this instruction that the jury had to decide whether a
reasonable person in the same situation as Zimmerman would have acted
in such a fashion as to use deadly force to combat what was believed to
be an attack upon his life. Not knowing anything more than a general understanding
of the facts, I do know that the jury deliberated for many hours in reaching
its verdict. They obviously spent a considerable amount of time reviewing
the evidence presented to them by both the prosecution and defense. Accordingly,
the verdict was rendered after a thought provoking look at all of the
evidence presented as applied to Florida law.
Whether or not you agree or disagree with the verdict, I believe that the
legal process was properly followed in the Zimmerman case. A shooting
occurred. The police investigated. The prosecution reviewed the evidence.
The prosecution filed charges. A trial was held. The jury reached a verdict.
Simply stated, this is the process by which our criminal justice system
operates in the United States. It is by no means perfect, but it is and
will always be the fairest system in the world. I see this case, as a
practicing criminal defense who has experience as a criminal weapons defense
attorney, as resulting in the proper result, and would not request a different
format be utilized in any fashion for George Zimmerman's trial.