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.