Jury Rules Zimmerman Not Guilty: Why? And Now What?

Jul. 22nd, 2013   /  

 

February 26th, 2012. April 11th, 2012. July 12th, 2013. These are three crucial dates in the hotly debated history of the George Zimmerman story. The first date marks the evening on which Zimmerman admittedly shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The second date marks the day on which Florida State Attorney Angela Corey announced that Zimmerman, then-twenty-eight, would be charged with second-degree murder in the death of Martin, then seventeen-years old. The last date, of course, marks the night on which the jury in Florida v. Zimmerman came back with their verdict of “Not guilty.”

Many people across the country are stunned and have had a sour taste in their mouths about the State’s handling of the Martin killing ever since the Sanford Police Department’s initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman. Now, after he has gone through trial and has been acquitted of the charges against him, people are angry at the jury for their decision. However, many legal experts argue that the case was doomed from the get-go. The State of Florida’s statutes include what is commonly known around the country as the “Stand Your Ground” law. The name isn’t legally accurate, but it is indicative of the content of the real law. In Florida, an individual is permitted to use deadly force against an individual if they reasonably feel that they are in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. Title XlXI, Chapter 782, Section 2 reads, “The use of deadly force is justifiable when a person is resisting any attempt to murder such person or to commit any felony upon him or her or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be.”

The burden of proof is always on the state, and the accused must be presumed innocent until a jury finds them to be otherwise. In this case, Zimmerman, of course, claimed a defense of self-defense, and the self-defense law on the books in Florida is a legal defense to both the charge of second-degree murder and the lesser-included charge of manslaughter, which the jury was also instructed they may find him guilty of. The only two people who were present for the entirety of the fight were Martin and Zimmerman and Martin, deceased, was unable to tell his side of the story. Thus, it was nearly impossible for the State’s prosecution team to prove exactly what was in Zimmerman’s mind at the time of the shooting and what the circumstances were, and, thus, the jury was unable to rule, beyond all reasonable doubt, that George Zimmerman did not actually feel that he was in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death.

The case, no doubt, will go down as one of the most controversial legal issues in modern times; it brought to the forefront of media attention two major issues that remain problematic in our society today: race relations and gun violence. Nevertheless, Zimmerman was arrested, the state attempted to prove their case, and a jury composed of six women from the Sanford, FL area felt that there was an insufficient amount of evidence to convict Zimmerman of either second-degree murder or manslaughter.

So, is that the end of the struggle for the family of Trayvon Martin? Absolutely not. Their son is dead – and even if Zimmerman had been convicted, their son would still be dead, and such a devastating fact is incredibly difficult to deal with for any family. Additionally, just because the State of Florida can no longer charge Zimmerman with the crime, Martin’s family can, and very well may, bring a civil suit against Zimmerman for the death of their son. For example, Michael Jackson was unsuccessfully charged and tried for crimes by the State of California, only to be sued in a civil suit by the family of an individual who claimed he had been abused by the pop icon. While Zimmerman is no Michael Jackson, the notion of following a failed criminal case with a viable civil suit is the same.

The Martin family lost their child and, despite the fact that George Zimmerman walks a free man, the fact remains that George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed teenager. Trayvon Martin’s parents have every right to pursue a wrongful death claim against their son, for a wide variety of damages, which may include economic losses, emotional losses, etc.

For more information on the Florida v. Zimmerman case, or any other legal issue in Florida, please reach out to us for a free consultation at 561-266-9191 or daronberg@aronberglaw.com.

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