After having the chance to attend the George Zimmerman trial twice, I couldn’t wait to share my experience! First, and foremost, the TV doesn’t capture the half of what goes on inside the Courtroom. The sighs of the witnesses, the shrugs of the attorneys, what jurors take notes and when, the reaction of the media and public, and the subtle interaction between the attorney and a witness is not picked up by the cameras. It is a particularly fascinating interaction in this case, as opposed to others, as many of the witnesses appear reluctant to testify, my guess would be because of the media coverage in the case.
Although the trial is very exciting to watch as an attorney, particularly a criminal defense attorney, sometimes I don’t want to tell people of my profession because their very next question is, “So, what do you think?” That is neither a short answer nor an uncomplicated one. So, I decided to break down the potential verdicts and the reasoning behind the said verdicts. Below is a list of the potential verdicts and general reasoning behind them. Over the next couple of days, I will detail each of the potential verdicts, the reasoning behind the potential verdicts, and the evidence that either supports or contradicts such a verdict.
The jury must first decide whether the state proves all of the elements of second degree murder. But, because the defense team has asserted a claim of self-defense, the jury must decide if George Zimmerman was entitled to defend himself. If so, was George Zimmerman justified in using deadly force? Determining whether he was entitled to use deadly force requires an analysis of whether he was the initial aggressor that evening. After their analysis, the following are potential verdicts and the reasoning behind such each verdict:
A) The jurors believe that George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor and he was not justified in using deadly force. Verdict: Guilty.
B) The jurors do not believe George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor and he was justified in using deadly force. Verdict: Not Guilty.
C) The jurors believe George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor and he was justified in using deadly force. Verdict: Not Guilty.
D) The jurors do not believe George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor and he was not justified in using deadly force. Verdict: Guilty.
E) The jury cannot reach a decision, is split in some form or fashion – Mistrial because of a hung jury.
The jurors believe that George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor and he was not justified in using deadly force. Verdict: Guilty.
First, let’s look at the evidence that supports this verdict. While reading the list of facts or opinions supporting this guilty verdict, keep in mind that a juror must accept some or all of these facts as true, despite other testimony, to reach a guilty verdict.
1) George Zimmerman sees what he describes as a suspicious person and calls non-emergency to report the activities of the suspicious person. (Non-emergency Dispatcher and George Zimmerman’s statements).
2) George Zimmerman is a part of, the liaison to the Homeowners Association, and organizer of the Neighborhood Watch. (Homeowners Association Past President).
3) He has been trained by law enforcement officers in what to do when you see a suspicious person and that includes when to call 911 v. the non-emergency number. (George Zimmerman’s statements, Homeowners Association past President, Best Friend of George Zimmerman).
4) He utters that these “F***ing punks” and “…ass holes always get away,” to the non-emergency dispatcher. (Non-emergency Call).
5) He is told by non-emergency not to follow the person he calls suspicious and he follows the person anyways. (Non-emergency call, George Zimmerman’s statements).
6) George Zimmerman has a loaded gun, with a bullet in the chamber, and holstered at his hip. (George Zimmerman’s Statement, FDLE Employee Siewart, Neighbor, Officers on Scene.)
7) On a dark and rainy evening, George Zimmerman follows this person into a poorly lit courtyard. (George Zimmerman’s statements, Officers on Scene, Neighbors.)
8) George Zimmerman initiates contact with Trayvon Martin. (Rachel Jeantel.)
9) A fight ensues; George Zimmerman takes his gun and shoots Trayvon Martin in the heart. (Multiple Neighbors, 911 tape, Parts of George Zimmerman’s statements.)
10) Throughout the fight, Trayvon Martin is screaming for help. (Trayvon Martin’s Mother).
11) Trayvon Martin is shot and killed, with no other injuries than a gunshot wound from George Zimmerman’s gun to the heart and two small abrasions on his fingers. (Multiple Medical Professionals.)
12) There is no blood, trace DNA evidence, or fingerprints, partial or otherwise from Trayvon Martin on George Zimmerman’s gun.
13) George Zimmerman suffers minor injuries, two small lacerations that do not need to be sutured, among other bruises, swelling, and contusions. No broken bones, long term effects, or other physical symptoms manifest from the fight that ensued, with regard to George Zimmerman. (George Zimmerman’s statements.)
14) George Zimmerman made multiple prior calls to non-emergency and emergency lines reporting similar behavior. (Dispatcher.)
15) There is a two minute gap in the account given by George Zimmerman from the time the non-emergency call ended and when the gunshot was heard on 911 calls. (Dispatchers.)
16) The screaming stops when the gunshot it heard. (Multiple Witnesses.)
17) George Zimmerman previously enrolled and attended criminal justice classes discussing or assigning reading about, among other things, self-defense, witness preparation and testifying as a witness, and Stand Your Ground. (Former Professors of George Zimmerman at Seminole State College.)
18) Use of a gun in a fist fight, can be excessive force. (Former Professor of George Zimmerman at Seminole State College.)
19) The maximum and minimum amount of blows received to George Zimmerman was three (3). (Jacksonville Medical Examiner.)
20) George Zimmerman admits that Trayvon says something like “Okay, you got me now,” In close proximity to the gun shot. (George Zimmerman’s statements.)
21) George Zimmerman answers Sean Hannity’s question of whether there was a conscious moment that he knew he was going to die, with the idea he wasn’t sure because it all happened so fast. (George Zimmerman’s statements.)
22) While shorter, George Zimmerman weighed substantially more than Trayvon Martin. (Multiple Medical Professionals.)
While this is not an exhaustive list of facts, these are many of the main facts or opinions in evidence that jurors may rely on to reach the conclusion that George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin and was not justified in using deadly force on that evening. Let’s face it, we have an 18-year-old kid with a gunshot wound to the heart and a guy that walks away with what has been described as minimal to minor injuries with a history of profiling other “suspicious” behavior, and acknowledges that these “F***ing punks” and, “…ass holes always get away.” Would it be easy to believe he was tired of it and so he went into that courtyard to put a stop to it? Is it reasonable to think it was unnecessary to bring out a gun in the middle of a fight? With the evidence above, taken as truthful and credible, it might be very easy for a juror to come to that conclusion.
But, in order to reach a guilty verdict, the jury must either 1) Accept the premise that following Trayvon into the courtyard made him the initial aggressor and second he did not first exhaust all avenues of defense before using deadly force, or 2) Use only circumstantial evidence to determine what they believe happened once both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman hung up their phones and the altercation began. Rachel Jeantel, the woman Trayvon Martin was on the phone with leading up to the incident, gives her account that may lead one to believe George Zimmerman was the aggressor. But, with her multiple versions of what happened that evening and her relationship with the victim will the jury find her credible? The only other insight into what happened came from George Zimmerman, and he being the defendant, one has to wonder whether the jury will give credibility to his account. Where does that leave the jurors? It seems, filling in the blanks with pure conjecture.
The opening statement from the prosecution seemed to promise that the evidence would show untruths in the statements of a deranged neighborhood watchman, who stalked and hunted Trayvon Martin and walked away unscathed. Combined with media reports, this led me to believe I would see exactly that. But, each witness appeared to confirm parts of the defendant’s story. Most importantly, most of the eye witnesses seemed to identify Trayvon Martin straddling George Zimmerman and hitting him in the face. One witness recounted Trayvon Martin “raining down blows” in a mixed martial arts fashion at some point in the altercation. For me, the witnesses’ accounts did not quite seem to match the opening statement by the prosecution, nor the media accounts released since the date of the incident. Instead, they matched the account of the defendant’s retelling of the incident. With the disconnect in testimony, what we were told we would hear, and what the media releases described as happening, might it be just as easy for a juror to give credibility to George Zimmerman’s account of the altercation.
There are only two people who know what really happened in the minutes leading up to, through, and to the completion of the altercation that night. Who will the jury believe? Stay tuned for the next potential verdict –The jurors do not believe George Zimmerman was the initial aggressor and he was justified in using self-defense: Not Guilty.