Why Zimmerman had to be Found “Not Guilty”
CRIMINAL LAW FORUM
By: Mark Eiglarsh
Zimmerman may have murdered Trayvon Martin. He may have been a profiling “wannabe cop” who was filled with “ill will, hatred and/or spite.” He may have approached Trayvon with his gun drawn. He may have even physically assaulted him before Trayvon punched him in the nose. Trayvon may have been legally standing his ground. Trayvon, may have reasonably feared death or great bodily harm and used force to defend himself against a guy that he not only reasonably found “creepy,” but potentially violent. Travyon may have been backing off of Zimmerman, legally retreating, when he was shot in cold blood. “Really?” Yes, “Really!” However, notice, each of the sentences above contains the words, “may have.” In the legal arena, we call that “speculation.” In this case, and in every single criminal case, the judge informs the jury: “A reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, a speculative, imaginary or forced doubt.” Judges also instruct jurors: “It is to the evidence introduced in this trial, and to it alone, that you are to look for that proof.”
If one eliminates emotion, bias, and/or sympathy, which is not easy to do, and objectively analyzes the evidence presented in the Zimmerman trial, the only legal conclusion that can be reached is “Not Guilty.” In order to reach that conclusion, one would also need to follow the judge’s instruction that: “The case must not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry for anyone, or are angry at anyone.” It’s very easy to be angry with George Zimmerman. Candidly, initially I was. I still may be, subconsciously. Even by his own admission, his actions set in motion the killing of a teenager. Especially because two of my three young children are boys, I immediately felt compassion for the Martin family, (I still do) and had anger “in my heart” for Zimmerman. I’m human. I’m entitled to feel however I want. Feelings aside, I chose to objectively listen to the evidence throughout the trial and then passionately came to believe that anything other than an acquittal would have been a miscarriage of justice.
There are many who have stated that because George was the “initial aggressor” who “confronted” Trayvon, he loses his right to legally argue self-defense. That is the law. Unfortunately, due to misinformation, the public has been left with an erroneous impression of what facts legally constitute being the aggressor.
In Gibbs vs. State, found at 789 So.2d 443 (2001), the initial aggressor was defined as the person who “uses force or threatens to use force.” In that ruling, the court made clear, the aggressor is not someone who merely follows someone and/or someone who confronts someone and even hurls racial epithets at them. One’s actions have to be physical in nature to legally be deemed the aggressor. In the Zimmerman case, there was not sufficient credible evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon, as defined under the law. Again, he may have had his gun out when he initially confronted Trayvon and/or even initially used violence, however, that wasn’t proven. As a result, Zimmerman gets self-defense protection and has a right to use deadly force if he reasonably feared death or great bodily harm. Anyone objectively analyzing the injury sustained by Zimmerman and the facts and circumstances he was faced with at the moment he pulled the trigger, would have to find that his fear of death or great bodily harm was reasonable.
The State’s case was hindered, and potentially doomed from the start, by the fact that Zimmerman killed the only other eye witness to the shooting. Even if Zimmerman’s own words indicate deception, the prosecution is still not relieved of their burden of proving what actually occurred. In spite of their extraordinary efforts, they just could not do so. They can’t manufacture evidence.
So, does Zimmerman join the company of O.J. and Casey Anthony? Does another guilty one walk? Maybe. Or, just maybe, what Zimmerman alleged was 100% accurate. I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll ever know. As we’ve learned trials aren’t about “finding the truth.” They never have been. What I do know is that the prosecution couldn’t prove their case. What can’t ever occur is that we lower the burden of proof in any particular case, no matter how bad we may want a conviction. As the judge also tells jurors, “Even if you do not like the laws that must be applied, you must use them. For two centuries, we have lived by the Constitution and the law. No juror has the right to violate the rules we all share.”
So was it o.k. for people to demand that gets convicted? Of course. Is it o.k. for people to criticize me for my positions? Absolutely. The court of public opinion can continue to say and do whatever they want, as long as they don’t violate the law. They can continue to condemn Zimmerman forever, should they choose. That's their right under the very same constitution that requires an acquittal based on the evidence presented in this case.About the Author
Mark Eiglarsh is a veteran criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor. He's an adjunct law professor at the University of Miami School of Law. Eiglarsh, a Martindale-Hubbell "AV" rated attorney, is a frequent legal contributor to numerous media outlets including Fox News, CNN, and HLN. Mr. Eiglarsh can be reached at Mark@EiglarshLaw.com and via web site www.EiglarshLaw.com.