Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What’s next for Citizen Zimmerman:
The Bad News and the Good News

Today, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey put into motion a seemingly baseless, unjust prosecution of an innocent man, or at best a very flimsy and unnecessary legal case, purely in response to pressure from an angry mob. And today, George Zimmerman learned that he has a grave fight ahead of him. This is all because the accused was unselfishly helping the police protect a neighborhood with a history of burglaries. He was, he claims, attacked by Trayvon Martin, a suspicious young man with an arguably thuggish personality, who was once found with a utterly suspicious cache of jewelry and a burglary tool which he himself admitted were not his own. George Zimmerman’s crime, it seems, was defending himself against serious injury or death, using a legal weapon and deadly force, in accordance with the law.

The bad news for George Zimmerman is not just that he has been charged with second degree murder today. It is also bad news for him that the person pressing the charges, Angela Corey, stated the following:
“Remember, it is Trayvon’s family who are our Constitutional victims.”
With this sort of mindset, it is hard to take Corey seriously as a justice-minded prosecutor.

Corey’s statement just isn’t true legally unless Zimmerman is found guilty; in fact, if Trayvon was attacking Zimmerman as claimed, Trayvon isn’t a victim, either. Remember: If, and only if, Zimmerman committed a crime, the victim would first and foremost be Trayvon, “constitutionally.” Corey’s statement signals that she took the steps she took not on behalf of Florida’s law and its citizens, but on behalf of the (possibly unwitting) family, its band of merry (witting) race-baiting, riot-inciting rabble-rousers, Sharpton and Jackson, and the easily aroused mob that is influenced by them.

Corey appears to be bowing to public pressure, notwithstanding her assertions to the contrary, which no prosecutor should have to make. If her case is compelling, it will stand on its own when presented to a judge. If it isn’t, no smiling assertion in a press conference can change that. In no circumstance should such a press conference be necessary, except to briefly relay the barest of facts.

It is also telling that Corey requested the public pray for Trayvon’s family, and for her team, but not for Zimmerman. If Trayvon was the attacker and Zimmerman the innocent defender, I would still ask (and do ask) everyone to pray for all parties. Why is the accused not worthy of our prayers?

None of this is good news for Zimmerman.

What is good news is that the legal process which Corey set in motion now shifts in favor of Zimmerman.

I base this on what looks like a well-researched, useful article at CNN breaking down the steps in the legal process, a process which will end in dismissal, acquittal, or conviction. (Please allow me a huge asterisk here; I am a lay person and not in a position to evaluate the work of Beth Karas and Jessica Thrill. Your informed comments or criticisms are welcome.)

Unless there is a bombshell that has been kept completely secret from the public, Zimmerman is in good shape when a judge looks at the charges and the defense asks for a dismissal (if the judge has more than half a brain, and one eye open). There are one or two main challenges ahead:

Challenge #1: Get the charges dismissed. If successful, George goes free.

To get the charges dismissed, the defense has the burden to prove (based on a preponderance of the evidence) in a pre-trial evidentiary hearing that Zimmerman is immune from those charges based on Stand Your Ground.

This means it must prove all three of the following to be true:
  • Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity.
  • Zimmerman was attacked in a place he had a right to be.
  • Zimmerman reasonably believed that his life and safety were in danger.
This strikes my lay mind as a bit tricky. #2 is a piece of cake; of course he had the right to be there. #1 seems problematic, because the defense is asked to prove a negative. “Okay, George, prove you weren’t engaged in an unlawful activity, or the trial will move ahead.” Maybe this will be extremely easy; that is, perhaps the prosecution must claim a specific unlawful activity first. And #3 should not be so very hard. He was getting pummeled in his head, a vital part of his body without which he could not live or function. But not knowing as much about past Stand Your Ground cases as I’d like to, I can only speculate.

If the defense fails to get a dismissal, it moves on to:

Challenge #2: Defend George against the charge of second degree manslaughter.

To me, this would actually seem easier (or at least as easy) for the defense, because the burden of proof moves to the prosecution. Of course I’d rather see the charges dismissed. It would be better for everyone. If they are not, there will be a lot of hand-wringing by concerned Zimmerman supporters. (Based on everything that is being claimed by both sides, at this point I consider myself a supporter.)

From the CNN article:
“Florida law describes murder in the second degree as an act that is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind” if it is an act or series of acts that:
  • a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another,
  • and is done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent,
  • and is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.”
Here the prosecution has a seemingly insurmountable burden, one which, if Corey had her head screwed on right, she would not have undertaken.

Of course it is imminently dangerous to shoot another person. That’s a no-brainer. But how do you prove that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, demonstated a depraved mind? Well, without the aforementioned bombshell, you don’t.

After you prove his depraved mind, you still have a another three facts to prove (note the “and” after the first and second bullets). Again, it is easy to prove that a reasonable person would know that to shoot someone is certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to them. But Zimmerman must be proved to have done this from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent, and that he was indifferent about it.

In summary: The prosecution’s challenge is to prove the following to be true beyond a reasonable doubt: Zimmerman demonstrated a depraved mind, AND he did it from ill will or hatred, AND he was indifferent to Trayvon’s life.

All three. Let’s see how they intend to do this.

Today, Trayvon’s grieving mother, Sybryna Fulton, said with a broken heart that all she ever wanted was an arrest. Well, every indication is that she has been granted her wish.

But if Zimmerman is found not guilty, or if the charges are dismissed, will Fulton let it rest? Or will she amend her wish to include both an arrest and a conviction? If the justice system gives her an outcome she doesn’t like, will she proclaim an injustice? With Sharpton at her side, the latter is more likely, but only time will tell. I would like to give her the benefit of the doubt, but since she is hanging out with Sharpton, I just can’t swing that. She’s clearly a smart lady and should know better. All I can give her is my heartfelt sympathy. That is something she deserves.

1 comments:

Jeanne said...

Paul,

Here is the text of the Florida statute 776.012, "Use of force in defense of person":

2011 Florida Statutes CHAPTER 776 JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE[20]

776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:

(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.

Full chapter here:

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0776/0776.html