Thursday, July 4, 2013

George Zimmerman Trial - Is this a Self Defense Case or Murder?

Does fear for your life require demonstration of bodily harm or not?  The use of justifiable force is the center of the George Zimmerman trial and the defendant's injuries were minor.

Patrolman Chris Serino was dismissive of George Zimmerman's injuries. The state's pathologist, Dr. Valerie Rao, indicated that the injuries suffered by George Zimmerman could have all been inflicted by one blow. When pressed by Attorney O'Mara she extended that number to possibly three blows. Then she  said what looked like swelling could actually be the shape of George Zimmerman's head.

According to Florida law, words do not make you an aggressor. So when Trayvon Martin supposedly said  "Do you have a have one now" and "You're going to die tonight," George Zimmerman did not have the right to use deadly force.

Mr. Zimmerman may have been in fear of  his life when the physical fight began, but his injuries prove he was definitely not "resisting an attempt of murder." He was however resisting a "felony upon his person," also part of the statute, so he was entitled to use murder as self defense. 

On the other hand, George Zimmerman's participation in his neighborhood watch made him more vigilante than fearful. He followed Trayvon Martin which is not an action that someone who is fearful would take. Rachel Jeantel testified that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon, "What are you doing around here?"

Trayvon Martin was apparently not fearful either. He told Rachel Jeantel that a "creepy ass cracker" was following him, and there is evidence he doubled back to confront Zimmerman and that that is when the altercation took place.

If so, can it really be determined who was the first aggressor? Obviously Mr. Zimmerman was the ultimate aggressor because he had a gun.  Rachel Jeantel heard Trayvon say "get off, get off," but with her phone cutting out, we don't know what preceded these words except what George Zimmerman tells us. George Zimmerman's best friend, Mr. Osterman, said that Trayvon Martin saw and reached for the gun. But this is not what George Zimmerman told the detectives so was his use of a gun excessive force in the circumstance?

We have two people, who are unafraid of confrontation, that get into a fight. Under Florida law, an aggressor has a duty to retreat, but self defense is a statutory right. And in Florida, if  Zimmerman was not the initial aggressor he is not guilty.

Figuring out what really happened is the job of the jury.  As the trial progresses, hopefully they will be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Does self defense criminal law apply or was this murder?