George Zimmerman Prosecution's Woes: Analysis


George Zimmerman's Prosecution Has Long Way to Go

The beauty of having a camera in court is that we all can watch the testimony and develop informed (sometimes differing) opinions about how the case is proceeding. In a case this divisive and sensitive I am glad no one has to take my, or any other reporter's word for what happened in court. Yes the Jodi Arias case was fascinating and the verdict in Casey Anthony somewhat stunning, but this is a case where the verdict could extend well beyond the confines of this particular courtroom.

It's not just the facts that the public ought to see and understand, but the law that the jury will be instructed to employ and this has always been a tough legal case for prosecutors (even beyond the issue of whether prosecutors should have just sought a manslaughter charge rather second degree murder.)

Even if Rachel Jeantel is absolutely right about what happened, prosecutors still have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not "reasonably believe" he was "in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm" during their altercation. That is a heavy burden to bear.

If these six women jurors believe the fight would not have occurred but for Zimmerman "following" Martin -- which remains a matter of dispute -- and even if they are convinced that Zimmerman initiated the confrontation, that alone is not enough to convict under Florida law.

When this case entered the public consciousness, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law became a national focus. Under that controversial law, determining who was the aggressor is crucial to assessing whether a defendant can succeed in having a case dismissed. The defense here chose not to rely on that law, probably because they would have lost at a hearing.

Instead, they are arguing classic self defense and so Zimmerman's actions and mindset when he fired the shot are at issue. Was he reasonably in fear for his life or great bodily harm at the moment he pulled the trigger?

This jury could believe Zimmerman was wrong, even be convinced that he stalked Martin and still find that the prosecution had not survived its legal burden beyond a reasonable doubt. These legal distinctions are important and as part of the live coverage on many cable and local news networks they are discussing these issues thereby allowing people to better understand the process.

This is not to suggest in any way that the prosecution should be throwing in the towel. This week they will present evidence of inconsistencies in Zimmerman's own account of what happened and if they find his story implausible that could spell trouble for the defense. Furthermore, jurors can give some witnesses far more weight than others.

But no matter what happens, I know I'll be glad that the world watched and judged it, and the verdict, for themselves.

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