WASHINGTON, July 11, 2013 – Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the controlling standard in criminal cases in our country. The proof brought forward by the prosecution of George Zimmerman, charged with 2nd degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, did not meet that standard.
This is a case where only one person, George Zimmerman, knows what truly happened. During the now completed trial, the prosecution provided a great deal of conjecture and innuendo and most certainly will provide compelling, emotional argument during closing arguments. Upon review of everything that occurred in the courtroom, no prosecution witness provided any fact that climbed the wall of the standard of proof required, beyond a reasonable doubt, nor did any witness provide facts or testimony that would disprove that Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense is not true.
One witness’ testimony, a gun expert, testified about where the gun was when fired, saying it was fired up close to Martin’s body, right next to Martin. This testimony proves where the gun was, physically, when it was fired, but it does not prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a crime was committed, nor does that testimony disprove Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense.
Witnesses talking about Martin did not establish any facts that proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a crime was committed, nor did any of that testimony disprove self-defense.
The much-disputed issue about whose voice was on the 9-1-1 tape received a great deal of attention in the press, and the lack of expert testimony about the identity of the voice all contributed to an “canceling out” of the matter. The tape does not help convict Zimmerman, nor does it disprove self-defense. The judge properly ruled that no expert would be allowed to opine about whose voice was on the tape. No expert could possibly state that a voice screaming was the same as measured by a voice tested while talking. Zimmerman’s defense team was not about to let him provide a sample scream for comparison.
The judge also properly ruled that the defense could not bring into evidence Martin’s alleged violent propensities, specifically the texts found on his telephone about guns and his fighting, and the Facebook message from Martin’s half brother requesting fighting lessons from Martin. Whether Martin was a fighter or not previously, even if it could have been shown that he enjoyed fighting, had nothing to do with what occurred on the evening of his death.
In legalese, prior propensity is not relevant. By analogy, if someone always drives their car significantly over the speed limit, that habit is not relevant as evidence and would not be allowed to prove that the individual was speeding on a particular day.
Zimmerman’s self-defense claim was made known to the jury without having to subject him to cross examination in the courtroom. By not testifying, Zimmerman avoided cross-examination and the potential of loss of credibility. Zimmerman’s claims were communicated to the jury via video and audio recordings of his statements to police and by the story he told on national television.
The self-defense claim is made plausible by Zimmerman’s injuries. Photographs of his head injuries prove the encounter was not all Zimmerman. Who initiated that encounter, whether it was self-defense or not, and what this jury will do remain to be seen. Because the standard for evidence to convict demands proof beyond a reasonable doubt, it is likely the jury will come back with a not guilty verdict here.
Florida police may agree with my evaluation here. Deputies from South Florida released a public-service announcement urging possible protesters to remain peaceful after the jury comes back with its verdict.
Further, the Broward County Sheriff’’s Office, according to its website, is “working closely with the Sanford Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies” to create a “coordinated a response plan in anticipation of the verdict.”
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website. He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics. Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, in Washington, D.C., on the Andy Parks show, the featured legal analyst for America’s Radio News Network, heard in 165 markets nationwide, and he is a columnist on the Washington Times Communities.
His book The 8 Critical Things Your Auto Accident Attorney Won’t Tell You is free to Maryland and Virginia residents and can be obtained by ordering it on his website; others can obtain it on Amazon.
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