Skip to comments.Zimmerman's Low Burden of Proof on the Issue of Self Defense
Posted on 06/29/2013 12:00:05 AM PDT by RC one
In her news conference announcing that George Zimmerman was being charged with second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey mentioned several times that self-defense is an "affirmative defense" under Florida law. She also said that "Stand Your Ground" is "a tough affirmative defense to overcome." It will be "tough" for the prosecution because although Zimmerman has to introduce some evidence that he acted in self-defense, that doesn't mean that he has to convince the jury that he acted in self-defense. All he has to do is to create a "reasonable doubt" as to whether he acted in self-defense. A proposed amendment to the Florida Jury Instructions makes that perfectly clear.
Six years ago in Murray v. State, 937 So.2d 277, 279 (Fla. 4th Dist. 2006), the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida ruled that once a defendant in a criminal case has introduced proof that he acted in self-defense the jury is entitled to consider the defense, and the jury may not convict the defendant unless it finds beyond a reasonable that he did not act in self-defense. The Fourth District Court of Appeal stated:
But, with these additional facts, did he also incur a burden of proof identical to the State's? That is, did he have to prove the additional facts for self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt? Or was he instead bound by some lesser standard-say, the greater weight of the evidence? Indeed, how about something even less onerous than that? Was he merely obligated to lay the additional facts before the jury, without any burden as to the strength of their probative value other than they might be true? The answer is this. No, he did not have to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. He did not have to prove even that his additional facts were more likely true than not. The real nature of his burden concerning his defense of justification is that his evidence of additional facts need merely leave the jury with a reasonable doubt about whether he was justified in using deadly force. ,b>Hence, if he wanted his self-defense to be considered, it was necessary to present evidence that his justification might be true.
Last year the Fifth District Court of Appeal quoted this language from Murray and followed the same rule in the case of Montijo v. State, 61 So.3d 424 (Fla. 5th Dist, 2011). In Montijo the trial judge had instructed the jury that the defendant had the burden of proving that he acted in self-defense "beyond a reasonable doubt." Montijo's attorney did not object to the jury instruction, but the appellate court found that the trial judge had committed a "fundamental error" by giving that instruction and ordered a new trial for the defendant. The Fifth District Court of Appeal stated:
The inclusion of the phrase "beyond a reasonable doubt" in the jury instruction placed the burden upon Montijo to prove self-defense, depriving him of a fair trial and rising to the level of fundamental error. Accordingly, we reverse.
Seminole County, where Trayvon Martin was killed, is in the is in the Fifth Appellate District, so the rule in Montijo is controlling unless and until the law is changed.
Florida Standard Jury Instructions online are in accord with the courts' rulings in Murray and Montijo. Instruction 3.6(f) states
If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty. However, if from the evidence you are convinced that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find [him] [her] guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.
On April 1, 2012, the Florida Bar News published proposed amendments to the Standard Jury Instructions. The proposed amendment to Instruction 3.6(f) would strengthen this language to clarify that the jury may convict the defendant only if it finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense. The proposed amendment adds the underlined phrase to the charge to the jury:
If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty. However, if from the evidence you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find [him] [her] guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.
The bottom line is that Zimmerman cannot be convicted of murder or manslaughter unless the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense.
As soon as the State rests, the defense should motion for dismissal on the grounds State didn’t prove their case, and it should be granted. However, considering this idiot judge...
And probably L.A., Oakland, Detroit....
most urban cities need to prepare. law abiding citizens especially need to be prepared to defend themselves and others from mobs.
these people riot when they win nba championships. they’re uncivilized savages.
She’s not an idiot. But I think it’s pretty sure she’s going to cover her backside by kicking the decision to the jury.
Let them take the blame for an acquital.
An all-female jury (and a judge biased against Zimmerman) is almost a guarantee of a ‘guilty’ verdict in order to keep things peaceful. Justice be damned.
The prosecution’s own witness handed the defense reasonable doubt on a silver platter. Ground. Pound. Zimmerman on the bottom. Then a gunshot while the witness was calling police. If I’m the judge, CASE OVER. If I’m the judge, there’s contempt-of-court citations for the prosecution team. There’s not just reasonable doubt in this case. There’s overwhelming doubt in this case. The decision to prosecute Zimmerman was a race-based decision that has no place in a country that calls itself free.
Screw the Fourth of July this year. There’s really NOTHING to celebrate this year in a black racist America that allows the IRS, DOJ, NSA and the piece of crap in the White House to be as corrupt as they want to be.
Maybe. my money is on Zimmerman at this point. The state has done the defense team’s job for them. The Defense just needs to solidify that doubt in the minds of the jurors now.
Has been added to the Keywords.
Please add this to any article that support the coming violence and rioting.
You recite the law like it matters. If the law was followed by jurors Casey Anthony would be behind bars, OJ would on death row and this case would never have gone to trial.
Uhm huh. And Oakland, San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Jose, Los Angeles, etc, etc, etc.
Locked and loaded and have plenty of styptic, Quickclot, tourniquets, and Kevlar.
I think the state should be more worried about jury nullification than the defense (which would be rveerse nullification in their case). There are six of jurors. The chances of all six of agreeing to convict despite overwhelming doubts of guilt is pretty slim IMO.
Is Florida a conceal-carry state? And did Zimmerman need to get permission from the police to carry a gun in his role as Neighborhood Watch-man? (some libtard feminazi was trying to tell me that Friday)
Yes, CCW state here. He was following all applicable laws, as far as I know, which is why it took railroading to get him charged.
He wasn't specifically patrolling the neighborhood anyway, he was on the way to the store.
The real issue here is whether or not a punk can beat you to death because he believes you "dissed" him.
Even without this I don’t understand how they could successfully convict Zimmerman of murder without rigging the game. I’m no lawyer but doesn’t a charge of murder oblige the prosecution to prove that Zimmerman deliberately initiated a potentially deadly assault on Martin? I don’t see how they could possibly prove that. I would think that involuntary manslaughter would be the most they would have a shot at proving.
To me it’s just another sign that this is a political railroading, not a criminal case.
If he had a CCW permit, why would he need 'permission from the police to walk with it in his own neighborhood. No reason for it at all - it isn't the police's business as long as he obeys the law. The real question is to ask is "Did his Home Owner's Association in their administration of any binding neighborhood covenants allow carrying of weapons inside the neighborhood outside of his home"..... My deed covenant has this restriction.
That is a violation of the 2nd amendment.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.