Federal Civil Rights Charges Against George Zimmerman Said To Be Off The Table

It appears that there will be no Federal charges against George Zimmerman for shooting Trayvon Martin. This is not a surprise.

George Zimmerman in CourtGe

When the shooting incident involving George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin first entered the national public consciousness, the Justice Department quickly responded by opening an investigation to determine if Zimmerman may have violated Martin’s civil rights in any way that would give the Federal Government jurisdiction over the case. As has been the case in past situations where this has arisen, such a case would be completely independent of any state-level criminal investigation and would, in theory at least, be able to proceed forward regardless of what happens in state court. We saw that most famously in the Rodney King case, where the police officers charged with King’s beating were acquitted in state court only to be convicted later in Federal Court of violating King’s civil rights. The Zimmerman case was different, of course, because George Zimmerman was not a law enforcement at the time he shot Martin, and was not operation as any kind of agent of the state at the time either. Despite that difference, there were potentially some Federal laws that Zimmerman could be charged under if the evidence were available to establish that he acted out of some kind of racial animus and that he shot Martin because he was African-American. Ultimately, of course, Zimmerman was acquited by a Florida jury on all charges, but the Federal investigation remained open and charges could still be brought at any time within the applicable statute of limitations. Today, though, The Washington Post is reporting that Zimmerman will most likely not be charged, and that the investigation will be likely eventually be  closed:

The Justice Department is not expected to bring civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, according to three law enforcement officials, despite allegations that the killing was racially motivated.

The federal investigation of Zimmerman was opened two years ago by the department’s civil rights division, but officials said there is insufficient evidence to bring federal charges. The investigation technically remains open, but it is all but certain the department will close it.

Investigators still want to “dot their i’s and cross their t’s,” said one official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the matter.

(…)

An attorney for Martin’s family said his parents have not heard a final decision from U.S. officials.

“Trayvon’s parents continue to hope and pray for justice, and they won’t have any comments until they hear officially from the Justice Department,” said Benjamin Crump, who also represents the family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, whose shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., in August also prompted a public outcry.

Mark O’Mara, the lawyer who represented Zimmerman, said that approximately 40 witness statements collected by investigators in 2012 indicated there was no evidence to support a civil rights prosecution.

“I was watching the whole case pretty closely for two years, and they didn’t do anything except take those 40 statements,” O’Mara said. The statements “suggested that George acted in very non-racist ways. He took a black girl to the prom. His best buddy was a black guy. He mentored two black kids. He sought justice for a black homeless man beaten up by a white cop’s son.”

“To those who have seen civil rights investigations and civil rights violations,” he said, “it looked as though the Department of Justice was just placating pressure that existed by suggesting there was an ongoing investigation.”

In the days after Zimmerman’s acquittal, I argued that bringing civil rights charges in this case, based on the facts that we knew would be entirely inappropriate. As I argued then, and as this news seems to confirm, there just didn’t seem to be any evidence that would be sufficient to support bringing charges against Zimmerman a second time. Additionally, while Double Jeopardy rules don’t apply in this situation since the Federal and Florida legal proceedings would be brought by different governments, it strikes me that this ability of the Federal Government to step in and bring Federal charges when someone has already been tried and acquitted in a state court is one that out to be used sparingly. In the Rodney King case, for example, we were dealing with the use of excessive force by officers of the law and a state criminal trial that took place in a jurisdiction where it was clear that the prosecution faced an uphill battle. There may also be cases involved non-government Defendants where charges would be appropriate. In this case, though, where the underlying facts of the case were placed before a jury made up of whites and African-Americans and there is no real question of the “fairness” of the trial for either side, it strikes me that charges would be inappropriate absent the kind of overwhelming evidence of racially motivated violence that just doesn’t seem to exist here.

The Justice Department’s apparent decision not to proceed forward should not really come as a surprise, of course. Attorney General Holder has tended to downplay the hopes of the Martin family and others that the Federal Government would act in this situation. President Obama himself even weighed in after Zimmerman’s acquittal to note that these types of cases are very difficult to prove and that people needed to be realistic in their expectations of what the Federal Government can do. The most important factor, of course, is the fact that there was simply never any evidence that Zimmerman was acting out of racial animus with the intent to deprive Martin of his civil rights at the time of the shooting. No such evidence was presented at trial, for example, and as Zimmerman’s former attorney notes, it quickly became apparent that Federal investigators had not found any evidence that could support civil rights charges in this case. Additionally, the evidence that was developed at trial argued strongly against the idea that Zimmerman was acting out of racial animus when he shot Trayvon Martin. Instead, the picture that was painted even by the prosecutions own evidence showed that this was a confrontation in the night between two men that led to a physical confrontation which ended with Martin being shot to death. As I said when the verdict was handed down, it was clear that, based on the evidence that was presented, that the jury was correct in acquitting Zimmerman because the state had not proven their case for either Second Degree Murder or Manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. While the Federal Government wouldn’t necessarily be bound by this verdict if it did proceed forward with charges, it would have been forced to use the same evidence, which suggests strongly that the result in a Federal criminal trial would have been the same as the one in state court. For that reason alone, and considering that there was no evidence that Zimmerman broke any Federal laws that February night in 2012.

 

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, Race and Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Talking Point Conservatives were completely convinced that Holder would pursue federal civil rights charges. Oh well.

    Looks like they’ll have to move on to another scary talking point – the Ferguson Missouri killing has to be the one, right?

    Of course with Holder stepping down it gets confusing. Maybe they can circle back around to Benghazi and Fast & Furious – there’s always comfort in the familiar scary talking points. Of course they can always default to “Obama is going to confiscate our guns.”

  2. Jim Treacher says:

    @al-Ameda: He did pursue federal civil rights charges. For two years.

    Other than that, excellent point.

  3. stonetools says:

    So another person gets away with murdering an unarmed black teenager for no justifiable reason.

    ‘MURICA!

  4. wr says:

    @stonetools: “So another person gets away with murdering an unarmed black teenager for no justifiable reason.”

    Yes, but in Florida they did just convict a white guy for murdering a black teen for the crime of playing music white people don’t like, and sent him away for decades. And it only took two trials to do it!

  5. Gavrilo says:

    @stonetools:

    Not sure if you’re aware, but Zimmerman was tried and acquitted of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    @Gavrilo: I think @stonetools: knows that. He said he got away with it.

  7. al-Ameda says:

    @Gavrilo:

    Not sure if you’re aware, but Zimmerman was tried and acquitted of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter in the death of Trayvon Martin.

    Not sure if you’re aware that OJ was tried and found not guilty of murdering two people.

  8. Gavrilo says:

    @gVOR08:

    No, he didn’t get away with anything. He was arrested, charged, tried, and acquitted. And, he had a justifiable reason; self-defense.

  9. stonetools says:

    @Gavrilo:

    I’m sure you felt the same way when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murder charges, right? He didn’t get away with anything…

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Jim Treacher:

    The Justice Department’s apparent decision not to proceed forward should not really come as a surprise, of course. Attorney General Holder has tended to downplay the hopes of the Martin family and others that the Federal Government would act in this situation.

    But of course you do understand that the subject of this article is the salient fact that AG Holder will not go forward with federal charges.

    Other than that you made a cogent observation.

  11. Jim Treacher says:

    @al-Ameda: It only took two years. Why the big rush?

  12. anjin-san says:

    @Jim Treacher:

    Can you stop talking now? It makes me sleepy…

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @Jim Treacher: You’re aware of the US legal system? Zimmerman was acquitted 15 months ago. 15 months is an eye blink in our legal system.

  14. Jim Treacher says:

    @anjin-san: Okay.

  15. Jim Treacher says:

    @gVOR08: Yes, I know a little bit about government and the courts. I was replying to al-Ameda’s assertion that Holder hadn’t pursued federal charges. Hope that helps.

  16. EddieInCA says:

    @Jim Treacher:

    Actually, you don’t know how government and the courts work if you think Holder was pursuing charges. It would have been easy to charge Zimmerman. But Holder didn’t.

    After a two year investigation, there are/were no charges. That’s an investigation. That’ s not “pursuing charges.”

  17. Jim Treacher says:

    @EddieInCA: The word “actually” is traditionally reserved for things that are actual.

    He wasn’t pursuing charges. For two years. Mm-hm.

  18. al-Ameda says:

    @Jim Treacher:

    It only took two years. Why the big rush?

    Why? Are you disappointed that Holder did not press forward on this?

  19. Jim Treacher says:

    @al-Ameda: Are you?

  20. jewelbomb says:

    @Jim Treacher: Dude. You’ve already proven that you have no credibility on the issue since you apparently don’t know the difference between investigating someone and charging them. Now why don’t you go back to the DC where your patented brand of intellectualism is better appreciated?

  21. doubter says:

    According to these guys, Holder was not even supposed to think about investigating – that alone is proof of animus. Never mind that it was a national discussion and there were a number of wonky things about it.
    Never mind that after looking at it they declined to do anything, it was wrong for the commies at the Holder’s DoJ to think about looking into the case!
    God forbid that there is an investigation into Michael Brown… that poor police man is just being persecuted, how dare we look i to it!!

  22. Jim Treacher says:

    @jewelbomb: Try to relax.

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @al-Ameda: Not sure if you’re aware that OJ was tried and found not guilty of murdering two people.

    I’ve always found that analogy irritating, and finally thought it through.

    The OJ jury ignored the evidence and the law to acquit him.

    The Zimmerman jury paid attention to the evidence and the law to acquit him.

    I feel pretty comfortable in saying that the OJ jury would have convicted Zimmerman, and Zimmerman’s jury would have convicted Simpson.

    And doesn’t this mean that you are siding with that RAAAAACIST Mark Fuhrman and the RAAAAACIST LAPD on Simpson’s guilt?

  24. george says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’ve always found that analogy irritating, and finally thought it through.

    The OJ jury ignored the evidence and the law to acquit him.

    The Zimmerman jury paid attention to the evidence and the law to acquit him.

    Actually I’d say in both cases the jury went for the reasonable doubt approach.

    It comes with our preference for letting ten guilty people go free rather than convict one innocent (Bismarck wanted it the other way – better to hang ten innocents than to let one guilty person go free).

    I’m not a lawyer, but from what I’ve read in both cases the prosecution did a poor job, and the juries responded accordingly. You should have to prove murder – preponderance of evidence shouldn’t be enough.

    Interestingly enough, both Simpson and ZImmerman seemed determined to make up for the prosecution’s mistakes by committing further crimes (perhaps thinking the prosecution should get a second shot at them, fair play and all).

  25. Tyrell says:

    @stonetools: well, no. What happened here was that there was not evidence for a murder charge. There might have been for some lesser charges, but once the media circus with Al and others came in, everything got messed up. I have no regard for Zimmerman. The issue was evidence and then double jeopardy. A gang of news channel people and others should not be pressuring authorities into unwise decisions. They are trying that in Ferguson .

  26. Janis Gore says:

    @Tyrell: In Ferguson, I ask, are there real civil rights questions? Not just walking down the street while black, but walking down the street at all?

    Forget race.

  27. Janis Gore says:

    Cops vs. polity rather than white cops vs. black kids.

  28. Janis Gore says:

    @Jim Treacher: I’m not even gonna ask you to quit being a jerk. That’s a fruitless question.

    Gotta do what you gotta do, eh, Treacher?

  29. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “The OJ jury ignored the evidence and the law to acquit him. The Zimmerman jury paid attention to the evidence and the law to acquit him.”

    Please note: In Jenos’ unique brand of English, “paid attention to the evidence” means “voted the way I wanted them to.”

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    And doesn’t this mean that you are siding with that RAAAAACIST Mark Fuhrman and the RAAAAACIST LAPD on Simpson’s guilt?

    No, it means I side with the Goldman & Brown families.

  31. pylon says:

    “Paid attention to the evidence” amounted to taking the word of a guy who lied about his finances, and who had a story that didn’t make sense in lots of ways.

    A jury is entitled to disbelieve a witness, in whole or in part. And Zimmerman wasn’t even a witness whose evidence could be tested by cross-examination.

  32. Rob in CT says:

    The guy is still gonna end up in jail or dead, relatively soon, IMO. He’s a hot mess.

  33. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @pylon: Well, then, it’s a good thing that there was all that overwhelming evidence about Zimmerman’s violent past, his racist beliefs, and recklessness with his gun.

    Oh, wait, there wasn’t.

    At least there was no evidence that he had been attacked, injured, and legitimately feared for his life when he coldly pulled that trigger.

    Whoops, there was that, too.

    But it was a helpless, defenseless little kid he shot.

    Oh, darn, it was a high school athlete who had a couple of inches of height (and reach) on him.

    I’m sorry, what was the evidence that the jury and the prosecutors overlooked, anyway?

    Three different shootings of black men by white men. Zimmerman/Martin, the Ferguson shooting, and the South Carolina gas station shooting. Two of them were of questionable justification, the third was pretty much open and shut a bad shooting. (The shooting parties in the first two were injured to a certain degree.) The third one was captured on video.

    And all the outrage focuses on the two ambiguous (I’m being generous here) cases, while nobody seems to care any more about the SC one.

    I’m still withholding judgment on the Ferguson one until we get more details — I’m waiting for info on the cop’s injuries. But the message being sent out is “if you’re white and you’re being beaten by a black man, your best move is to just take it and hope he doesn’t either kill you or take your gun, because if you shoot him and he isn’t packing, you’re in deep, deep trouble.”

  34. pylon says:

    Jenos: All of your “evidence” is thin.

    IMO this was a botched prosecution. Or maybe one that they didn’t exactly put their full effort into.

    Where was the evidence he was beaten and feared for his life? From an unsworn statement of a liar, adduced through hearsay testimony. The medical evidence showed no more than superficial scrapes. The crime scene was not in accordance with his tale.

    The “evidence” of his statement that he was scared was outweighed by the fact he followed the kid, that he was armed, that he was bigger.

    A high school athlete? Who was outweighed by a large margin and who was FISTFIGHTING (maybe) with a guy who had martial arts training.

    How did Georgie get his gun if he was being overwhelmed, beaten into the ground?

    Self defence should be positively proven once the facts of the homicide are established (which was uncontested here).

  35. pylon says:

    Waiting for info on the cop’s injuries? Any injuries were well before the shooting, so they are pretty irrelevant as to whether shooting was required.

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @pylon: Sorry, the burden of proof is for the prosecution to prove Zimmerman guilty, not for him to prove his innocence. And your little recap is full of… well, I’ll be kind and call them “misinformation.” I don’t know you well enough to call you a liar simply for saying things that aren’t true. You could just be misinformed.

    The medical evidence showed no more than superficial scrapes.

    You missed the broken nose, huh? Or does that not count?

    A high school athlete? Who was outweighed by a large margin and who was FISTFIGHTING (maybe) with a guy who had martial arts training.

    There was no fistfight — or, at least, no evidence of one. A “fistfight” implies two active combatants. Martin had injuries to his knuckles; Zimmerman had a broken nose. Zimmerman had no injuries to his hands, and Martin had no injuries apart from the gunshot wound. The likely conclusion? Zimmerman never threw a single blow. That changes it from a “fistfight” to “a beatdown.”

    Also, Martin was a high school football player. Zimmerman, at the time, was, to put it kindly, a tad portly. The “weight” doesn’t count for much, especially with the scenario presented and supported by the evidence — Martin throwing a punch that breaks Zimmerman’s nose and knocks him to the ground, then straddling Zimmerman and bashing his head into the pavement.

    How did Georgie get his gun if he was being overwhelmed, beaten into the ground?

    He had it in his waistband and pulled it out while Martin was straddling him, bashing his head into the pavement. (That’s how those “superficial scrapes” that bled quite profusely, and possibly left Zimmerman slightly dazed.) The evidence of the gunshot wound is entirely consistent with Zimmerman flat on his back and Martin straddling him.

  37. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Round and round again. I hate to engage this again, but I can’t let this BS go unchallenged.
    A few points that have been brought up ad nauseum countering his and your versions of the story:
    1) 50 lbs means more than 2-3″ in a fight.
    2) Zimmerman could have punched Martin any number of times as long as he didn’t hit bony tissue and not had injuries to his hand and left Martin without injuries that would have shown up without an autopsy. Zimmerman could have attempted throws or holds that he learned in his abortive attempts at MMA training. We don’t know because he killed the only other witness.
    3) The injuries to Zimmerman are in no way supportive of the claim that he had his head repeatedly beaten while lying on concrete. The two small lacerations would be about right if he were punched in the face and fell to the ground. I take it you have never seen a street fight or a bar fight or any fight not on television if you can look at those injuries and conclude that Zimmerman’s story makes sense.
    4) As to his gun being in his waistband, we only have Zimmerman’s word and a story that doesn’t add up very well against nothing because he killed the only other witness.

  38. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: I’m gonna do a point-by-point, then go a bit meta on you. We’ve had civil discussions before; I hope this is another such case.

    1) 50 lbs means more than 2-3″ in a fight.

    Yes, assuming there is an actual fight, meaning two combatants attacking each other. 50 pounds of flab is more hindrance than help when pinned down (except for cushioning blows, and that doesn’t help with head blows. Zimmerman wasn’t that fat.

    2) Zimmerman could have punched Martin any number of times as long as he didn’t hit bony tissue and not had injuries to his hand and left Martin without injuries that would have shown up without an autopsy. Zimmerman could have attempted throws or holds that he learned in his abortive attempts at MMA training. We don’t know because he killed the only other witness.

    Yes he could have. But I’ll save that for the fifth point.

    3) The injuries to Zimmerman are in no way supportive of the claim that he had his head repeatedly beaten while lying on concrete. The two small lacerations would be about right if he were punched in the face and fell to the ground. I take it you have never seen a street fight or a bar fight or any fight not on television if you can look at those injuries and conclude that Zimmerman’s story makes sense.

    The injuries are consistent if one considers Zimmerman actively resisting the bashing.

    4) As to his gun being in his waistband, we only have Zimmerman’s word and a story that doesn’t add up very well against nothing because he killed the only other witness.

    Where else might the gun have been? Had it been in his hand from the outset, common sense dictates that Martin would have not swung at all, would have gone for the gun, or would have knocked it out of his hand. Martin’s actions only make sense if he did not know Zimmerman had a gun.

    Now for point 5: the one you didn’t make.

    Your arguments revolve around a certain perspective: that there’s little or no evidence disputing it, or what evidence there is can be challenged by attacking Zimmerman’s character and dismissing every single thing he says. And in the absence of evidence, you feel free to assume the worst.

    My perspective — as I’ve explained before — is that we need some kind of starting point to look at the situation. ZImmerman offers a narrative, so why not use that? Not accept it, but start from there. What sort of evidence is there regarding key elements of his story?

    He says that Martin hit him in the face and knocked him to the ground. Consistent with his injuries.

    He says that Martin was bashing his head against the pavement. Again, consistent with his injuries.

    He says that he didn’t punch or in any way fight with Martin. Again, consistent with both his and Martin’s injuries.

    He says that he drew his gun from his waistband and shot Martin while Martin was straddling him. Again, consistent with his injuries.

    Zimmerman is the accused here. Under our legal system, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. There is nowhere near enough evidence to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your arguments seem to be based on the idea that you can cast reasonable doubt on his innocence.

    Whether or not you can is irrelevant. That’s not how it works.

    Do you want to be arguing that since he didn’t prove his innocence to your satisfaction, he should have been convicted? Because that’s how it’s coming across to me.

  39. Grewgills says:

    He says that Martin hit him in the face and knocked him to the ground. Consistent with his injuries.

    That is true.

    He says that Martin was bashing his head against the pavement. Again, consistent with his injuries.

    Absolutely and unequivocally not. Again, I must assume you have never seen a street fight or anyone who has ever been on the wrong side of one. There were to small lacerations and almost no bruising or scraping that absolutely would have been their if Zimmerman had been straddled and had his head beaten into the sidewalk. His injuries are consistent with falling to the ground or perhaps a scuffle on the ground. They are not consistent with either having his head smashed into the sidewalk repeatedly or with being punched in the head repeatedly with his head on the sidewalk.

    Martin’s actions only make sense if he did not know Zimmerman had a gun.

    If Martin thought he was about to be shot, he could have attempted to take down Martin before being shot. Again, we’ll never know because the only other witness is dead.

    I think murder was not a charge that could have been won even with a good prosecution in this case, particularly not in Florida or indeed anywhere in the deep South. However, Zimmerman was the architect of this tragedy. Despite being advised that the police did not want him following Martin by the 911 operator* by all appearances he did. If he hadn’t been packing he probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to do so. It appears that his bravado was buoyed by his gun with tragic consequences and his behavior since only bolsters that interpretation. The appropriate charge would have been manslaughter and a conviction would have been much more likely. We are talking about the deep South though and we have a man who appears white enough that claims to be in fear for his life from a black teen with no other witnesses, so a conviction would be a hard thing to get regardless of the facts.
    The lesson to take away from this is, if you shoot someone in Florida make sure you kill them so no one can contradict your version of events.
    * I’ve provided 911 transcripts and audio on that front before.

  40. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: You raise a bunch of points that are irrelevant to the basic question: was there sufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman of first degree murder? The answer is no.

    The next question: was there sufficient evidence to convict Zimmerman of a lesser charge, such as 2nd degree murder or manslaughter? Again, no.

    The question you seem to be arguing: did Zimmerman make any bad decisions that night? Yes. We can argue about which ones and how bad, but he did make some mistakes that night. But that’s not the issue.

    It’s not the role of the government to punish bad decisions, but to punish broken laws.

  41. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    The manslaughter charge was not brought and now cannot be because of the initial prosecutorial overreach we’ll never know if that case could have been made to the satisfaction of the jurors.
    Aside from that the point that had me respond was the OJ parallel. OJ got away with murder because of mishandled evidence and prosecutorial failings. Zimmerman appears to have gotten away with manslaughter because of poor handling of the crime scene and prosecutorial failings. The behavior of both after the incidents only makes that conclusion look more likely.

  42. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: The biggest problem in the OJ case was the jury. The evidence was there; the jury just refused to acknowledge it.

    In Zimmerman’s case, what kind of evidence would have supported a manslaughter conviction? Specifically, the kinds of evidence that should have been present at the crime scene or was screwed up by the prosecution?

  43. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Here is the Florida statute.
    Zimmerman intentionally shot Martin in the midst of a provocation.
    There was a sudden, unexpected event or circumstance that served as provocation.
    Zimmerman felt a temporary anger, heat of passion, or emotion that immediately resulted in an intent to kill or an intent to commit the act that resulted in the victim’s death.
    Zimmerman’s actions were the cause of Martin’s death.
    There was not a felony being committed against a person or property at the time Zimmerman initiated the conflict and it was not accidental.
    The act was committed against a child, so could be considered aggravated manslaughter.
    Zimmerman used a gun so it would be a first degree felony.

  44. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Grewgills: I can poke several holes in that argument of yours.

    Zimmerman intentionally shot Martin in the midst of a provocation.

    I’d say it’s impossible to determine who committed the “provocation.” The first provable provocation is Martin punching Zimmerman (again, plenty of evidence Martin hit Zimmerman, none that Zimmerman hit Martin.

    There was a sudden, unexpected event or circumstance that served as provocation.

    Yes, a broken nose followed by a continuation of the assault by pinning Zimmerman to the ground.

    Zimmerman felt a temporary anger, heat of passion, or emotion that immediately resulted in an intent to kill or an intent to commit the act that resulted in the victim’s death.

    Yes, and that emotion was “entirely reasonable fear for his life.”

    Zimmerman’s actions were the cause of Martin’s death.

    Yes, Zimmerman pulled the trigger.

    here was not a felony being committed against a person or property at the time Zimmerman initiated the conflict and it was not accidental.

    See “assault and battery.” Or, possibly, “assault with intent to kill.”

    The act was committed against a child, so could be considered aggravated manslaughter.

    Martin was old enough to be certified an adult in many circumstances, and some are arguing that he should have had the right to vote. But technically correct.

    Zimmerman used a gun so it would be a first degree felony.

    Again, technically correct.

    The problem is that you need to first establish what Zimmerman did that was the provocative act, and then prove that it actually happened. And You can challenge his story all you like, but simply discrediting his credibility is not sufficient.

    You can’t prove that Zimmerman did anything that would legally justify Martin punching him in the face, knocking him to the ground, and straddling him to continue to beat him. And if that action can’t be proven to be justified, then Martin’s self-defense claim must stand.

    Here are a few examples: it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bill Clinton lied under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but he wasn’t convicted of doing so. And it has also been proven that OJ Simpson lied about key elements in his defense (the one that sticks in my mind is his denying ever owning “ugly-ass Bruno Magli shoes,” and then photos were discovered of him wearing them.) But it isn’t enough to discredit a defendant’s story. You have to also prove that they actually committed the crime.

  45. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    I’d say it’s impossible to determine who committed the “provocation.”

    That is not necessary by statute. The 911 call does show that Zimmerman was following Martin at night despite being advised that was not wanted by the police and his references to Martin on the 911 call place a high liklihood on him being the initiator, but again that is not necessary.

    Yes, and that emotion was “entirely reasonable fear for his life.”

    So says Zimmerman who has been less than entirely honest.

    See “assault and battery.” Or, possibly, “assault with intent to kill.”

    Martin was walking home when Zimmerman began following him. Walking home with intent to eat skittles is not a felony. The evidence of the 911 call points to Zimmerman initiating the incident that ultimately lead to his shooting and killing Martin.

    The problem is that you need to first establish what Zimmerman did that was the provocative act

    Read the statute, that is not required.

    You can’t prove that Zimmerman did anything that would legally justify Martin punching him in the face, knocking him to the ground, and straddling him to continue to beat him.

    We only have Zimmerman’s word that that is what happened as he killed the only other witness. We do know Zimmerman was hit in the face and that he had two lacerations on the back of his head consistent with a fall. Zimmerman’s story about Martin straddling him and beating him do not match his injuries. If Zimmerman had actually been straddled and had his head beaten into the sidewalk there would have been MUCH more bruising and scraping. That was not present making Zimmerman’s story not credible.

    And if that action can’t be proven to be justified, then Martin’s self-defense claim must stand.

    That action wasn’t proved to have happened, so it doesn’t need to be proven justified. Self defense is an affirmative defense. That means it presupposes the criminal action, but voids it. Basically the crime is admitted, but the defense exonerates the defendant. The burden of proof is on the state to show the criminal action, in this case manslaughter in the death of Martin. None of the necessary elements are meaningfully in dispute there. That leaves Zimmerman claiming self defense to excuse the crime. That should require more than I said so, particularly when the story doesn’t add up.

    Here are a few examples: it was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bill Clinton lied under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but he wasn’t convicted of doing so.

    What he did was shady, but didn’t meet the definition of perjury. It all hinged on he and his attorneys pushing the other side into a small and precise definition of ‘sexual relations’ that didn’t include the actions that we know for certain happened. It was shady and shameful, but no it was not proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Clinton committed perjury. Depending on your definition of lie, he probably did lie under oath. I would consider what he said a lie, but not perjury. Those are two different standards.
    The perpetual investigation that lead to his being questioned on that completely unrelated bit of shenanigans in court was at least as shameful as Clinton’s behavior on the stand.

    OJ got away with murder because of a piss poor prosecution and the best defense money could buy. If you are rich enough in America you can get away with almost anything.

  46. Grewgills says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    A couple of hypotheticals:
    Zimmerman follows Martin, confronts him, there is a scuffle, Zimmerman attempts to wrestle Martin to the ground, in the process he is punched in the face and they end up on the ground with Martin on top. Zimmerman realizes that he is in a bad way, pulls out his gun and shoots Martin dead. If we had eye witness testimony to corroborate that story what do you think should happen?

    Rather than Zimmerman shooting Martin, Martin stabs Zimmerman and Zimmerman dies before the police arrive. The rest of the evidence is exactly the same. How do you think the police would have responded? What do you think would have happened to Martin? What would you think should have happened to Martin?

  47. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    It’s been long since established that you know nothing, and I mean nothing, about actual fighting in the real world. An expert dissected the arguments you are repeating now right here on OTB a while back and threw them in the trash bin. Have you forgotten about that? Do you have nothing better to do that repeat your own warmed over, debunked nonsense?

  48. al-Ameda says:

    @Grewgills: No witnesses means that all Zimmerman had to do was fabricate a plausible story, and hope that the jury was out to lunch. He probably had a 75% chance of success going into this. Not surprising that Zimmerman got away with creating the circumstances that caused the death of Martin, the odds were in his favor from the very beginning

  49. al-Ameda says:

    @Jim Treacher: Disappointed? Nope, it’s Florida, my expectations were low to begin with. Also, I expect these type of occurrences and outcomes in our gun-oriented country.

  50. anjin-san says:

    My perspective — as I’ve explained before — is that we need some kind of starting point to look at the situation.

    Or we could start from where the story actually starts, not from the obviously self-serving point in time you choose.

    The narrative starts when Zimmermann started following Martin – who was absolutely, no doubt about it going about his lawful business in a place he had every right to be. This was also the provocation. Martin – literally a kid making a candy run – sees a strange man following him, for no good reason. Martin had every reason to be in fear for his safety.

  51. anjin-san says:

    That’s how those “superficial scrapes” that bled quite profusely

    Superficial scalp wounds typically bleed heavily. This has been covered, what, a thousand times now. Do you really still need help understanding this?

  52. pylon says:

    As I said before, none of Zimmerman’s side of the story should have been in front of the jury anyway (at least, not without the right to cross-examine him). The prosecution f’ed up big time.

    Any decent lawyer would have made mincemeat out of GZ on the stand.

  53. pylon says:

    None of Zimmerman’s blood or DNA was found on Martin’s hands or his clothing. Zimmerman told the police that Martin had knocked him down, broken his nose, and covered his face with his bare hands while he slammed Zimmerman’s head into a concrete sidewalk.

    Dr. Valerie Rao, a medical examiner, testified that she thought Zimmerman’s wounds were “insignificant” and “non-life threatening.” She said that Zimmerman’s head may have only hit the concrete a single time and the injuries were so minor that they were not consistent with grave force

    No one testified that his nose was broken, even his own doctor could only say “maybe”. The truth will set you free, Jenos.