Jury Instructions

Zimmerman defence against Manslaughter by Act should fail under ‘reasonable caution and prudence’

The Jury Instructions are available e.g. at http://media.trb.com/media/acrobat/2013-07/296066820-12031026.pdf


Page 10
The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the
following three circumstances:
1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by
lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or
2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any
sudden and sufficient provocation, or
3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden
combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or
unusual manner

Page 11
In order to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that
George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not
Merely negligent, justified, or excusable and which caused death.

Page 12
In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

Some will try to focus solely on the instant of the shot in order to form an opinion.
This is to be totally unreasonable.
Zimmerman was not simply out for a stroll at the time of the encounter.
The encounter happened in the context of a continuous stream of events over 10 to 15 minutes.
The entire 10 to 15 minutes is all a single incident involving the interactions of just two people.

Look at it from what Zimmerman claims was his perspective.
He asserts that:
  1. He sighted a suspicious person
  2. This person was “on drugs or something”
  3. The person approached his truck with “his hand in his waistband” and “something in his hand”.
  4. The person circled his truck with confrontational body language.
Zimmerman says that although inside his truck that he rolled up the window to avoid a confrontation.

This sounds like a very threatening situation and a very dangerous person.

Some might argue over the level of caution and prudence exhibited by Zimmerman in getting out of his truck and going into the dark area into which this dangerous threatening person had disappeared.
Some might argue that doing so was not significantly imprudent as he had an assumption that the person had kept on moving  - and therefore might not be expected to be just around the corner when Zimmerman arrived there.
Although in the NEN and subsequent police interviews, Zimmerman states that Martin “ran”, by the time of the Hannity interview, he goes to some pains to assert that Martin did not in fact run. He states that Martin sort of skipped or moved quickly.
This logically increases the possibility that the person might not in fact be long gone or even gone at all before Zimmerman arrived up at the dark corner.

Disregarding the caution and prudence of Zimmerman in walking into that dark area, his situation quickly gets more untenable.

At 3:18, 50 seconds after “Following? – Yeah – We don’t need you to do that.”  (This happened while he was still in Twin Trees )  Zimmerman had kept on going and was up near the T-junction.

Dispatcher: OK What address are you parked in front of? Zimmerman: I don't know, it's a cut through so I don't know the address.
Dispatcher: Okay do you live in the area?
Zimmerman: Yeah, I...[unintelligible]
Dispatcher: What's your apartment number? Zimmerman: It's a home it's [house number removed], (knocking sound) Oh crap I don't want to give it all out, I don't know where this kid is.

This is very clear.
If he had not realised the danger ( by his stated perception of Martin ) up until now, he certainly must realise it now.
He had just spoken his address out loud.
He realiseed that the kid might be hidden and close enough in the dark to have overheard his home address.
“Oh crap I don't want to give it all out, I don't know where this kid is.”

Remember the threatening actions asserted by Zimmerman. The person who he realises might be close by in the darkness had just circled his truck – with confrontational body language, hand in his waistband and something in his hand.
There is only one reasonable action to take at this stage – return to the safety of the truck as rapidly as possible.

Whatever about the reasonableness and prudence of getting out of the truck and following – aka going in the same direction …..
– now that he realises the very threatening person could be close in the dark there really is only one prudent course of action.

That’s at 3:18 in the call . That’s 7:12:52 on the clock
Zimmerman is still in that dark area over 3 minutes  later, when the encounter begins at 7:15:43

MOM made a big deal about Martin having 4 minutes to go home.
He failed to mention that Zimmerman had 3 minutes to go back to the safety of his truck after he explicity acknowledged in the NEN (that's his voice) that there was a real danger that he was at risk out there in the dark.

MOM did admit in his closing arguments that there was a 2 minute gap after the NEN anded and the fight broke out.
He offered a theory that Zimmerman might have been "looking around".
He didn't offer a theory as to what precisely Zimmerman might have been "looking around" for - in the pitch dark - and rain.

Even when the encounter happened, he had the chance to defuse the situation by explaining his purpose.
Even by his own account, he did the opposite.
He inflamed the situation.
  • By his own account, he responded "No. I don't have a problem" = confrontational.
  • Then....he put his hand to his waistband. "Hand" - "Waistband".  Does that ring any bells?
    See the Quiz page
That's just by his own account. Rather than withdrawing, he became far more provocative than he had been up until then.

He does not seem to have made any serious effort to get out even after the fight started.
Somehow, at the end, while on his back and apparently unable to use his arms and hands for anything, he managed to draw his gun (that he claims he had totally forgotten about until then).
He thinks that Martin must have seen it - but that's totally impossible because of the darkness, the small size of the gun tucked inside Zimmeman's waistband *behind* his hip.
He describes being concious of being careful to avoid shooting his own arm. If he was that cool, then he had an option for a warning shot or a non-fatal shot.

Any reasonable and prudent person would not have gone blind around that dark corner in the circumstances that Zimmerman describes as being the circumstances.
If he was so stupid that he could not see the recklessness in that, then from his own words in the NEN, once he was up near the T-juction he had clearly realised the danger - that this person that he had painted as very threatening could be close by in the dark
In the circumstances, the his perception of danger should have been very real to him.
This danger can not "be avoided only through the use of that force".
The danger can be avoided by returning to the safety of his truck ASAP
He cose to remain there for another 3 minutes.
He consistently lied about that delay afterwards.

That is a gross lack of reasonableness and prudence - aggravated by lying afterwards.

This is absolutely not “a reasonably cautious and prudent person”.

Although.... notice how he refers to Martin in "“Oh crap I don't want to give it all out, I don't know where this kid is.”
Could it be that at the time he did not consider Martin to be actually dangerous?
This would mean that the 'circling' that he did not report to the dispatcher in the NEN was invented after the event in order  to represent Martin as a thug?

Did he go to search out "the kid"?

Answer: It does not matter if he did. He could have acted outrageously before the fight. He could have tried to detain "th kid". He could have provoked Martin in whatever way. It didn't matter - because the jury were forbidden from taking the lead-up to the fight into consideration.
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