Deadly force may be employed in self-defense when one reasonably believes that he, or another, is in imminent danger of suffering serious bodily harm or death. This is true in Florida and elsewhere — there is no requirement that one be injured, nor is there a minimum threshold of injury.
Why? Because this is sensible. When under attack, you cannot possibly know what damage the next blow will cause. Will it render you unconscious and at the mercy of the attacker? Will it leave you crippled or brain-damaged? Will it kill you?
In “stand your ground” states like Florida, as long as you are legally present when attacked, you have no obligation to run away before using force — though since Zimmerman had no opportunity to flee, that is not a factor in this case.
George Zimmerman’s account of the attack by Trayvon Martin has remained consistent from his initial written statement to his videotaped reenactment of the incident to the present. Observing Martin to be acting suspiciously in a neighborhood that had been experiencing a rash of burglaries and thefts, Zimmerman was on the phone with the police when Martin ran off, disappearing between two long rows of townhomes. Told by the dispatcher to keep him informed of what Martin was doing, Zimmerman left his truck to try to keep him in sight, but soon realized he lost him and told the dispatcher as much. Zimmerman agreed to meet the responding officers back at his truck, and as he was walking toward it, Martin came out of the darkness and demanded: “What’s your problem?” Zimmerman replied that he did not have a problem, and as he began to reach for his cell phone, Martin sucker punched him, breaking his nose, stunning and disorienting him, and knocking him to the ground.
Martin jumped astride Zimmerman, straddling him and raining blows on him in mixed martial arts style. Zimmerman screamed for help, but none was forthcoming. Martin repeatedly slammed Zimmerman’s head into a concrete sidewalk, and Zimmerman feared he was about to lose consciousness.
At this point, his jacket rode up, exposing his holstered 9mm handgun on his right side. Martin saw it and told Zimmerman: “You’re gonna die tonight,” and reached for Zimmerman’s gun. Zimmerman was a little faster, and fired a single round into Martin’s chest as he leaned over Zimmerman. Martin sat up, and Zimmerman was able to get out from under him and pin him to the ground. He thought he missed Martin. Within seconds, residents of the neighborhood — and the police — arrived. Zimmerman cooperated fully with the police, never requesting a lawyer.
Unlike Zimmerman’s account, the accounts of the prosecution witnesses would change, abruptly and dramatically, and certainly not to Zimmerman’s benefit.
Following opening statements, the prosecution normally produces a succession of fact witnesses, people that can testify to the facts — the evidence — necessary to establish the elements of the offense and to prove that the defendant committed it. Their ultimate job is to leave no room for reasonable doubt. In this case, the prosecution must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense.
But this is the George Zimmerman prosecution: a backwards case where the roles of the prosecution and defense are reversed.
Normally, prosecutors are careful to fully question each prosecution witness to obtain all of the evidence their testimony can produce. They do this so that the defense is not able to reveal previously undisclosed evidence, which tends to suggest prosecutorial concealment. But during the first week of this case, the prosecution established a pattern of asking only the bare minimum of their witnesses. In virtually every case, defense cross-examination reveals a great deal the prosecutors avoided bringing to light, and that information either fully supports George’s Zimmerman’s unchanging account, casts doubt on the “narrative” — which is actually the prosecution’s case — or both.
This bizarre turn of events has caused the prosecutors, particularly Bernie de la Rionda, to engage in the spectacle of aggressively cross-examining their own witnesses, trying to get them to mischaracterize, ignore, disown, or soft-pedal their testimony.
Another and disturbing pattern established by prosecution witnesses is that of changing their testimony in significant and ethically questionable ways. A number of prosecution witnesses have testified to important changes in their prior testimony they never before mentioned — not in multiple law enforcement interviews or depositions. This directly suggests that they’ve not only been coached, but perhaps that the subornation of perjury is involved.
Rachel Jeantel is the prosecution’s star witness. Long reported to be Martin’s girlfriend, she was reportedly on the phone with Martin much of the day he died, and until his attack on Zimmerman. Jeantel is therefore an “ear-witness.” Benjamin Crump of the Scheme Team trumpeted her testimony as proof-positive that Zimmerman murdered Martin in cold blood, and the prosecution relied on her statements in charging and pursuing the case against Zimmerman.
In previous articles I noted that Jeantel would be a terrible witness. She is not only hard to understand, her testimony actually makes little sense. Even a cursory reading of her interview with de la Rionda revealed that not only did she fail to contradict Zimmerman’s account, she actually supported it.
Another issue for the prosecution has been its serial concealment of exculpatory evidence in violation of its obligation to provide that evidence to the defense. For many months, the prosecution concealed their knowledge that Jeantel committed perjury — twice. Jeantel lied about her age, misrepresenting herself as 16 rather than 18 in an apparent attempt to hide behind juvenile privacy laws. She also lied when she said she did not attend Martin’s funeral because she was hospitalized, so upset was she by Martin’s death.
She lived down to expectations — she mumbled, resisted answering questions directly, made little sense, and was actively hostile, particularly to the defense. So outrageous was her behavior I expected her to be held in contempt, though Judge Nelson allowed the behavior and seemingly protected her. At the end of the day, when defense attorney Donald West mentioned that she would have to return the folowing day, she announced that she was not going to come back. When West told the judge her testimony the next day would take at least two hours, Jeantel said: “What?”