Zimmerman’s Justified Lethal Force, and Self-Defense Law
Textbook, but it appears most haven't read the textbook.
July 16, 2013 - 11:52 am
Those who understand self-defense law knew the verdict in State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman was assured as long as the jury made their decision based upon the law.
Let’s start with what constitutes an “aggressor” in a conflict. Aggressor is not a fixed state. For example, the individual who throws the first punch may be the initial aggressor, but may not be the aggressor throughout the length of the conflict. It is possible for conflicts to ebb and flow, to go from verbal to physical and back again. If a fight continues long enough, it is possible that the person who is the aggressor may change from one person to the other several times.
In a self-defense case, the later stages of a confrontation may be more relevant to determining who reasonably feared for his life than the beginning stages. The jury can take the whole incident into account, but may give more weight to determining the “aggressor” at the moment that deadly force was employed.
The prosecutors did not attempt to try this case based upon the principles of self-defense law in order to convict George Zimmerman of violating that law. In their 40-witness prosecution case, they made no attempt to address whether Zimmerman was legitimately in fear of his life or not. Instead, the prosecution of George Zimmerman by the state was primarily one of character assassination and innuendo, and built upon assertions and vitriol. They asserted that frustrated curse words delivered in a flat monotone and following someone in public — neither of which is remotely illegal — were evidence of a crime. They never argued the facts or the law, as they knew the facts and the law supported Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.
In the case of the conflict between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, what happened prior to their meeting face-to-face — which the prosecution focused on — has relevance, but did not reasonably carry much weight. Zimmerman broke no laws in following Trayvon Martin in public at a distance. Zimmerman broke no laws if he did as Rachel Jeantel suggested — walk up to Trayvon Martin and ask “what are you doing here?” or similar words to that effect. Similarly, Trayvon Martin broke no laws if he came up from behind George Zimmerman and asked: “What you following me for?”
At this point, neither men has done anything remotely illegal. If they had continued talking, it is quite likely that George Zimmerman would have found out that Trayvon Martin had every right to be there — even if he was mildly “on drugs,” as Zimmerman correctly behaviorally profiled him (according to medical examiner Bao’s toxicology reports). Both men would have continued on with their lives, and probably never would have interacted again.
Of course, that isn’t what happened. We know for a fact that the verbal confrontation became a physical confrontation at some point.
Zimmerman asserts that Trayvon sucker-punched him, and that the initial strike broke his nose. Frankly, even this carries little weight in relation to the self-defense law of this case. Nothing up until this point carries much weight, because nothing either man had done up until this point remotely approaches deadly force.
Self-defense law isn’t relevant through the scramble for position that takes the men away from the “T” intersection, and to the eventual positioning of Trayvon Martin mounted upon George Zimmerman. Up until this point, Trayvon Martin was possibly guilty of felony battery, but he had not done anything justifying a lethal-force response.
Note: a punch can be considered deadly force to a reasonable jury. I don’t believe this first punch rose to that level. Only after Trayvon Martin had firmly established a mounted position of control dominating George Zimmerman did the actions of Trayvon Martin against George Zimmerman start building a legal justification for the use of deadly force.
When Trayvon first bounced Goerge Zimmerman’s head off the concrete by either punching his head and driving it into the concrete, or by more intentionally grabbing his head and smashing it against the concrete, the very first blow — no matter how hard the strike — was the legal justification for the use of deadly force.
Self-defense law is not predicated upon sustaining injuries. In another circumstance, you would not have to wait for someone wielding a knife to finally stab you, or allow a man with a gun to keep shooting at you until he finally makes a hit before you respond. Trayvon Martin’s first attempt to slam George Zimmerman’s head into the concrete was assault with a deadly weapon, whether he successfully connected or not.