As we continue to digest the Not Guilty verdict of George Zimmerman on Saturday evening, one of the most pressing questions that many have been posing is “How could the jury possibly come up with a not guilty verdict considering Zimmerman followed Trayvon and made disparaging remarks about him prior to exiting his car ?”
It is evident that an exorbitant amount of us believe that George Zimmerman was the aggressor and this verdict places at the forefront of society just how unimportant young black males are in America. Though, as lay people, many have expressed their dismay and anger towards the jurors who came back with this verdict, there are many factors that shape how a jury comes back with a verdict and it all begins with the elements of a crime and the instructions given to them by the Judge.
What Does This Mean ?
Judge Deborah Nelson read off 27 pages of instructions to the jurors that outlined the three options the jury could consider in the case. The options were to either find Zimmerman:
(a) guilty of second degree murder
(b) guilty of manslaughter or
(c) not guilty
In these instructions, the Judge states the elements that must be proven in order to find a defendant guilty of either charge. The instructions are highly detailed and must be adhered to entirely. The Supreme Court of the State of Florida has standard jury instructions for each crime. Along with each element that must be proven, definitions and defenses to each crime are also provided as well.
Additionally, with the instruction, Judge Nelson informed the jury that Zimmerman did not have to prove anything. The prosecution had the burden of proving each and every element of either charge in order to get a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of proving a criminal act, beyond a reasonable doubt is what, in my opinion, set the stage for a Not Guilty verdict.
There were doubts as to who was actually screaming in the audio, doubts as to who–despite Zimmerman following Trayvon–was the actual aggressor, doubts as to who had the upper hand in the described fight and doubts as to who grabbed for the gun first. It was clear in the photographic evidence presented and entered at trial that George Zimmerman had several lacerations and a bloody nose. It was also pointed out by some examiners that Trayvon, aside from the deadly wound, only had slight lacerations and scratches on his hands. A reasonable doubt was all that was needed to sway this jury. This instruction, to prove every element of each crime, beyond a reasonable doubt is what brought this verdict down.
How Does This Affect You ?
Well, it is apparent from this verdict that Trayvon’s security and possible fear were not fully considered. Whether the deceased feared for his life was not in the instruction. Keeping it authentic, most of us from the African-American community were taught to stick up for ourselves, which is what Trayvon did. I believe Trayvon sensed danger and whopped George Zimmerman’s butt to defend himself.
Apparently that is not acceptable in Florida.
We can’t be 100 percent upset with the jurors. There are statutory elements that must be proven, and there was doubt somewhere in that courtroom and that is all that it took to set Zimmerman free.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com). She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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