Closing statements are winding down in the trial of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer accused of murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, and the case is expected to be in the jury’s hands by early Friday afternoon.
The jury of six females will then be tasked with determining if Zimmerman is guilty of murder, manslaughter, or a lesser charge. If convicted on charges of murder or manslaughter, Zimmerman could be sentenced to life in prison.
Mark O’Mara, the defense attorney representing Zimmerman in the case, said he believes if the jury doesn’t convict his client of murder, than they shouldn’t convict him on the manslaughter charge.
“What George did was an intentional act that he knew he was pulling the trigger, the reason why he did it was self-defense and that doesn’t suggest the manslaughter charge would be appropriate,” O’Mara said. “He’s not guilty of anything more than protecting his own life.”
O’Mara’s view of the manslaughter charge may be an optimistic one, because manslaughter can be both an intentional or unintentional act. That said, many feel that the prosecution has not gone above and beyond “reasonable doubt” on either charge.
Defense Attorneys Weigh In
We polled the criminal defense attorneys at Appelman Law Firm to see how they thought the case might play out. Here’s what they had to say.
Avery Appelman – My prediction: Not Guilty. With a person on top of you, who has struck you hard enough that your nose is broken and the back of your head was bloodied by being pounded into cement, a reasonable person confronted with a similar circumstances would fear great bodily harm or death at the hand of the attacker, as such the use of deadly force would be permissible under the circumstances.
Geoff Saltzstein – Prediction #1: Guilty, Murder 2. Although the defense put a good case on, in fact I think they may have prevailed if they would have tried this court to a judge only, the prosecution hammered home two key points; the first being intent and the second being Zimmerman’s lack of credibility. For a Murder 2 conviction, the prosecution needs to prove that Zimmerman in fact committed the homicide, which is not even up for debate; but they also need to overcome the jury instruction for self-defense. The government also needs to prove the element of intent, which is that he acted with malice or depraved heart.
Prosecutors did a good job of calling into question Zimmerman’s injuries, both by forensics and his utter lack of credibility. On the other hand, the defense did not do exceptionally well when trying to show that Zimmerman’s life was actually in danger, or that he feared that his life was in danger, a requirement for a citizen to use lethal force in self-defense. Although letting him testify was the only option the defense had, the jury will wonder what was going through his head, and the only thing they have to look at are his comments to the 911 dispatcher, that he followed Martin into the neighborhood and that he later called it “God’s will” on Fox News. The state of mind question is exactly what is needed to prove the second element, depraved heart. Prosecutors tried to force that down the jury’s throat, hoping to play on the emotions of the all-female jury.
Prediction #2: Not guilty on all counts. If the prosecution is going to get a manslaughter charge, legally, they should get the Murder 2 charge, because then the jury does not believe that he was acting in self-defense, and the State did good job of hammering home Zimmerman’s state of mind with his statements leading up to trial. Again, juries are fickle, very fickle, so in the end, nobody knows what they will decide.
Stacy Kaye – Not Guilty. I heard that the cop who originally interviewed Zimmerman said he believed his story about self-defense. Seems like you’d have to be a pretty horrible defense attorney not to be able to successfully argue that this fact alone is reasonable doubt.
General Public Offers Opinions
A quick look at Twitter shows that the general public has some strong opinions regarding the outcome of the trial. Below, your can see what people are saying right now.
Some people strongly believe Zimmerman is guilty:
Zimmerman, not a cop, Martin committing no crime, unarmed and not on Zimmerman's property. End of story. This is murder.
— VenomV12 (@VenomV12) July 12, 2013
Some think he’s innocent:
All facts point to Zimmerman being innocent though. Please tell me how in the hell you can prove he wasn't using self defense? #sitdown
— Jonathan Cash (@ryangentry4) July 12, 2013
Others believe fear of riots or retaliation could impact the jury’s decision.
If the jury decides on the Law/evidence #Zimmerman is innocent. If they decide he's guilty they do so on emotions and fear of retaliation
— kerry (@Kerryepp) July 12, 2013
And to quote Alfred from The Dark Knight, “some men, just want to watch the world burn.”
Kinda wanna see a not guilty so we can riot in the streets
— Ryan Johnson (@ryancjohnson_22) July 12, 2013
Related sources: Fox News, Associated Press