avatar
Key Mistakes Sway Jury in Zimmerman Trial


0in;line-height:150%”>
The jurors were prohibited from considering race. They were instructed only on the parts of self-defense law that helped Zimmerman, and the chief police investigator improperly testified that he believed Zimmerman.

0in;line-height:150%”>
None of the jurors thought race played a role in the case, Juror B-37 told CNN's Anderson Cooper. In fact the question of Zimmerman profiling Martin because he was African-American didn't even come up in deliberations, the juror said.

0in;line-height:150%”>
The entire trial from start to finish was sanitized of any mention of race.

0in;line-height:150%”>
But the prosecutor was forbidden from telling the jury that the "something" that was "wrong" may have been the color of Martin's skin. The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, told the New York Times, "Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead because he and other black boys and men like him are seen not as a person but a problem."

0in;line-height:150%”>
Clifford Alexander, who worked as a lawyer in the Lyndon Johnson White House, said in an interview with the Washington Post, "The clear reason why Zimmerman had the audacity to approach this child was that he saw the color of his skin as a threat."

0in;line-height:150%”>
But the judge sanitized the case and everyone involved was forced to ignore the elephant in the room. Indeed, after the verdict, Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's defense attorney, made the preposterous statement that if his client were black, "he never would've been charged with a crime."

0in;line-height:150%”>
Florida’s self-defense law prohibits "initial aggressors" from using force if their own conduct has provoked that force. So if a defendant "initially provokes the use of force" against himself, he cannot claim to have acted in self-defense, unless he withdraws or retreats.

0in;line-height:150%”>
The jury was instructed to consider only whether Zimmerman reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself – when he later tussled with Martin on the ground. The jury was also told Zimmerman had no duty to retreat, that he could stand his ground, and meet force with force – including deadly force – if he was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in a place he had a right to be. Finally, the judge instructed the jury that if it had a reasonable doubt about whether Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force, they should find him not guilty.

0in;line-height:150%”>
The jury was only given partial instructions on self-defense – those parts that helped Zimmerman. They were prevented from considering whether Zimmerman might have been the first aggressor, which would have negated his claim of self-defense.

0in;line-height:150%”>
Juror B-37 said that Zimmerman was guilty of nothing more than "not using good judgment." She added, "Both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into."

10.0pt;line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif"”>

0in;line-height:150%”>
From the beginning, Serino did not believe there was enough evidence to file criminal charges against Zimmerman. The officer told the FBI that he was pressured into making the arrest. Zimmerman finally was charged for Martin's death only after a powerful national outcry, and the governor's appointment of a special prosecutor – 40 days following the killing.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her most recent book is  border:none windowtext 1.0pt;mso-border-alt:none windowtext 0in;padding:0in;
font-style:normal;mso-bidi-font-style:italic”> Drones and Targeted Killing
, will be published in 2014 by University of California Press. 

Leave a comment