Zimmerman's Low Burden of Proof on th...

Zimmerman's Low Burden of Proof on the Issue of Self Defense

Posted in the Kingsland Forum

“Commander & Chef”

Since: Sep 11

Saint Marys, GA

#1 Jun 29, 2013
Akron Law Café
by Professor Will Huhn

In her news conference announcing that George Zimmerman was being charged with second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey mentioned several times that self-defense is an "affirmative defense" under Florida law. She also said that "Stand Your Ground" is "a tough affirmative defense to overcome." It will be "tough" for the prosecution because although Zimmerman has to introduce some evidence that he acted in self-defense, that doesn't mean that he has to convince the jury that he acted in self-defense. All he has to do is to create a "reasonable doubt" as to whether he acted in self-defense. A proposed amendment to the Florida Jury Instructions makes that perfectly clear.

Six years ago in Murray v. State, 937 So.2d 277, 279 (Fla. 4th Dist. 2006), the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Florida ruled that once a defendant in a criminal case has introduced proof that he acted in self-defense the jury is entitled to consider the defense, and the jury may not convict the defendant unless it finds beyond a reasonable that he did not act in self-defense. The Fourth District Court of Appeal stated:

But, with these additional facts, did he also incur a burden of proof identical to the State's? That is, did he have to prove the additional facts for self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt? Or was he instead bound by some lesser standard-say, the greater weight of the evidence? Indeed, how about something even less onerous than that? Was he merely obligated to lay the additional facts before the jury, without any burden as to the strength of their probative value – other than they might be true? The answer is this. No, he did not have to prove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt. He did not have to prove even that his additional facts were more likely true than not. The real nature of his burden concerning his defense of justification is that his evidence of additional facts need merely leave the jury with a reasonable doubt about whether he was justified in using deadly force. Hence, if he wanted his self-defense to be considered, it was necessary to present evidence that his justification might be true. It would then be up to the jury to decide whether his evidence produced a reasonable doubt about his claim of self-defense.

Last year the Fifth District Court of Appeal quoted this language from Murray and followed the same rule in the case of Montijo v. State, 61 So.3d 424 (Fla. 5th Dist, 2011). In Montijo the trial judge had instructed the jury that the defendant had the burden of proving that he acted in self-defense "beyond a reasonable doubt." Montijo's attorney did not object to the jury instruction, but the appellate court found that the trial judge had committed a "fundamental error" by giving that instruction and ordered a new trial for the defendant. The Fifth District Court of Appeal stated:

The inclusion of the phrase beyond a reasonable doubt in the jury instruction placed the burden upon Montijo to prove self-defense, depriving him of a fair trial and rising to the level of fundamental error. Accordingly, we reverse.

Seminole County, where Trayvon Martin was killed, is in the Fifth Appellate District, so the rule in Montijo is controlling unless and until the law is changed.

Florida Standard Jury Instructions online are in accord with the courts' rulings in Murray and Montijo. Instruction 3.6(f) states:

If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty. However, if from the evidence you are convinced that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find [him][her] guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.

“Commander & Chef”

Since: Sep 11

Saint Marys, GA

#2 Jun 29, 2013
On April 1, 2012, the Florida Bar News published proposed amendments to the Standard Jury Instructions. The proposed amendment to Instruction 3.6(f) would strengthen this language to clarify that the jury may convict the defendant only if it finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense. The proposed amendment adds the underlined phrase to the charge to the jury:

If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty. However, if from the evidence you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find [him][her] guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.

The bottom line is that Zimmerman cannot be convicted of murder or manslaughter unless the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense.

http://www.ohioverticals.com/blogs/akron_law_...

***

Unless the fix is in, I don't see how the prosecution gets a conviction out of the testimony so far.
LonePalm Sux

Kingsland, GA

#3 Jun 29, 2013
Wish in one hand, shit in the other. You know the result. Oh yeah, I forgot. You're an asshat.

Asshat.

Since: Dec 12

Kingsland, GA

#4 Jun 29, 2013
In that context I would have to agree with you. There is still the '...if not for your actions...' argument that could sway the jury to convict on a lesser charge. But as for his mental state at the moment of the shooting, that does not support murder. And then there is the predictable civil case in he is acquitted which carries less of a burden of proof since he has already confessed to the shooting.
snelgin

Kingsland, GA

#5 Jun 29, 2013
I believe Sux and the Dr are blo buddies.

Lecter changes his avatar about as often as Taylor Swift changes boy friends. But then guys like Dr_Lecter like to "decorate", if you know what I mean.
Tom

Kingsland, GA

#6 Jun 29, 2013
Dr_Lecter wrote:
In that context I would have to agree with you. There is still the '...if not for your actions...' argument that could sway the jury to convict on a lesser charge. But as for his mental state at the moment of the shooting, that does not support murder. And then there is the predictable civil case in he is acquitted which carries less of a burden of proof since he has already confessed to the shooting.
It gets me that a person could kill someone in self defense but have to pay money for doing it.
Anon

Kingsland, GA

#7 Jun 29, 2013
LonePalm wrote:
***
Unless the fix is in, I don't see how the prosecution gets a conviction out of the testimony so far.
Your Romney election prediction work out too?
Wowow

Kingsland, GA

#8 Jun 30, 2013
Anon wrote:
<quoted text>
Your Romney election prediction work out too?
No reply from LonePalm, hun? Well, don't hold your breath. He - like all Republicans - don't like facts or reminders they get most things wrong. Kinda like the Bush-Cheney Republican duo.

“Commander & Chef”

Since: Sep 11

Saint Marys, GA

#9 Jun 30, 2013
Not so well as I would have liked but not related to the current discussion.
Anon

Kingsland, GA

#10 Jun 30, 2013
LonePalm wrote:
Not so well as I would have liked but not related to the current discussion.
It's germane as an indicator of your ability, or lack thereof, to predict future events. As it stands now, I believe your zero for one (0-1).

“Master o Public Administration”

Since: Oct 10

St. Marys, GA

#11 Jul 4, 2013

“Master o Public Administration”

Since: Oct 10

St. Marys, GA

#12 Jul 4, 2013
LonePalm wrote:
Not so well as I would have liked but not related to the current discussion.
Note the highly intelligent and absolutely correct use of "Not so well as" versus the "as X as" usage that you local know-it-all A-holes use in all contexts, right or wrong.
Laughing

Kingsland, GA

#13 Jul 4, 2013
Moreno Jay wrote:
<quoted text>
Note the highly intelligent and absolutely correct use of "Not so well as" versus the "as X as" usage that you local know-it-all A-holes use in all contexts, right or wrong.
Wow, Jay, you're right. That can only mean one thing. LonePalm is...Alex!

“Commander & Chef”

Since: Sep 11

Saint Marys, GA

#14 Jul 4, 2013
Laughing wrote:
<quoted text>
Wow, Jay, you're right. That can only mean one thing. LonePalm is...Alex!
I have no known relation to Mr. Trebek.

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