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Zimmerman Case: The Five Principles of the Law of Self Defense

Zimmerman Case: The Five Principles of the Law of Self Defense

As we enjoy today’s pause in the courtroom action of the Zimmerman trial it might be a nice time to do a quick overview of how the law of self defense will be fought over at trial.

Florida Self-Defense Statutes Most Relevant to the Zimmerman Trial

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Florida has a number of specific statutes relevant to self defense (not all states do, relying instead on case law), the most central of which for this trial will be:  776.013.  Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.

Also, FL 782.02. Justifiable use of deadly force

It seems likely that given the facts of the case the prosecution will also try to apply Florida’s aggressor statute:  776.041.  Use of force by aggressor. 

Finally, I expect we’ll also see the defense raise Florida’s immunity statute at trial:  776.032.  Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

The Criminal Charge Against Zimmerman

The above listed self-defense related statutes will find application in establishing Zimmerman’s affirmative defense of self-defense. We do not even get to that point, however, unless the State has managed to prove each and every element, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the crime with which Zimmerman has been charged.

The formal charge against Zimmerman is murder in the second degree: 782.04. Murder.

In Florida (as in most states) manslaughter is a lesser included offense of murder, and so the jury will also be read the manslaughter charge as a matter of course. 782.02. Manslaughter.

Details matter when dealing with statutes, and we’ll be delving into those details in the coming days and (perhaps) weeks of the trial.   Before getting enmeshed in minutiae, however, I thought it might be productive to establish a general framework of the law of self defense generally, a of 30,000-foot point of view to put everybody on the same piece of landscape in preparation for the start of the trial.  These five principles apply generally the the laws of self defense everywhere in the United States (although their specific application does, of course, vary in different jurisdictions.)

The Five Principles of the Law of Self-Defense

American society recognizes that there are certain circumstances in which the use of force, even deadly force, against another person may be necessary and justified.  When this is so, the use of that force is deemed not a crime, and even if the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt each and every element of, say, murder, the fact that the act was done in lawful self-defense requires an acquittal.

This is, really, a remarkable degree of autonomous power held by the individual citizen.  A person who reasonably believes that they are being threatened with imminent and otherwise unavoidable death or grave bodily harm may in that instant take the life of their attacker, with absolutely no requirement for prior permission from any governmental authority.  In contrast, think about how long it usually takes the government to execute someone who has been proven guilty of a capital crime with all due process of law.

Where the government does enter the picture in a self-defense scenario, of course, is after the fact.  Examining events in hindsight they seek to determine whether the use of force did, in fact, adhere to all five legal principles of self-defense.  If they can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that any single one of those principles has been violated, the defendant’s right to claim self defense disappears.

That said, let’s briefly discuss each of the five principles of the law of self-defense:  Innocence, Imminence, Proportionality, Avoidance, and Reasonableness.

For the State to win on the issue of self-defense in the Zimmerman case it must prove, busing the facts in evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt. one or more of these fundamental principles to be false.

Innocence—Aggressors Need Not Apply

The principle of Innocence refers to the notion that a person who initiates a conflict should not later be permitted to justify his use of force as self defense.  It is this principle that is captured in Florida statute 776.041.  It is, however, possible for the initial aggressor of a conflict to regain his “innocence” under certain circumstances., and thereby regain his right to justifiably use force in self defense

What I expect we will see at trial with regard to the principle of Innocence is the State arguing that Zimmerman engaged in conduct of a nature sufficient to qualify as “aggression”.  The defense will respond that nothing Zimmerman did could reasonably qualify as an act of “aggression,” and at the same time that even if he did engage in such conduct he nevertheless “regained his innocence” afterwards.

Imminence—Right NOW!

The principle of Imminence refers to the notion that you can defend yourself with force only against a threatened danger that is about to happen RIGHT NOW.  You can’t use force to prevent a danger that may arise at some later time—the law expects you to seek an alternative resolution in the mean time, such as calling the police–nor may you use force in response to a danger that has already occurred or passed—doing so would be retaliation, not self defense.

The principle of Imminence may come into play around the arguments that Zimmerman was the initial aggressor, in that his observation/following of Martin would create in a reasonable person’s mind (in this case, Martin) a fear of imminent harm.  The defense will, naturally, argue the contrary.

Proportionality—The “Goldilocks” Principle (Just Right)

The principle of Proportionality refers to the notion that the degree of force you may use in self-defense must be proportional to the degree of force with which you are threatened.  Briefly, a non-deadly threat may only be countered with a non-deadly defense.  A threat capable of causing death or grave bodily harm (e.g., a broken bone, blinding, a rape) may be met with deadly force.

Usually, the use of deadly force against an unarmed attacker is fatal to a claim of self defense.  If you nevertheless wants to argue self defense you will have to convince the court that the unique circumstances warranted your use of deadly force despite the fact that the attacker was unarmed.

In many states, the fact that the attack occurred in the defendant’s home often raises a legal presumption of a threat of death or grave bodily harm (e.g., the so-called “make-my-day” laws).  That, of course, is not relevant in the Zimmerman case.  In all states, however, if the unarmed attack is of such ferocity that it nevertheless raises a reasonable fear of death or grave bodily harm, the use of deadly force in self defense would be justified.

Much has been made in the public narrative about the fact that Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Martin.  For Zimmerman to be successful in arguing self defense as a legal justification for the shooting he will need to present the court with a compelling narrative of his own recounting his reasonable fear of death or grave bodily harm.  The success of Zimmerman’s narrative will surely be a function of the unremitting nature of Martin’s attack—straddling the prone Zimmerman and punching him “MMA-style” even after Zimmerman was clearly no longer any apparent threat and was, by eye-witness account, screaming for help—and the extensiveness of Zimmerman’s injuries as evidenced by medical reports and contemporaneous photos.

Avoidance—A Duty to Retreat as Long as Safely Possible

The principle of Avoidance refers to the notion that you should not use force in self-defense if you can avoid the need to do so by making use of a safe avenue of retreat.

Florida is, of course, a “stand your ground” state (776.013(3)), where a person acting in justifiable self defense has no general duty to retreat before doing so.  This does not, however, take the principle of Avoidance out of this trial.

As previously mentioned, it is is possible that the State will argue that Zimmerman was the initial aggressor.  As the aggressor he would not be eligible to argue self-defense unless he first “recovered his innocence.”  A condition to “recovering innocence” is that you have “exhausted every reasonable means to escape” or that you “withdraw from physical contact with the assailant.”  (An alternative means of “recovering” innocence comes into play when the aggressor’s non-deadly attack is countered by a deadly-force attack.)

In this way the principle of Avoidance and a legal duty to retreat can arise even in a Stand Your Ground state, like Florida, which has no general duty to retreat before using force in self-defense.

Reasonableness—Meet the “Reasonable and Prudent Man”

The principle of Reasonableness is really an umbrella principle that applies to each of the previous four.  The issue here is whether your perceptions and conduct in self-defense were those of a reasonable and prudent person under the same or similar circumstances.  If they were not, any claim to self-defense fails.

So, if you believed the other person was an aggressor, but a reasonable person would not have believed this, you did not act in lawful self-defense.  Similarly if you believed that the threat was imminent but a reasonable person would not have, or that the force you used was proportional to the threat but a reasonable person would not have, or that you could not have avoided the threat but a reasonable person would have . . . in each case the claim to self defense fails.

It is within the contours of the principle of Reasonableness that the attacker’s prior acts and/or reputation might be made relevant at trial, even if they were unknown to you at the time.  The reasonableness of your perception that the attacker’s behavior was threatening would be buttressed if your attacker had a reputation in the community for behaving in threatening manner.  Similarly, the reasonableness of your perception that the attacker was acting in an irrational and frightening manner would be buttressed if your attacker habitually used intoxicants, and was in fact intoxicated at the time of the attack.

Wrap-Up

So, those are the five principles of the law of self-defense in a nutshell.  Obviously, a ton of detail has been left out, so take it for what it is, a concise overview.  Hopefully, this can serve as a useful conceptual framework and context into which we can place the specifics of Florida law and the particular facts of this case in the days to come.

If you’d like to learn how the Five Principles of the Law of Self Defense apply in your specific state, take a look at “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” now available at www.lawofselfdefense.com, from Amazon.com, and soon available in Kindle version.


Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense,” now available in its just released 2nd Edition, which shows you how to successfully fight the 20-to-life legal battle everyone faces after defending themselves. UPDATE: July 5, 2013 is the LAST DAY to take advantage of the 30% pre-order discount, only $35, plus free shipping. To do so simply visit the Law of Self Defense blog.

BREAKING: “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition” is now also being carried by Amazon.com, at list price but with a commitment for 2-day delivery.  A Kindle version to come within a week or so (I hope).

Many thanks to Professor Jacobson for the invitation to guest-blog on the Zimmerman trial here on Legal Insurrection!

You can follow Andrew on Twitter on @LawSelfDefense (or @LawSelfDefense2 if I’m in Twitmo, follow both!)on Facebook, and at his blog, The Law of Self Defense.

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Comments

[…] A few minutes ago I uploaded up my most recent blog post related to the Zimmerman case at the Legal Insurrection web site. […]

stevewhitemd | June 9, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Andrew, again, thank you — this is a superb review of the law.

If it is demonstrated that Mr. Martin was on top of Mr. Zimmermann near the very end, punching ‘MMA style’ — does that then truly permit the use of deadly force as a defense? Or could one argue that as long as Mr. Zimmermann had an arm free (which he surely must have to get to the pistol) that he should have resisted ‘in kind’? I’m just asking to be sure; if there is no imminent ‘broken bone’ coming from an otherwise unarmed attacker, can you still use deadly force to protect yourself?

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 10, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Trademark was not armed with a firearm. But he was armed with a slab of concrete at which he repeatedly aimed GZ’s skull. There are more homicides committed by blunt force trauma than with firearms.

The legal standard will be whether a reasonable and prudent person in Mr. Zimmerman’s circumstances would have believed that he was being subject to force capable of causing death or grave bodily harm. If so, he would be lawfully justified in using deadly force to defend himself.

To put it another way, a gun IS “responding in kind” to a bare-handed attack, IF the other person’s bare-handed attack is reasonably capable of causing death or grave bodily harm under the circumstances. Both means of force at that point are “deadly force” under the law.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you, very helpful. I was anticipating a way a prosecutor might try to undermine the claim of self-defense: “if you had a free hand Mr. Zimmermann, why not punch back / push him / pull him off of you?”

      The prosecutor in this case may very well make exactly that argument. As they say in legal circles: “If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on you side, pound the law. If neither is on your side . . . pound the table.”

      So far it appears that the State has neither the law nor the facts on its side. Commence table pounding.

      The argument you describe would be an excellent example of “pounding the table.” Completely irrelevant in terms of the law, but appealing to the LIO–low-information observer–and the many outside provocateurs driving the “hang Zimmerman” narrative.

I’m confused on what I think is a very obvious fact that should have been discovered during the initial investigation. If Martin had been on the ground when Zimmerman shot him, surely there would be forensic evidence of the bullet or markings on the ground/concrete showing the path/damage from the bullet. Or is everyone agreed that Zimmerman was on the ground, but those opposed to his self-defense think he just shouldn’t have shot Martin because they thought he was the child MSM portrayed him to be?

There is evidence that Martin was atop Zimmerman beating him–both eye witness and circumstantial (e.g., the contusion on both the front and rear of Zimmerman’s head, consistent with being punched in the face while one’s head was resting against a sidewalk.

There is no evidence of which I am aware that Martin was on the ground and Zimmerman, standing above him, shot him.

In any case, a modern, well-designed and constructed 9mm self-defense round ought not to over-penetrate an adult chest after having driven through very tough heart tissue, to strike a surface beyond the body. I don’t want to spin this off into a terminal ballistics thread–you’ll have to buy a gun magazine for that kind of discussion, but I can tell you from personal knowledge on ballistic gelatin testing, and from after-action reports passed on by law enforcement sources known to me to be reliable that modern 9mm self-defense ammo is outstanding for its intended purpose, and can be reasonably expected to remain in an attackers body if a well-placed center-of-mass hit is attained.

(I suppose I should have mentioned Zimmerman’s gun was 9mm.)

    gasper in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    As a person who is not a “gun guy”, I appreciate the explanation of the 9mm’s capabilities. I just assumed any bullet would have exited after a shooting from that close range. I am learning a lot from this series, and very much appreciate the work you are doing.

      The terminal ballistics capabilities of the 9mm self-defense round has advanced tremendously in the last decade or two, but a lot of people are still operating under the older assumptions. 9mm ball or poorly designed self-defense ammo that fails to expand can easily penetrate an adult torso, or even two. With modern 9mm self-defense ammo that concern is much reduced. The caveat being, as always, shot placement, shot placement, shot placement.

      Now seriously, no more talk of terminal ballistics. If you want actual tactical instruction you’ll have to sign up for the Platinum account here, as that falls outside my agreement with the Professor. 😉

Having said all that, my personal preference remains the 45ACP, but I’m old. 🙂 I certainly would not feel “under-gunned” with well-designed, modern 9mm self-defense rounds.

Being a retired veteran detective from Florida and working a number of gang related attacks I can say a couple of things here.

1. Zimmerman’s arrest was political. The first I’d seen in my 20 yrs of policing. It was not only political but overtly political, as in “you can’t stop us because we have the authority”. Scott flinched when the race baiting threat was raised and sent Blondi who sent Corey (who has a Lois Lerner approach to the law) to do the deed. I read the PC statement. My ex-partner read the PC statement. In Florida law you have to have PC to make the arrest. There was none there and in fact exculpatory evidence was intentionally left out of the statement- a direct violation of Florida law. If a regular police detective was caught by the SAO doing this, he’d be fired and maybe jailed.

2. Zimmerman’s contact with Martin was the typical “you disrespected me” reaction by a street thug. I read the initial story and in five seconds knew exactly what had happened. I worked a hundred cases like this. The only difference is this time the victim had a gun the gangbanger didn’t see and the thug got shot. Like I said, I worked that type of case a hundred times. One case the kid was attacked by the thugs and kicked in the head until he suffered brain damage- all for wearing his hat bill on the wrong side.

3. If we were ever to learn the truth, we’ll find out the girlfriend egged him on. They always do. “You can’t let that so and so do that to you!” Kind of thing. Blacks in Florida do not like Hispanics at the street level, especially in this situation.

4. Zimmerman cooperated with the police, was investigated by I think four agencies and cleared BEFORE Corey arrested him. At some point that will come into the trial. Especially now that we have learned that certain police officers inside the department were talking with the Martin attorney and pushing the detective to do something he didn’t want to do.

5. Zimmerman was doing what he was asked to do by the police department- report suspicious activity within his neighborhood, one that had been burglarized by subjects similar to Martin for months. The pattern of movement by the Martin and Zimmerman indicates Martin left the area, circled back around and jumped Zimmerman. Which is what Zimmerman said happened. Even the 911 tape indicates Zimmerman lost contact with Martin and was heading in the opposite direction from Martin’s home (where Martin was heading when he ran). So how did Martin get back in front of him? I think Martin dropped off his stash and then went back to teach Zimmerman a lesson. Had Zimmerman been unarmed, the headlines would have read, “neighborhood watch captain beat to death by unknown black assailant.”

And and BTW and 9mm at close range will go through a chest, depending on ribs and spine and clothes. And of course the type of round.

    Archer52, many thanks for your invaluable insight, it’s much appreciated.

    Your last statement, I think, prompts a question. Certainly, a 9mm at close range CAN go through a chest, but would you agree that it wouldn’t be surprising that it did not go through the chest of a robust, well-developed football player, and after having to traverse tough cardiac tissue?

    To put it in terms an expert witness would be asked, :-), would you be surprised to know that the 9mm fired by Zimmerman did NOT traverse Martin’s chest?

    Just a point of curiosity, asked by someone without your experience. Thanks!

      Ragspierre in reply to Andrew Branca. | June 9, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      What did the autopsy reveal WRT penetration?

        I’ve seen bullet fragments in forensics reports from this case, but it’s not yet clear to me if those were recovered from Martin’s body or were the results of forensics tests run on Zimmerman’s firearm (e.g, fired into ballistic gelatin or water).

        In any case, any handgun round intended for personal defense (meaning, excluding a hunting round like the 44 Magnum) is a relatively under-powered cartridge.

        Of course, any bullet can get “lucky” and hit only “light” tissue (such as lung) and penetrate through a thorax. But to hit the dense chest muscle tissue of a football player, then hit the even more dense muscle tissue of his heart, pass through multiple layers of that tissue, then progress through the dense tissue of the back (latissmus dorsi), and the incredibly elastic tissue of the thick back skin. I mean could a 357 Magnum do it (another hunting round)? Maybe. A 357 Sig? Same answer. A 9mm that was ball ammo? Definitely. A 9mm that failed to expand? Same answer. A 9mm self-defense round that expanded properly? I doubt it. Possible, but I very much doubt it.

          Mr. Branca,

          Thank you for writing this article.

          I was commenting on this subject yesterday on Twitter and one response I got back was telling…

          @CrouchDuck: @VotingFemale @2009superglide I fear if Zimmerman acquitted we will see race riots which will be unprecedented.

          My response to @CrouchDuck…

          @VotingFemale: [email protected] We Are A Nation Of Laws, Not Of Mob Rule. Any #Trayvon Rioters Will Experience Police Crackdowns #coleg #p2 #toct #masen #NRA

    snopercod in reply to archer52. | June 10, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Thanks for your excellent analysis. Would you like to comment on Zimmerman’s previous dealings with the Sanford Police Department? Zimmerman: Sanford Police Covered Up Beating Of Black Homeless Man By White Officer. Zimmerman was responsible for Sanford Police Chief Brian Tooley’s early retirement and was pushing for him to lose his pension. Could this clearly-political trial be payback for that?

FYI, we just launched our live coverage page for the Zimmerman trial: http://bit.ly/ZF8fCv

Florida justice system is on the line. It seems obvious that the arrest of George Zimmerman violated the Florida statues.
776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—
A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
 (1)He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
 (2)Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
History.—s. 13, ch. 74-383; s. 1188, ch. 97-102; s. 2, ch. 2005-27.
776.032Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
 (1)A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
 (2)A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
 (3)The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).
History.—s. 4, ch. 2005-27.

What I think happened…
George Zimmerman saw a suspicious person and that prompted his call to 911.
He trailed, at some distance the person. He answered questions from the 911 operator.
Trayvon Martin was walking in the night, reports that there was some rain, which made having a hooded sweatshirt reasonable. Still, walking at night in the rain was suspicious.
Reports were that Trayvon was on his cellphone talking to his girl friend.If I remember the early reports Trayvon commented on being followed and he was angry about being followed.
At some point the 911 operator asked if Zimmerman was still following the unknown person. The operator said he did not need to do that.
Zimmerman turn and began walking away.
Trayvon closed the distance between himself and Zimmerman. He ran up to Zimmerman.
Is suppose these words and actions took place.
Trayvon, “Why are you following me?”
Zimmerman, I’m part of the Neighborhood watch.”
Trayvon strikes Zimmerman, knocking him to the ground. Trayvon jumps on Zimmerman and begins punching Zimmerman. Trayvon grabs Zimmerman’s head and begins slamming his head to the ground.
Zimmerman is screaming for help.
Zimmerman felt he was losing consciousness, that he was in danger of death or crippling brain injury.
He drew his gun and fired ONE shot. He stopped because he was no longer being head slammed.

I asked my doctor during a routine physical exam how many blows to the head does it take to cause death or great bodily harm. The doctor said ONE, there is no safe number of blows to the head.

There is no doubt that Zimmerman was on his back on the ground, perhaps on the sidewalk. The head wounds on Zimmerman seem to indicate his head was slammed at least two or three times.

All the physical evidence supports Zimmerman being on his back, so leaving was not an option. His head wounds prove the attack was life threatening. Since Trayvon was not on the ground, it seems logical to assume that Zimmerman did not throw the first punch.

If Zimmerman intended harm to Trayvon prior to the actual fight, he could have shot him from a distance of several yards.

The State seems to be looking to avoid a race riot that has been the apparent goal of some factions.

A real shame is that the provisions of 776.032Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
are part of Florida law to protect the black and other minority reside3nts.
If a black person, perhaps a female, had shot a white man attempting to rape and possibly murder her, at times not that far removed in time, would have arrested the victim of the crime for fighting back. As can be seen with George Zimmerman, millions of dollars are required for lawyers, investigators, even simple bail can drive a person into bankruptcy.
A rich man or woman, Bill Gates or Oprah can post bail with their own cash. When the case is over, the rich person gets all their money returned. The poor person has to deal with a bondsman who charges a non-refundable fee, typically 10% of the bail. The bondsman does NOT give the court any money, rather they are well known by the court, they give their word that the defendant will appear. The bondsman only has to give cash to the court if they can’t produce the defendants appearance. Even if the defendant skips bail, the courts usually give the bondsman some time, maybe 30 days to get the person and bring them, even forcibly, thus there are bounty hunters. They get paid by the bail bondsman maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the bond.

(1)A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
 (2)A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
 (3)The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).
History.—s. 4, ch. 2005-27.

    chipbennett in reply to JimMacklin. | June 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Close, but not quite.

    What I think happened…
    George Zimmerman saw a suspicious person and that prompted his call to 911.

    Technically, he called the non-emergency number (NEN).

    He trailed, at some distance the person. He answered questions from the 911 operator.

    Nope; Zimmerman never “trailed” Martin. He first saw Martin while driving in his vehicle. He pulled over to call NEN and report a suspicious person. Martin approached Zimmerman’s vehicle (menacingly, as per Zimmerman’s description), walked past, then took off running, and went around the corner between buildings (the infamous sidewalk “T”).

    What is critical here is that Zimmerman was still in his vehicle when Martin took off, and Zimmerman was still in his vehicle when he lost sight of Martin.

    About 30 seconds later, Zimmerman can be heard getting out of his vehicle. He walks down the east-west sidewalk toward the location he last saw Martin, to see if he could determine where Martin went, and to obtain a building address to give to responding police officers.

    Trayvon Martin was walking in the night, reports that there was some rain, which made having a hooded sweatshirt reasonable. Still, walking at night in the rain was suspicious.
    Reports were that Trayvon was on his cellphone talking to his girl friend.If I remember the early reports Trayvon commented on being followed and he was angry about being followed.

    The extent of Zimmerman’s description was that Martin looked “suspicious”, that it was raining, and that Martin was just “wandering about”, and “looked like he was on drugs or something”. (A reasonable person would find such behavior suspicious.)

    Note also: the phone call has not been forensically substantiated (via ping logs); it has only been implied by phone records. The alleged ear witness, Witness 8 (“Dee Dee”), has been proven to be a liar, and would likely be impeached if the State even decides to use her testimony. Not to mention: her testimony corroborates Zimmerman’s claims. She claims that Martin said he was was “right by” Brandi Green’s home (if so: how did he get 380 feet away for the altercation?). She also claims that it was Martin who verbally accosted Zimmerman.

    I wouldn’t expect any of the narrative provided by Witness 8 to be included at trial.

    At some point the 911 operator asked if Zimmerman was still following the unknown person. The operator said he did not need to do that.

    The exact exchange: “Are you following him?” “Yes” “We don’t need you to do that” “Okay”, took place about 30 seconds after Zimmerman exited his vehicle. From the sound of the wind noise dying down, it seems clear that Zimmerman stopped walking when he said “Okay”.

    Zimmerman turn and began walking away.

    Actually, Zimmeman remains where he is (in the vicinity of the sidewalk “T”), talking to the NEN operator, for about another minute, before hanging up.

    (For those keeping track at home: we are now a good two minutes removed from the point in time at which Martin ran around the corner of the building. Brandi Green’s home is approximately 380 feet from this location; two minutes are more than ample time for an athletic, tall, 17-year-old male to traverse 380 feet – assuming Brandi Green’s home was his intended destination.)

    Now, here’s the kicker: everything above is all completely irrelevant, unless either Martin or Zimmerman was doing anything unlawful. All that really matters is what follows:

    Trayvon closed the distance between himself and Zimmerman. He ran up to Zimmerman.
    Is suppose these words and actions took place.
    Trayvon, “Why are you following me?”
    Zimmerman, I’m part of the Neighborhood watch.”

    Actually, per Zimmerman’s statements:

    M: “Why are you following me?”
    Z: “What are you doing around here?”
    M: “Do you have a problem with me?”
    Z: “No”
    M: “You do now”

    Trayvon strikes Zimmerman, knocking him to the ground. Trayvon jumps on Zimmerman and begins punching Zimmerman. Trayvon grabs Zimmerman’s head and begins slamming his head to the ground.

    Based on what I’ve read of witness statements and Zimmerman’s account, I think that Martin probably wasn’t intentionally slamming Zimmerman’s head into the ground. Martin had a full, low mount on Zimmemran (i.e. sitting on Zimmerman’s legs), beating Zimmerman. Zimmerman made repeated attempts to get up, but Martin knocked him back to the ground each time, likely causing his head to hit the ground each time. And having just suffered a broken nose, I can only imagine how much pain that inflicted.

    (Another side note here: Martin’s established disparity of force, and prevention of Zimmerman’s attempts to escape, are why “stand your ground” doesn’t apply, and why simple, standard self-defense applies. Zimmerman did not have an opportunity to leave, because his assailant was actively preventing escape.)

    Zimmerman is screaming for help.
    Zimmerman felt he was losing consciousness, that he was in danger of death or crippling brain injury.
    He drew his gun and fired ONE shot. He stopped because he was no longer being head slammed.

    Actually, Zimmerman claims that Martin discovered Zimmerman’s concealed handgun, and said, “You’ve got a piece? You’re going to die tonight” – and then attempted to get the gun. It was at that point that Zimmerman prevented Martin from getting his gun, and then shot him, once.

    But Zimmerman was already twice-justified in using deadly force in self-defense: first, to prevent the commission of a forcible felony (aggravated battery), and second, out of obviously reasonable fear of imminent risk of life or great bodily harm.

    ALL the physical evidence corroborates a self-defense claim:

    1) All eye witnesses to the altercation saw Martin on top of Zimmerman (and not the other way around)
    2) Responding officers observed that Zimmerman’s back was wet and grass-covered
    3) (Recently disclosed) Martin’s pants had grass stains on the knees
    4) Responding officers and EMTs observed Zimmerman’s bloody head and face
    5) Medical report confirms diagnosis of a broken nose
    6) Medical report confirms lacerations to the back of Zimmerman’s head
    7) Multiple eye witnesses, both at the scene and in the ensuing days, confirm that Zimmerman clearly sustained a beating
    8) Martin sustained no injuries in the latercation, other than to his knuckles, and the fatal gunshot wound
    9) Martin had none of Zimmerman’s DNA under his fingernails – a test conducted to identify defensive behavior
    10) Tracy Martin, in the presence of 3 SPD officers, admitted that the screaming voice was not that of his son
    11) The fight debris – especially, Zimmerman’s keys/flashlight – confirm that the altercation started at or near the sidewalk “T”, and not at Brandi Green’s home, some 380 feet south of that location.
    12) The timeline – exactly 2 1/2 minutes from the time Zimmerman hung up with NEN until the first 911 call came in – does not allow time for Zimmerman to have gone 380 feet to Brandi Green’s house, then chase Martin 380 feet back to the sidewalk “T”

    And in order for Zimmerman to obtain a self-defense jury instruction, he needs only present a modicum of evidence (all of the above suffice – and IMHO constitute a preponderance of evidence in favor of self-defense). The State will then bear the burden to disprove self-defense, beyond a reasonable doubt.

    There’s just no way that the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was the aggressor; that he had the means, opportunity, or duty to retreat and failed to do so; or that he didn’t reasonably fear imminent risk to life or great bodily harm at the time he used deadly force.

    The whole fabricated narrative about Zimmerman “following” Martin as an act of aggression triggering the conflict has already been thoroughly debunked with actual facts in evidence. No need for speculation:

    Zimmerman Trial: Myth Busters: Did Zimmerman “chase” Martin against police orders?
    http://bit.ly/11XlEGT

    Myth Busters: Did Zimmerman “Chase Down” a Fleeing Martin?
    http://bit.ly/11XkXgz

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