Crime

George Zimmerman Will Present His Self-Defense Claim at a Pretrial Hearing

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Today George Zimmerman's lawyers officially announced that he will exercise his right to a pretrial hearing on his claim that he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense:

Now that the State has released the majority of their discovery, the defense asserts that there is clear support for a strong claim of self-defense. Consistent with this claim of self-defense, there will be a "Stand Your Ground" hearing.

In the case against George Zimmerman, a "Stand Your Ground" hearing will essentially be a mini-trial. Most of the arguments, witnesses, experts, and evidence that the defense would muster in a criminal trial will be presented in the "Stand Your Ground" hearing….

Preparing for the "Stand Your Ground" hearing will require the same time and resources that would be necessary to prepare for a trial. It will take time to collect and submit reciprocal discovery, depose witnesses and experts, and identify evidence to be submitted during the hearing. We anticipate this will still take several months.

The Florida Supreme Court has said such hearings are necessary because the state's self-defense law promises "immunity from criminal prosecution" for people who use force appropriately. Zimmerman can avoid a trial if he convinces a judge, "by a preponderance of the evidence," that he reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent Martin from killing or seriously injuring him. In other words, the judge has to conclude that Zimmerman's account—that Martin knocked him down with a punch to the face, repeatedly smacked his head against a concrete sidewalk, and had him pinned to the ground, his hand moving toward Zimmerman's gun, when Zimmerman fired—is more likely than not to be true. If Zimmerman has that much evidence in his favor (a big if), it follows that prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his use of force was not justified—the standard that would apply in a trial. The upshot is that, assuming everyone applies the rules correctly, the self-defense hearing will not change the outcome of this case, although it could spare Zimmerman the burden of a trial.

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  1. Are they actually calling this a “Stand Your Ground” hearing? Why do people still talk about the Stand Your Ground law? Hasn’t it been demonstrated that Florida’s other existing self-denfense laws are what are applicable?

    Zimmerman shot and killed a teenager, but whether justified or not, the prosecution and their malicious-seeming and self-serving actions have made him a sympathetic character to me. I won’t be upset if this ended today.

    1. No one claims Z ever planned to kill Martin; at worst it was a criminal mishandling of a situation. So the fact that he was a teenager has little weight here, no?

      1. No one claims Z ever planned to kill Martin;

        I take it you don’t read the comments on sites other than this.

    2. I was under the impression that this hearing was just to see if Zimmerman would even have to go to trial. Thanks for pointing out the media bias though.

    3. Spot on. We can’t let our justice system be run by mob rule. The moment that the torch and pitchfork crowd got the upper hand in this situation is the moment I started wanting Zimmerman to get off, even if he is actually guilty. I’d rather let a guilty man go free than set the precedent that the loudest and angriest group get to dictate who and who doesn’t get imprisoned.

    4. It’s a “Stand Your Ground” hearing because that’s the applicable law that says that if you were acting in legitimate self defence, you don’t actually have to go through a full criminal trial.

      Self defence is a grounds for defence against charges during a criminal trial, but this is a particular hearing to avoid the criminal trial entirely.

    5. Why do you think SYG does NOT apply?

      Google 776.041 and read the law. The prosecution is claiming that Z initiated the confrontation. SYG provides an exception that covers that circumstance.

      I have seen nothing from the prosecution’s side that lends any weight to the claim that Z initiated anything, though.

  2. I think we are safe to assume that Zimmerman is screwed in this hearing (not necessarily the trial). No judge is going to risk his own life to toss out the case on a hearing.

    1. A judge who lets that enter his or her consideration is a scoundrel and shouldn’t be a judge. But, you’re probably right, most judges are schmucks who enjoy screwing other people’s lives up with impunity.

      1. That’s really uncalled for and inappropriate. Judges aren’t schmucks who enjoy screwing other people’s lives up with impunity. (You’re thinking about cops.) *Judges* are schmucks who feel bad when they screw other people’s lives up because they’re too cowardly to do the right thing.

        1. Every judge I’ve dealt with seemed to be enjoying themselves.

    2. Unfortunately, I agree with you. Z is screwed.

  3. IDK, how it can be said that there is a big “if” on the possibility that he has enough evidence to prove his self defense claim. All the forensic evidence that I have seen has proven his case, or at least casts serious doubt on the prosecutions case. And, that is not even getting into the behavior of the prosecution.

    1. Exactly. Preponderance of the evidence, in common language, indicates that you put the evidence for and against the self-defense claim up against each other and see which one has more weight. (Correct me if there’s some esoteric legalese meaning to this) I haven’t seen a shred of evidence that is against self-defense.

      1. This is right. It’s the 51% to 49% standard, where the clear and convincing standard is the next highest bar and then beyond a reasonable doubt the highest standard.

    2. I agree. I might have missed something in the news that would change my mind, a “smoking gun” sort of thing, but what I have seen from the prosecution is simply a bunch of wild ass speculation and attempts at character assassination.

      The physical evidence is ALL supportive of Z’s account of things.

      I also don’t get why some people assert that SYG does not apply here. If you read the law, Wikipedia has the full text of Florida’s SYG law, then it is pretty clear that SYG does indeed apply to this case.

      1. It may apply, but it’s application is irrelevant if Z had no ability to retreat. Even without SYG you’re justified in defending yourself by whatever means necessary if escape is impossible. SYG merely removed the duty to retreat if possible.

        1. If Z started the fight, then I think ordinary self defense laws do not apply, but SYG does apply even if Z started the fight. If he started the fight then he has a duty, under SYG, to retreat if possible. The fact that he could not retreat because Martin was doing the ground and pound on him means that his duty under SYG is fulfilled.

          The protections offered under SYG are better than ordinary self defense laws (I think) so it is in Z’s interest to get under the SYG umbrella. The fact that his lawyer is going forward with a preliminary hearing under SYG tells me that it is relevant.

  4. If only he could use the Chewbacca defense.

    1. That does not make sense.

  5. Once Martin dragged Zimmerman out of the car (through the vent window) and started thrashing him, Zimmerman HAD NO CHOICE!

    1. Don’t forget this racist White (mexican) redneck killed a black kid in COLD BLOODZ!

      1. And the failure of the Secret Service to protect the President’s son from rampaging white hipanic mobs.

    2. Amen, late one.

      Citizens should know better than to participate in neighborhood watch programs, or dare to speak to teenagers!

  6. I vote

    DEATH

  7. George should have his name changed to Robert.

    1. They’re selling postcards of the hanging…

      1. The trapdoor didn’t work. Vandals took the handles.

  8. The upshot is that, assuming everyone applies the rules correctly, the self-defense hearing will not change the outcome of this case, although it could spare Zimmerman the burden of a trial.

    The bigger upshot is that in this pre-trial hearing he only has to convinve an (allegedly) impartial judge. In a full trial he has to convince 12 of the dumbest mouth breathing motherfuckers they can scrounge up that he acted in self defense*. That’s going to be a tall order considering the jury pool has long since been contaminated.

    *I realize that he’s supposed to be “innocent until proven guilty”, but I have no faith in the jury being unbiased or smart enough to know what that means.

    1. Why?

      Because the prosecutor called him a pedophile?

  9. If Z has any kind of decent defense I have a hard time seeing him convicted of what the prosecutor is charging.

  10. I think the Orlando suburbs make a great candidate for the Escape from New York treatment…Hell just wall off my entire state

  11. Zimmerman will find no ground to stand on in Lester’s court. He seems to relish the role of Avenging Angel. His just wrath, in jacking up Zimmerman’s bail to $1 mil, has left him near destitute. Lester piously denies, of course, that he acted with punitive intent.

    Interesting that, as the discovery period approaches, Zimmerman’s accusers seem to be trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and their former “star” witness, Dee Dee. The thought of her imploding under hostile examination may be causing some palms to sweat. Should it come to light that her improbabilities are the result of “assisted memory,” some awkward questions touching upon prosecutorial integrity will have to be raised.

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