George Zimmerman and the Burden of Proof

ZimmermanBy now, you’ve heard of the tragic death of Travon Martin. You probably have also heard that his killer, George Zimmerman, has been charged for the killing. The purpose of this post is to clear up some confusion over what, exactly, the state charged Mr. Zimmerman with and what sort of facts each party will have to prove.

The State of Florida has charged Mr. Zimmerman with Murder in the Second Degree. Many people think the “second” means it is Mr. Zimmerman’s second charge; this is not the case. The varying degrees in criminal charges usually provide the burden of proof placed on the State in order to secure a conviction. In Mr. Zimmerman’s case, the state will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman (1) killed Travon Martin (2) with ill-will towards him (3) while acting in disregard for human life.

The second element in that list will likely be the most difficult to prove, and it is part of the reason the State will likely have a difficult time securing a conviction. Of course, most of the speculation surrounding this case is whether or not Mr. Zimmerman was justified in killing Travon Martin. The legal analysis, however, has nothing to do with whether or not Mr. Zimmerman was really “justified.”

Instead, Mr. Zimmerman has a very low burden of proof in order to show self-defense. He must show enough evidence for a reasonable juror the simply possibility of believing Mr. Zimmerman acted in self-defense. As one court stated, if a defendant on trial for Murder in the Second Degree can raise enough evidence that a reasonable juror could believe he acted in justifiable self-defense, “the state had the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.” This language comes from Mosansky v. Florida, a case decided only two years ago in 2010.

In other words, Mr. Zimmerman must produce this minimal level of evidence to support a reasonable juror’s belief in his defense. Once that is done, the state will have the burden to show that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense.

You might be thinking this sounds like a pretty low burden for Mr. Zimmerman to show self-defense, and you’re right. The state will likely have a difficult time securing a conviction in this case.

A criminal law attorney should be familiar with the law. If you are facing criminal charges, contact a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney. A Criminal Defense Attorney in the Jacksonville, Florida area can help explain the charges against you, the defenses you might have, and the various options you can take. Contact a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney if you have any questions.

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