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This has been blissfully ignored on this board for long enough. Time to talk about it. I guess I gave away where I stand :)

He was just released on bail (US$1 million) but he's still on trial for murder. And he really doesn't belong on trial for murder, it's a shameful witch hunt by a political appointee.

Alan Dershowitz has been very vocal in his criticism of the prosecution. Here's a small portion of what he had to say: http://articles.nydailynews.com/2012-05-18/news/31753417_1_defense-lawyer-evidence-fatal-shooting

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I am a firm supporter of both castle and stand your ground laws, and was especially so when I lived in the state of Florida. However, from what I've seen in the media, quite a few months ago when all the coverage was non-stop, those laws do not apply to George Zimmerman. Zimmerman had every opportunity not to approach Treyvon Martin, and was even told not to pursue by police dispatch; he chose to do so at his own peril. If Trayvon was an adult, or an older man, Zimmerman would have probably gotten injured more than he did; or, if the person in Trayvon's position was an adult with a gun and proper license, he may have shot Zimmerman and probably could have used stand your ground as defense.

Edited by RussK

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I am a firm supporter of both castle and stand your ground laws, and was especially so when I lived in the state of Florida. However, from what I've seen in the media, quite a few months ago when all the coverage was non-stop, those laws do not apply to George Zimmerman. Zimmerman had every opportunity not to approach Treyvon Martin, and was even told not to pursue by police dispatch; he chose to do so at his own peril. If Trayvon was an adult, or an older man, Zimmerman would have probably gotten injured more than he did; or, if the person in Trayvon's position was an adult with a gun and proper license, he may have shot Zimmerman and probably could have used stand your ground as defense.

You're not allowed to attack or shoot someone just because they're being an idiot by approaching you and questioning you. From what I understand, Zimmerman did a very stupid thing in approaching and questioning Martin, but it wasn't illegal or an initation of force. It's only when Martin attacked him that force was initated and that's the point where stand your ground kicks in and Zimmerman was justified in defending himself.

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If a police dispatch tells you to remove yourself from a situation you should do so (in general). The government exists to make sure that the retaliation of force is used in an objective third party manner. He was irresponsible in avoiding a sItuation that a well trained police officer would have handled without any trouble. It was pretentious and negligent. I don't think that makes him guilty of racism or murder though.

Zimmerman could have let the authoriities handle this but he didn't. He was looking for trouble.

Trayvon Martin takes pictures of himself acting like a gang member with web cam in a clean room .

I guess this is what happens when someone who wishes he was John Wanye meets someone who wishes he was Biggie Smalls in the dark.

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The media frenzy immediately following the incident was full of shameful, awful reporting. Police never told Zimmerman to stop following Martin. The 911 dispatcher asked Zimmerman if he was following the suspect, Zimmerman said "yes," the dispatcher told him, "you don't need to do that," Zimmerman said, "OK." That's on tape.

After that, Zimmerman claims he lost sight of Martin while trying to find an address to give to police (he was in what looked to me to be the adjoined back yards of two townhouse complexes, so addresses would have been hard to come by). After Zimmerman gave up on the address hunt and began moving back to his vehicle, he was approached by Martin. Regardless of who approached who, Zimmerman absolutely could have used stand your ground laws if he didn't break any laws himself. According to Zimmerman's account of what happened next, he didn't.

As Zimmerman tells it, Martin appeared behind Zimmerman as Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle. Martin asked something like, "You got a problem?" Zimmerman turned around and replied in the negative. Martain said something like, "You do now," and punched Zimmerman, breaking his nose and laying him out. After several long moments of fighting in which Zimmerman recounts that his head was smashed against a concrete walkway and it "felt like it was going to explode," he turned to try to push himself out from underneath Martin. This movement exposed his firearm, which Martin attempted to take. Zimmerman drew his weapon and fired.

This retelling is based on 911 recordings, videotaped police interviews at the location of the incedent and many news reports that I have heard, seen or read. Important things to remember about this case are:

  1. The only living soul who witnessed the beginning of the altercation (Zimmerman), said he was returning to his vehicle when the altercation started. I have no evidence that this is a lie.

  2. Zimmerman had multiple injuries to his face and head. The closest witness identified Zimmerman as the man on the bottom screaming for help.

  3. Martin had what could be offensive wounds on his knuckles. The only other wound I am aware of is the gunshot wound that killed him.

  4. Martin has a history of burglary or theft related activity, which supports the likelihood that the activity Zimmerman witnessed prior to the altercation was indeed, "suspicious."

If all of the above is true (I think it probably is), then Martin Zimmerman was doing the right thing. He obviously didn't do the right thing in the best way, but few people do in emergency situations. He has every right to take personal responsibility for his neighborhood's safety - that is a noble conviction. To judge him as a John Wayne wannabe who was looking for trouble is unjust. I have a suspicion that Zimmerman would not have moved into fighting distance had he a choice, but rather followed from a safe distance until police arrived. I believe Martin snuck up to Zimmerman to start a fight, because he was pissed that Zimmerman was following him. I couldn't possibly say this with any certainty, of course.

Police had the best position to decide with certainty, and they chose not to prosecute - that is, until the rioting began and this became a political shitstorm.

Edited by FeatherFall
grammar, clarity.

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I am a firm supporter of both castle and stand your ground laws, and was especially so when I lived in the state of Florida. However, from what I've seen in the media, quite a few months ago when all the coverage was non-stop, those laws do not apply to George Zimmerman. Zimmerman had every opportunity not to approach Treyvon Martin, and was even told not to pursue by police dispatch; he chose to do so at his own peril.

Where precisely are you getting the information that he approached him from? If it's from NBC, then you probably think he's also a racist. After all, on the tape they played, he's being way too eager to point out that the guy is black. You also wouldn't know that he sustained injuries, because they reported him to be uninjured after the incident. And you'd think Trayvon Martin was a 12 year old child, because that's the photo they used next to Zimmerman's mugshot, to illustrate how guilty he really is.

Besides, you don't need stand your ground laws to be allowed to use self defense when someone is bashing your head into the pavement (which did happen, as proven by his injuries). So it doesn't need to apply, for him to be innocent.

The point isn't just the specifics of the case, it was how it was handled. The Police conducted an investigation, determined that it was a case of self defense. The prosecutor who was supposed to handle the case agreed, did not file charges. It took racially motivated political pressure, including from the White House, and an intervention from the governor, to file these charges in spite of all the evidence that points to self defense. Later, the Police Chief was fired. Not for being incompetent, but for being "too divisive".

Edited by Nicky

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Yes, this trial is a heinous witch hunt and more people should be aware of it. It's alarming that such a trial is even possible in this country.

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If all of the above is true (I think it probably is), then Martin Zimmerman was doing the right thing. He obviously didn't do the right thing in the best way, but few people do in emergency situations. He has every right to take personal responsibility for his neighborhood's safety - that is a noble conviction. To judge him as a John Wayne wannabe who was looking for trouble is unjust. I have a suspicion that Zimmerman would not have moved into fighting distance had he a choice, but rather followed from a safe distance until police arrived. I believe Martin snuck up to Zimmerman to start a fight, because he was pissed that Zimmerman was following him. I couldn't possibly say this with any certainty, of course.

Police had the best position to decide with certainty, and they chose not to prosecute - that is, until the rioting began and this became a political shitstorm.

Emergency situation? The only time this became an emergency situation is when Zimmerman put himself in a position to get injured in a fight with Martin. Zimmerman chose to neglect the dispatch and pursue Martin, and then he shot Martin after an altercation; those are the only facts that I care about as they are hard facts. Zimmerman can give any account he wants, and I also have no evidence that he is lying, but, for that matter, I have no evidence that he is telling the truth. It all begins and ends with Zimmerman, and I think that leaves him culpable to a manslaughter charge.

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What does "neglect the dispatch" mean? And how is it a hard fact that he "pursued" him, rather than just followed him?

Probably after noticing the rushing air in the cellphone mic, and the heavier breathing by Zimmerman the dispatch asks, "Are you following him?"

Zimmerman: "Yeah."

Dispatch: "Ok sir. We don't need you to do that."

I'm not even going to entertain that last question.

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Russ, your selection of the tape involves a serious omission of proper context. In response to dispatch saying, "We don't need you to do that," Zimmerman says, "OK." It is interesting to note that the sound quality that could be identified as rushing air noticeably changes at the same time Zimmerman says, "OK." This could be taken as an indication that Zimmerman immediately stopped his pursuit.

In many people's minds, having a suspicious prowler around creates an emergency. But for the sake of argument I'll grant you a small concession; maybe emergency is a more severe variety of a common concept. At the very least, a prowler represents a threat. The proper response to a threat is to identify it and, when possible, take action that will eliminate it. Previous action of the type you prescribe was taken by Zimmerman countless times, to no meaningful effect. That you would have had Zimmerman sit on his hands and call the cops so they could drive over while a likely thief gets away is disappointing. But maybe I don't understand how it is you think Zimmerman acted immorally. In part, it sounds like you condemn him for risking his own safety without proper preparation. If that's the case, I'll counter that his firearm prepared him. I think this whole controversy is proof of that.

More serious is your condemnation of him for manslaughter.

Zimmerman chose to neglect the dispatch and pursue Martin, and then he shot Martin after an altercation; those are the only facts that I care about as they are hard facts. Zimmerman can give any account he wants, and I also have no evidence that he is lying, but, for that matter, I have no evidence that he is telling the truth. It all begins and ends with Zimmerman, and I think that leaves him culpable to a manslaughter charge.

I'll put aside the fact that you omit the time between Zimmerman's pursuit and the altercation and, by extension, mischaracterize the entire encounter. A pursuit is not a crime. I'll repeat myself, because manslaughter is a crime that is precipitated by or committed in concert with other criminal activity. A pursuit is not a crime, and so it is not evidence of manslaughter. You would have police prosecute Zimmerman on the assumption that he was criminally liable for a conflict in which he had all of the defensive wounds (save one), none of the offensive wounds, and fired only a single shot. Sure, it's possible that Zimmerman engaged in criminal activity and began the altercation. But the burden of proof for such an accusation is too high a bar to meet in this case. Prosecuting him is, at the very least, an absurd waste of time and money. But you go a step further with your statement that I quoted in bold. You don't just want to give the prosecution a chance to convince a jury that Zimmerman is guilty; you want Zimmerman to prove that he is innocent. You are saying, in effect, that Zimmerman is to be held culpable for our lack of knowledge. That's reckless and unjust.

Edited by FeatherFall
Removed needlessly inflammatory comment

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Probably after noticing the rushing air in the cellphone mic, and the heavier breathing by Zimmerman the dispatch asks, "Are you following him?"

Zimmerman: "Yeah."

Dispatch: "Ok sir. We don't need you to do that."

I'm not even going to entertain that last question.

You haven't entertained the first one either. How exactly is he neglecting the dispatch? Here's the conversation, after you conveniently cut it off. Note how, during his supposed "pursuit", he manages not only to fool the dispatcher into thinking he stopped following Martin, but even gives his phone number and sets up a date with the cops. Helluva guy, to pursue a six foot +, athletic 17 yo. suspected criminal, while having a calm phone conversation with the Police and convincing them he stopped:

911 dispatcher:

Are you following him? [2:24]

Zimmerman:

Yeah. [2:25]

911 dispatcher:

OK.

We don’t need you to do that. [2:26]

Zimmerman:

OK. [2:28]

911 dispatcher:

Alright, sir, what is your name? [2:34]

Zimmerman:

George. He ran.

911 dispatcher:

Alright, George, what’s your last name?

Zimmerman:

Zimmerman.

911 dispatcher:

What’s the phone number you’re calling from?

Zimmerman:

407-435-2400

911 dispatcher:

Alright, George, we do have them on the way. Do you want to meet with the officer when they get out there?

Zimmerman:

Yeah.

911 dispatcher:

Alright, where are you going to meet with them at?

Zimmerman:

Um, if they come in through the gate, tell them to go straight past the clubhouse and, uh, straight past the clubhouse and make a left and then go past the mailboxes you’ll see my truck. [3:10]

911 dispatcher:

Alright, what address are you parked in front of? [3:21]

Zimmerman:

Um, I don’t know. It’s a cut-through so I don’t know the address. [3:25]

911 dispatcher:

OK, do you live in the area?

Zimmerman:

Yeah, yeah, I live here.

911 dispatcher:

OK, what’s your apartment number?

Zimmerman:

It’s a home. It’s 1950 – oh, crap, I don’t want to give it out – I don’t know where this kid is [inaudible] [3:40]

911 dispatcher:

OK, do you just want to meet with them at the mailboxes then? [3:42]

Zimmerman:

Yeah, that’s fine. [3:43]

911 dispatcher:

Alright, George, I’ll let them know you’ll meet them at …

Zimmerman:

Could you have them call me and I’ll tell them where I’m at? [3:49]

911 dispatcher:

OK, that’s no problem.

Zimmerman:

My number … you’ve got it?

911 dispatcher:

Yeah, I’ve got it. 435-2400?

Zimmerman:

Yeah, you got it.

911 dispatcher:

OK, no problem. I’ll let them know to call you when they’re in the area. [4:02]

Zimmerman:

Thanks.

911 dispatcher:

You’re welcome.

Call ends 4:07

And you really should entertain the second question as well. The dispatcher uses the term "follow" (which implies no physical action against Martin, just passive surveillance to guide the cops on the right path), and you're using the term "pursue" (which implies intent to capture).

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Russ, your selection of the tape involves a serious omission of proper context. In response to dispatch saying, "We don't need you to do that," Zimmerman says, "OK." It is interesting to note that the sound quality that could be identified as rushing air noticeably changes at the same time Zimmerman says, "OK." This could be taken as an indication that Zimmerman immediately stopped his pursuit.

In many people's minds, having a suspicious prowler around creates an emergency. But for the sake of argument I'll grant you a small concession; maybe emergency is a more severe variety of a common concept. At the very least, a prowler represents a threat. The proper response to a threat is to identify it and, when possible, take action that will eliminate it. Previous action of the type you prescribe was taken by Zimmerman countless times, to no meaningful effect. That you would have had Zimmerman sit on his hands and call the cops so they could drive over while a likely thief gets away is disappointing. But maybe I don't understand how it is you think Zimmerman acted immorally. In part, it sounds like you condemn him for risking his own safety without proper preparation. If that's the case, I'll counter that his firearm prepared him. I think this whole controversy is proof of that.

More serious is your condemnation of him for manslaughter.

I'll put aside the fact that you omit the time between Zimmerman's pursuit and the altercation and, by extension, mischaracterize the entire encounter. A pursuit is not a crime. I'll repeat myself, because manslaughter is a crime that is precipitated by or committed in concert with other criminal activity. A pursuit is not a crime, and so it is not evidence of manslaughter. You would have police prosecute Zimmerman on the assumption that he was criminally liable for a conflict in which he had all of the defensive wounds (save one), none of the offensive wounds, and fired only a single shot. Sure, it's possible that Zimmerman engaged in criminal activity and began the altercation. But the burden of proof for such an accusation is too high a bar to meet in this case. Prosecuting him is, at the very least, an absurd waste of time and money. But you go a step further with your statement that I quoted in bold. You don't just want to give the prosecution a chance to convince a jury that Zimmerman is guilty; you want Zimmerman to prove that he is innocent. You are saying, in effect, that Zimmerman is to be held culpable for our lack of knowledge. That's reckless and unjust.

That is a good point; it does sound like either he slowed down or stopped his pursuit. I only brought up the dispatch primarily to show, as fact, that Zimmerman was pursuing Martin. Indeed, it is not proven that Zimmerman continued with his pursuit after the dispatch warned him; it is a stretch for me to say that he neglected the warning, no matter my opinion on the probability of what Zimmerman might have done. However, I will not take Zimmerman's, "Okay" statement as an indication that he stopped his pursuit, but since that cannot be proven or disproven, that doesn't matter much.

On whether or not this was an emergency situation, maybe I misunderstood you. I took your statement as if you were invoking the ethics of emergencies, which I maintain does not apply to this case. If you were not talking about that, then we simply misunderstood each other. But, yes, I do agree that a prowler does present a threat, and there is nothing wrong with identifying a threat and acting to eliminate it. However, I don't see how you can suggest that Martin can be identified as a prowler. As far as I know, Martin was doing nothing wrong, had every right to be in that neighborhood--as well as anyone else, but his father actually lived near there--and he was on his way back to his father's place; it's not as if Martin was found somewhere he shouldn't have been. If that isn't the case, then what I know is deficient, and I'd like to know more.

Before I continue on with the subject of manslaughter, I'd first like to address your tone, towards me. The tone of a few of your statements is fairly condemning of me, and I don't think I've said anything in my prior posts for it to be warranted. The case at hand, however, has been publically divisive, particularly due to how much of the media has handled it; so I can understand how you may have accidentally mischaracterized me. That said, from what I know about manslaughter, which isn't a whole lot--I'm not a lawyer--your definition of it as only applicable "in concert with other criminal activity," is wrong. There is voluntary and involuntary manslaughter, and I don't think any of those cases must fit your description, and I'm even more certain that the latter case does not. Therefore, the burden of proof isn't as high as you are making out.

Additionally, I'm not saying that "Zimmerman is to be held culpable for our lack of knowledge." I expect the prosecution to lay down the facts to the jury, and those facts can lead to a guilty verdict of manslaughter--and I think the facts, as presented here, should lead to such a verdict.

In closing, I'd like to point out that I don't think Zimmerman is some sort of monster. I actually sympathize with him, yet I think he committed a mistake that he should be punished for. Accidents, misunderstandings, mistakes, and the unexpected happen; however, that doesn't make anyone less responsible for an outcome into which they committed and set into motion.

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Russ, when I mentioned other criminal activity it was for two reasons. One was that criminal activity voids the castle doctrine. But my second reason was erroneous. I was thinking about the phrase, "criminal negligence." I tried and failed to find this phrase in Florida manslaughter laws. I was only looking into manslaughter charges, so I have to assume I misremember the phrase from a discussion of some other, more severe murder charge. What I found pertains to this thread, but before I discuss it I'll apologize for letting my tone get in the way of the discussion. I do want to make it clear that I still think your position is unjust. Putting the law aside for a moment, we disagree on whether or not George Zimmerman should be punished. I still don't know what your reasons are for condemning Zimmerman, and this fact disturbs me. So I hope I can, at the very least, convince you that a manslaughter charge would be a hopeless waste of time from a legal standpoint.

The phrase that is relevant to manslaughter is, "culpable negligence." This report about jury instruction has some useful information. Juries are to be instructed that culpable negligence is:

a course of conduct showing a gross careless disregard for the safety and welfare of another person or persons.

Following someone to find out who they are and what they doing (regardless of suspicions of criminality) is not an act that exhibits gross carelessness of the safety of others. It may be careless of one's own safety, but this isn't relevant. Zimmerman could be lying about his suspicions of Martin. But even so, no reasonable person can conclude that following a guy to ask him who he is and what he is doing would lead to his death. If you contend that Zimmerman did some other sort of grossly negligent thing or, worse, initiated a physical confrontation, you have to have evidence. That's not just good law, it's good thinking.

As far as I know, the only evidence that Zimmerman did something wrong (and thus, might be guilty of a more serious crime) is:

  • A couple of witnesses who heard (not saw) "a boy" screaming.
  • Martin's girlfriend's uncorroborated and disputed statements about her phone call.
  • Martin's family's belief that the screaming voice on the 911 tapes belongs to Martin.

Martin's family's testimony carries no more weight than Zimmerman's family's assertion that they hear Zimmerman's voice on the tapes. I remember hearing third hand that Martin's girlfriend's story changed, but I can't find anything to confirm that, and it's not of much importance anyway because uncorroborated accounts don't carry much weight. In fact, the statements aren't merely uncorroborated; they are in dispute by Zimmerman. And as far as I know, nobody mentioned a screaming boy while on the phone with the 911 operators, which leads me to believe that new statements were coached. The only witness(es) with line-of-sight to the altercation say it was Zimmerman who was on the bottom screaming for help. So, unless you have evidence the rest of us don't, you are not justified in condemning Zimmerman for a more serious crime.

If the prosecution has a stronger case, they haven't given us any evidence of it. Of course, they aren't required to, but think for a moment what such evidence would look like. I think it would have to involve eyewitness testimony (better yet, a video recording), that has Zimmerman starting a physical altercation in which he inflicted no wounds on Martin. That is possible. Either way, widespread calls for Zimmerman's prosecution continue without a hint of such evidence, and that is shameful.

Edited by FeatherFall

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Russ, when I mentioned other criminal activity it was for two reasons. One was that criminal activity voids the castle doctrine. But my second reason was erroneous. I was thinking about the phrase, "criminal negligence." I tried and failed to find this phrase in Florida manslaughter laws. I was only looking into manslaughter charges, so I have to assume I misremember the phrase from a discussion of some other, more severe murder charge. What I found pertains to this thread, but before I discuss it I'll apologize for letting my tone get in the way of the discussion. I do want to make it clear that I still think your position is unjust. Putting the law aside for a moment, we disagree on whether or not George Zimmerman should be punished. I still don't know what your reasons are for condemning Zimmerman, and this fact disturbs me. So I hope I can, at the very least, convince you that a manslaughter charge would be a hopeless waste of time from a legal standpoint.

The phrase that is relevant to manslaughter is, "culpable negligence." This report about jury instruction has some useful information. Juries are to be instructed that culpable negligence is:

[a course of conduct showing a gross careless disregard for the safety and welfare of another person or persons.]

Following someone to find out who they are and what they doing (regardless of suspicions of criminality) is not an act that exhibits gross carelessness of the safety of others. It may be careless of one's own safety, but this isn't relevant. Zimmerman could be lying about his suspicions of Martin. But even so, no reasonable person can conclude that following a guy to ask him who he is and what he is doing would lead to his death. If you contend that Zimmerman did some other sort of grossly negligent thing or, worse, initiated a physical confrontation, you have to have evidence. That's not just good law, it's good thinking.

As far as I know, the only evidence that Zimmerman did something wrong (and thus, might be guilty of a more serious crime) is:

  • A couple of witnesses who heard (not saw) "a boy" screaming.
  • Martin's girlfriend's uncorroborated and disputed statements about her phone call.
  • Martin's family's belief that the screaming voice on the 911 tapes belongs to Martin.

Martin's family's testimony carries no more weight than Zimmerman's family's assertion that they hear Zimmerman's voice on the tapes. I remember hearing third hand that Martin's girlfriend's story changed, but I can't find anything to confirm that, and it's not of much importance anyway because uncorroborated accounts don't carry much weight. In fact, the statements aren't merely uncorroborated; they are in dispute by Zimmerman. And as far as I know, nobody mentioned a screaming boy while on the phone with the 911 operators, which leads me to believe that new statements were coached. The only witness(es) with line-of-sight to the altercation say it was Zimmerman who was on the bottom screaming for help. So, unless you have evidence the rest of us don't, you are not justified in condemning Zimmerman for a more serious crime.

If the prosecution has a stronger case, they haven't given us any evidence of it. Of course, they aren't required to, but think for a moment what such evidence would look like. I think it would have to involve eyewitness testimony (better yet, a video recording), that has Zimmerman starting a physical altercation in which he inflicted no wounds on Martin. That is possible. Either way, widespread calls for Zimmerman's prosecution continue without a hint of such evidence, and that is shameful.

Thanks for the PDF; it shed some light on the context of just exactly what is manslaughter in the state of Florida. In fact, I should have probably gone out and sought some source material for manslaughter before I started throwing around the charge, instead I was just relying on some general information I had. That said, however, I think you are misinterpreting the statute, or in the case of the PDF, the revisions of the statute.

Where I believe your error occurs is in interpreting culpable manslaughter as being a necessary characteristic of an act of manslaughter. From my understanding of the statute, culpable manslaughter is not the necessary quality, but just one of three qualities that must be present for the charge to hold merit. For example, the statute states in defining manslaughter, "The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter... ." There are three possible means of committing manslaughter according to the statute, as presents in a list: by act, procurement, or culpable negligence. Additionally, on page four of the PDF, there is the same information in a bulleted format.

As an addition to the report you provided, I went ahead and looked for further resources, which led me to a website containing the 2012 statutes. What is presented is similar to what has already been discussed, but now there is a reference to chapter 776 (justifiable use of force) and easy access to the whole homicide chapter, which includes justifiable use of force and excusable homicide.

With all of these new resources, I'm going to take a few days and read and mull over as much as I can, and then try to figure out if I'm wrong about a manslaughter charge for Zimmerman. I will say, however, in reading the statute on excusable homicide (782.03), which feeds into manslaughter, the statute provides some insight into my position, in that I don't think Zimmerman used "usual oridinary caution."

Edited by RussK

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I came accross that list of 2012 statutes myself, but I didn't find it to be helpful. It seemed to define what sort of caregiver activity amounts to manslaughter. The "justifiable homicide" entry had some interesting language. It said that homicide was not justifiable as a means to prevent someone from committing a crime, nor is it justifiable when attempts to prevent the crime have failed. I didn't think this one was applicable either; we don't have good evidence that Zimmerman tried to physically restrain Martin until cops arrived (for example), and I don't believe this language prevents a person from using deadly force when such force will save them from grievous bodily harm. I didn't take much time to read these statutes, so I'm interested to hear what you think after you take a longer look at them.

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Additionally, I'm not saying that "Zimmerman is to be held culpable for our lack of knowledge." I expect the prosecution to lay down the facts to the jury, and those facts can lead to a guilty verdict of manslaughter--and I think the facts, as presented here, should lead to such a verdict.

He isn't being charged with manslaughter. He is being charged with murder.

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**It has obviously been more than a few days, the amount of time I said I would respond back. Unfortunately, all my free time of recent was taken doing other things, mostly fun; this is the time of year in Minnesota that everyone is in a mad rush with festivals and sporting events to close out the last days of summer. I hope that is excuse enough. As far as I know, the only thing noteworthy to have occurred between the last time I posted and now, is that Zimmerman’s lawyers are trying to get the case thrown out on stand your ground, but, in fact, they are gearing up for a defense that doesn’t use that statute.**

Manslaughter, as it applies to this case, is the act of killing someone without justification under chapter 776 and when the killing is not deemed excusable homicide under chapter 782—these statutes can be found in URLs provided above, in prior posts. There is no doubt that Zimmerman killed Martin, but many believe that the killing was justified. The point here, with this post, is to show how the killing of Martin may not be excusable under Florida statute, and how that would leave Zimmerman culpable for, at the minimum, a manslaughter charge.

Justifiable Homicide

Zimmerman’s killing may be considered justifiable homicide (782.02) if it can be shown that Martin was either a) going to murder Zimmerman or B) was going to assault him to the point that the act of the assault would be considered not a misdemeanor, but, instead, a felony.

Excusable Homicide

Zimmerman’s killing of Martin can be argued to be not excusable under 782.03. His means might have been lawful, but it can be presented that he did not act with “usual ordinary caution,” a position that I hold. The next two types of excusable homicide found within this section, heat of passion and sudden combat, do not apply to Zimmerman; there wasn’t heat of passion for Zimmerman—however, it could be argued that this could apply to Martin—and sudden combat only applies when a deadly weapon was not used.

Unnecessary Killing to Prevent an Unlawful Act

Any unnecessary killing of another person while resisting a felony committed by that person, or any other unlawful act—even if a criminal act has failed—“shall be deemed guilty of manslaughter” (782.11). Of course, that is the crux here, the prosecutors will argue that it was unjustified and unnecessary for Zimmerman to kill Martin, and the defense will argue in opposition. My opinion, without having the full evidence, is that the killing was unnecessary, partly for reasons outlined above, that Zimmerman did not use ordinary caution and placed himself in the situation; and also because a broken nose and busted head isn’t enough for me to categorize it as felony assault. In fact, if I remember correctly, Zimmerman acknowledged this point implicitly when he said that he had to dispatch Martin when Martin started going for Zimmerman’s gun.

Use of Force in Defense of a Person

Use of force in defense of a person, including use of deadly force (776.012) very well may apply to Zimmerman if it is shown he thought his life was in imminent jeopardy, or great bodily harm was going to be inflicted upon him. However, while this may apply to Zimmerman, the homicide statutes of justifiable use of deadly force and excusable homicide are used in conjunction with those included in chapter 776. Furthermore, 776.041 states that the preceding sections of the chapter do not apply if the person “initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself” and then describes when that doesn’t apply: a) when death or great bodily harm is thought to be imminent, and all “reasonable means of escape” have been exhausted, or B) when the person who provoked the use of force withdraws from the altercation but the “assailant continues or resumes the use of force.”

Now, it has been pointed out that Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder, and it was suggested that talk of manslaughter charges were beside the point. However, that is not the case. Even if Zimmerman is found not guilty of second degree murder, he can still be convicted of what is called “lesser included offenses,” such as manslaughter.

In the end, Zimmerman very well may defend himself against the prosecution’s attempt to prove that he did not act lawfully. I’ve read that the defense is going to defend Zimmerman on the grounds covered under 776.041, which makes sense. However, the main point I’m trying to make with this post is that the case is not as cut and dry as many have presented, and there are many avenues of approach for the State of Florida to come to the conclusion that there should even be a trial, and that they can convict him of a crime. In the court proceedings, the prosecution will have to try and prove their case; they will use testimony from Zimmerman, and they will try to exploit any holes they find with the facts. In light of the fact that someone was killed, doing nothing wrong—possibly up to the point of altercation—and the State of Florida thinks it has a case, I think a trial is the least thing we can ask for.

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Now, it has been pointed out that Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder, and it was suggested that talk of manslaughter charges were beside the point.

You presented an argument in favor of him being charged with manslaughter. I pointed out that he is being charged with murder.

What's the point in arguing that manslaughter charges are justified, if someone is being charged with murder?

Imho, when someone is charged with murder by the government, the issue to raise and debate is whether charging him with murder is justified or not. Not whether charging him with manslaughter would've been appropriate or not.

Edited by Nicky

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You presented an argument in favor of him being charged with manslaughter. I pointed out that he is being charged with murder.

What's the point in arguing that manslaughter charges are justified, if someone is being charged with murder?

Imho, when someone is charged with murder by the government, the issue to raise and debate is whether charging him with murder is justified or not. Not whether charging him with manslaughter would've been appropriate or not.

Yes, I did. It was my opinion, and still is. The point of giving that opinion, which should be quite obvious, is that I think that manslaughter is the charge most applicable to Zimmerman. And, by the way, as I made clear, second degree murder includes all "lesser included offenses," one of which is a manslaughter charge.

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Yes, I did. It was my opinion, and still is. The point of giving that opinion, which should be quite obvious, is that I think that manslaughter is the charge most applicable to Zimmerman. And, by the way, as I made clear, second degree murder includes all "lesser included offenses," one of which is a manslaughter charge.

So you're OK with the tactic of threatening him with a murder charge (and the sentence of life in prison that goes along with it), because he may be guilty of manslaughter?

I'm just asking, not conceding that he may be guilty of anything. I think he'll be acquitted, but there is a risk involved, and if prosecutors are allowed to use this tactic, then, coupled with the fact that 90% of cases end in a plea bargain, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial go out the window. Prosecutors can just use this tactic to gain a 90% conviction rate without ever winning a single trial.

Edited by Nicky

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Russ, have you looked up any statutes regarding assault and when a simple assault becomes a felony assault? Because I'm pretty sure you're wrong that Martin's actions on that night were mere simple assault.

I'm more interested in the statutes you think could actually be used to convict martin. I believe the spirit of the "unreasonable activity" condition of these sets of laws is that such activity is unreasonable because it exposes others to needless risk. I don't think Zimmerman's choice to follow Martin was unreasonable. Even if you do, you must admit that exposing yourself (Zimmerman) to risk because of unreasonable activity is not the same as exposing another (Martin) to risk because of unreasonable activity. It cannot be the case that asking someone who they are and what they are doing exposes them to risk. It cannot be the case that cowardice in the face of a potential crime is the benchmark for reason.

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So you're OK with the tactic of threatening him with a murder charge (and the sentence of life in prison that goes along with it), because he may be guilty of manslaughter?

I'm just asking, not conceding that he may be guilty of anything. I think he'll be acquitted, but there is a risk involved, and if prosecutors are allowed to use this tactic, then, coupled with the fact that 90% of cases end in a plea bargain, the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial go out the window. Prosecutors can just use this tactic to gain a 90% conviction rate without ever winning a single trial.

No. I think that, from everything that I know about the case, manslaughter would be a minimum charge that could be applied to Zimmerman. If the prosecutors have evidence to warrant a second degree murder charge, which assume they have enough, then I have no problem with the charge.

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Russ, have you looked up any statutes regarding assault and when a simple assault becomes a felony assault? Because I'm pretty sure you're wrong that Martin's actions on that night were mere simple assault.

I'm more interested in the statutes you think could actually be used to convict martin. I believe the spirit of the "unreasonable activity" condition of these sets of laws is that such activity is unreasonable because it exposes others to needless risk. I don't think Zimmerman's choice to follow Martin was unreasonable. Even if you do, you must admit that exposing yourself (Zimmerman) to risk because of unreasonable activity is not the same as exposing another (Martin) to risk because of unreasonable activity. It cannot be the case that asking someone who they are and what they are doing exposes them to risk. It cannot be the case that cowardice in the face of a potential crime is the benchmark for reason.

Yes, I did some research on assault and felony assault, which I kind of alluded to a few times, especially in the short paragraph on justifiable homicide. From what I remember, assault becomes a felony when either a) great bodily harm is done, or B) a deadly weapon was involved. Of course, what constitutes "great bodily harm" will be debated, I'm sure, in court; but that's why I mentioned Zimmerman's nose and head, as I didn't think those injuries consisted of great bodily harm. Also, another factor I think is important: Zimmerman himself said that he didn't shoot Martin because he was getting a beat down, Zimmerman said he decided to shoot Martin when Martin was going for his gun; so that could be a troubling defense for Zimmerman.

I don't actually think we disagree with the spirit of ordinary caution as it is applied to excusable homicide, etc..., but I don't think that Zimmerman used ordinary caution, and the person affected was Martin. When you say that asking someone who they are and what they are doing doesn't violate the spirit of ordinary caution, I think you are making some assumptions about the evidence and treating the actual event a little too simply. Sure, we have Zimmerman saying that that's all he wanted to do, but other evidence, including statements, reenactments, etc.., could easily contradict that idea when the trial starts. Additionally, it wasn't as simple as Zimmerman approaching Martin; there is the whole context and environment leading up to the point of Martin's death. Lastly, while it may be true that Zimmerman thought Martin was going to commit a crime--and I don't have reason to just toss that possibility out--the fact of the matter is that Martin committed no crime, so I don't think the statement about cowardice in the face of a potential crime applies very well. In fact, I'd suggest that if Zimmerman's defense goes along the lines that it is perfectly normal for civilians to case people, then pursue them while armed, to ask them questions, them Zimmerman has no hope.

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