As the Zimmerman Trial Comes to An End….
So, here we are – the night before the Zimmerman case goes to the jury for a final and definitive verdict of guilt or innocence. In my recent discussions with judges, lawyers and many friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, I have attempted to conduct an informal (and obviously unscientific) survey. About half of the people with whom I spoke say that there is a reasonable doubt as to all charges and, about half strongly feel that George Zimmerman should be found guilty of manslaughter, a lesser included charge of second degree murder. Almost everyone feels that the prosecutor over-charged George Zimmerman by charging him with second-degree murder and, almost all the lawyers and judges felt that it was a “cheap shot” and an act of desperation for the prosecutors to try to get a jury instruction on third degree murder. The judge has denied the prosecution’s request. Many feel that the verdict will come quickly, but who knows? Maybe a hung jury?
Please keep in mind that a conviction of manslaughter by use of a firearm is extraordinarily serious and could easily result in a severe prison sentence for George Zimmerman, up to life in prison, the same penalty as for someone convicted of second degree murder. The unfairness of such a situation is obvious, since manslaughter is clearly a less serious crime than second-degree murder, even though in both situations a person will have died as a direct result of the actions of the defendant. The defense wanted the jury to go for “all or nothing”. In other words, the defense wanted the jurors to have to decide whether George Zimmerman is guilty or innocent of second-degree murder – only. After all, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, not manslaughter with a firearm.
The fear of the defense is that the jurors will compromise by returning a verdict of guilty as to manslaughter, not fully realizing that a manslaughter conviction under the facts in this case can carry such a harsh prison sentence.
I fully expect that the defense closing argument will urge the jurors not to compromise and to find George Zimmerman Not Guilty of second degree murder, as charged, and Not Guilty of the lesser included offense of manslaughter.
I am also disappointed in the way the trial judge treated defense attorney Don West. Mr. West was vigorously representing his client, as he is ethically obligated to do. But, that did not stop the judge from repeatedly chastising him and showing her displeasure with his somewhat aggressive representation of George Zimmerman. Don West did nothing to incur the snide remarks of the judge. The judges actions were unnecessary and inappropriate. Many judges behave that way in an attempt to dissuade defense attorneys from pressing their arguments, something that defense counsel must do in order to preserve their objections for a possible appeal.
The jury’s verdict must be unanimous. There are six jurors in this case. The alternate jurors will not participate in the jury deliberations.
It is worth considering the impact of having jurors begin their deliberations right after the closing arguments with the weekend approaching. And the impact of having the prosecution give their closing statement a day before the defense will have an opportunity to respond.
So, what do you think?