The six jurors deciding the fate of George Zimmerman will have several choices while deliberating whether he is guilty of second-degree murder in teen Trayvon Martin’s untimely death. The jury could decide that Zimmerman is:
- Guilty of Murder in the Second Degree
- Guilty of Manslaughter
- Not Guilty of Everything
There is another possible outcome.
The burden of proof lies on the State to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The verdict of the jurors must be unanimous, meaning all six must agree on the same verdict.
If they cannot all agree, then that results in a hung jury.
In order to prove Murder in the Second Degree, the Prosecution (State) must prove:
1) Trayvon Martin is dead.
2) The death was caused by a criminal act of George Zimmerman.
3) There was an unlawful killing of Trayvon Martin by an act imminently dangerous and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard to human life.
An act is imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind if it is an act or series that:
a) A person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another
b) The act is done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent
c) Is such in nature that the act itself indicated an indifference to human life
In summary, the Prosecution must show that Zimmerman, without lawfully killing Trayvon Martin because of self-defense, had ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent in his mind during the act. That major requirement is an issue for the State, although they must prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict Zimmerman.
If the jury finds Zimmerman not guilty of Murder in the Second Degree, they may choose a lesser-included charge of Manslaughter. A lesser included is a charge that is similar to the offense originally charged, but does not have all of the same requirements as the initial allegation.
The lesser included charge of Murder in the Second Degree is Manslaughter, which will be the second possible choice for the jurors.
In order to prove Manslaughter, the State must prove BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT the following:
1) Trayvon Martin is dead
AND either 2a OR 2b OR 2c
2a) George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused Trayvon Martin’s death.
2b) George Zimmerman intentionally procured an act that caused Trayvon Martin’s death. Procured means he persuaded, induced, prevailed upon or caused a person to do something.
2c) The death of Trayvon Martin was caused by the culpable negligence of George Zimmerman.
Culpable negligence is gross or flagrant conduct showing reckless disregard for human life, or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects, or such an entire want of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public, or such an indifference to the rights of others as is equivalent to an intentional violation of such rights.
As aforementioned, a hung jury is when the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict. If that occurs, the case may be deemed a mistrial and the state must decide to either go to trial again, make a plea deal with Zimmerman, or dismiss the charges. If the case has to be tried again, the State is in a compromised position because the defense team has the State’s entire case laid out for them. The defense will have the benefit of transcripts of the testimony of witnesses and may use those transcripts to catch witnesses in mistakes or lies if they testify differently than before.
Eric L. Welch Guster is founder and managing attorney of Guster Law Firm in Birmingham, Ala., handling criminal and civil matters, catastrophic injuries, criminal defense, and civil rights litigation. Mr. Guster has become a go-to lawyer for the New York Times, NewsOne, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Black America Web, and various radio programs about various court issues and high-profile cases.