Were the Zimmerman Jury Instructions Correct?

by Paul Siciliano


After listening to that moron of Juror B37 (or whatever it is) on Anderson Cooper last night, I decided to look a little more into the instructions given the jury.  Before that, I should note that the juror said she took great importance in the testimony of Detective Serino that Zimmerman was telling the truth even though she was specifically told not to regard that.  The lady was totally biased and wanted to get on the jury to write a book.

Anyway, back to the jury instructions.  When I read the section on the justifiable use of force, I was floored because it did not accurately state Florida law.  The instructions read: 

In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

It is the second paragraph quoted that bothers me.  As I noted in a previous post, it is true under Florida law there is no duty to retreat (Stand Your Ground) but that is not the case if you are the aggressor.  The aggressor needs to exhaust every reasonable means of escape before resorting to deadly force - that is why the Defense did not ask for a Stand Your Ground hearing.  That is no where in these instructions.  The instructions - if you read them in the negative - imply that if Zimmerman was engaged in illegal activity or was somewhere where he had no right to be then he had a duty to retreat.  But the Florida statute includes more than those who engage in illegal activity to be considered an aggressor.  It includes those who, "initially provokes the use of force against himself or herself."  There is a strong argument, that Zimmerman by following Martin and not identifying himself, provoked the use of force against him (Martin was standing his ground).

This is Florida statute.  Why do the instructions say differently?  Why did the State allow this.  Initially, I was giving the State the benefit of the doubt, but the more I see the more incompetent I believe they truly were. 

BTW, personally, I have no doubt that Zimmerman was not justified in using deadly force since his story is bullshit and his injuries were not life threatening.  I also believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he had his gun drawn before the physical altercation began.  With his gun drawn, Martin did sucker punch Zimmerman which did cause him to go to the ground.  From there, the scuffling was Martin trying to get the gun away from Zimmerman who managed to finally overpower him and then shoot him.  I have no doubt of that.  It matches Zimmerman's initial story though changing the spot where it took place and the evidence found on the scene - including the location of Martin's cell phone and Zimmerman's flashlight.  

Regardless, the State dropped the ball on this one!