SELF-DEFENSE? MURDER? PROBABLE CAUSE? DEBATE OVER THE SHOOTING OF TRAYVON MARTIN CONTINUES (Part One)
The evidence seems to keep piling up for poor ol’ George Zimmerman (hereinafter, the “Shooter”) and, yet, there is still no law enforcement action about it. This man is getting benefits of the doubt that my clients would kill for.
No pun intended.
Let’s check in on the latest in the Trayvon Martin (hereinafter,“Shot”). See if you can find the missing piece of legal common sense before I reveal it.
According to the Shooter, he was on “patrol” on a neighborhood watch “detail” when he spied Shot walking around in the area. Apparently believing he had developed a keen sense in people-reading, the Shooter could just tell Shot did not belong in that area. Therefore, he was clearly a threat.
The Shooter called the police and reported the strange-seeming Shot. The police told him that they would handle it and not to follow him. And so, naturally, the Shooter followed him.
There was finally a confrontation between the two. The Shooter says that he kept asking Shot what he was doing there and Shot kept asking him why he was following him. The Shooter says that Shot assaulted him, without a weapon, and so the Shooter shot him. Dead.
Shot is no longer around to give his version of the facts. However, in this case, there is an unusual amount of independent evidence. No, I am not talking about the scores of people who knew Shot and insist that he would never attack anyone. I am not even talking about the myriad of politicians and publicity-seekers who are grabbing the spotlight to weigh in on a criminal matter about which they know little. I am referring to actual witnesses who heard what the shooting take place. I am talking about recordings which reflect what took place. And I am talking about pictures and video which do not seem to reflect what the Shooter claims took place.
And yet, the Shooter remains free of any charges by law enforcement. Law enforcement types do, however point out that Shot did once get in trouble for having marihuana in school. Of course, they hasten to add that, of course, this is totally irrelevant to the shooting.
Thanks bunches for pointing it out, though!
Attorney Sam’s Take On Shootings, Self-Defense And Probable Cause
As you know, I am a Boston criminal lawyer; I do not practice law, criminal or otherwise, in Florida. There are differences in many laws between the two states. One such difference is under what type of conditions one may defend himself. Apparently, in Florida, if someone is about to attack you…no matter where in the Sunshine State you are…you have no duty to flee. You can kill him, apparently. I would imagine there must be some limits to it…such as if you are the original aggressor or the level of force, but those are details which are not being considered in this case it seems.
Some legal definitions, however, are the same. Take probable cause, for example.
As a criminal defense attorney, I represent many folks at Clerk Magistrate’s hearings. These hearings are designed to determine whether or not there is enough probable cause to issue a criminal complaint. Similarly, Grand Juries are fellow citizens brought together to determine if there is probable cause to issue an indictment.
Anyone with even a modicum of experience in the criminal justice system can tell you that in order to show probable cause, one must rise to a very low threshold. It seems almost to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from proof beyond a reasonable doubt…that which must be proven in order to return a guilty verdict in a criminal matter.
Generally, if there is evidence (even inconsistent evidence) as to each element of the criminal charge…probable cause is established.
When it comes to the Shooter’s case, we must understand what we are talking about when discussing whether the Shooter should face charges. In order for him to be charged, nothing like proof beyond a reasonable doubt need be established. In fact, even a “more likely than not” standard, as in civil cases, is not necessary.
All that is necessary is probable cause.
So…do you think the issue of probable cause as to some crime exists to charge the Shooter?
Let’s look at that question a bit….tomorrow.