“We had three not guilties, one second-degree murder and two manslaughters,” said the juror. “There was a couple of ’em in there that wanted to find him guilty of something.”
The law wasn’t a model of clarity.
One of the jurors wondered about how self-defense law applied in Zimmerman’s situation when he got out of his car and followed Trayvon. The jurors asked the court a question about it, but B37 didn’t recall the specifics.
Zimmerman said he thought the 17-year-old looked suspicious in the burglary-prone neighborhood. B37 said none of the jurors thought Zimmerman was motivated by racial animus.
“George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhood,” she said. “He went above and beyond what he should have done. But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong.”
Was he guilty of something? Cooper asked.
“He’s guilty of not using good judgment,” she continued. “When he was in the car, he had called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car.”
On Tuesday, she partly faulted Trayvon for his own death because he stood his ground and didn’t retreat: “Oh, I believe he played a huge role in his death. He could have... when George confronted him, he could have walked away and gone home. He didn’t have to do whatever he did and come back and be in a fight.”
The prosecution argued that Zimmerman hunted Trayvon down because the neighborhood watch volunteer was armed with a Kel-Tec 9mm handgun, his “equalizer.” Trayvon was unarmed.
The jury ultimately didn’t buy prosecutors’ argument or feel they provided adequate proof.
Jurors also didn’t have all the court instructions for self-defense cases. The judge withheld instructions that the jurors could have used to determine that Zimmerman was an “initial aggressor,” a finding that could have denied him a self-defense defense. But the defense successfully argued — and the state did not forcefully protest — that prosecutors failed to show how Zimmerman was an aggressor.
“Losing the initial aggressor instruction may have been the moment the state lost its case,” criminal-law professor Alafair Burke wrote in the Huffington Post.
But lawyers and partisans are divided over whether Stand Your Ground made the prosecution’s job tougher.
Those who side with prosecutors say the state would have had an easier time pressing their case under Florida’s pre-Stand Your Ground jury instructions, which required the defendant to show how he “used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force.”
“The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force,” the old instructions read, according to the Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases issued by the Florida Supreme Court on May 25, 2006.
But other attorneys say that, even under the old law, Zimmerman might have been able to use deadly force. Zimmerman always had a right to follow Trayvon and observe him at a distance. And, they say, once Trayvon surprised and attacked Zimmerman as he walked back to his car — as Zimmerman claimed — Zimmerman had no way to retreat; he had to defend himself and had a right to use lethal force, even under the self-defense laws that predated Stand Your Ground.