The continuation of the State of Florida v. Zimmerman trial is set for Monday morning in Sanford Florida. Here is an analysis of matters related to the trial prepared in an effort to answer some of the on-going questions from readers, and viewers and those who have followed this fascinating case.
george zimmerman is being charged with 2nd Degree murder under the statute as defined below.
FLORIDA STATUTE 782.04(2)-The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life or as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Additionally, second degree murder has been characterized by local members of the Florida Bar here in Central Florida as the following: “Murder with a depraved mind occurs when a person is killed by an act evincing a depraved mind showing no regard for human life.”
So the fundamental elements of 2nd Degree murder that the State of Florida must prove in the Zimmerman trial are:
- The unlawful killing of a human being;
- when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another;
- and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life;
- although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual;
However, the jury will make their decision based upon the final jury instructions given to them by Judge Debra Nelson that will include the language of FLORIDA STATUTE 782.04(2) and 2nd degree murder as articulated above. The jury will apply the facts and evidence admitted into evidence to the law that will be set forth with the final jury instructions.
JURY INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA
The standard instructions are contained in the Florida Criminal Rules of Evidence and are approved by the Florida Supreme Court.
However the exact jury instructions in the instant case before Judge Nelson can be determined by the defense or prosecution working on agreed to instructions with approval by the judge.
In addition to the standard instructions, either the defense or the state can request “special jury instructions” that either the defense wants to have included or what the state wants to have included in the final jury instructions. However, Judge Debra Nelson has to approve the “special instructions” to determine whether or not they are warranted and germane to the evidence that has been presented and admitted during trial.
The evidence so far in this case may require a lesser charge such as manslaughter. The defense can argue lesser charge such as manslaughter or the state, given what evidence has been admitted. However one can also argue that a lesser charge is premature because the Zimmerman trial will continue Monday.
DEFENSE JURY INSTRUCTIONS FOR SELF-DEFENSE
For the Zimmerman Defense, a self defense instruction may be used by the defense and may be the standard self defense instruction also contained in the Florida Criminal Rules of Evidence. But the Zimmerman Defense may want to alter the self defense instruction and the State may want to as well.
Keep in mind these standard instructions are just guides to follow. They can be modified. However, standard instructions can also be argued before the judge when one argues for the State of Florida‘s position or for the position for George Zimmerman Defense and then the judge can make her decision as to jury instructions. And the judge may in her discretion create her own instructions with input from both the State of Florida and the george zimmerman defense.
The judge will then read the charging document and that document will have the elements for the crime for which the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
FLORIDA STANDARD JURY INSTRUCTIONS IN CRIMINAL CASES
§ 782.04(2), Fla.Stat.
To prove the crime of Second Degree Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- 1. (Victim) is dead.
- 2. The death was caused by the criminal act of (defendant).
- 3. There was an unlawful killing of (victim) by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.
An “act” includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.
An act is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind” if it is an act or series of acts that:
- 1. a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and
- 2. is done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent, and
- 3. is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.
In order to convict of Second Degree Murder, it is not necessary for the State to prove the defendant had an intent to cause death.
Lesser Included Offenses
SECOND DEGREE (DEPRAVED MIND) MURDER “” 782.04(2)
Third degree (felony) murder