I may have to eat my own words.
In the weeks leading up to the George Zimmerman trial I predicted that he would be found guilty of the lesser-included offense of aggravated manslaughter with a firearm. The manslaughter charge would be considered “aggravated” because the alleged victim, Trayvon Martin, was under 18 at the time of the shooting.
In the opening statements I thought that the prosecution had it. The Seminole County assistant state attorney handling the opening, John Guy, was passionate, direct, and in complete control of that courtroom.
The defense attorney who did the opening, Don West, employed a poorly-received “knock-knock” joke that quickly gained national press.
In an interview I did this past week with The Daily Beast, I thought that if the prosecutor could prove exactly what he laid out during his opening, he would prevail.
However, after the first week of trial, it looks like things may be turning around in favor of the defense.
The witnesses called by the state have established very little. An “ear” witness (not an eyewitness) who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin while he was walking home from that Sanford, Florida, 7-11 on the night he was shot and killed could not establish who confronted who. The witness, a female friend of Martin’s, stated that Martin told her over the phone that he was being followed. She could not testify as to whether a physical confrontation occurred.
Another witness, a neighbor who saw Zimmerman and Martin tussling on the ground, believed that Zimmerman may have been on his back while Martin was straddling him, raining down punches.
Zimmerman has raised self-defense. Under Florida law, a person may use lethal force if they reasonably believe that it is necessary to save their own life or prevent serious injury.
The state bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman confronted Martin, initiated a physical confrontation, and then shot Martin.
So far, the state has been unable to present sufficient evidence to sustain their burden.