The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 15, 2013

Jury instructions at center of Zimmerman verdict

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Despite a clamoring by some for a conviction against George Zimmerman, jurors acquitted the former neighborhood watch leader of all charges, leaving many Americans to wonder how the justice system allowed him to walk away from the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Part of the answer is found in the 27-page jury instructions on two matters: justifiable use of deadly force and reasonable doubt. Jurors were told Zimmerman was allowed to use deadly force when he shot Martin not only if he faced actually faced death or bodily harm, but also if he merely thought he did.

Reasonable doubt can come from conflicting evidence and testimony, which jurors heard plenty of over nearly three weeks.

Some Martin family supporters may never understand the gap between the legal basis for the jury's acquittal and what they perceived as the proper outcome: Zimmerman's conviction for either second-degree murder or manslaughter.

"There is a difference between the law and what people think is fundamentally justice," said Barbara Arnwine, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a Washington-based civil rights group.

Under Florida law, jurors were told to judge whether Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force by the circumstances he was under when he fired his gun. The instructions they were given said they should take into account the physical capabilities of both Zimmerman, 29, and Martin, 17. And if they had any reasonable doubt on whether Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force, they should find him not guilty.

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the highest standard of proof prosecutors face in American criminal courts. It means the jurors believe there is no other logical explanation for what happened than the defendant is guilty. If faced with two plausible explanations for what happened, jurors are supposed to acquit.

Text Only
AP National
  • A year after background check defeat, modest goals WASHINGTON (AP) — Democratic worries about this November's elections, a lack of Senate votes and House opposition are forcing congressional gun-control supporters to significantly winnow their 2014 agenda, a year after lawmakers scuttled President Ba

    April 16, 2014

  • Court to weigh challenge to ban on campaign lies WASHINGTON (AP) — Negative campaigning and mudslinging may be a fact of life in American politics, but can false accusations made in the heat of an election be punished as a crime? That debate makes its way to the Supreme Court next week as the justi

    April 16, 2014

  • College Board provides a glimpse of new SAT WASHINGTON (AP) — Anxious students — not to mention their parents — can get a heads-up for how the redesigned SAT might look in two years. Sample questions for the new version of the college-entrance test were released on Wednesday by the College Boa

    April 16, 2014

  • End of NYPD Muslim surveillance program applauded NEW YORK (AP) — Muslim groups and civil liberties advocates applauded the decision by New York Police Department officials to disband a controversial unit that tracked the daily lives of Muslims as part of efforts to detect terrorism threats, but the

    April 16, 2014

  • 10 Things to Know for Today Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today: 1. NEARLY 300 PEOPLE ARE MISSING AFTER KOREAN BOAT SINKS The accident involving a ferry that was headed to a tourist island killed three passenger

    April 16, 2014

  • Dress codes: Where should schools set limits? EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) — They're called leggings — popular fashion items that are tight-fitting pants to some, and glorified tights to others. Younger girls often wear them as pants with little fuss. But as those same girls approach middle school, leggi

    April 16, 2014

  • People with old Social Security debts get reprieve WASHINGTON (AP) — People with old Social Security debts are getting a reprieve — for now. The Social Security Administration had been participating in a program in which thousands of people were having their tax refunds seized to recoup overpayments

    April 15, 2014

  • Russia tests Obama's ability to stop its advances WASHINGTON (AP) — With the White House asserting that Russia is stoking instability in eastern Ukraine, President Barack Obama is once again faced with the complicated reality of following through on his tough warnings against overseas provocations.

    April 15, 2014

  • Tributes planned to mark Boston Marathon bombing BOSTON (AP) — The anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings started with a solemn wreath-laying ceremony Tuesday morning at the site of the twin explosions, the first tribute in a day dedicated to honoring the three people who died, the more than 2

    April 15, 2014

  • Police: Suspected killers wore GPS devices ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Two convicted sex offenders dutifully checked in with police every month and wore their GPS trackers around the clock — the rules of parole that are designed to tip off authorities if a freed felon backslides. Yet for at least

    April 15, 2014

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National