Legal Insurrection has a post outlining why the judge should have granted Zimmerman’s lawyers their request for the case to be dismissed.
O’Mara began by noting the legal standards that exist in Florida for determining whether a judgment of acquittal should be approved or denied.
The first issue is to distinguish between direct and indirect (or circumstantial) evidence, all of which must be considered from the perspective of being most favorable to the State. If there is adequate direct evidence raise a reasonable question of fact for the jury to decide, then the matter belongs in the jury’s realm, and a judgment of acquittal is inappropriate. If the direct evidence is entirely absent, or so slight or incredible that no jury could use it come to a verdict of guilty, then a judgment of acquittal should be approved.
If all the State can bring to the table is circumstantial evidence, however, the threshold for approving a motion for a judgment for acquittal is rather different. Where only circumstantial evidence is at play, that evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, must be sufficient to exclude any reasonable hypothesis except guilt. That is, unless the circumstantial evidence is so compelling that there exists, at the close of the State’s case, no reasonable doubt, a judgment of acquittal is appropriate.
To put it yet another way, if there exists a reasonable hypothesis of non-guilt (innocence)—that is, a reasonable doubt—before the defense has even presented their case, the State has already failed in its charge to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and a judgment of acquittal is appropriate.
There is hardly a single non-proceedural witness who has actually been a net help to the state. Whereas most prosecutions will gradually build up a picture, the state in the Zimmerman trial has at best thrown a few hopeful ideas out there. At worst, they’ve made absolute fools of themselves.
As demonstrated by this:
O’Mara then loops back to take a look at the existence, such as it is, of the State’s direct evidence that could support the charge of second degree murder (782.04), and particularly the element of a depraved mind requiring spite, ill-will, or hatred.
He notes that the Court could, if it chooses, consider the expletives caught in the recordings of Zimmerman’s call to the police—“these fucking assholes always get away” and “fucking punks”—as direct evidence of spite, ill-will and hatred, as the State is arguing. He points out, however, that the manner in which the State is repeating the terms in Court is substantively different from how Zimmerman actually stated them.
State prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda fairly shouted the words at former Investigator Serino (since demoted to patrolman: “Investigator Chris Serino Demoted to Patrolman by Superiors”)–and prosecutor Guy gave them a similarly sinister intonation during the State’s opening statement. Anyone listening to the recordings, however, can clearly hear a tone of resignation and even frustration in Zimmerman’s voice—the resignation and frustration of a resident struggling to help protect his neighbors from a wave of burglaries and even home invasions–but nothing akin to spite, ill-will, and hatred.
Rationally speaking, anyone who things there’s a strong case for Zimmerman’s guilt is grasping at straws.
But this the State cannot do, O’Mara continues, because the evidence—even as presented solely by the State—establishes not merely a reasonable hypothesis of innocence, but one that is powerfully compelling: that George Zimmerman acted as he did in lawful, justifiable, and necessary defense of his life.
In other words, only a fool would consider that there isn’t just reasonable doubt that Zimmerman murdered Martin, in fact there’s strong evidence that Zimmerman was acting in self defense.
One of the particularly interesting of these cases involving a judgment of acquittal in the context of self-defense is Jenkins v. Florida, 942, So.2d 910 (FL Ct. App. 2006). In that case the defendant went outside of his home to confront a noise maker. The other fellow punched him, knocking Jenkins back, then came at him again. Jenkins grabbed his knife, which penetrated the attacker’s heart, killing him. Jenkins sought a judgment of acquittal, which was denied, and he was convicted. On appeal, however, the appellate court ruled that the denial of the JOA was inappropriate, and the verdict was vacated. The similarities to the present case are striking.
That essentially concluded the first half of O’Mara’s argument to the judge—in essence that a judgment of acquittal should be granted on ALL the charges against Zimmerman on the basis of lawful self-defense.
So it seems that Zimmerman is pretty safe at this point. Even if the most extreme case occurs, and the jury convict in spite of the evidence, the fact that the prosecution has no case means that the first appeal court will toss the verdict.
Another quote from the defense’s closing remarks.
You cannot look at that picture of my client’s nose and say that he wasn’t beaten in the face. You can’t look at the back of his head and say he wasn’t beaten in the back of the head. You cannot look at the autopsy of Mr. Martin and not realize that my client never intended to nor landed one blow on Mr. Martin, all my client did was scream out for help. Mr. Good, though he was questioned a lot about this area, did finally opine, though he didn’t see gasps escaping from my client’s mouth as he was the one scaring towards him, said it was his thought, his common sense, that it was in fact my client screaming out for help.
The reality is had it been Mr. Martin screaming for help—well, he had his chance. He had Mr. Good 17 feet away, asking him to stop, telling Mr. Martin he was going to call 911, and Mr. Martin continued to ignore him and continued to batter my client in whatever form or fashion or the number of times he did, that ended up with the injuries my client had. They can’t ignore that evidence to a jury, and they really should not to be able to ignore it to you on a judgment of acquittal argument.
The evidence shows clearly that Martin was shot while pummeling Zimmerman into the ground. Martin simply wan’t injured, except for the gunshot (obviously) and marks on his hands he got from hitting his intended victim.
Anyway, the post is quite extensive, go have a read.