Author Topic: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense  (Read 15079 times)

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Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #105 on: February 15, 2013, 04:13:00 PM »
The jury does get to consider SYG immunity even if rejected by the judge in a pre-trial motion to dismiss.  It considers immunity as an affirmative defense, a reason he would be not guilty.  Latest cases:

Tover v State 1/31/13, 2013 Fla. App. LEXIS 931; 38 Fla. L. Weekly D 185

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we hold that the trial court's decision to deny petitioner's motion to dismiss was not in error, and so we deny the petition for writ of prohibition sought by petitioner. However, this decision is without prejudice to petitioner  raising the Stand Your Ground statutory defense at trial. See Dennis v. State, 51 So. 3d 456, 459-460 (Fla. 2010), approving Peterson v.State, 983 So. 2d 27, 29 (Fla. 1st DCA 2008); see also Mederos v. State, 37 Fla. L. Weekly D1924 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012).

State v Mederos ,2012 Fla. App. LEXIS 13360; 37 Fla. L. Weekly D 1924 (8/10/12)

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By denying dismissal of the information (stand your ground motion), the trial court concluded that petitioner could not avoid prosecution under the facts as presented at the evidentiary hearing, but Mederos may raise as an affirmative defense at trial the claim that he cannot be convicted given the Stand Your Ground Law. Our denial of the petition, therefore, is without prejudice to the raising of the Stand Your Ground defense at trial. See Peterson, 983 So. 2d at 29 (A party claiming immunity whose motion to dismiss was denied "is not precluded from submitting the matter to the jury as an affirmative defense in his criminal trial.").

There is no statute or criminal rule that says a judge determines immunity under 776.032 pre-trial by a preponderance of the evidence standard. That is how it's done, but it developed through case law, not a statute. The statute is silent as to how a defendant raises immunity after being charged. The Florida courts disagreed on procedure, and eventually, the pre-trial hearing/preponderance standard was decided to be the correct one. As one law review article says:

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Under case law, a precedent has been established whereby a defendant must prove entitlement to immunity by a preponderance of the evidence.
 This shifts the burden of proof from the prosecution to the defense. Florida’s statute granting immunity to persons acting in self defense goes beyond establishing a defense; it establishes a right not to stand trial. By forcing defendants to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they are entitled not to face prosecution at all, the courts are essentially forcing them to do just that: face prosecution

I think Florida courts should have decided it the other way, and held that because the burden of proof in a criminal case always remains with the State to prove its case, including the absence of self-defense, the  court should decide immunity by putting the burden on the state to prove by a preponderance of evidence the defendant is not entitled to immunity.


Offline RickyJim

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #106 on: February 15, 2013, 04:30:49 PM »
After a judge has denied immunity at a separate hearing, does the criminal trial jury have two kinds of acquittal on the grounds of self defense available to them:  with and without immunity from future civil suits?

Offline MJW

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #107 on: February 15, 2013, 04:42:19 PM »
Who puts on their case first in the immunity hearing? Is it the state, as in a trial, or is it the defense, because they have the burden of proof? I think it would be to Zimmerman's advantage if it were the state.

Offline Kyreth

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #108 on: February 15, 2013, 06:18:04 PM »
The immunity hearing is to argue a motion brought by the Defense, therefore they argue first (and last).

Offline FromBelow

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #109 on: February 15, 2013, 06:41:57 PM »
The jury does get to consider SYG immunity even if rejected by the judge in a pre-trial motion to dismiss.  It considers immunity as an affirmative defense, a reason he would be not guilty.

And if the jury decides that a defendant isn't guilty because he's immune does he then become immune from further prosecution and civil suits? Doesn't the 'immune' part of the statute 'kick in' at that point? Again, IANAL, but it seems to me if the statue is the reason a defendant isn't guilty then the entire statute should apply.

Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #110 on: February 15, 2013, 08:44:09 PM »
After a judge has denied immunity at a separate hearing, does the criminal trial jury have two kinds of acquittal on the grounds of self defense available to them:  with and without immunity from future civil suits?

No. Civil immunity has nothing to do with this. In this context, the jury would be finding him not guilty of murder 2 or the lesser manslaughter because he fits the criteria for immunity from prosecution and was acting in self-defense.

776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
(1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force,

The immunity statute serves as an affirmative defense if employed this way -- a criminal jury only determines guilt (or failure to prove guilt).


Offline RickyJim

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #111 on: February 15, 2013, 09:20:49 PM »
I don't understand the reference to s. 776.032 in Talk Left's answer to my question.  Since the jury can't grant immunity to future civil action, why isn't the acquittal on grounds of self defense as covered in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031?  If they do so acquit, can the defendant appeal the judge's pre  jury verdict refusal to grant immunity to civil action?

Offline FromBelow

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #112 on: February 15, 2013, 09:51:47 PM »
The immunity statute serves as an affirmative defense if employed this way -- a criminal jury only determines guilt (or failure to prove guilt).

That really doesn't make sense to me although I have no doubt you are right about the law. It seems a jury can decide different levels of guilt but not innocence. By that I mean the jury can find the defendant guilty on many levels (lesser included charges), but can never find the defendant innocent on any level. Just not guilty. That seems very much like a presumption of guilt to me. i.e. He's either guilty of what he's been charged with or guilty of something else, or not guilty. But where in this does the presumption of innocence come in? A jury can never find someone innocent (immune)?

Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #113 on: February 15, 2013, 10:55:48 PM »
Juries decide whether the state or government has proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. If the state meets the burden, it returns a guilty verdict. If the state falls short in proving the charges beyond a reasonable doubt, it returns a verdict of not guilty. Those are the two choices.

A not guilty verdict can include:

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury find that the defendant is absolutely 100% innocent.

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury, cannot be absolutely sure that the defendant is innocent.

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury are confident that the defendant is innocent.

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury believe that the defendant is probably innocent. [More...]

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury are not really sure one way or the other if the defendant is guilty or innocent.

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury believe it is more likely than not that the defendant is guilty.

** Based upon the evidence presented, we the Jury believe that the defendant is probably guilty.

** We the Jury believe that the defendant is guilty but the evidence falls a little short and we cannot find that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

For more on this see The Meaning of a Not Guilty Verdict and The History of the Presumption of Innocence

Offline unitron

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #114 on: February 16, 2013, 06:56:30 AM »
Doesn't the presumption of innocence hold until and unless the jury finds that the state has met its burden of proof?

In other words, the defendent is presumed innocent and nothing changes that unless a jury says "guilty"?

If they say anything else, the presumption continues uninterrupted?

Offline RickyJim

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #115 on: February 16, 2013, 07:51:48 AM »
Doesn't the presumption of innocence hold until and unless the jury finds that the state has met its burden of proof?

In other words, the defendent is presumed innocent and nothing changes that unless a jury says "guilty"?

If they say anything else, the presumption continues uninterrupted?
"Presumption of Innocence" basically means that criminal guilt must be determined beyond a reasonable doubt.  Once a jury has given a not guilty verdict, it remains in effect but is not as relevant as the prohibition against double jeopardy.  It certainly doesn't prevent civil action (in US law).

Offline TalkLeft

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #116 on: February 16, 2013, 02:13:14 PM »
Doesn't the presumption of innocence hold until and unless the jury finds that the state has met its burden of proof? In other words, the defendant is presumed innocent and nothing changes that unless a jury says "guilty"?

Yes. 

Offline RickyJim

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #117 on: March 03, 2013, 04:05:01 PM »
I am wondering if the following would fly as a way to conduct the Immunity Hearing in April so that the defense would get more time to get discovery for the trial in June:

The defense proposes to the prosecution/judge that the Immunity Hearing deals only with the question of whether Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin because he didn't have any other option to escape serious injury or death.  In other words, there is no consideration of the issue of who was the initial aggressor; nor will there be of the malice element of second degree murder.  This way, there would be no need for further discovery material, in advance of the hearing, with respect to Witness #8, the phones, or Martin's Twitter and Facebook (unless there is reason to believe his fighting skill is discussed there).  I don't know of any current defense discovery requests, besides for samples of Martin's voice, that bear on what happened after the physical confrontation started.    The prosecution would have to restrict their contradiction finding to those in Zimmerman's description of the fight.  On the other hand, they would not have to defend Witness #8 under a possible heavy attack from the defense.

Is such an agreement for a stripped down Immunity Hearing possible under Florida law?  If so, would both sides see enough advantage for them in it so they would agree?

« Last Edit: March 03, 2013, 04:09:25 PM by RickyJim »

Offline nomatter_nevermind

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Re: Immunity Hearing: Stand Your Ground and/or Self-Defense
« Reply #118 on: March 03, 2013, 05:00:53 PM »
The defense proposes to the prosecution/judge that the Immunity Hearing deals only with the question of whether Zimmerman was justified in shooting Martin because he didn't have any other option to escape serious injury or death.  In other words, there is no consideration of the issue of who was the initial aggressor; nor will there be of the malice element of second degree murder.

I don't think the malice issue will be part of the immunity hearing anyway.

The American legal system is adversarial. As a rule, courts decide issues that are contested between parties. When parties to a dispute declare agreement on a fact, which is called 'stipulating', the court accepts the fact as true regardless of other considerations.

The prosecution could stipulate that a preponderance of evidence shows Martin was the initial aggressor, or both sides could agree to stipulate that the evidence on that point is evenly balanced. I don't know if the judge can reject such stipulations, but at least it would be unusual for her to do so.

I don't see why the prosecution would make either stipulation.

 

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