George Zimmerman Trial Coverage > Law and Legal Issues

Judge Nelson Reads Self-Defense Instruction to Jury

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TalkLeft:
On June 20, 2013, the final day of jury selection, during Mark O'Mara's voir dire of the prospective jury panel, Judge Debra Nelson read to the jury the instruction jurors will receive on self-defense.  She insisted on reading the instruction in its entirety so nothing would be taken out of context. Transcribed from the hearing verbatim:


--- Quote ---An issue in this case is whether the defendant acted in self-defense. It is a defense to the offense with which George Zimmerman is charged if the death
of Trayvon Martin resulted from the justifiable use of deadly force.

"Deadly force" means force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent (1) imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or (2) the imminent commission of aggravated battery against  himself or another.

Aggravated battery is intentionally touching or striking another against his or her will, and in committing the battery,  intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to the other person.   

In deciding whether defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing the defendant need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, the defendant must have actually believed that the danger was real.

If the defendant was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he  had a right to be, he  had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his  ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he  reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

In considering the issue of self-defense, you may take into account the relative physical abilities and capacities of the defendant and Trayvon Martin.

If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether the defendant was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find the defendant not guilty.

However, if from the evidence you are convinced that the defendant was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find him guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved.
--- End quote ---

Cylinder:
I guess the state will have to present evidence and argument before the aggressor statute is read, right? I'm surprised that Team Zimmerman didn't try to deal with this theme in jury selection.

TalkLeft:
I think the aggressor issue is dead. It is part of the self defense instruction and the Judge didn't include it.

The judge asked O'Mara for his copy of the instruction to read. She got impatient when he handed her only one page and wanted both. Since the wording was personalized to include GZ and TM's name, it seems they have already had their juror instruction conference and the preliminary instructions have been decided. Bernie, who had just objected to O'Mara's description of the instruction, never said a word as the judge said she was reading the entire instruction, which included nothing about a different standard for an aggressor.



TalkLeft:
Here is the Florida jury instruction 3.6 in its entirety with instructions on which sections to apply in any given case. In the middle, it includes the aggressor language and says "give where applicable."

Judge Nelson insisted on reading the entire instruction the jury would receive. It all comes from 3.6. There are sections in Judge Nelson's instruction from the beginning of 3.6 and the end, but no reference to the aggressor portion that appears in between.

So it's all one instruction, Nelson said she was reading all of it, and there's nothing about an aggressor in it.

As to the reference to aggravated battery, 3.6 instructs:


--- Quote ---No duty to retreat. § 776.013(3), Fla. Stat. See
Novak v. State 974 So. 2d 520 [*644] (Fla. 4th DCA
2008) regarding unlawful activity. There is no duty to
retreat where the defendant was not engaged in any
unlawful activity other than the crime(s) for which the
defendant asserts the justification.

If the defendant [was not engaged in an unlawful
activity and] was attacked in any place where [he]
[she] had a right to be, [he] [she] had no duty to
retreat and had the right to stand [his] [her] ground
and meet force with force, including deadly force, if
[he] [she] reasonably believed that it was necessary to
do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to
[himself] [herself] [another] or to prevent the
commission of a forcible felony.

Define applicable forcible felony from list in §
776.08, Fla. Stat. that defendant alleges victim was about
to commit. (my emphasis) (court's italics)
--- End quote ---

TalkLeft:
NM-NM: Forcible felony defined:


--- Quote ---776.08 Forcible felony.—“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.
--- End quote ---

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