The jury likely found George Zimmerman (pictured) not guilty because the defense provided a clear picture about the holes in the prosecution’s case.
Although we know that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder. Beyond a reasonable doubt means that if members of the jury had one doubt about Zimmerman’s guilt, they had no choice but to find him guilty. That is a very high burden, especially since the State did not have great witnesses or video evidence. Zimmerman had injuries on the night of the shooting and the forensics evidence may have been flawed or lost due to errors.
The defense, through cross-examination and direct testimony, poked several holes in the case. The worst testimony was that of the Medical Examiner, Dr. Shiping Bao. While on the stand, Bao was very combative and discussed many of the mistakes that the investigation had. For example, Dr. Bao testified about the proper way to handle the evidence, including the body of Trayvon and the physical evidence, such as the hoodie that Trayvon was wearing. Those issues in the investigation provided enough leverage for the defense to expose and discuss the flaws in the case: The lack of photos of Trayvon’s body, the mildewed clothes that may have spoiled evidence, and the nail scrapings gave the defense enough to win.
In cases like these, the physical evidence can make or break a conviction.
In addition, the State did not have a firm theory of what occurred. During a criminal trial, juries need a definite set of events and firm theory in order to reach a decision that does not involve doubt.
Without a strong story to grasp, there will be doubt inserted and the jury is left wondering what happened, which makes them arrive at a not guilty verdict.
I was perplexed by the State mentioning several alternate theories of the case. Saying there are alternate theories gave the jury enough doubt as opposed to providing one definite theory of what occurred and that theory being left for the defense to put holes in the case.
Zimmerman’s statements being entered in to evidence provided Zimmerman’s account of events.
The Prosecution made a judgment call on whether to introduce his statements in to evidence. They introduced the statements that did not provide the chance for the State to cross-examine Zimmerman on the stand; however, they allowed the State to compare the statements and to explore the differences in his statements as compared to other evidence.
Both sides gave compelling closing arguments. Prosecutor John Guy delivered a powerful closing by describing to the jury what Trayvon Martin went through. Guy made an appeal to the jury of all-women, saying, “Was that child not in fear when he was running from that defendant? Isn’t that every child’s worst nightmare to be followed in the dark by a stranger…that was Trayvon Martin’s last emotion. “
Guy attempted to appeal to the emotions of the jury and give them enough to hang on by asking them to draw inferences. Guy also told the jury that Zimmerman eliminated the only other eye witness and to not reward him for that.
On the other hand, though, Zimmerman’s defense lawyer Mark O’Mara had a very powerful closing by discussing and instructing the jury about reasonable doubt and teaching the jury what they should consider. Their demonstrative evidence showed the defense’s version of events and why the State may not have proven their case.
According to the verdict, the jurors felt there was enough doubt to find Zimmerman not guilty.
Eric L. Welch Guster is founder and managing attorney of Guster Law Firm in Birmingham, Ala., handling criminal and civil matters, catastrophic injuries, criminal defense, and civil rights litigation. Mr. Guster has become a go-to lawyer for the New York Times, NewsOne, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Black America Web, and various radio programs about various court issues and high-profile cases.