Posted: April 26, 2017
Self-defence is only valid under three scenarios as defined by common law: in case there is a need for one to defend themselves from attack, defend their property, and protect another person from attack. Concerning statutory defences and common law, protection by self-defence is applicable and can lead to the successful acquittal of the defendant of all charges (Finkelstein, 1999). It is important to establishing that the accused one used extra force while being faced with particular circumstances. The defendant will have to plead guilty to the charges as the defence used will no longer be valid. Six principles guide protection by self-defence. They include reasonable force, intoxication and self-defence, a duty to treat, mistake as to self-defence, imminence of the threatened attack, and defence of property (Finkelstein, 1999).
For the George Zimmerman case, the defendant shot and fatally wounded Trayvon Martin. The plaintiff was walking to the Sanford where his dad's fiancé lived. During that time it had rained, and it was already dark. The suspicion raised by Martin contributed to the series of events that saw him got shot and eventually his death (Kennedy, 2013). The investigations conducted set Zimmerman in a position to use self-defence which seemed quite impossible to overcome. The evidence presented revealed that a fight ensued between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. However, it was unclear regarding who first started the fight. The absence of witnesses translated to the lack of definitive determination which saw Zimmerman seek self-defence.
George Zimmerman was entitled to self-defence following the circumstances facing him when he shot Trayvon Martin. From the evidence presented, he had a wound on the back of his head and a lump of blood on his face (Kennedy, 2013). Viewing the danger that was facing him at that time justifies the use of force by the defendant. For this reason, any other individual facing the same circumstances as Zimmerman would resort to using force. Zimmerman was attacked in a place he was rightly supposed to be, and, for this reason; he had to defend himself by using force to counter the attacker. Hence, by shooting Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman was avoiding more harm on his part which also includes preventing his death.
Imminent danger is a principle of self-defence that clearly states that it must not be necessary for the defendant to be attacked first for him or her to be entitled as self-defence. However, a scenario described to have imminent danger cannot enable one to call for help or the protection of law enforcement. For this reason, the threat must be dealt with instantly (Kennedy, 2013). Similarly, Zimmerman was faced with imminent danger as he was being straddled by Trayvon Martin while performing his duty of community watch. Inability to retreat necessitated the need for Zimmerman to draw his gun and use it to defend himself. Thus, imminent danger is applicable to the Zimmerman case.
As a judge, I would rule for imminent danger in this instance as he was serving his duty and he did not attack Trayvon Martin first. Additionally, if Zimmerman had initiated the attack, he would not have required the use of deadly force not until the attack by Trayvon escalated to a dangerous level (Kennedy, 2013). For this reason, the general rule of self-defence where Martin attacked Zimmerman first translates to a valid defence. There were no witnesses in the case, and the claims by Zimmerman that Martin attacked him first and thought that the victim was trying to pull out a gun creates a burden of proof. However, there is no substantial evidence to prove who attacked who first. The Florida state allows individuals to have their weapons with them which also contributes to validating Zimmerman's claims. Therefore, it becomes difficult to prove the fear Zimmerman had regarding the victim’s move to pull out a weapon which led him to shoot the victim.
As a juror, I would accept the self-defence by Zimmerman as he pulled out a gun first and was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt he did not start the fight. Despite the lack of witnesses, the state, allowing individuals to have guns, means that George Zimmerman's fear was reasonable which necessitated the use of force. The concealed weapons most citizens carry lead us to conclude that Zimmerman's fear was reasonable and as the probability of the attacker having a gun increases, there are more grounds for self-defence and, thus, the need to accept the self-defence by Zimmerman.
The impact of allowing the self-defence by Zimmerman will mean that the defendant has proved he made the move to defend himself. However, the fact that Trayvon Martin attacked George Zimmerman does not back up the need to cause harm and subsequently death to Trayvon Martin. The acquittal of Zimmerman of all charges is possible in this case, but a new turn of events might ensue if Martin's family move to a civil court to sue Zimmerman for the wrongful death of the victim. However, under common law, Zimmerman is likely to be found not guilty.
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