Whether you like it or not, the Zimmerman verdict was correct. I’m going to explain why—although this is for the benefit of clear-headed, thinking people, not you—and if you don’t like it, that’s your own fucking problem. You can check my analysis with any lawyer or legal source you like.
To arrive at the conclusion that a crime was committed, there must be at least three elements present and these three must always be present else there is no crime. First, you must have the mens rea, or the “guilty mind.” This is the intent to commit the crime, which may arise spontaneously or be preplanned. Secondly, there must be the actus reus, or “guilty act,” which is obviously the deed itself. Thirdly, you must have proof of the concurrence of the two, meaning that you must show that one caused the other.
Here’s an example. Person X wants to steal a watch. He sees one, sticks it in his pocket, and leaves the store. The mens rea is his intent to steal a watch. The actus reus is the actual theft. The concurrence of the two is obvious.
Time out: by use of the word “guilty” here to describe the act and the intent, I’m not using the word to indicate criminal or civil culpability. It’s an assignment of responsibility, not a legal finding. Back to the game.
Now here comes the kicker. For a finding of murder, there must be a fourth element present: malice. This is not an indicator of hate, but it means that the perpetrator must have previously considered killing a specific person. Although it’s a little different from the mens rea, they can overlap and we’ll see why and how soon enough. This also why the prosecutor failed to make her case in the Zimmerman trial.
Let’s revisit the events that were presented in the trial. Zimmerman tailed Martin despite being advised that it was unnecessary. Words were exchanged, and apparently after that dialog, Martin jumped Zimmerman and began beating on him. Zimmerman pulled his gun and shot Martin.
You will not be able to find all four necessary elements to prove a finding of murder here. The mens rea that Zimmerman intended to kill Martin is absent. Had he intended to kill Martin, Zimmerman would have done so from the get-go rather than waiting until he was getting beaten.
The actus reus, the pulling of the trigger that resulted in Martin’s death, is present, but absent the “guilty mind”–the intent to kill–there can be no concurrence of the two. Therefore, two of the original three criteria for murder are missing and because of that, there can be neither a commission nor finding of murder. In this case, the guilty mind was simply to shoot to preserve his own life. There was no prior planning or consideration of killing anyone. Zimmerman just wanted to wave his authority in Martin’s face and ended up having his butt cash a check his ego wrote. (And said check bounced quite like his head off the concrete.)
Let me briefly touch on the role that the “guilty mind” played here. The mens rea of Zimmerman deciding to pull his gun and shoot came on him suddenly, likely as suddenly as Martin’s attack on him did. The actus reus followed as soon as practicable afterward. Again, this is not a decree of criminal or civil wrongdoing; it is assigning responsibility for an action and nothing more. You can see here that the intent to commit an act, be it criminal or not, can arise spontaneously or with prior intent, as with our watch theft above. In this case, however, the “guilty mind” consisted only of, “I have to draw my gun and shoot this guy or I’m going to die,” and it appeared as quickly as the beating Martin was giving him.
The “guilty act” was obviously pulling his gun and shooting Martin and there is obviously a concurrence of the two, however even with these three elements present, this does not constitute a crime. You can have the three present in any activity: you are hungry, you eat dinner. Mens rea: wanting food. Actus reus: eating. And the concurrence of the two: one caused the other.
Now let’s talk malice. Used legally, it does not mean hatred, but specific intent to cause harm. Murder requires not only the three criteria we’ve been over, but malice in addition. Similar to the mens rea requirement, the perpetrator had to specifically intend to kill someone, not just hurt him, scare him, or anything of that sort, and it has to have been considered beforehand and not be a “heat of passion” instance. The way malice plays out in determining if a murder has been committed is like so:
X is angry at J and wants to kill him. Rather than being a spur of the moment act, X spends some time thinking about it, whether ten minutes or ten days or more. X decides that the only way to solve this problem is to kill J. X gets his weapon of choice, seeks out J, and kills him. This is murder. The “guilty mind” is his intent to kill J; the “guilty act” is the actual deed; the concurrence of the two—the intent led to the deed; and overlapping with the guilty mind is the malice, wherein X decided in advance he was going to kill J.
Here’s another twist. Absent malice, you can’t have murder, but you can have manslaughter, a lesser criminal homicide. In this example, X and J are arguing and X gets angry, pulls a knife, and stabs J. J is now dead. You have the three elements—mind, act, and concurrence—but not malice, since X didn’t plan to kill J. J is dead because of X’s act, but it was in the heat of the moment rather than planned, and because of that one critical difference, X dodges a murder charge.
Twist number two goes like this: X goes to kill J (who just can’t seem to catch a break) and finds J at home. X goes to shoot J and misses but kills Q instead. While Captain Picard is doubtless relieved, X is now looking at a manslaughter charge for killing Q as well as attempted murder against J. While we have the mens rea/malice requirements, the actus reus resulted in the death of someone other than the intended victim, which changes the entire equation.
While Zimmerman did confront Martin, he didn’t do so with the intent to cause harm or death. Like I said, he wanted to wave his power and position in Martin’s face. I also posted another entry on this topic elsewhere if you’re of a mind to find out my feelings on Zimmerman, which are not all that favorable. On the other hand, Martin assaulted Zimmerman with the intent of causing him bodily harm. Actus reus, mens rea, and concurrence, and had charges been brought against him, he’d have been guilty of assault or assault and battery, however Florida’s statutes would have read.
Now, perhaps, you begin to see why the Zimmerman verdict was not only correct, but was essentially the only one the jury could reach with the restrictions placed on them. The DA in the Zimmerman case lost because she set the bar far too high and the evidence couldn’t be stacked high enough to reach it. I don’t often call her the DA; she’s more of a prostituting attorney rather than a prosecuting one. She sold out justice to the screaming mobs to curry favor with them and gain political points and now, because of her ineptitude and incompetence, Zimmerman’s free.
You’re going to hear plenty of whining from all sorts of ignorant people about how Martin was going to use the Skittles and iced tea to make some kind of street drug by mixing them with cough syrup, or that he’d been suspended for this or that, or that he smoked weed. Guess what? That doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. The question of the trial was this: did Zimmerman commit murder when he shot Trayvon Martin? The jury never was or could have been asked to deliver a verdict on confection possession.
So Martin had Skittles in his pockets. He had an Arizona iced tea, too. Possession of candy and tea is not a capital offense, much less criminal, nor is it an indicator of criminal behavior or intent. I’ve bought Skittles, and I’ve seen estimates that 150 million individual Skittles are sold yearly. Skittle consumption would seem to indicate a nation of criminals, wouldn’t it? Or perhaps they merely lead to an increased recidivism rate. Bottom line: what Martin did before or intended to do later and what he had bought at the convenience store—and even what he wanted to do with those items—is absolutely irrelevant.
Let us also take a stab at the “stand your ground” laws. They are irrelevant here, too. Zimmerman, once assaulted, had no chance to retreat. Further, nobody at any time has any “duty” or “obligation” to retreat from an attack. Rather, the other guy has a duty and obligation to behave himself and not attack someone. SYG had no bearing here, which was one of the reasons the attorneys didn’t bring it out. Another would be they may be saving that defense for any potential civil trials, but in the end, “stand your ground” gave way to Zimmerman’s right to defend himself, which is a human right as inviolable as any.
I’m going to point out that as far as the confrontation and its outcome, Martin is far from blameless despite Zimmerman bearing the lion’s share of culpability. Martin should have called 911 on his own or gotten his dad involved, but being a thuggish little punk and a 17-year-old boy, he thought he’d thump Zimmerman a few times and teach him a lesson. That placed Zimmerman in fear of his life and Martin paid for the mistake with his own. However, none of that would have happened had Zimmerman kept his fat ass in the driver’s seat and kept to himself, so the ultimate responsibility for that night falls on his feeble shoulders.
The responsibility for the “not guilty” verdict, however, is entirely on Florida Governor Rick Scott and his “special prosecutor,” Florida State Attorney Angela Corey. The system worked. The players did not.