The prosecution rested today in the George Zimmerman trial. The defense moved for dismissal, but Judge Debra Nelson denied the motion, saying, “The state has presented enough direct and circumstantial evidence for the case to go to the jury.”
That is not a surprise, of course. But really: on what possible basis should this case be going to the jury? The basic standard here is that the prosecution must have presented evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to convict Zimmerman, bearing in mind that it is the state’s duty to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Zimmerman did not act in self-defense. Andrew Branca, who is covering the trial for Legal Insurrection, explains:
It’s a two step analysis–
(Step 1) Has State proved each and every element of the charge (or a lesser included charge) beyond a reasonable doubt? If no, acquit. If yes, proceed to step 2.
(Step 2) Has State DISPROVED one or more elements of self-defense? If no, acquit, if yes, guilty.
Note that self-defense fails if ANY SINGLE element of self-defense is disproved beyond a reasonable doubt–if, for example, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that GZ was the lethal-force aggressor, then no self-defense justification for George.
The jury has heard Zimmerman tell investigating police officers that Trayvon Martin jumped him, knocked him to the ground, pummeled his face and banged his head repeatedly into the pavement. Fearful of his life, Zimmerman says he pulled his gun from his waistband and fired one shot at Martin, which proved fatal. Zimmerman’s account is supported by Jonathan Good, the only eyewitness to any part of the altercation between the two men, who testified that he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, punching him in the face. Zimmerman’s defense is also supported by his own condition after the altercation–he had a bruised face and a bloody nose, and the back of his head had several sharp horizontal cuts, which could only have been caused by his head being smashed against the pavement, just as Zimmerman said. Further, the testimony of the chief police investigator into the incident showed that the investigation’s findings were consistent with Zimmerman’s account.
So the evidence in favor of Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense is powerful. What has the state mustered on the other side?