Because there are no eyewitnesses to the shooting except George Zimmerman, who claims he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in self-defense, the prosecution will have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon Martin in self-defense.
Unfortunately, Florida does not define circumstantial evidence other than to call it “indirect” evidence. See Wadman v. State, 750 So.2nd 655 (FL 1999).
Washington State, where I practiced law for many years, defines direct and circumstantial evidence as follows:
Direct evidence is that given by a witness who testifies concerning facts which he or she has directly observed or perceived through the senses.
Circumstantial evidence consists of proof of facts or circumstances which, according to common experience permit a reasonable inference that other facts existed or did not exist.
The law makes no distinction between the weight to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence. One is not necessarily more or less valuable than the other.
A popular misconception is that circumstantial evidence is less valid or less important than direct evidence. This is only partly true: direct evidence is popularly, but mistakenly, considered more powerful. Many successful criminal prosecutions rely largely or entirely on circumstantial evidence, and civil charges are frequently based on circumstantial or indirect evidence. Much of the evidence against convicted American bomber Timothy McVeigh was circumstantial, for example. Speaking about McVeigh’s trial, University of Michigan law professor Robert Precht said, “Circumstantial evidence can be, and often is much more powerful than direct evidence”. The 2004 murder trial of Scott Peterson was another high-profile conviction based heavily on circumstantial evidence.
Indeed, the common metaphor for the strongest possible evidence in any case—the “smoking gun”—is an example of proof based on circumstantial evidence. Similarly, fingerprint evidence, videotapes, sound recordings, photographs, and many other examples of physical evidence that support the drawing of an inference, i.e., circumstantial evidence, are considered very strong possible evidence.
In practice, circumstantial evidence can have an advantage over direct evidence in that it can come from multiple sources that check and reinforce each other. Eyewitness testimony can be inaccurate at times, and many persons have been convicted on the basis of perjured or otherwise mistaken testimony. Thus strong circumstantial evidence can be a more reliable basis on which to determine a verdict.
In response to a Zimmerman supporter who posted recently here that circumstantial evidence can support conflicting conclusions, I said,
Anything is theoretically possible and the nature of circumstantial evidence is such that each individual circumstance in a chain of circumstances might indicate more than one possibility. However, when examined as a totality of circumstances, they add up to only one possibility.
Put another way, the more splainin’ that Zimmerman has to do by resorting to ridiculous extremes like, I was walking in the same direction as Martin but not following him because I was looking for a street name and an address to give the dispatcher, the more unlikely his story becomes. Especially when he has lived in the neighborhood for three years, patrolled it as the neighborhood watchman on a regular basis for months, and he walked right past townhouses on TTL with the addresses on them in plain view, ignored them, and never provided the dispatcher with an address. It doesn’t take any intelligence to figure out that he was never looking for an address.
Step by inexorable step he lies and lies and lies.
What is he concealing?
He wasn’t out there exercising in the rain.
He was hunting.
The answer is obvious to anyone with a functioning brain cell.
The burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt, not beyond all theoretical doubt.
I am not going to detail every lie that we have revealed and discussed at length because I want to go macro on y’all and look at the big picture.
Is there a discernible pattern to his lies that reveals his intent or are his lies mere random occurrences that happen due to chance?
Consider, for example, his stubborn insistence that Trayvon Martin suddenly came out of the bushes next to a townhouse or materialized out of the gloom on the N/S sidewalk a few feet south of the intersection and confronted him as he was on the sidewalk cut-through between TTL and RVC supposedly minding his own business returning to his vehicle parked on TTL.
Some who post here and at other internet sites contend that we must take GZ at his word and cannot look at other evidence (i.e., the circumstantial evidence) to determine if he is telling the truth and, if not, discern his intent.
Sorry, but that is not how trials work.
GZ claims that TM sucker punched him knocking him to the ground and then he jumped on him and started beating his head into the sidewalk and punching him repeatedly in the face.
Aside from the lack of physical injuries that would be consistent with such a claim, the location of the fight is inconsistent with the location of TM’s body. That is, if GZ is telling the truth, the body and the location of the fight should be in the same place, but they are not and he has no explanation for that other than he kind of sort of stumbled after TM hit him. Yet, that explanation only gets him a little less than halfway to the location of the body and various items found within a few feet of it, such as his phone, the earbuds, the can of iced tea, the Skittles, and the spent casing.
We have to ask ourselves what does the circumstantial evidence tell us regarding the fight that ended with TM’s death? That is, what can we reasonably infer from the evidence at the scene.
The initial conclusion is GZ lied about the nature and extent of Martin’s attack because his injuries do not support his story and his conflicting claim regarding where and how Martin confronted him tells us he changed his story during the walk-through video the next day when he realized there were no bushes at the scene behind which Martin could have been hiding.
What do these lies suggest?
They suggest GZ went looking for Martin in the area between the two rows of townhouses and found him where the shooting occurred.
If that is what happened, why would he lie about it?
The obvious conclusion is that he did not want to admit that he went hunting for Martin and found him.
Why is that a problem?
Maybe it has something to do with his statement, “These assholes, they always get away, fuckin’ coons.”
Hmmnn. That sounds like GZ was determined to make sure this “asshole” did not get away.
Why would GZ lie about Martin jumping him?
Could it be because he knew an aggressor cannot claim self-defense?
A pattern is apparent in these lies. They all appear to be motivated by a desire to cover up that he was the aggressor who hunted down TM and attempted to detain him, but TM did not submit to his authority willingly. A struggle ensued in which GZ sustained some minor injuries and he shot and killed TM without legal justification.
This is the incredible power of circumstantial evidence because, ultimately, the explanations GZ offers for each item of evidence become increasingly strained until they degenerate into irrelevant and irritating whining.
As I have said before, he is his own worst enemy and his conviction of the crime of Murder in the Second Degree will materialize out of his own lyin’ mouth and the abundant circumstantial evidence.