A reader pointed out to me that Maddy uttered a misapprehension of the law during her interview with Robin Roberts. Maddy avowed she could not find Mr. Zimmerman guilty because absent proof he intended to kill the young Mr. Treyvon. The reader rightly pointed out that 2d degree murder (or manslaughter) does not require an intent to kill. Then the reader suggested that I should have never let Maddy utter such misstatement, noting that I should have taught her the correct law.
It was the prosecutor’s job to teach the law to Maddy, not mine. Prosecutors have the burden not of just hurling the law at the jurors for them to decipher but to teach them the law. It is well established that the government has the burden of proof. It is their job and duty to bring proof that excludes any reasonable doubt of guilt. Mr. Zimmerman and his attorneys could literally have played solitaire while the state puts on its case because the defense does not have to do anything. Still, bringing forth the proof for the juror to determine the facts is insufficient. This is so because after a juror decides the facts the have to apply the law to the facts. The application of law to facts produces the verdict.
Naturally, the prosecutors want the jurors to use the correct law. Using the correct law means that you have to teach the law as well. Let’s face it, the law is written (mostly) by lawyers for other lawyers to read and interpret. Consider the following statement of law lifted straight from the Zimmerman jury instructions.
“In order to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not merely negligent, justified, or excusable and which caused death.”
Huh, what does that mean?
What is not an act that is merely negligent?
What is not an act that is justified?
What is not an act that is not excusable?
I’m a lawyer and this instruction makes my head spin. No wonder the jury sent an SOS for the judge to explain manslaughter. Somebody was supposed translate the instructions to regular English. That somebody was the government.