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President’s Message

Marty-eJournal column pixby Marty Hayes, J.D.

As the month of June wraps up and the deadline to submit my column is upon me, I am sitting watching the opening statements in the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial. I hope that our members will be watching parts of the trial themselves, or at least keeping abreast of the developments. The Network has a Face Book page where we are discussing the trial, and so if you are doing Face Book, I would invite you to read what several of our Network Affiliated Attorneys, instructors and members are commenting on. Here is the link:

While I will be watching some of the trial, I will not be able to spend a lot of time, but will be checking on it as I can. I am actually more certain that Zimmerman will be able to convince this jury that his actions were reasonable that fateful night, because the make-up of the jury seems favorable to him. Six women, five white and one Hispanic. I hate to even comment on the racial aspect of this case because I try to live my life colorblind, but because the State of Florida has made this a case based on race, it is impossible to ignore. I think Zimmerman will get a fair hearing by this jury and that is good. I am not so sure he will get a fair trial though. Judge Debra Nelson seems pre-disposed to rule for the prosecution on points of law, so we will see. Like many judges, Nelson is a former prosecutor, having worked for about a three-year stint with the Broward County State Attorney’s office.

Seeing the makeup of his jury reminds me that while you have a right to be judged by a jury of citizens of your community, you likely will not get a “jury of your peers.”

The “jury of your peers” language comes from the 13th century Magna Carta:
No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseized, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.

Of course, we do not live in 13th century England, but, instead, in 21st century America, where our right to a jury trial is affirmed by the Sixth Amendment to our U.S. Constitution, which reads–
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

So, you are not afforded the luxury of a jury of your peers, but instead, a jury of local citizens, which is why Zimmerman ended up with a jury of six women, five of them white, even though he is a Hispanic male.

In watching Don West, one of Zimmerman’s attorneys, give his opening comments, I note that West told the jury that Zimmerman responded exactly how he was trained. The fact that Zimmerman is going to make the argument that he responded exactly as he had been trained should serve him well, and I hope that the defense gets the opportunity to bring in Zimmerman’s trainers, including one who apparently is a Federal Air Marshal, to speak to that training. In addition, I just learned that Zimmerman has one of the top forensic pathologists, Dr. Vincent DiMao, as an expert in this case. That is also good news.

All I can say at this point is, “Here we go.” George Zimmerman’s trial is underway.