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  1. #1
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    Default Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    My question involves criminal law for the state of: Florida
    I have been following the trial of George Zimmerman, who has been acquitted of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. I have been reading about the possibility of a civil lawsuit, under which, it's been stated, different evidence could be brought in than was presented in the criminal case. Now, I understand that the burden of proof is different, but I'm not sure whether the rules of evidence would be different.

    One example could be the text messages about Martin's street fighting, which were excluded because they had not been verified, to the judge's satisfaction, as being written by Martin. This would seem relevant but the defense did not have sufficient time to verify during the criminal trial. This evidence could be introduced if it could be verified prior to the civil trial, or if there is a difference in the rules of evidence. Other text messages, such as those where TM is texting about guns, might be less relevant.

    What about allegations of sexual abuse against GZ which were excluded from the criminal trial as irrelevant? Could that become admissible in a civil trial?

    Also, I would appreciate any insights on the possibility of a stand-your-ground hearing which would immunize GZ against civil suits. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    From the Florida statutes:

    776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
    (1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
    776.013 is on justifiable use of force. It contains the "stand your ground" language, but that is not relevant to the Zimmerman case. If Zimmerman can show and is adjudicated to have used deadly force within the law then he is immune from civil liability under Florida law. This would involve a pre-trial "stand your ground" hearing.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    The basic rules of evidence are the same, but for a variety of reasons (including some at the constitutional level) the standard by which a court evaluates whether or not evidence is admissible may vary. There may also be statutory presumptions that come into play in various types of cases, but not others.

    The question of whether or not a particular item of evidence might be admissible is, in the abstract, difficult to address as evidence may be admissible for one reason (e.g., to show care and control, for impeachment purposes if it contradicts certain testimony, etc.) but not for another.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    Quote Quoting Bubba Jimmy
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    From the Florida statutes:



    776.013 is on justifiable use of force. It contains the "stand your ground" language, but that is not relevant to the Zimmerman case. If Zimmerman can show and is adjudicated to have used deadly force within the law then he is immune from civil liability under Florida law. This would involve a pre-trial "stand your ground" hearing.
    That seems fairly cut and dried to me, but what do I know. The Martins' lawyer Benjamin Crump is still threatening a lawsuit, while GZ's brother is hinting that a civil suit would bring out more dirt on Trayvon.

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
    The basic rules of evidence are the same, but for a variety of reasons (including some at the constitutional level) the standard by which a court evaluates whether or not evidence is admissible may vary. There may also be statutory presumptions that come into play in various types of cases, but not others.

    The question of whether or not a particular item of evidence might be admissible is, in the abstract, difficult to address as evidence may be admissible for one reason (e.g., to show care and control, for impeachment purposes if it contradicts certain testimony, etc.) but not for another.
    Well, that clears it right up. Just kidding. I guess nothing about law is simple.

    Thanks for the replies.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    Quote Quoting HaroldK
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    That seems fairly cut and dried to me, but what do I know. The Martins' lawyer Benjamin Crump is still threatening a lawsuit, while GZ's brother is hinting that a civil suit would bring out more dirt on Trayvon.
    It's difficult to believe that the Zimmermans haven't run out of ways to drag Martin's name through the mud, given that it was their number one P.R. tactic throughout the lead-up to the trial. But if that's the best defense they can come up with for a civil case, I can see why they would want to run with another smear campaign. As you note, Zimmerman's background is pretty muddy, so they might think twice about trying to fight a civil suit in the gutter.

    I expect that the Martins will wait to sue until the feds officially decide not to charge Zimmerman, so that they can challenge any attempt by him to avoid testifying based upon the Fifth Amendment.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    It seems to me from reading Florida statutes relative to immunity from civil liability in cases of justifiable use of force is that Zimmerman is definately immuned. Statutes are very clear and unambiguous as I see it. Can someone explain to me how can a civil case be allowed to proceed against Zimmerman?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    What statute do you imagine to give Zimmerman immunity?

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    What statute do you imagine to give Zimmerman immunity?
    What about the one quoted in message 2 above?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    Quote Quoting Mr. Knowitall
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    What statute do you imagine to give Zimmerman immunity?
    This one:

    776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.—
    (1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force, unless the person against whom force was used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who was acting in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer. As used in this subsection, the term “criminal prosecution” includes arresting, detaining in custody, and charging or prosecuting the defendant.
    (2) A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force as described in subsection (1), but the agency may not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause that the force that was used was unlawful.
    (3) The court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees, court costs, compensation for loss of income, and all expenses incurred by the defendant in defense of any civil action brought by a plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant is immune from prosecution as provided in subsection (1).

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Zimmerman Trial - Rules of Evidence in Criminal vs Civil Trial

    "A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031...."

    Florida Statutes, Sec. 776.013 relates to home defense, and has absolutely no relevance to the Zimmerman case.

    Florida Statutes, Sec. 776.031 relates to the defense of others, and permits deadly force in the defense of others, so it again has absolutely no relevance to Zimmerman.

    Florida Statutes, Sec. 776.012 relates to self-defense, and includes the infamous "stand your ground" provision, but if your recall the basic facts of the case Zimmerman denied that this was a "stand your ground" case and chose not to request a "stand your ground" hearing. Beyond that, the statute does not change self-defense from being a defense to the civil litigation - nobody has to take Zimmerman at his word. Even without a self-defense statute, you can present self-defense as a defense to a lawsuit - the statute works no magic that will keep Zimmerman out of court.

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