Day 13 began today with the prosecution dropping the aggravated assault charge and instead wanting to replace it with a charge of third degree felony murder, the underlying felony being child abuse.  The defense argued that they were only told this at 7:30 this morning and had no time to prepare case law argument.  The prosecution had 10 – 15 case law citations, which implied that they had longer than just the 1.5 hours that they gave the defense to prepare.  The judge gave them 1 hour (between 12:00 – 1:00 pm).

The prosecution wanted to include an instruction within the justifiable homicide instruction that stated that Trayvon Martin had to be committing an enumerated felony (Aggravated Battery) in order for George Zimmerman to have the right to defend himself with deadly force.  The defense argued that isn’t at all what they wanted and that the case law and standard instructions explicitly state that great bodily injury and commission of a felony are listed as alternatives in the instructions not as elements that have to be found (it says “or” in the law).  The prosecution then stated that they wanted that or the whole instruction of justifiable homicide to be dropped from the jury instructions.  The judge agreed with the defense that it explicitly states in the standard instructions they are alternatives and that the instructions will only list great bodily harm under justifiable homicide.

There was argument over the defense wanting a special instruction on provocation and that following is not under law a provocation.  The judge decided that since there was nowhere to cite that following is not against the law the instruction was not permitted.

The charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter were permitted in the instructions.  The defense filed a motion in limine to bar the prosecution from stating in their closing arguments that following is against the law and it is provocation because it is not.  The judge denied the motion.  The defense also wanted a special instruction about circumstantial evidence, mostly due to the fact that the prosecutors keep stating that it is just as good as direct evidence and it is not.  Legally, a distinction isn’t made for systematic decisions, but juries are permitted to make the distinction.  The judge decided not to allow the instruction.

The state wanted a special instruction on financial interest of witnesses.  The judge called the instruction dangerous and stated that expert witnesses are allowed to be compensated.  The expert witness instruction was enough and she did not allow this instruction.

The judge also ruled that for uniformity and conformity reasons the word “defendant” would be replaced with “George Zimmerman”.  In addition, the state wanted a special instruction on defining the phrase “great bodily injury or harm”.  The judge did not allow this instruction either.

The verdict form was not objected to except for in form.  The defense argued that the option of not guilty should be listed for each offense, not just at the end of the list and they also argued that the enhancement lists made it confusing for the jury.  The judge disagreed with listing not guilty under each option and stated that isn’t how she does it in her courtroom.  She agreed though that the enhancements should be moved to the end of the form as special findings.  Therefore the new format would be:  the first page lists all offenses charged, with a not guilty option at the end of the list and then followed by the pages of possible enhancements.

Court resumes at 1:00 p.m. with legal argument on a third degree felony murder charge and that will be followed by closing arguments.

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