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Will George Zimmerman walk for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin? Yes, says  legal analyst Dan Abrams.

Abrams, who provides his legal opinion as a commentator for ABC News and its Good Morning America affiliate, announced on the show that Zimmerman would walk free in the shooting death of 17-year-old Martin. In simple terms, Abrams believes the prosecution to be unsuccessful in proving “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the ex-neighborhood watch captain committed murder in the second degree, or even manslaughter:

Now that the prosecution’s case against Zimmerman is in, as a legal matter, I just don’t see how a jury convicts him of second degree murder or even manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

So what happened? How can an armed man who shot and killed an unarmed teen after being told by the police that he didn’t need to keep following him, likely be found not guilty of those crimes?

I certainly sympathize with the anger and frustration of the Martin family and doubt that a jury will accept the entirety of George Zimmerman’s account as credible. But based on the legal standard and evidence presented by prosecutors it is difficult to see how jurors find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that it wasn’t self defense.

The prosecution presented its case with key witnesses like Rachel Jeantel, the young woman on the phone with Martin moments before his death; medical examiner Dr. Shiping Bao who performed the teen’s autopsy; and even the high school student’s mother (Sybrina Fulton), and brother ( Jarhvis Fulton). Despite their roles in building the story –presumably telling Martin’s side of what helped lead to his untimely death–the highly  anticipated recounts weren’t necessarily a slam dunk for either side.

In cross-examining the witnesses, lawyer Mike O’Mara and Don West played typical “good cop, bad cop” roles, and  used questioning to unearth inconsistencies, and/or damaging developments in witness testimony. For example, while on the stand Friday (July 5) Bao let slip that he had carefully compiled notes which he never shared with the prosecution, and was then forced to turn them over. The admission was a shot at his credibility. and Bao didn’t help the matter by looking and sounding somewhat uncomfortable about having his personal notes viewed by the court.

No matter how gut-wrenching  or emotional, from a legal standpoint, details of Martin’s life before his fatal scuffle with Zimmerman isn’t enough for  a big win. Abrams continues:

For a moment, lets put aside the fact that many of the prosecution witnesses seemed to help Zimmerman in one way or another.

As a legal matter, even if jurors find parts of Zimmerman’s story fishy, that is not enough to convict. Even if they believe that Zimmerman initiated the altercation, and that his injuries were relatively minor, that too would be insufficient evidence to convict. Prosecutors have to effectively disprove self defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

One of the biggest topics hovering over the internationally known case is Zimmerman’s original “stand your ground” protection. Coupled with his self-defense claim, waving a hearing behind Florida’s law could still work in his favor:

Zimmerman waived a pre-trial Stand Your Ground hearing and went directly to trial (likely because his lawyers knew they would lose) and simply argued classic self-defense, which is different. Now no matter how it started, if Zimmerman shot Martin because he reasonably believed it was the only way to protect himself from “great bodily harm” then he is not guilty. That’s the law.

Of course predicting the outcome of the trail isn’t guaranteed, yet walking free in a racially-charged high-profile case isn’t unheard of. The trial is expected wrap up next, if convicted Zimmerman faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Read Abrams’ entire analysis here.


Photo: Reuters