The trial of George Zimmerman has moved to the courtroom, but the case remains in the court of public opinion.
Zimmerman faces second-degree murder charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, 17.
Pundits, politicians, bloggers, media networks and many more have seized on the tiniest of details, repeating them and updating them from day to day as more information became public. It will be difficult to pick jury members who can remain open minded after weeks of coverage by virtually every media outlet.
Even the basic parts of the story have been called into question, with people attempting to guess what is said during phone calls and whose voice can be heard on 911 tapes.
It’s virtually certain a large number of legal experts will be called on to testify about what happened that night in Florida if this goes to trial.
It’s also likely that the entire case will come down to two factors that are not up for debate. One, a 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman there was no need to follow Martin that night. That could impact the second factor, Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
It’s possible that a judge could throw out the case before Zimmerman ever faces a jury because of the Florida legislation. The “stand your ground” law gives Florida residents a broad right to use deadly force without having to retreat from a fight if they believe they are in danger.
Legal experts say that Zimmerman’s lawyers only have to prove a preponderance of evidence – a low legal standard – that the shooting was in self-defense to have the second- degree murder charges thrown out.
If that fails, the lawyers can again use the law as a defense in a jury trial.
Suppose Martin felt threatened that night since he was being followed by an unknown man. If Zimmerman testifies that Martin attacked him, could a jury decide that such an attack was allowed under the “stand your ground” law?
What happens when both parties in an incident can legally fight to the death? How do we define laws based on personal feelings that can never be verified?
Debate and discussion about that law are sure to dominate media outlets in the weeks to come. We should all keep cool heads as this plays out.