What do folks think of the trial? I think the prosecution is doing the best they can, but have a nearly impossible case to prove. They basically have to prove both that Zimmerman started the fight and that immediately prior to shooting Martin, he had the ability to retreat from that fight but chose instead to shoot and kill Martin.
No, they don't. They have to prove he shot and killed him with intent, which isn't really in dispute (well the intent part is).
Er. As you say. No one's disputing that Zimmerman intended to shoot Martin. The question is whether the shooting meets the standard for self defense, as claimed by Zimmerman. That standard, under Florida law requires only that Zimmerman believe he was in immediate risk of major bodily harm or death. Since his injuries (which no one has disputed resulted from the altercation with Martin) support a reasonable person believing that, the claim of self defense can only be discounted if Zimmerman both started the fight and immediately prior to shooting Martin had the ability to retreat but chose to shoot Martin instead.
Under Florida state law, if he did not start the fight he *always* has the right to use lethal force in self defense if he believes he's in risk of major bodily harm or death. Period. Thus, if the prosecution can't convince the jury that he started the fight, they lose the case.
Under Florida state law, even if he started the fight, he can regain the right to use lethal force in self defense if he meets one of the following conditions:
1. He makes a clear effort to retreat, and the other person pursues him (with the aforementioned threat of risk of major bodily harm or death)
2. He is unable to escape the conflict and is now subject to risk of major bodily harm or death.
Because of those two conditions, even if the prosecution manages to convince the jury that Zimmerman did start the fight (and that's a huge if at this point), they also have to convince the jury that Zimmerman was able to retreat (Fails test 2), but chose not to (Fails test 1), and chose instead to stay engaged in the fight and to shoot Martin. If Zimmerman could not escape (say cause Martin knocked him on his back, straddled him, and beat him in the face the whole time), then who started the fight is completely irrelevant.
Hence, why I say that they have to prove (convince the jury really) that he both started the fight *and* had the opportunity to end/escape it, but chose not to. Because those are the conditions required for this to be manslaughter and not legitimate self defense.
The burden of an affirmative defense isn't on the prosecution to disprove.
Except they have to convince all 12 jurists that Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter. That requires that they convince those same jurists that Zimmerman's claim of self defense is not true. We can play semantics with where the burden is, but given that the claim of Zimmerman's attorney's isn't that their client didn't shoot Martin at all, but that he did so in self defense, the jury is going to have the same Florida law I just talked about explained to them, so that they can make a determination as to whether the shooting meets the legal requirements for self defense. For the prosecution to win, they have to show that the shooting doesn't meet those requirements.
I don't think they can get remotely close to doing that. What they're doing instead is hoping they can make their Martin out to be sympathetic and Zimmerman to be a racist profiling madman with a gun, and hope the jury's emotions overrule the facts of the case. It's more or less their only shot, since the evidence in the case is that this was as close to a text book example of legitimate use of a firearm for self defense as you can get. I mean, if you can't use your gun in self defense when you are on your back with an assailant straddling you, pinning you to the ground, and beating you in the face, when can you?