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This past weekend, late Saturday night July 13, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the murder trial for the shooting of 17 year old Trayvon Martin which occurred in February 2012.   This has elicited a passionate response from most Americans.  Demonstrators protested in cities in states such as Florida, New York, California, and Georgia.  President Barack Obama asks that Americans take this time to quietly reflect.   There are still safety concerns for Zimmerman as the reactions continue.

The question has become: how was Zimmerman found not guilty?  MSN.Com speculates that part of the answer can be found in the jury instructions: justifiable use of deadly force and reasonable doubt.  The instructions state that Zimmerman was “allowed to use deadly force when he shot Martin not only if he actually faced death or bodily harm, but also if he merely thought he did” [emphasis added].  If the jury had found any reasonable doubt whether or not Zimmerman was justified in his shooting, then they should find him not guilty.  Naturally, the jury found plenty of conflicting evidence during the course of the trial.

The standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” is the highest standard of proof in criminal court.  Sometimes referred to as “to a moral certainty,” there must be no other logical explanation for what happened in order to find the defendant guilty.  The prosecution bears this burden of proof when presenting their case to the court.

For more information from MSN News: Nation reacts to the Zimmerman verdict; Zimmerman cleared; attorney says safety is a concern; Gallery: The nation reacts to the Zimmerman verdict

About the Author
Attorney Nicholas J. LaFountain has extensive experience litigating and negotiating civil disputes of many types. He has been successfully representing clients in the courtroom since 2004.