Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Civil Suit Against Zimmerman?

The mainstream media today seems to be abuzz with the idea that Zimmerman can and will be sued civilly by the Martin family.

 My immediate reaction to this was to say "doesn't Florida law provide civil immunity if he's found not guilty?" The answer is "yes" but it's not that simple. I'm pretty sure that immunity doesn't immediately attach just because he was found not guilty in criminal court, but I could be wrong.

Here's the FL statute "Florida Statute 776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.— (1) A person who uses force as permitted in s. 776.012, s. 776.013, or s. 776.031 is justified in using such force and is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force."

Keep in mind however that the jury did not actually come out and say "he acted in justifiable self-defense, that's why we ruled not guilty." It's a reasonable inference that this is why they ruled as they did, but legally speaking what they did was to rule him not guilty of manslaughter and 2nd degree murder.

 IANAL, but I would guess that a civil suit CAN be brought against Zimmerman, at which time his lawyers will use 776.032 and file a motion arguing civil immunity at a pre-trial hearing. (much like there was a pretrial hearing on Stand Your Ground in the criminal case which ended up waived) This would be a pre-trial hearing in a civil court, so it would not be before the same judge that presided upon his criminal case.

Now, One would think that any judge worth a damn would summarily grand such a motion. The standard of proof civilly is lower, and O'Mara should have no problem showing at a hearing that Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force. I would think it'd be open / shut, but with the politics involved in this case who the hell knows.


Bob S. said...

I think you are right and wonder if the Martin family really wants to have a trial or if they are just going for a settlement.

As I understand it, the information found on Trayvon's cell phone could be introduced (much earlier in the process) in a civil trial where it was barred in the criminal case.
I'm not sure the family wants to tarnish (and possible reduce the potential revenue source) of Trayvon's now saintly image.

Mike W. said...

Bob - Yes, it's my understanding too that all of the evidence that was disallowed regarding background etc. etc. would be allowed in a civil suit, which is bad news for the Martin's since their son was a 17 year old thug.

The downside for Zimmerman is that "preponderance of the evidence" is a significantly lower standard of proof than reasonable doubt.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Zimmerman has no money. The Martin family would come out better milking the public with their Trayvon Martin Foundation.

Anonymous said...

You never know what a jury will do. Obviously guilty criminals have been acquitted, and obviously innocent people have been convicted. If Zimmerman is tried again (whether in a civil lawsuit or a federal civil rights trial), there will be a lot of political pressure on the jury to find him guilty of something, anything, to appease the protestors. In the second (federal) trial of the LAPD cops in the Rodney King case, the jury wrongly saw their duty as averting a riot, rather than reaching a fair verdict based on objective examination of the evidence.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that Zimmerman can be sued, because the jury did not necessarily find him innocent, they just had a reasonable doubt as to his guilt. They may have decided he was not guilty of murder, because he did not have malicious intent. They might have convicted him if the charge had been something like criminal negligence or reckless endangerment. If Zimmerman does successfully claim immunity, then there will be more BS from the activists and the MSM about how Florida law allows trigger-happy rednecks to murder innocent black children and get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if Martin had killed Zimmerman, and had been prosecuted for it, every limousine liberal in Hollywood would be wearing a "Free Trayvon Martin" button or T-shirt.

Bubblehead Les. said...

I think there's another wrinkle to consider. Read somewhere yesterday that if they get a Civil Suit, O' Mara WILL go for the "Stand Your Ground" hearing FIRST, which could render the Civil Suit moot.

And since there's all that Trial Evidence, plus the "Not Guilty" on all counts, I doubt that Zimmerman would lose the "Stand Your Ground" hearing.

But we shall see.

Divemedic said...

Mark O'Mara said that he believes that he would prevail in any such suit. Keep in mind that Zimmerman cannot settle, because he has no funds with which to do so.
Not only that, but a win nets the Martins exactly nothing. Zimmerman is 'judgement proof' in that he has no assets.
Balance that with the fact that if Zimmerman is in fact granted stand your ground immunity, the Martins would have to pay his legal fees. For that reason, I don't think you will see a suit.

Geodkyt said...

The Martins will try and wait until Zimmerman starts collecting bucks from his meritorious lawsuits for defamation. THEN they'll try and bankrupt him, claiming all the settlement money from HIS suits.

Anonymous said...

Juries don'y render findings of innocent. You're either guilty, or not guilty. He was found not guilty, so in Fl., he can not be brought through a civil action.