Jurors' Decision Part Analysis, Part Human Feelings

By O'Mara, Mark | The Florida Times Union, February 13, 2014 | Go to article overview

Jurors' Decision Part Analysis, Part Human Feelings


O'Mara, Mark, The Florida Times Union


Byline: Mark O'Mara

Times-Union legal analyst Mark O'Mara is an Orlando criminal defense attorney who successfully defended George Zimmerman in 2013 in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a case prosecuted by State Attorney Angela Corey.

A just verdict: What percentage is humanity? What percentage is analysis?

The Michael Dunn-Jordan Davis case presents us with yet another unique opportunity to view and review how our criminal justice system works. It's very easy to argue in the abstract that we are a country that values liberty so much that we are willing to let 100 possibly guilty men go free for fear of incarcerating one innocent man. That's the essence of "innocent until proven guilty."

While that is a great and laudable principle, how does it actually work in practice?

Our system is set up such that once Michael Dunn asserts that he was acting in self-defense and presents some evidence to support it, that presumption of innocence (that he was acting in self-defense) stays with him until and unless the state disproves it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Under a strictly analytical view of the law, if the jury has a reasonable doubt as to whether Michael Dunn may have acted in self-defense (Did he really think at the moment of the shooting that there was a shotgun in the other car?), then it should be an acquittal. And that's true even if there are unexplained inconsistencies in Dunn's presentation - even if there are conflicts in some of the lesser significant facts, unless, of course, those inconsistencies and conflicts attack Dunn's credibility so badly that he cannot be believed. This is an analytical perspective on our criminal justice system, and from this perspective, Dunn has a chance for an acquittal.

Now let's look at the humanist side and how our system handles that. Jurors are admonished not to decide their case based upon bias or sympathy for one side or the other. They are reminded that the lawyers are not on trial and that any feelings about the lawyers should not be considered. …

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