During his opening statement in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, prosecutor John Guy declared that the defendant "did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to." Rather, said Guy, "he shot him for the worst of all reasons—because he wanted to." If the shooting was not justified, a more likely explanation is that Zimmerman panicked in the course of a fight he was losing—that is, he feared serious injury or death, but not reasonably so, which is a requirement for self-defense under Florida law. But because Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder, the prosecution is obliged to show, according to the standard jury instructions, that he acted "from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent" and demonstrated "an indifference to human life." If Zimmerman had been charged with manslaughter, by contrast, the prosecution would have to show only that he deliberately shot Martin (which he admits) and that the shooting was not justified by self-defense. The extra burden of proving second-degree murder is leading the state to portray Zimmerman as almost cold-bloodedly executing Martin.
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