Daniel Greene was a juror in the Timothy Davis murder trial that resulted in a not guilty verdict last Friday. Greene also happens to be an attorney. As such, Greene was focused during the trial on the law as instructed by the judge, rather than on any personal feelings he had about whether Timothy Davis could have retreated when he chose instead to pull out a handgun and end the confrontation by fatally shooting (twice) his 22 year old son. In fact, the law and the jury instructions required Greene to put aside any personal feelings he may have about the law in rendering his verdict.
As a practicing criminal defense attorney in Orlando, Florida, Mark Longwell, of Longwell Lawyers, discussed the case at length with Greene, and a second juror, Javier Zerquera, who was the foreperson for the jury. Of particular interest to Longwell was how the “Stand your ground” law played a role in the decision of the jury, and what parallels may be drawn to the upcoming trial of George Zimmerman.
Timothy Davis was on trial last week for the second degree murder of his son. The retired Orlando police officer admitted shooting his son twice with a handgun. The tragic incident was partially captured on video and widely reported in the media. Most legal analysts expected the trial would result with a conviction.
Why did the jury find Davis not guilty of a crime? According to Greene and Zerquera, it all came down to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Even though the jury quickly concluded that the State did not prove the charge of second degree murder, many felt that a manslaughter verdict was appropriate. Manslaughter was an option the jury had which could have resulted in up to a 15 year prison sentence. Greene told Longwell that, “They did prove their case on manslaughter…but there’s a defense that required us to acquit.”
The defense Greene was referring to is “Stand Your Ground.” Once the jury determined that the victim had caused Davis to reasonably believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to him or to another (this is the definition of justifiable use of force/self-defense), they then struggled with whether Davis should have retreated or found another way to diffuse the confrontation without resorting to the use of a gun. That struggle was resolved by turning to the language of the “Stand Your Ground” law, which specifically states that a person does not have to retreat and may stand his ground to meet force with force, including deadly force.
“Once we read the jury instruction, it was just a matter of following the law. Whether we liked it or not, we had to follow the law. If you don’t like the verdict, blame the law. It turned what would likely have been a manslaughter conviction into a not guilty verdict,” Greene said.
In discussing the case with Longwell, Greene pointed out that the same law and standard jury instruction applies to the Zimmerman case. Greene stated, “The jury in the Zimmerman case will face the same struggle and will ultimately have to apply the same law.”