Over the weekend protesters took to the streets with signs and banners crying for one thing, “Justice 4 Trayvon” at least justice as they interpret it. The jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, which took place last year. Zimmerman was originally charged with second degree murder which in Florida requires that the prosecution prove ill-will or hatred towards the victim, but the judge also allowed the jury to consider finding Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter, a lessor charge. To convict Zimmerman of manslaughter the jury only needed to find that Zimmerman acted without lawful justification. Zimmerman’s defense attorneys argued that Zimmerman acted in self defense and therefore had the lawful justification.
Lesser Included Offenses in Jury Instruction
When criminal cases go to trial in Utah, which is very rare, then the defendant is entitled to a jury, unless the charges are only infractions. At the end of the trial process, after both sides have argued their cases then the last thing that the prosecution and defense battle over are the jury instructions. The jury instruction is what is given and read to the jury about the law, stating what the charges are, the elements of each crime that must be proven for a conviction, and the defenses that may apply. One of the ways that defense attorneys can help their clients is by getting a lessor included offense included in the jury instruction.
In the Zimmerman case, the defense attorneys actually did not want the lessor included offense because it was quite clear from the proceedings that the prosecution was not going to win on the murder charge. However, in other cases, where the prosecution may have possibly given the jury enough to find the defendant guilty on the serious offenses, then the defense attorneys can ask that lesser included offenses be put in the jury instruction so that the jury has the option of finding the defendant guilty of a lessor offense. One of the classic examples of this are aggravated charges. Under Utah law, there are a number of offenses that can be charged as an aggravated offense if a deadly weapon is involved, such as aggravated assault, instead of simple assault. So if the defendant is being charged with aggravated assault but it is unclear whether or not he actually had a deadly weapon then by getting simple assault included in the jury instruction the defense attorneys can give the jury a chance to consider a lessor offense and possibly lower the penalties the defendant will face, if he is convicted.
Utah Criminal Defense Attorney | Hire an Attorney with Trial Experience
Regardless of whether or not you plan on taking your criminal case to trial its important to have an experienced trial attorney by your side as your legal counsel. At Salcido Law Firm our attorneys have represented countless clients and we know the ins-and-outs of the trial process. Because of that we can help you make decisions about possible plea agreements as well as prepare you for what to expect at trial if you ultimately decide to take your case to trial. To find out more call us today at 801.413.1753, we can answer your questions and help you make the right decision in regards to your legal representation.