Blawgletter didn't follow the Trayvon Martin case — State of Florida v. George Zimmerman — but when we heard about the verdict Saturday night we had one big question.

What did the jury charge say about reasonable doubt and self-defense?

Now we know, thanks to The Law of Self Defense blog, which posted the Zimmerman jury charge, which you can read here.

The key passages appear under the headings Justifiable Homicide and Excusable Homicide and Justifiable Use of Deadly Force. They say:


They key to us comes in the next-to-last paragraph, which seems to put on the State the burden of showing beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman did not "reasonably believe[] that it was necessary to [shoot Martin] to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself".

In a civil case, the plaintiff would have to meet a much lower burden of proof — the preponderance of the evidence standard. The defendant would in turn have to show, by the same more-likely-than-not test, that he did reasonably believe he had to wound or kill Martin in order to avoid death or severe injury.

But none of that may matter. A civil jury could conclude that Zimmerman caused the wrongful death of Martin by setting in motion the train of events that resulted in the fatal meeting. The fact that Zimmerman chose to confront Martin may persuade the jury to hold him liable for damages.