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10 Things We Learned From the Trayvon Martin Case

By Brett Snider, Esq. on July 16, 2013 4:49 PM

A Florida jury delivered its verdict in the Trayvon Martin case on Saturday, more than a year after George Zimmerman was charged in the unarmed teenager's killing.

Like many Americans, we here at followed the Zimmerman/Martin case closely from the very beginning. Over the past 18 months, we created a wide range of new content -- and updated some of our pre-existing content -- to help consumers like you learn more about the legal aspects of Zimmerman's prosecution.

If you haven't been following the case as closely as we have, here is a quick recap of (at least) 10 legal issues FindLaw has covered as the Trayvon Martin case unfolded:

  1. Murder charges. When George Zimmerman was arrested in April 2012, FindLaw visitors flocked to our concise explanation of homicide charges. On our criminal law blog, a post on the differences between degrees of murder drew many readers, while our breakdown of the elements of second degree murder was eventually cited in a USA Today infographic.
  2. "Stand Your Ground" laws. Zimmerman ultimately chose not to pursue a "Stand Your Ground" hearing, but FindLaw's Learn About the Law section took the opportunity to explain the Florida law and others like it.
  3. Neighborhood watch issues. Zimmerman's actions as part of the neighborhood watch didn't sneak past FindLaw's content writers, who offered a solid definition of what these organizations are and -- more importantly -- aren't.
  4. Grand juries. Although grand juries are more common in federal cases, FindLaw's blog writers explained why the special prosecutor for the Trayvon Martin case chose not to go to a grand jury.
  5. Homeowners' associations. The homeowners' association at the subdivision where Zimmerman lived settled a case between Trayvon Martin's family and itself. Meantime, visitors to our Learn About the Law section got a good look at the essentials of what makes up an HOA.
  6. Six-member juries. FindLaw's blogs followed Zimmerman's curiously petit jury from selection to verdict, and explained how Florida law and the Constitution permit such small juries.
  7. Using jokes in opening statements. After Zimmerman defense lawyer Don West delivered an inappropriate knock-knock joke, FindLaw's Legal Professional blogs gave lawyers the blow-by-blow on why punch lines don't belong in the courtroom.
  8. Using Skype to interview witnesses. The Trayvon Martin trial was not insulated from online pranksters who interrupted a witness' testimony via Skype. That allowed FindLaw's blogs to offer analysis of what exactly went wrong, from the perspective of both legal consumers and legal professionals.
  9. The manslaughter option. Although jurors chose not to find Zimmerman guilty of any crime, FindLaw's Blotter offered a heads-up on the jury's last-minute instruction to consider manslaughter in addition to murder.
  10. Affirmative defenses. The Trayvon Martin case was arguably decided on the strength of Zimmerman's claim of self-defense, and FindLaw explored the impact of an affirmative defense more than a year before the verdict.

As the Trayvon Martin case now moves into the realm of potential civil lawsuits and defamation claims, FindLaw's analysis and insight into these issues will continue. Stay tuned.

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