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Must see: The Zimmerman jury instructions

  • HLN is covering the George Zimmerman trial live, gavel to gavel
  • Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012
  • Read a copy of the instructions given to the jury
George Zimmerman jury instructions

Monday night at 10 p.m ET on a special edition of HLN After Dark, Vinnie Politan is one-on-one with the Zimmerman prosecution team to try to find out what happened. HLN has been all over this case, and nothing is off-limits in this primetime interview.

Jurors in the George Zimmerman trial will head to the deliberation room Friday to decide the former neighborhood watch captain's fate, and the "guidebook" they'll be using to reach a verdict is the jury instructions. Those instructions spell out exactly what prosecutors must have proven for a guilty verdict of second-degree murder or manslaughter, and also tell jurors how Zimmerman can be found not guilty if they believe the killing can be excused by "justifiable deadly force."

Read: The full instructions given to the Zimmerman jurors (pdf)

In order for the jury to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder, the prosecution must prove the following three things, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Trayvon Martin is dead.
  2. The death was caused by the criminal act of George Zimmerman.
  3. There was an unlawful killing of Trayvon Martin by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

Coming soon to HLN: Georgia v. Andrea Sneiderman

Jurors are also asked in the instructions to consider the less included charge of manslaughter. In order for the jurors to return a guilty verdict of manslaughter, the prosecution must prove two things, beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. Trayvon Martin is dead.
  2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.

The instructions say that "a killing that is excusable or was committed by the use of justifiable deadly force is lawful."

The form gives jurors a detailed description of "justifiable use of deadly force," saying:

"At issue in this case is whether George Zimmerman acted in self-defense. It is a defense to the crime of Second Degree Murder, and the lesser included offense of Manslaughter, if the death of Trayvon Martin resulted from the justifiable use of deadly force.

'Deadly force' means force likely to cause death or great bodily harm.

A person is justified in using deadly force if he reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself.

In deciding whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you must judge him by the circumstances by which he was surrounded at the time the force was used. The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

If George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

In considering the issue of self-defense, you may take into account the relative physical abilities and capacities of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

If in your consideration of the issue of self-defense you have a reasonable doubt on the question of whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, you should find George Zimmerman not guilty.

However, if from the evidence you are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman was not justified in the use of deadly force, you should find him guilty if all the elements of the charge have been proved."

Click here to read all of the jury instructions, which also include details on how jurors should weigh the evidence and what the rules are for deliberations.

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