Practicum: Did the police have probable cause to arrest George Zimmerman the night of the shooting

March 25, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Write down or memorize these rules:

1. A police officer must have probable cause (i.e., reasonable grounds) to believe that a suspect committed a specific crime before he arrests the suspect. If he arrests a suspect without probable cause, the arrest is unlawful.

2. Whether probable cause exists depends on the totality of the circumstances.

3. A person is under arrest if a reasonable person in the same situation would not believe they were free to terminate the contact with the officer and leave the area.

4. Pursuant to the exclusionary rule, all evidence seized from a suspect after an unlawful arrest cannot be used against the suspect.

5. A person subjected to an unlawful arrest has a cause of action against the arresting officer for all damages caused by the unlawful arrest.

Now, let’s take a look at the Trayvon Martin case and decide whether the police had probable cause to believe that the defendant unlawfully killed Trayvon (i.e., that he did not kill him in self-defense).

They certainly knew he killed him because he admitted that he did.

What else did they know?

The had the recorded NEN call, the recorded 911 calls, various witness interviews at the scene of the shooting, the EMT’s report regarding the defendant’s physical condition and injuries, the photographs of the defendant taken at the station house, and the defendant’s statements at the station house.

Do not consider the results of the autopsy, forensic analysis at the crime lab, and other evidence obtained after the first night.

Pretend you are the judge.

Is that information sufficient to constitute reasonable grounds to believe the defendant did not kill Trayvon Martin in self-defense?

Next question:

Notwithstanding that he was permitted to leave the station house after submitting to an interrogation, was the defendant under arrest at any point that evening?

With the exception that I have given you the rules that must be applied and y’all can collaborate with each other, these two questions are similar to and probably were asked on more than one Criminal Procedure final exam in law school.

Who will be the first to provide an answer?


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