In announcing the charge of second degree murder brought against George Zimmerman, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said
“We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts on any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida.”
I am not so certain. It’s an interesting charge and more severe than many expected and it may prove to be a difficult hurdle to clear:
But prosecutors face steep hurdles to win a second-degree murder conviction against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, experts say. They will have to prove Zimmerman intentionally went after Martin instead of shooting him in self-defense, refute arguments that a Florida law empowered him to use deadly force and get past a judge’s ruling at a pretrial hearing.
Legal experts said Corey chose a tough route with the murder charge, which could send Zimmerman to prison for life if he’s convicted, over manslaughter, which usually carries 15-year prison terms and covers reckless or negligent killings.
The prosecutors must prove Zimmerman’s shooting of Martin was rooted in hatred or ill will and counter his claims that he shot Martin to protect himself while patrolling his gated community in the Orlando suburb of Sanford. Zimmerman’s lawyers would only have to prove by a preponderance of evidence – a relatively low legal standard – that he acted in self-defense at a pretrial hearing to prevent the case from going to trial.
One defense attorney thinks it might not even get to trial.
There’s a “high likelihood it could be dismissed by the judge even before the jury gets to hear the case,” Florida defense attorney Richard Hornsby said.
The Florida second degree murder statute says
A second-degree-murder charge arises out of the killing of another person where there is no premeditation, according to the Florida State Legislature. It is a felony and carries up to a life sentence. To be charged with second-degree murder, a defendant must have committed or attempted to commit one of a variety of criminal offenses in which a death occurs and demonstrated “a depraved mind regardless of human life.” Those offenses can include kidnapping; aggravated abuse of a child, an elderly person or a disabled adult; and aggravated stalking. First-degree-murder charges are brought when the killing was plotted in advance and can carry a death sentence.
Trayvon Martin’s mother expressed relief at Zimmerman’s arrest:
In Washington, Martin’s family pleaded for calm in response to the decision. But Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, clasped hands and smiled in relief when she heard Corey utter the words “second-degree murder” on television.
“We wanted an arrest and we got it,” Fulton said later. “Thank you Lord, Thank you, Jesus.”
But that’s not going to be the end of it.
“We’re just glad that he’s behind bars, but we’re not satisfied,” said Ms. Dawson, executive director of Hurting Families With Children In Crime, a Jacksonville nonprofit. The turnout was lighter than expected, but that was because Mr. Zimmerman was charged, Ms. Dawson said, adding, “There would’ve been a riot if they wouldn’t have arrested him.”
Aaron Brown, a civil-litigation lawyer who organized a Trayvon Martin rally last month in Jacksonville, said the case is now “justice delivered, but not yet justice served.”
As mentioned, many were surprised by the severity of the charge. It is suggested that the point of the second degree murder charge is leverage:
“Prosecutors look for leverage. They’ll typically overcharge knowing that gives them wiggle room for plea discussions,” said Derek Byrd, incoming president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “She knows that she could offer him manslaughter at some point or get in front of a jury that could split the verdict and agree on a lesser offense.”
We’ll see how it goes, but it cannot be overlooked- George Zimmerman does not have to prove he is innocent. Zimmerman is going to have some interesting witnesses at his disposal:
Two weeks ago, during an exclusive interview with the Sentinel, Lee disclosed certain details of the investigation and during that session, attended by Serino and others, Serino said his investigation turned up no reliable evidence that cast doubt on Zimmerman’s account – that he had acted in self-defense.
“The best evidence we have is the testimony of George Zimmerman, and he says the decedent was the primary aggressor in the whole event,” Serino told the Sentinel March 16. “Everything I have is adding up to what he says.“
I believe Corey had to bring charges to keep Sanford from being torched. Nor do I doubt the severity of these charges is politically motivated. Angela Corey, who once brought a first degree murder charge against a 12 year old, is running for re-election. Maybe Corey is seeking leverage, or maybe she chose a bridge too far. We shall see. It is going to be a tough sell.