What's happens now that Zimmerman is charged in Trayvon Martin death?
April 11th, 2012
06:07 PM ET

What's happens now that Zimmerman is charged in Trayvon Martin death?

The special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin shooting case has announced she has filed a charge of second-degree murder against George Zimmerman.

So, what did special prosecutor Angela Corey have to do legally to get here and what will happen next?

In Session's Beth Karas and Jessica Thrill break down the steps Corey took in order to file the charges and how the case will proceed from here.

STEP 1 – Now that Zimmerman is in custody, he has a “first appearance” before a judge

* Zimmerman had his first appearance at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
* First appearance hearings have to happen within 24 hours of someone’s arrest.
* The judge read the charges, so Zimmerman is clear about the crimes he is accused of.
* The judge addressed Zimmerman’s right to counsel. Zimmerman has hired Mark O’Mara.

STEP 2 – Zimmerman’s bond

* Second-degree murder is considered a “nonbondable” offense because the maximum penalty is life in prison.
* Both sides may have already agreed on a reasonable bond.
* But if they haven’t, then Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, can ask for an “Arthur hearing” in an attempt to get bond set.

  1. If O’Mara does ask for an “Arthur Hearing,” it could happen early next week.

* At the “Arthur hearing,” the burden is on the prosecutors to show that Zimmerman should not be given bond.

  1. To meet that burden, they will have to present evidence to support no bond.
  2. If the prosecutors fail to meet the burden, the judge will look at other factors to decide whether to set bond. Those factors include Zimmerman’s ties to the community, whether he’s a flight risk and whether he’s a danger to the community.

* This hearing is the opportunity for the defense to see the prosecution’s evidence against Zimmerman. So, we could get to hear some of the evidence that has not been disclosed.

STEP 3 – Arraignment

* The arraignment will likely happen within two to three weeks of the arrest.

* Zimmerman may or may not appear in open court for his arraignment.

  1. Often the defendant will waive the appearance at the actual court hearing and his attorney can enter a written plea of not guilty on his behalf.

* Zimmerman will be arraigned and must enter a plea on the charges, most likely “not guilty” (at this stage, defendants almost never plead guilty).

  1. In fact, O’Mara has already indicated that publicly.

STEP 4 – Defense files a motion to dismiss based on “stand your ground” law

* Zimmerman is entitled to a pretrial evidentiary hearing on whether he can use the stand your ground immunity.

* The burden at that hearing is on the defense to prove by “a preponderance of the evidence” (meaning it’s more likely than not) that Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force.

  1. In Florida, an individual can use deadly force anywhere (with no duty to retreat) as long as he/she:

– is not engaged in an unlawful activity;

– is being attacked in a place he/she has a right to be; and

– reasonably believes that his/her life and safety is in danger.

* The judge decides whether Zimmerman’s actions were justified and therefore entitle him to the stand your ground immunity.

  1. If the judge finds the force was justifiable, then the charges are dismissed and Zimmerman is immune from further criminal prosecution and, possibly, civil liability.
  2. If the judge finds the force was not justifiable, then the charges against Zimmerman move forward (see steps 5 and 6 below)

* If the judge rules Zimmerman is immune, the prosecution can appeal that decision to a higher court.

STEP 5 – Pretrial

* Both the prosecution and defense could file a slew of pretrial motions in the case that deal with anything and everything from turning over documents and evidence to keeping certain evidence out at trial. It is too early to tell.

STEP 6 – Trial

* Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder.

  1. To convict someone of second-degree murder prosecutors have to prove several things beyond a reasonable doubt.

– First, that Trayvon Martin is dead.

– Second, that George Zimmerman’s criminal act caused Trayvon Martin’s death.

– Third, that Zimmerman knew his actions were reasonably certain to kill, that he committed the act with a depraved mind and the act itself was indifferent to human life.

NOTE: Prosecutors do not have to prove that Zimmerman intended to kill Trayvon Martin.

Zimmerman could assert self-defense at trial, but the burden is on the prosecution to prove that it wasn’t self defense beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. The jury will have to consider the circumstances surrounding the killing and decide whether it was second-degree murder or a justifiable use of deadly force.
  2. The jury could also look at lesser-included offenses. At some point during or after the trial, the attorneys will meet with the judge in what is called a “charging conference” to argue which legal instruction the judge will give the jurors. We will not know which lesser-included offenses will be given to the jury until then.

* It is too early to tell what lesser charges the evidence may support, but one possibility is manslaughter.

  1. To convict someone of manslaughter, prosecutors have to prove two things beyond a reasonable doubt:

– that Trayvon Martin is dead AND
– that Zimmerman’s acts caused Trayvon Martin’s death

NOTE: Manslaughter does not require that it be an intentional killing, only that the act that caused death was intentional and not justified or excusable.

  1. Zimmerman could assert self-defense at trial, but the burden is on the prosecution to prove that it wasn’t self defense beyond a reasonable doubt.
  2. The jury will have to consider the circumstances surrounding the killing and decide whether it was manslaughter or a justifiable use of deadly force.

NOTE: In the charging document, Corey alleges that Zimmerman killed Martin with a gun. That is important, because if the jury does convict Zimmerman of the lesser charge of manslaughter, using a gun increases the penalty that Zimmerman would face on a manslaughter conviction.

If convicted of second-degree murder, Zimmerman faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison without parole.

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. RCDC

    Now the defense should prove if its self defense.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ABCD

      This is where most of the lynch mob messed up... The burdon of proof is on the prosecutors not the deffence... dead men tell no lies ...

      April 11, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. GOD IS THE JUDGE

    @haha your delutional

    April 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. edeveryday

    The Justice Department is just buying time, temporarily, by charging Zimmerman. They have nothing to lose by charging him and everything to gain ...temporarily. The only reason they arrested Zimmerman and charged him was to shut all the "bruthas" up and calm them down. Just wait until the judge reviews the evidence in 3 or 4 weeks, and then based on the legal guidelines spelled out in the "Stand Your Ground" law, dismisses the charges. Oooo baby! The black community will go ballistic.

    April 11, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patryk

      O.K. Let me get this straight... I come at you with a gun and you proceed to kick my ass... I shoot and kill you... Yet, I can still claim self defense???!!!... All because I can't take an ass whooping over something that I started???!!!!... I HAD the gun to begin with...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!..........Are you THAT stupid??!!!!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • WMoonFox

      @Patryk: Possessing a weapon and brandishing it are two completely different concepts. Which Zimmerman is guilty of can radically alter the story. Zimmerman claims he was not brandishing, and there is no evidence to contradict his story. It is unlikely that the case will be won or lost on this point unless new evidence comes to light.

      April 11, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Black people are the ones that are afraid to take an ass whoopin. I have never been able to fight a black person fairly bc it takes 10 of them to beat up one white person. If you do beat the crap out of one they run and get a gun. They are not honorable people and are a disgusting race all together. They are exterminating each other let's just sit back and enjoy the show :)

      April 12, 2012 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • julie

      yes they willriot

      April 12, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • George Zimmerman

      I caused TM to envoke his flight or fight response by following him. He thought his life was in danger, and he was right. In no way did I think my life was in danger, since I had a gun, I'd use it, and I did. I killed a resident of the community I was supposed to protect. I screwed up.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. renee

    Look at the latest mug shot, his nose is perfect

    April 11, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kalwen

      It's been 6 weeks .. from the time he was attacked and defended himself.

      April 11, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRUTH

      And didn't Trayvon have a right to "stand his ground" as well?

      April 12, 2012 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. renee

    .

    April 11, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. flashtrum

    What's next?
    Media-ignited trial.
    Not guilty.
    Riots, Looting, Arson. Rinse and repeat.

    April 11, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Young83

    Justice at last

    April 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Really!!

      I will need to make this simple so that you can understand.

      At this point there is no justice, only a politically motivated arrest by a Black States attorney who is a politician. Justice will only be if a jury finds Zimmerman innocent or guilty based on the facts and forensics that neither you or I have.

      I think it is you who are the racist here.

      April 11, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Young83

    At "really" im racist try being black in america lol give me a break a man shooting a kid with tea and skittles outweighed him by 100lbs and he had a gun but yet u want to defend him lol let guess im racist towards white people haha zimmerman is mexican and jewish but I guess lol

    April 11, 2012 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Give me a break

      Being black gives you more opportunities than me. What are you doing with your opportunities? Same as Trayvon? So, you give me a break...

      April 11, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • WMoonFox

      @Young83: You have not been keeping up with the facts of the case. Contrary to initial reports, Zimmerman did not outweigh Martin by 100lbs. The difference in weight was ~10lbs.

      April 11, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • scorpio6114

      Hey Fool!, Zimmerman is not Mexican, do your research!

      April 12, 2012 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Really!!

      I am not taking a position on guilt or innocence.

      I simply don't know the facts and neither can you.

      You are jumping to a conclusion of racism before the facts are out. Your assumption that I am not a minority is a sure sign of your bigotry. I have faced racism and profiling in my life but choose not to let that make me a racist.

      I don't know that Zimmerman is 100lbs heavier, I have heard his weight quoted anywhere from 175 to 225lbs. Weight is not the issue here there are people heavier than me that I would not be afraid of and there are people 100 lbs lighter than me that could kick my ass.

      Maybe you can tell me why many of the pictures of Martin show him 4 years younger than he is?

      My point is that if Zimmerman killed Martin he should be put away for life but his conviction should be based on facts, not media hype.

      April 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. WMoonFox

    What's next is that this show-trial will move forward at a painfully slow pace so that the star of the show, Angela Corey, can soak up as much of the lime light as possible. Anyone with an IQ above room temperature, after viewing this woman's record, knew the day she was appointed exactly how this would play out. Whether she can get a conviction or not will depend entirely on what, if any, evidence the State has kept secret, because there is little that has been made public to support this charge.

    Guilty or innocent, at the end of the day, Martin will still be dead, Zimmerman's life will be ruined, and this woman will profit by the suffering of both men. And the public is lapping it up by the bowlful.

    April 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • TRUTH

      Including you.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. DarkSkiesRBest

    Step 5 – Defense files a motion to dismiss based on Florida's “stand your ground” law
    While Judges tend to be reluctant to dismiss a case like this, if the Prosecution does not have a smoking gun we do not know about then it may be dismissed.

    April 12, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
  11. thad shad rack

    God is sending legions of angels to kill all police, armies, and armed people to bring peace,
    this is the meaning of judgment day in the bible ane Koran

    April 12, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Cindy

    I'm so tired of this ..... I used to be on Trayvon's side ... not any more ..... this went out of control ... thanks to Spike, Oprah and the rest that has made this a fight between blacks and whites .... where are the protests for the other blacks that were either guned down or run over by pick up trucks ?

    April 12, 2012 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • vesperel

      this is about where i'm at, cindy. a black guy got shot by someone who isn't black and all anyone can scream is racist hate crime. zimmerman isn't a racist, he's just a nut who had a gun and a hero complex hopin for a chance to shoot some punk and get his 15 minutes of fame. i've never met a single white person who was actually racist anyway, but many of the blacks i know seem to think i'm some kind of sub human for being white. go figure...

      it doesn't matter what the verdict is in the end, if he's found innocent he'll have to go into witness protection thanks to all the overblown outrage over the race issue.

      here's a hint. racism won't die until both sides let it go. get over it. hell, where i live whites are a minority. stop blaming us for everything just because we're white.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  13. kent grotz

    It's summertime. Relax and let the Law do it's job.

    April 12, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • julie

      yeah right...this whole sitiation is an outrage...let him go

      April 12, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. Johan S

    Zimmerman needs to plead guilty, fess up to what he done and why .. and then ask for the mercy of the court. I reckon if he shows remorse he oughta serve maybe 4 years followed by 15 to 25 years of community service.

    I don't think he's remorseful though, so it'll never happen.

    April 12, 2012 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • George Zimmerman

      I caused TM to envoke his flight or fight response by following him. He thought his life was in danger, and he was right. In no way did I think my life was in danger, since I had a gun, I'd use it, and I did. I killed a resident of the community I was supposed to protect. I'm screwed.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Aasbilmic

    What?

    Republicans.

    April 12, 2012 at 3:41 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10