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. whta

    Stupid america, we have bowed to the racist black's demands and threats and an innocent man is on his way to the chair.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheMendicantBias



      April 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danny A. Moose

      No worries, whta. Zimmerman is not on his way anywhere but to an evidentiary hearing, where any judge in his right mind will find the use of force justified and dismiss the charges. If this circus doesn't end there, it will definitely end at trial when at least one juror finds reasonable doubt.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • OSH

      Naw just locked up for the rest of his life. Then that would be justice.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      You should take your white hood off while you type, it might improve your spelling and punctuation.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hahaha

      Use of force justified? LOL. Good one. After years of injustice, FINALLY peaceful protest and outrcy has resulted in some kind of progress. I applaud it, and hope this rent a cop gets exactly what he deserves.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • bronx75

      If I am reading these replies correctly it appears as though we are placing way too much confidence on what the media feeds us. Not to mention I have seen high profiled murder cases with children involved played out in the media for years with pressure for justice. I don't remember reading any racist comments towards those protesters for Justice. It seems to me that someone needs a lesson on the definition of racism. TO me ANY CHILD killed deserves JUSTICE. I don’t care what race the child is or the perpetrator is.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      Justice = racist black ideas? LMAO! You're an imbecile. Pure bred!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon E.

      On his way to the chair? If you read the article rather than just spewing nonsense, you'd see quite clearly that the maximum penalty is life in prison, not death. Zimmerman followed Martin after being told not to, if he wouldn't have followed him, the entire scenario would have never happened. He set into motion a series of events that lead to a death.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Haha

      @ Danny Moose, Bail? Please. He'll probably have a better chance joining the black panther party.. Especially when the coward decided to wanna to run.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • SOMom

      Please tell me how Zimmerman is an innocent man. He followed this kid and accosted him. If the kid did attack him, it seems Trayvon is the one who was acting in self-defense, as Zimmerman is not a police officer and did not identify himself as such. Was Trayvon supposed to stop for just any person who accosted him? I don't think so. Trayvon didn't know who Zimmerman was.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |

    becareful you might be the next person charged because of public pressure and not facts or evidence

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dave

    Parties tonight! The thug is in custody!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danny A. Moose

      No, Dave, the thug is in the ground. The person who put him there will be out on bail by the weekend.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  4. WIlly G.

    I love how these killing machines(black people) think the KKK still exists. haha. Idiots.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      I am black and I can tell you, regardless they are IRRELEVANT.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brandon E.

      You're obviously lacking intelligence. The KKK does exist, troll.


      April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      @ brandon's link [http://charlotte.cbslocal.com/2012/04/02/ku-klux-klan-accidentally-sends-membership-letter-to-black-person/]

      hahahahahahahaaa!! XD omfg!! what a bunch of imbeciles!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. from Philly

    Yoo idoit Mendicantbias you must be on drugs Zimmaner has angrymanegement issue I hope get the chair !

    April 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Allen

    There is another requirement under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" statute that your article does not mention. If the defendant does anything to provoke the use of force by the other party, then the defendant cannot claim the benefit of the "Stand Your Ground" statute. See Florida Statute 776.041. This requirement may be a factor in this case, since it could be argued that Zimmerman provoked Trayvon by "stalking" him. Please update your article (Step 5) to add this requirement, since it is very important that people understand this is also part of the law.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      Good point. Unfortunately your post will not penetrate the thick skulls of those on these boards that only believe what the media, ACLU, NAACP, and the Martin family tell them. Facts are too difficult to comprehend, it is easier to jump to conclusions instead of presenting a logical argument.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kalwen

      Following somebody down the street where they have the legal right to be is not provoking somebody .. get a clue ..

      April 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Terra

    You guys are complete morons. If this prosecutor believes that enough evidence has presented itself to charge Zimmerman with 2nd degree, then let that speak for itself. This woman and her team have delved into the evidence themselves and they came out with a hefty charge, surely with facts to back it up... YOU, on the other hand, have nothing but your opinion and presumption.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rick CT

    This is the same woman who is prosecuting a 12 year old as an adult in a murder case. Do all those seeking prosecution of Zimmermann believe this is right?

    April 11, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • LOLLOL!!

      brilliant and rather ACCURATE comparison you just made by comparing zimmerman to a 12 year old, 😛 however, the point is...do the crime do the time! PERIOD.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LOLLOL!!

    Danny A. Moose you are a traditional and perfect example of a C.O.W.A.R.D
    i LOVE! how you can type on the internet in the "safety" of your own home and express your hatred for black people, the same people you smile and talk to everyday. Life must TRULY suck for you. But it's time to accept and FACE FACTS! You see, justice ALWAYS prevails. Unfortunately for you, Martin, his family, his supporters will have their day. And I wish I would have the opportunity to witness your fugly expression when it comes out that he is found GUILTY!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Haha

      He'll go back to working at Mc Donalds and continue to serve me my freshly made fries...

      April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Anonymous

    Whether we think he is guilty or not won't matter. They have to get a jury to convict him and it may not happen. How many people swore Casey Anthony was guilty? Everyone. Yet she walked free because there was not enough concrete eveidence to convict her. The same will happen here. If the evidence was there, this charge would have come much sooner. They had to really dig deep to find enough evidence that they could even charge him. He'll walk. Whether that's justice or not, I'll let you figure that one out on your own.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. wazuri77

    Self-defense, or what lawyers properly call “justification,” can’t be reasonably claimed by aggressors, especially aggressors like Zimmerman who follow a person, confront that person, outweigh that person, and outgun that person by possessing a firearm compared to Skittles and iced tea.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Terra

    Anonymous – Or how about they wanted to be thorough and dig up every detail they could find. Considering quite some time has passed, and all of the witnesses, evidence, etc. surrounding the case, perhaps they wanted to err on the safe side and be quite sure. You never know, maybe they had enough to charge him from the start, but insisted on finding more to back up their charge. It could go either way.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. LOLLOL!!

    He'll go back to working at Mc Donalds and continue to serve me my freshly made fries...]


    April 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kody W. Smith

    I personally think the charges are a political move to keep the people from rioting even worse. People seem to forget get about the right to a fair trial,there is no way nor anywhere in America where this man can receive one due to the court of "public opinion". Also, as far as I have read ( I can be wrong) no new evidence has been brought forward, it's the same evidence in which the DA refused to charge him with because they didn't have any probable cause to charge him with anything. I see this case being dismissed or if it some how makes its way to trail, I see it being a "Not Guilty" verdict

    April 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jamal

    zimmerman was told he didnt need to follow travyon for his own safety first. why are ppl making it seem that dispatch said we dont need you to do that as tho its for the suspect's safety?

    April 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
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