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. DrJeep

    My money says that the judge will find him immune from prosecution and let the Prosecution kick this can up to an appeals court. Keep passing the HOT potato – it's the American way!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. VinceRN

    Well, know we know. In Florida if a person who happens to be a minority is beating your head against the ground you have to let them. Minorities are now allowed to kill non-minorities in Florida, and it is a crime for the person being killed to try to stop them. Another on the list of states I won't be visiting.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Unit34Ahunter

      Apparently not just in Florida. There were about 100 witnesses and a clean video of the perps on that poor fellow who got the stuffing beat out of him in Baltimore. The NAACP and Al $harpton haven't managed to get a witness to step forward and name the perps though.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • MiamiD

      From the residents of the State of Florida, THANKS!!! Please stay away, we are too reasonable for your ilk. Understand that if anyone encounters unwarranted harassment they, like Trayvon, also have the right to defend themselves.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1up

      So you can get pummeled to near unconscious by someone 100lbs your lesser but still have a clear mind to shoot them in the back...smh. What world do you live in!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • cloudyproject

      Wow – finally a witness! I thought there wasn't one. So, since the claim of "head beaten on the ground" (and the video showing the shooter with no blood or injuries) has a tremendous bearing on this case, make SURE you testify that you indeed SAW the decedent beating the suspect's head on the ground. FINALLY some clarity in this case! (But I'd back off that whole "it's OK for minorities" claim – the law does not state that – it just makes you sound like an inbred racist, and you don't want to sound like that, do you?)

      April 11, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Unit34Ahunter

    What happens now is that I stock up on ammunition just in case the ghettos react badly to an acquittal.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Keep spewing hatred, but ZImmerman's fate is now in the hands of the judicial system. Nothing you or I say now matters. May the wheels of justice grind!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      Remember guns and killing landing Zimmerman where he is right now.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • chandra30

      amazing how you can sterotype what will be done its people like u that can only type and hide behind your comments then we wonder why this nation will never be united growup bigamist jerk

      April 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raphael

      keep feeding the gun manufacturing system, based on the irrational fear they plant in your head. The only dancing monkey here is you not "the ones" you claim you need to defend yourself against.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Unit34AHunter

      No hatred spewed, Al. It's just a fact of life in the United States that people riot when their expectations of the legal system in specific cases are not met. A person would be imprudent to not be prepared for that contingency.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. toocy

    It boogles my mind that some people are so consumed by hatred, they think a teen walking home with some skittles and an iced tea deserves to die because a neighborhood watch wannabe (Mr. Zimmerman wasn't even an official neighborhood watch member) decides who should and who shouldn't be walking on the street. If Mr. Zimmerman had listened to the 911 operator and waited in his car until the police came, Trayvon would still be alive. Now instead of expecting Mr. Zimmerman to be held accountable for his actions that night, people want to blame Trayvon, the fear of riots, the media and even President Obama. Mr. Zimmerman is responsible for the events that led to the death of Trayvon, no one else. He killed him, no one else.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Electroguy

      It boggles my mind that you think you know what happened yet you werent there.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paige

      Check your facts. The 911 dispatcher never told him to stay in his car. The 911 dispatcher told him "we don't need you to do that" in reference to Zimmerman following Treyvon. All that means is that the dispatcher did not want to be bothered with staying on the phone and getting updated information. It is clear that the dispatcher only said that once, at the very end of the call, and did not push the matter. All of this bologna about Zimmerman being told to stay in his car is just another glaring example of the media and the public stretching and skewing facts to show what they want them to show.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dagobert II

    I'm gonna wait for Nancy Grace's prediction so I'll know what WON'T happen. If the prosecutor sticks with second degree murder I see another 'over charging' acquittal being handed down, then the riots will begin. I better stock up on popcorn.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raphael

      she probably is over charging, it will end with aquittal because the charge was overshot, but all trayvon's parents wanted was the guy to be taken into custody and investigated in the first place, like a normal case.

      This still was a step up from Sanford PD trying to neglect the case.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Moronic Law

    The Stand your Ground law is Moronic. In this case with Zimmerman, I have witnessed people that have been in Fist fights that have been REALLY beaten, bloodied, and had Nasal Fractures unlike Zimmerman, and oh by the way they lived to tell about it without having to Kill someone. MORONIC LAW and all the people who support that are MORONS.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • HofG

      Maybe if they had a gun, they wouldn't have been beaten.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Unit34AHunter

      They're good laws, but they do not apply in this instance.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |

    @vinceRN.. Not sure what facts your basing your comments on. In case you have not thouroughly read all the information regarding this case. Let me help you out, Mr. Zimmerman himself is a minority. He is hispanic. Your comment is an uninformed one.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tim

    He will get off and only serve time in jail during the trial. If I read the article correctly they have to prove all 3 bullets, which I don't think is possible. I think they went for 2nd degree murder to appease the masses/mob knowing he wont get convicted, thus passing the buck/blame of the mob onto the jury.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. HofG

    African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population ... but black men make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • kamanakapu

      And 97% of the arresting police officers are white.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raphael

      and 75% of those incarcerated black men are in jail for non violent crimes , namely the possession of marijuana.

      Your point?

      April 11, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • T_Alaska

      Half of that 13 percent is men!

      April 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. portland tony

    Now it's time for all you armchair CSI'rs to put your junior FBI badges back with the rest of your kids toys. Now the real justice system goes to work. With real justices, lawyers, and witnesses. Plus real evidence will be introduced and maybe a jury will decide who the bad guy is! God I hope they will televise this trial.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Charles manson

    Zimmy lost the fight to the underage teen, couldnt take getting beat up, so he shot him it happens all the timen

    April 11, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. chandra30

    maybe maybe not but its cold and heartless people like you because its not your son or loved one yet until you been through it yourself and experienced this tragic ordeal u will never understand the pain of losing a child just sweep it under the rug right im glad he was charged its a long road ahead but a road worth fighting for justice justice justice never approach anyone u dont know and dont anwser any questions to a stranger u dont know stand your ground should apply for trayvon as well nor has it been said yet that zimmerman acknowledged himself to trayvon that he was a neighbor watchman either so if its night and ur following me ill run and if cornered again by that same stranger i dont know i would fight for my life we'll never here trayvon story he's in the grave while he's breathing big difference so he can spend his lies either way because the person he's speaking them against is in the ground with no voice anymore he didnt deserve to be shot down like a dead dog he was human and have people that loved him to just like we all have gods justice shall prevail over all so stop stereotyping every black person judge them from knowing them not from what you read or see we are not all the same and if u hateus so much stop tanning to color your skin and be darker than what u really are listening to our music and all if you feel that much hate towards black americans or any minority as u people say about us peace be still

    April 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lefty avenger

    What's next? Conviction of Zimmerman for murder. Banning of personal guns. Obama re-elected. 4 More years of a Progressive Liberal takeover with Obama finally under our control. Universal Health care installed and the oil baron wars called off. That's what's next.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. N Tyler

    Yes the Lord sit high and look low its in his hands say what you want its about time they got him get the police to.Zimmerman got new lawyers walk away now wash your hand clean.Let him rotten to death.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Anne

    Paige, Apparently you too are only focused on the dispatcher telling Zimmerman that they did not need him to follow Trayvon. I did listen to the tapes and have been following CNN and HLN regarding this tragic situation.
    The funny thing to me is how is Zimmerman claiming that he was the one yelling when he had a gun. Have you or anyone else that will read my post ever heard of anyone screaming for help while carrying a gun? No. You know why because you have the upper hand. Next how is it possible for you to feel threaten when you were the one to decide to trail someone. The logic behind what Zimmerman is saying is not making any sense. There may have been a scuffle but to kill someone when you have no proof that they are doing anything wrong while walking in a neighborhood is unjustifiable.
    At this point I am glad that they are looking into this case with a fine tooth comb and I am praying for peace for Trayvon's mother and father. I don't care what race anyone may be but when it comes to your child being killed all you, me or anyone for that matter will be looking for is peace and answers.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paige

      @ Anne,

      I was focusing on the dispatcher in that post because that is one of the most common arguments that the media is spewing and people are grasping onto. "The police told him to stay in his car". He didn't talk to the police until after the incident. Dispatcher does not equal police. And even the dispatcher didn't tell him to stay in his car...

      Yelling "help" while you are in a situation that needs attention and assistance is common sense. Whether you have the gun or not. People with common sense, when forced to use their weapon in any situation, will want witnesses to back up the details of the story. If I were in the situation then I would sure as hell would have been yelling for help and attention.

      You can easily feel threatened when you decide to follow someone. Especially if that person turns out to confront you when you had no intention of getting into a confrontation. Trayvon's girlfriend came forward earlier on about having been on the phone with him just prior to the incident and hearing Trayvon question "what are you following me for?" which to me sounds like a confrontation. If you are just trying to protect your neighborhood and you want to make sure that the police contact the person to make sure they weren't doing anything wrong then you probably aren't planning on an actual confrontation.

      The logic behind what Zimmerman is saying is solid.

      And he did not shoot Trayvon because he "had no proof that he was doing anything wrong while walking in the neighborhood". He did not just see him wandering and decide to shoot him from a distance. If his entire plan and goal was to kill Trayvon then he certainly wouldn't have called 911 himself and he certainly wouldn't have created a close quarter standoff.

      You may not care about race but everyone who made this big enough to be covered by national media is focused solely on that. That Trayvon was simply killed because he was black. It was tragic that someone was killed and I can't imagine how hard that is for his family but to instantly throw the race card into the ring and say he was killed because he was black is just stupid.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
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