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. Greenspam

    So when does the media circus begin?

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

      About a month ago, you missed it.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raphael

      GENERAL POPULATION NEED TO CONVERGE ON THESE BALTIMORE HOOLIGANS FOR CHARGES!

      I'm very curious to see how these cases turn out for the suspects. Lets see if there's appropriate disparity between their sentences.

      many here are already saying Zimmerman will be acquitted which is highly plausible, based on the inconclusive evidence mainstream has a hold of. However if prosecutors got anything else that more definitive its a definite game over for Zimmerman, as his story started to unravel even against the crappy evidence gobbled up by media.

      I'm certainly not law enforcement but based on assault charges in B-more I'm seeing at least for the supposedly first identified suspect in the Baltimore Beatdown, Aaron Parsons, probably 5-10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine for assault alone. The robbery is a felony in of itself according to the websites of defense attorneys in B-More Area.

      Although no racial slurs were used, the Mt.Dew guy had minor bruises and a bloody nose and some objects stolen, while Trayvon is dead.

      But At least we can really see how and if the justice system is actually working and who its working for.

      *Just keep these in mind as both cases go towards due process....

      *Trayvon, dead...
      * Mt. Dew guy, bloody nose, physical bruises, and a bruised ego from getting pantsed on the internet, also missing an expensive watch and an Audi, but he's alive.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kingofthenet

    I don't like instigators, and George is an instigator first class.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Brown

    Why is it alright for the New Black Panthers to put bounties on someones head and call for a race war and the Federal and local law enforcement not do anything about it.Let the KKK or some other organization devoted to just whites do the same thing and you knowthe FBI,ATF,and any and all law enforcement would be all over them.What are they afraid that doing something to the New Black panthers that are calling for bloodshed would start a race war.Stupidity and ignorance should not be forgiven or looked over just because of someone race.As far as Al Sharpton they should have locked him up a long time ago.He always wants to run his mouth trying to get other people to do some dirty work for when he doesnt have the courage to do it.

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

      uhhhhh the neo-nazis went to Sanford Florida holding an armed rally, and nobody liked them there either in addition to no one liking the black panthers around. But the difference is neo-nazis kill people... frequently across the US. NBP at the worst just spout hate speech, but they haven't killed anyone.

      Please actually read the news before you comment on 'liberal bias' or 'reverse racism' from black people or the fedral government.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      The NBP didn't put a bounty on his life, they put a bounty on a citizen's arrest. May want to research your accusations more in the future.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike Buck

      So you are defending the KKK?

      April 11, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. GOD IS THE JUDGE

    @haha you have serious mental issues GET HELP

    April 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DarkSkiesRBest

    The prosecuters must have some damning evidence we have not heard if they believe they can overcome Step 5 Defense files a motion to dismiss based on Florida's “stand your ground” law

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

    April 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kim

    That man stalked that young child how is stalking self defense? Stalked stalkers stalking is not self defense. Stalked will never be self defense and Zimmerman stalked and shot that child in the back.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Raphael

    Next general population need to converge on these Hooligans in Baltimore for charges.

    I'm very curious to see how these cases turn out for the suspects. Lets see if there's appropriate disparity between their sentences.

    many here are already saying Zimmerman will be acquitted which is highly plausible, based on the inconclusive evidence mainstream has a hold of. However if prosecutors got anything else that more definitive its a definite game over for Zimmerman, as his story started to unravel even against the crappy evidence gobbled up by media.

    I'm certainly not law enforcement but based on assault charges in B-more I'm seeing at least for the supposedly first identified suspect in the Baltimore Beatdown, Aaron Parsons, probably 5-10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine for assault alone. The robbery is a felony in of itself according to the websites of defense attorneys in B-More Area.

    Although no racial slurs were used, the Mt.Dew guy had minor bruises and a bloody nose and some objects stolen, while Trayvon is dead.

    But At least we can really see how and if the justice system is actually working and who its working for.

    *Just keep these in mind as both cases go towards due process....

    *Trayvon, dead...
    * Mt. Dew guy, bloody nose, physical bruises, and a bruised ego from getting pantsed on the internet, also missing an expensive watch and an Audi, but he's alive.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Raphael

    Next general population need to converge on these Hooligans in Baltimore for charges.

    I'm very curious to see how these cases turn out for the suspects. Lets see if there's appropriate disparity between their sentences.

    many here are already saying Zimmerman will be acquitted which is highly plausible, based on the inconclusive evidence mainstream has a hold of. However if prosecutors got anything else that more definitive its a definite game over for Zimmerman, as his story started to unravel even against the crappy evidence gobbled up by media.

    I'm certainly not law enforcement but based on assault charges in B-more I'm seeing at least for the supposedly first identified suspect in the Baltimore Beatdown, Aaron Parsons, probably 5-10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine for assault alone. The robbery is a felony in of itself according to the websites of defense attorneys in B-More Area.

    Although no racial slurs were used, the Mt.Dew guy had minor bruises and a bloody nose and some objects stolen, while Trayvon is dead.

    But At least we can really see how and if the justice system is actually working and who its working for.

    *Just keep these in mind as both cases go towards due process....

    *Trayvon, dead...
    * Mt. Dew guy, bloody nose, physical bruises, and a bruised ego from getting pantsed on the internet, also missing an expensive watch and an Audi, but he's alive.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Raphael

    NEXT THE GENERAL POPULATION NEED TO CONVERGE ON THESE BALTIMORE HOOLIGANS FOR CHARGES!

    I'm very curious to see how these cases turn out for the suspects. Lets see if there's appropriate disparity between their sentences.

    many here are already saying Zimmerman will be acquitted which is highly plausible, based on the inconclusive evidence mainstream has a hold of. However if prosecutors got anything else that more definitive its a definite game over for Zimmerman, as his story started to unravel even against the crappy evidence gobbled up by media.

    I'm certainly not law enforcement but based on assault charges in B-more I'm seeing at least for the supposedly first identified suspect in the Baltimore Beatdown, Aaron Parsons, probably 5-10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine for assault alone. The robbery is a felony in of itself according to the websites of defense attorneys in B-More Area.

    Although no racial slurs were used, the Mt.Dew guy had minor bruises and a bloody nose and some objects stolen, while Trayvon is dead.

    But At least we can really see how and if the justice system is actually working and who its working for.

    *Just keep these in mind as both cases go towards due process....

    *Trayvon, dead...
    * Mt. Dew guy, bloody nose, physical bruises, and a bruised ego from getting pantsed on the internet, also missing an expensive watch and an Audi, but he's alive.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. williamm

    we got him now let find out in court

    April 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    Justice will be served when George Zimmerman walks out of custody a free man. No amount of white liberal race baiting, or black racist vigilantism, will hide the fact that this was a case of self-defense.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. David Murray

    I predict that even if Zimmerman is guilty of murder, it will be impossible to prove it. Remember that a Jury has to decide if somebody is guilty beyond reasonably doubt. So unless there is more evidence that we are not aware of, I predict he will be set free.

    I also STRONGLY support stand-your-ground laws. Based on Zimmerman's story he was attacked while returning to his vehicle. Which makes Martin the instigator. However, if Zimmerman turns out to by lying, and he did in fact instigate it, then he needs to go to prison.

    What irks me to no end is how people think Young Martin was some innocent kid out to buy skittles. Well, those people are living in blissful ignorance or in denial.

    My only hope is that justice prevails. If evidence shows Zimmerman to be guilty, then so be it. But if it turns out he is innocent of a crime, I hope people will accept that and move on with life.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lonny Bush

    ya george zimermman

    April 11, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lonny Bush

    ot teel let him go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ♚Mmmmm♛

    ....Book'em Danno...dah! na-na-na-non-nah!
    dah! na-na-na-non-nah! non-naaaaaaah?
    da-dada-daaaaaaaaaahh!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
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