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. Aasbilmic



    April 12, 2012 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Democrats....Barney Frank.....Male Brothel.

      April 12, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      Democrat....Barney Frank...Male Brothel.

      April 12, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Loyal Northern Democrat

    Blacks will breed like roaches and take more of our tax dollers to support their crack and theft habits.

    April 12, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      "Loyal Northern Democrat
      Blacks will breed like roaches and take more of our tax dollers to support their crack and theft habits."
      So I assume you are not loyal to our black Democratic president?

      April 12, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Minnie

      I used to think the racist in America are a myth, an exaggeration.....it's a kind society which thrives on humane factor unlike third world countries. I am sad to see my faith shaken.....

      April 12, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      Learn how to spell you hill jack

      April 12, 2012 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Godis#1

      If u have a problem with black people did u need to take up with God. U need to understand Black people aren't going any where so get over it. Our tax dollars are being wasted on Gov Officials spending our tax money on 30,000 conventions in Las Vegas and bragging about it. So get the facts right and get some Jesus.

      April 12, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. Chimpmaster

    Blacks will breed like roaches and take of our tax dollers to support their crack and theft habits.
    Read to real facts at Chimpmania.com

    April 12, 2012 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Real direct

      Internet coward. Pee wee Herman, type PUNK!!!!!!

      April 12, 2012 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  4. Real direct

    What's next for Georgie...life in prison.But will kill himself soon after. Good riddance.

    April 12, 2012 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • mike

      yes im going to send him a year suplly of vasilene hes going to need it

      April 12, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  5. gregg tate

    Amost clear and succint description. Extremely well done article. Kudos to Karas n Thill!

    April 12, 2012 at 6:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Kudos to the special prosecutor! You don't stalk and persue someone fleeing from a confrontation and then cry self defense later when the fleeing person puts up a fight to defend himself! I believe Florida's stand your ground law was designed to protect people who are attacked but not coward thugs looking for a fight!

    April 12, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Minnie

      Blah, blah, yours is the best comment I have read in so many weeks of this insanity. Finally there is a due process.

      April 12, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Goerge 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 take responsability for my actions.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. GrouchyKat

    Well, I see that mob mentality has won. Anything less and the black community would have rioted.

    April 12, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Minnie

      You mean asking for an arrest of someone who took a life, KILLED someone and have the court decide whether it was justified or not is 'mob mentality'? If that is so, then I am happy that America is still a safe land where lawlessness and at will acts are dealth with the right way.

      April 12, 2012 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. haha to hope and change

    its always about race, well I think the whites, the hispanics, the latinos, the cubans and all other ethnic cultures should get together and storm the black community the next time one of the blacks kill someone of another ethnic culture, lets all riot and burn their places down, lets all say things that are race oriented just like the blacks, let us play the damn race card everytime they open their mouths, its time all other ethnic groups start playing the race card against those race monger blacks

    April 12, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
    • not a free america anymote

      Agreed man! Agreed. They talk about how hard society is on their race....I laugh.....we gave them a shot at the presidency......4 years and they messed it up. Sorry the black races hard days are over. Get educated and move out of your "hoods" and "projects". There is no excuse when you got a black president. They can also stop calling themselves african americans. They aren't from africa. Lol

      April 12, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      @ haha

      No, we don't need a race riot for your asking! We have been through that during the Jim Crow era in America! If we're to endure and progress as a democracy, bigotry, racism and hate must be dealth with accordingly! No haha, America doesn't need a race riot simply because our strength is our diversity!

      April 12, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • OKC

      Thank you........no riots or marches when balcks kill whites, hispanics, asian or blacks.........you know it's excusable "black rage" and all

      April 12, 2012 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  9. taylordab

    all this talk about blacks rioting...the most recent few riots the last couple years are all nearly all white crowds flipping cars and burning property over sporting events (hockey or UK games) or defending JoePa's firing...real worthy causes there

    April 12, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. jerry

    This was staged to sedate the media circus. zimmerman will walk and prosper with books,paid appearances and a made for TV movie.

    April 12, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @not a free america

    "we gave them a shot at the presidency? Are you frigging serious? Four hundred years of free slave labor, helping to build this country from the ground up and decades of segregation, lynchings and oppression under Jim Crow and you say that "we" gave them a shot at the presidency? Are you frigging serious? Let's face it, the freedom of African-Americans in this country came the old fashion way! We earned it!

    April 12, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. Heidi Melendez

    I am glad that Zimmerman was charged. What sparked the rage and pain intially was an appearence of lack care and respect in the shooting death of Mr Martin. I believe if the shoe had been on the other foot there would have been a more through investigation and an arrest to allow a judge to make the call wheter oor not the stand your ground law is applicable. Saying that I would hope the trial will be based on fact and the juries decision is based on Mr Zimmerman's gulit or innocence not on revenge for all the black people who have not gotten a fair shake from US justice.

    April 12, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer


    Well, if Zimmerman walks and ends up with a book deal, paid appearances and a TV movie, then it may be because he was able to hire Casey Anthony's attorney! And if the jury is a coward and ignorant as the Anthony jury, it is possible that he too will walk free! Then perhaps all murderers and cowards across America could move to Florida and kill to become wealthy and famous!

    April 12, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Goerge Zimmerman

      Don't worry, they'll sue me, but not like OJ, I don't have many assets, I won't need them in the 3rd world country where I'll have to go.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike n Big D

    Didn't the african-american community already prosecute/persecute Zimmerman ? who cares about facts of the event -he is guilty right ?

    April 12, 2012 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      Didn't the African American community already prosecuted Zimmerman you asked? Well, havent' you payed attention to the demographics of Americans who have condemened this crime and called for justice? They are Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks and Americans of all ethnicity and race!

      April 12, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. julie

    it is a hate crime what they are doing to zimmerman

    April 12, 2012 at 8:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

      You said its a hate crime what they are doing to Zimmerman? And Zimmerman didn't hate Trayvon Martin? Pathetic!

      April 12, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • ferisbueller

      You're a nutjob. You have no clue as to the workings of the criminal justice system. You think what you are witnessing is unusual, it isn't. You need to learn the process of filing charges. The only unusual thing about this case is the amount of media coverage. Nothing, from the standpoint of the prosecution in this case is unusual. It would be QUITE unusual for charges NEVER to be brought in such an instance, even considering the stand your ground law. If that law applies, and if the judge feels it does so in this case, then he gets his immunity. The system, therefore, worked as set up. So please, take your ignorance elsewhere, it isn't welcome in this public discussion.

      April 12, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
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