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. Monkey Business

    That damned Egypt!

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

    funny zimmerman os not even worthy enough by the medi to print his whole name. people dont seem to get..it doesnt matter what his injuries where..it was self defense...no matter he has already neen convicted...sad

    April 12, 2012 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
    • DRJ

      Our president is called by just Obama on media...who the f is zimmerman then?

      April 12, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  3. dutspup

    Pandering to the fullest extent, Corey's press conference was laughable. There is no way on Gods green earth they can convict him of second degree murder. But its cheaper than calling in the national guard isnt it. So when this guy walks in a few months whatya think will happen? same but worse, now all the people who know this is bogus will be just as upset that the state wasted our tax dollars trying to presecute an unpresecutable case!

    April 12, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous010

      You're not wrong. I take this from a CBS News article:

      "Prosecutors look for leverage. They'll typically overcharge knowing that gives them wiggle room for plea discussions," said Derek Byrd, incoming president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "She knows that she could offer him manslaughter at some point or get in front of a jury that could split the verdict and agree on a lesser offense."

      It's truly sad that this is the way our justice system 'works'. Even in law, it's all about business deals, bargains, and arrangements and other BS like it. It's not about justice; it's about seeing what you can get someone put away for – the prosecutor has already decided he's guilty. She should have to charge him only with the crime she has evidence for.

      Now, if that *is* 2nd degree murder, so be it. I would assume she has many more facts about this case than anybody posting here, myself included, so I won't pretend I know whether this was self-defense or not because I don't and I haven't seen any of the evidence myself.

      April 12, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ted

    I don't know if he's innocent or guilty, it's not gonna be up to me to make that decision, but will either side of the argument actually accept a court or jury's verdict one way or the other?

    April 12, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. MajeztyRene

    Sadly all of you racists are probably right. I'm bracing myself for the fact that Zimmerman will get off for murdering Trayvon. Perhaps they SHOULD let him go TODAY, give him back his plastic pretend cop badge and send him back to that gated community. They could have a picnic and place the blanket right over the place he murdered Trayvon. Is THAT good enough for ya.

    April 12, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  6. MajeztyRene

    No matter what, Zimmerman WILL face a higher Judge. THAT I'll continue to pray for and peace to the Martin Family. Now, just wait and see.

    April 12, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. stevie

    Sadly this in none of our business and the media makes it and promotes idiots like Al Sharpton. Why can't the public just let this go – who are all those losers protesting – They obviously don't have jobs

    April 12, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • MajeztyRene

      The Martin family CALLED for Mr. Sharpton because they had nowhere else to turn. They were being dogged by the Sanford Police department about their son's whereabouts !! He was left in the morgue for THREE days ! If we just ' let things go' we'd still be , BY LAW, riding in the back seats of the bus. I've made it MY business ! I have a 17 year old and I feel Trayvon is MY son. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE! Get it ?

      April 12, 2012 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. MajeztyRene

    And after Zimmerman's big victory, I hope the Martin family takes a few pages out of the Goldman's playbook and file a wrongful death suit against him. So ALL that money Zimmerman has been begging for and WILL get can go right back to Trayvon's family. Now THAT would be poetic justice !!!! real talk

    April 12, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  9. bill K

    I feel bad for everyone involved. Zimmerman is now in the system and his life is in the courts hands. I've been there, done that, and I feel for him, it's a horrible feeling. I wish him luck and hope his attorney is good and on his game, he's going to need all the help he can get. Godspeed.

    April 12, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  10. andriluntungan

    Wil Come To Andri Online news Blogger Oke

    April 12, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  11. cawage

    trayvon mother believes the the loss of her son was an accident.. stilll there is hate mail and threat to zimmerman every day. CNN MSNBC NBC CBS ABS do not show or reoprt these but FOX will. that why for fair news go to FOX. they are not the best but they do reoprt the corect news not a made up report. now all you liberal start after me and let the crooks go.

    April 12, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  12. Boyce

    Where in the world do 30 year old men go around stalking 17 year old teens? That guy knew better.

    April 12, 2012 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I agree! and he was told by the police NOT to pursue Trayvon. he not only knew better but he was also told better.

      April 12, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • LJ

      I agree as well, if it had been a policeman, he would have been placed on administrative leave, had his gun confiscated while the situation investigated. This guy was given his gun that he killed a kid with and sent on his way. Nuts.

      April 12, 2012 at 10:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. JusticeForGeorgeZimmerman

    Now that GZ has been arrested for shooting to SAVE HIS OWN LIFE, where is the arrest for Spike Lee and the New Black Panthers for recklessly endangering and inciting violence??? Why have these people not been charged with CRIMINAL activity for trying to get people to harm or kill GZ??? There needs to be JUSTICE here! I am tired of racist violent blacks who think they can do anything they want because of long ago slavery. There is NO WHITE GUILT here! Take responsibility for your actions and for your life! Things are going to change.

    April 12, 2012 at 10:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      "GZ" took his own life in his hands when he chose to pursue a person after the police told him not to and they were on their way. this is a case of a wanna be cop playing gangbusters.

      April 12, 2012 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. Antartica777

    In Florida, a charge of murder in the second degree carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Florida does not offer the chance for parole. The sentence would however take into account several mitigating and aggregating factors.

    He'll appeal IF convicted and get 5 years. be out in 1.5 years with good behavior. not bad. by then folks would not be as passionate. its all about curing emotion during the interim (now).

    April 12, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ganan

    This guy (Zimmerman) will NEVER receive a fair trail-the entire situation is very sad. I feel bad for all involved. But Sharpton, Jackson and Obama should keep their mouths SHUT. THEY are insighting violence. The reality is that since Obama has taken office, HE is the one that is dividing this country into black and white.

    April 12, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10