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. JusticeForGeorgeZimmerman

    No, GZ did NOT continue to follow Trayvon after 911 said they didn't need him to do that. This fact will come out in the court and you will find that it was TM that sneaked around and attacked GZ. George Zimmerman had to shoot to save his own life. YOUR misunderstanding of what actually happened is what has caused the outrage and violence lately! Plus the fact that blacks constantly blame whites for everything wrong in their lives. The LAW says that a person is allowed to defend themselves from harm. It is a good law and JUSTICE will prevail for George Zimmerman.

    April 12, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • JC

      So apparently "JusticeFor" has more evidence than the prosecutor. She's as much of the problem as people who are jumping the gun and claiming Zimmerman is guilty. Let's wait for real justice to take place, Kay?

      April 12, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Eloe


      April 12, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Q

      Guess we can't defend ourselves when a thug attacks from behind with no warning. I still carry both me 9s anyway...

      April 12, 2012 at 11:34 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.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |

      You are stupid you must live in a double wide.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • tlhwraith

      So you don't think it's a little bit hinky that magically, right after being reported on a 911 tape (where clearly Zimmerman gets out against the advice of the operator and goes toward), that TM would turn around and attack the person who had reported him, with no weapon (OK, some skittles and a drink), and no motive?

      You can wrap yourself in conspiracy theories and cognitive dissonance all day, the only was I see Zimmerman getting out of this is by legal trickery or some incredibly damning piece of evidence that hasn't been released.

      I hope Zimmerman gets a fair trial, but making him out as the victim is disingenuous.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trevor

      I agree with you 100% and I hope more people view this how you do now that an innocent man is facing life in prison. Another sad case of your guilty until proven innocent.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. J in NJ

    Geroge Zimmerman is a hero! He stood up to a thug in the community that violently attacked him. GZ was not engaged in unlawful activity, he was visciously attached in a place he had a right to be & believed his life was in danger as TM slammed his head into the ground. The only reason the prosecutor filed these charges is to shut up JJ and Al and to avoid riots in the streets. Corey knows this will thrown out.

    April 12, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Q

      Frame Job..........

      April 12, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
    • BJ


      April 12, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      J in nj you are truely a person that lives by stereotypes. May god have mercy on you.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. White America

    Let's unite together and clean this country of all the black useless garbage that lives here. They provide nothing for society they just take and committ crimes. Black people are animals and must be treated as such.

    April 12, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Ray

      I agree I'm tired of these thugs and the people that represent them. They think they can intimmidate us. Well its time to stop it

      April 12, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • fedup

      May u and Gz burn in hell

      April 12, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • MO

      I pitty all the ignorant racist crap being displayed on this page. The bottom line is a 17 year old kid is dead. All this calling Trayvon a thug, why?? Because he was a black male?? I hope and pray for you that none of you all dispite your ignorance ever have to live with the pain that Trayvons family has to deal with. Eventhough it may deserved I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

      As for the most idiotic comment about getting rid of the Black people in the country I laugh at you. Keep wishing on that one..

      April 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • when140justWONTdo

      Let's unite together and clean this country of all the racist useless garbage that lives here. They provide nothing for society they just hate and breed fear and ignorance. Racist people are scared animals and must be treated as such.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. chidi david

    am a business .am a tyre deal

    April 12, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  5. Nig-ars suck

    Black people white america is tired of you. Take a hint shape up or be shipped out in a body bag

    April 12, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Luke Palmer

      I hope you realize that Im a black man too. If you want start the Civil rights movement agin , so be it! just know we have Jesus!

      April 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ralph

    Boycott black people – no more food stamps no more assistance. Make them work for a living or throw them in prison there sure are plenty there anyhow

    April 12, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Luke Palmer

      Without us there wouldnt be a you. we had to slave for you guys back in the day. We already earned our freedom. so shut up all you rascist jerks.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z_2k

      Not necessary. The hard-working Hispanics are taking the jobs away from Blacks. Blacks are being squeezed out of the work-force. Hispanics have even taken over Watts in LA.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Q

    Mr. Z is Ameriac's watchman. I have already started on a statue that I am going to donate to the city of Sanford. He has inspired some of us to stand up and now we are patrolling our neighborhoods too...Truth, Justice and TEAMERICA

    April 12, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • MO

      Hey Q when your hero ends up in jail why don't you go be his roommate so you all can be boyfriends?? Dumb A$$. Your mother should have swallowed you...

      April 12, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. larry5

    At what point does Eric Holder step in at Obama's request and take over the proceedings? Remember, it's campaign time and any bump is a good bump.

    April 12, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. calmndownpeople

    I said it before Zimmerman was charged and it still holds true. All the evidence has not been released. The media doesn't know what really happened nor do we. And this is why he have a judicial system.

    I am amazed at how many people think they can definitively say what happened based on a fraction of the evidence that the media has given (and in some cases spun). The sad thing is no matter what happens there will be people who refuse to accept the decision whichver way it goes, even though they will never have seen all the evidence.

    The Casey Anthony case is such a situation. 12 people sat and heard all the evidence, and at the end of the day they said that the prosecution did not meet the burden of proof. Legal experts say that the prosecution in the case overreached on the charges. However public outcry was that the jury was a group of morons. However everyone making that claim based their opinion off of what they heard in the media. They did not see/hear all the evidence and testimony in court. The jury ruled on what was presented against the charges filed. They made an unpopular decision that even they did not like, but had to based on the prosecutorial failure.

    Charges do not mean guilt and ZImmerman's claim of self defense does not mean innocence. Let the case play out in the judicial system. The media is no place to try a case.

    April 12, 2012 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |

    This world is full of bigots and stupid people like Ralph and Nig-ars-suck you people must live in a trailer. You are so full of hate maybe if your kids get shot or killed maybe you might change or maybe not. TM have a right to defend their child just like you do too. Grow up!

    April 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Luke Palmer

    amen RTURNER!

    April 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike


    April 12, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  13. George

    The only innocent colored person is a dead one

    April 12, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke Palmer

      why cant you accept the fact that God loves the way we are. Jesus died for us so this wouldnt happen. Are you saying he died for nothing!

      April 12, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. gingersrule1

    Hopefully someone kills him in prison. He doesn't deserve the rights our justice system guarantees. He lost those when he killed that boy.

    April 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke Palmer

      No blood shall be spilled. not anymore. don't you see? we are family. we are equal. Gods sons and daughters.we must work together.If some wants to kill us off, so be it.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. George

    There is no god genius

    April 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Luke Palmer

      Atheist! we wouldnt have sold 1,000,000,000+ Bibles if this was fake.

      April 12, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
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