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. Great ancient civilizations

    hah apes and monkeys living in a ghetto. guess to ignorant black people thats a civilization

    April 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • fedup

      If that's how you feel I would like you to go to the ghetto to tell the apes to their face betcha won't make it home lol

      April 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      While your white ancestors were still living in caves (the ghetto of the ancient world) and painting stick men, people of color were flourishing in some of humanity's greatest civilizations. Does Egypt ring a bell you moron?

      April 12, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. MO

    According to my website there are more white people live below the poverty line. What people fail to realize is that the numbers are based on percentages which would mean that of course the minority would appear to be higher percentages due to them being a small part of the population.


    April 12, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John

    This case will just cost Floridians an enormous amount of money just like Casey did. It is a "he said-law says" case with no real witnesses to the crime(s) committed. Sorry Mr. Sharpton, but this is a typical race-bait that will never be won in your favor.(white/hispanic guy wrongfully goes to jail for legal protection of himself) Unfortunately, the marchers are doing more harm than good, and you and your pathetic entourage only entice the whole race argument(cue the "amen!" from my followers here). So Floridians, enjoy wasting the money, then enjoy paying the parents even more after the civil case.

    April 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ralph

    Ahhh jeeez I was gonna give my two sense but I see all the other people said it for me. F. U. Colored people do me a favor and the rest of america GIVE ME a REASON because I will gladly take care of business

    April 12, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      You are a true coward Ralph, and you use of the term "colored" shows your lack of education and intelligence.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • N. B


      April 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • kparrish

      You could give two sense??. You could if you had any, but that's obviously not the case.

      April 13, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. fedup

    Ralph I wish you could have took Trayvonn place you racist trash

    April 12, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • udub

      Ralph's a coward. He stays under his rock in fear.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. not scared of monkeys

    I tell all black people to there faces that I don't talk to there kind. I won't even let a black person serve me. You are worthless trash and your whole race is as well. If you riot me and many people like me in this country who are tired will be there. I would to show you how scared I am.

    April 12, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • udub

      We did riot that's why that creep is locked up. I must have missed you. Quiet as a church mouse once again.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • kparrish

      Hey, monkey man. Did you drop out of school in the 2nd grade? You are practically illiterate. I'm white and you're just white trash it appears.

      April 13, 2012 at 10:42 pm | Report abuse |
  7. not scared either

    You tough little thugs only got guts in groups. White America is tired of your whole race listen up.

    April 12, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  8. I am scared

    Black people are animals they have no morals and have nothing to live for so that allows them ability to commit horrible crimes and not care. That's why the prisons are full of them. Someone needs to stop them they are ruining this country.

    April 12, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Is that why it has always been white men who wage war after war? Maybe you should complete the 5th grade before you comment any further.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • fedup

      And you should be trash

      April 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vom Brunhaus

      Ever watch First 48 on TV?

      April 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Harry

    Nobody cares that's the problem. People let blacks do what they want because they are scared. Grow a set stand up for this country. Stop taking this stuff. Only you can prevent the black race to continue perpetuating this stuff. Let's let them know we won't take it anymore.

    April 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chris

    This whole comment thread should be removed. Most of the comments are abusive, harassing, defamatory, degrading and intimidating. And CNN should be ashamed and required to remove this garbage from the internet.

    April 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      I could not agree more. Shame on CNN.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • tired of colored peopl

      Just because you don't agree doesn't make it wrong.

      April 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • mema

      In total agreement. CNN puts these comment treads on anything that causes a divide of the people. If it has to do with race or religion they make sure it has a comment section. Shamefull!

      April 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
  11. sam

    i hate jews

    April 12, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Hitler

    I hate you all even myself

    April 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. mema

    People quit with the rasism. Its so childish and we should be so over race by now.

    April 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Vom Brunhaus

    What next Corey will be FIRED after she loses the case.

    April 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lisa

    wow, it has gotten really ugly. let me remind you all that a CHILD is dead and a man is in jail. black, white, purple, green or red we all bleed blood and we all mourn the loss of a loved one. I have voiced my opinion in this case. but more than anything I will be the first to say racism from either side is WRONG!!!!! cut the crap people.

    April 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10