In a surprising development, George Zimmerman was charged with Second Degree Murder in Florida today. He is now in custody and a court appearance is likely tomorrow.
The charge by the prosecutor is stunning.
First the prosecutor dismissed the grand jury, which took Murder One off the table. Under Florida law, a charge of Murder One can only be delivered by a grand jury.
Much of the evidence in this case has already been made public. There are stories in the narrative of Trayvon Martin as little innocent victim. Turns out, he was not the twelve year old that was shown in the media photographs. He was a seventeen year old football player who was not only taller than Zimmerman, but almost certainly in much better shape.
Zimmerman apparently told the police that he lost Martin, who later approach him and said something to the effect of, “Do you have a problem?” Moments later, he allegedly said something to the effect of, “you do now,” and hit Zimmerman. Zimmerman claims he was punched and knocked down by Martin. Zimmerman claims that Martin began pounding his head into the ground. All of these claims seem to be supported by physical evidence. Zimmerman had a broken nose and lacerations to the back of his head. The back of his clothing was stained and wet when the police arrived moments after the shooting. A Zimmerman family member said that Zimmerman had told the family that Martin tried to take Zimmerman’s gun away from him.
All of that indicates a justifiable homicide.
The prosecutor has charged him with Second Degree Murder. While Florida’s statute has some archaic language in it, Second Degree Murder is basically the same as First Degree Murder minus the premeditation.
Why Second Degree Murder with a case where the known facts do not support the charge?
There is always the possibility that the prosecutor is sitting on a smoking gun that would convict Zimmerman but if that were the case, he would have been charged the night of the shooting.
At a news conference late this afternoon, Special Prosecutor Angela Corey said, “We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the state of Florida.”
Pardon me, while I laugh. Public pressure is exactly why this case was brought.
It is also why the charge is Second Degree Murder.
Why? First, I do not believe the prosecutor could have gotten a grand jury to go for Murder One. Even though the prosecutor selects the evidence and the standard of proof in front of the Grand Jury is only probable cause, it would not have happened.
In the criminal justice system, what she did is called “over charging.” Ethical prosecutors are trained not to over charge. You go with the facts because a prosecutor’s duty is to seek justice, not secure a conviction.
By going with the greatest charge she could get, the prosecutor has two advantages. First, she increases the chance that Zimmerman will have a bail set so high he cannot make it. Every prosecutor knows that if you can get a defendant into jail, your chances of getting him or her to plead guilty go up by an order of magnitude.
Second, when the prosecutor makes a plea bargain offer, she will have a greater chance of that offer being accepted. If Zimmerman is looking at a life sentence, a plea to a reduced charge is hard to say no to, particularly if it involves only a little jail time or no jail time at all.
If Zimmerman cannot make bail and her offer involves immediate release, the offer is again hard to decline.
This case should have been presented to a grand jury instead of having a single prosecutor, subject to public pressure, make the decision. George Zimmerman will now have a trial and hopefully the State of Florida can find twelve unbiased jurors.
Based on what is publicly known about the case, it never should have been filed.
Hopefully, justice will be served.
I am glad that I don't watch such travesty any more.
All we know is what has been in the media, and that has been a circus. Many have made the cold blooded calculation that this case can be used to further a political cause.
Personally, I could care less as to the black/white/Hispanic angle, nor any other angle. I just want the truth to come out and justice to be served -- and, from our vantage point, I have no idea whatsoever what that truth is.
For defending himself .... BUT defending himself against a kid that "looked like he could have been my (obama's) son" has been his downfall! Someone will kill him in jail! They know that! How dare the law kow-tow to a hate group like the NBP! I'm outraged! This is total b.s!
Several things about this concern me. The fact that the first state prosecutor decided not to bring any charges and from that to the special prosecutor who brings murder two after the SHTF? I'm no attorney, but it seems that's one helluva leap. From no charges to possible life in prison?
Then there's Al Sharpton, race-baiter supreme, whom Eric Holder referred to as a "friend" and a great defender of civil rights at a press conference today in Washington. Now there's a nice twosome don't ya think? It's my understanding the Holder's boys have been in Florida "talking" with the local law enforcement. Anyone want to take any bets on how those conversations went? But hey, I'm probably just grasping at staws here. No way our Federal Attorney General would ever do anything that wasn't on the up and up.
Juls, I agree you're probably right. Since seeing this video I've thought I kind of understood why people buckled under pressure: http://www.impeachobamacampaign.com/video-dial-o-for-murder-voter-fraud-intimidation-and-murder-in-the-obama-2008-campaign/
But when does it end? When does one person stand up and say no, I will not be threatened into submission! If anybody were in a position to surround herself with protection it would be this prosecutor.
On the other hand there is a case to be made for making a name for oneself on the back of a high profile case.
In either scenario this woman had a chance to strike a blow for genuine justice all around AND DIDN'T DO IT!! The inmates are running the asylum.
You know what I find most disturbing about that video Carol? It's not just the events that these people talk about having happened - it's the fact that this information - provable, factual information - is out there for all to see and hear and yet not a damn thing has been or will be done about it! The more these kind of things go on the more concern I have about this coming November and whether or not we will even see an election.
I think it's very possible.
You saw how his "Fast and Ferious" project went. This is his and their chance to redeme themselves. Get their hands back on our firearms.
This is one of those "Don't let a good crisis go to waste" events they need. Can we say (Political) folks.
always appreciate your insights into criminal law, Judson. Wow, can you say "sacrificial lamb"?
I don't have any more information about this than anyone else here has, but I suspect that this prosecutor knows these things:
-- the emotional situation surrounding this killing is out of control.
-- certain radical groups are on the brink of causing havoc if Z isn't charged.
-- the evidence about the actual events is indeterminate
-- if Z is not charged & arrested/held in custody there will be race riots and other crimes
-- Z is probably not convictable of anything greater than J-walking
-- achieve at least temporary peace and get positive exculpation for the Florida state government and Florida justice system by charging the maximum possible offense -- even though Z will probably walk on it.
-- they cut a sealed deal with Z: he cops to a lesser charge, maybe involuntary manslaughter; gets 5-to-7 years with guaranteed two-year parole in 18 months which is after the nutty emotions cool down...
The other scenario is to seat a 50-50 Black/White jury and play to a hung jury then the state drops the case.
"Z is probably not convictable of anything greater than J-walking" - but he does 18 months on a plea deal to appease the angry mob? This is now American justice?
Juls...cutting deals like that is the norm and has been for decades...the angry mob part makes it almost necessary...Z still gets screwed but at least he'll be able to sit down without major discomfort in a while...compared to getting his entire butt ripped off and maybe losing his life that bit of discomfort is a minor annoyance to him...
The only people who win in this deal are the bad guys...
I know you're probably right Jim, it's just so frustrating that we've come to this point. This is what happens when you have easily intimidated people who give in to these kinds of threats. When that happens then it's no longer justice - it's a sham.