The special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin killing had to go through legal loopholes to get around Florida’s self-defense laws, but George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder. What’s next?
After Zimmerman’s arrest, the judge will explain the charges, address Zimmerman’s right to counsel and set bond. Bond amounts are determined by whether or not the judge believes he is a high risk of fleeing or if he is a potential risk to the community. During the arraignment, Zimmerman must make a plea. It is very rare for a defendant to plead guilty at this point in a trial proceeding.
After the arraignment, the defense will submit a dismissal claim based on the ‘stand your ground’ law in Florida. However, in order for this to stand, there must be evidence that Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force, was not engaged in unlawful activity, was attacked in a place he had a right to be at, and had reasonable belief that his life and safety was in danger. If the judge finds the use of lethal force justifiable, the charges will be dismissed. However, if the judge determines that the use of lethal force was not justifiable, the case will continue to pre-trial.
During the trial phase, Zimmerman will be charged with second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is any killing that imminently dangerous to another person and demonstrates a depraved mind. A person of ordinary judgment knows when it is reasonable to use force to kill or seriously injure, and does so with the intent of ill will, hatred and spite. Second-degree murder is of a nature where the act indicates an indifference to human life.
In Florida, a charge of second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. There is no chance for parole in Florida, and the sentence would take into account mitigating and aggregating factors.