Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Special Prosecutor Angela Corey Announces That George Zimmerman Will Be Charged With Second-Degree Murder; Zimmerman Voluntarily Surrenders

On April 11th, 2012, special prosecutor Angela Corey, who was selected on March 22nd to replace Norm Wolfinger as the lead prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case, announced that she would seek second-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman in the shooting of Martin, thus steering a middle ground between the homicidal intent required for a first-degree murder charge and the mere negligence implied in a manslaughter charge. Apparently, Corey believes that Zimmerman didn't set out to kill Martin, but ultimately didn't care whether or not Martin's death resulted. Corey also announced that Zimmerman voluntarily surrendered to authorities on April 11th and is in custody at an undisclosed location in Florida. Zimmerman's attorney can ask for bond at an upcoming hearing, and Corey indicated she would not oppose bail, providing it offers sufficient security.

Local media sources in Florida include WOFL Channel 35, WFTV Channel 9, WKMG Channel 6, and the Orlando Sentinel (the best all-around story). WESH Channel 2 has a good legal analysis.

Corey says that authorities did not come to the decision lightly, nor was it based on public pressure. "It is the search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment," said Corey. "Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We will continue to seek the truth in this case. There is a reason cases are tried in a court of law," Corey added.

Angela Corey could have charged Zimmerman with either first-degree murder or manslaughter. However, she foreclosed the first option when she said she would seek no grand jury indictment; a first-degree murder charge requires an indictment. Corey did not explain why she didn't go for manslaughter, which states that the death was caused by culpable negligence or criminal negligence, and which would have carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Apparently she believes the shooting amounted to more than negligence. The focal point is when, after the initial encounter with Martin, Zimmerman chose to pursue Martin even after the dispatcher told him not to; it is in dispute whether Florida's Stand Your Ground law covers this because a Neighborhood Watch person normally has no powers of arrest or detention, but simply notifies police if he or she witnesses a crime.

Second-degree murder, defined in Florida as unlawful killing by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The state does not need to prove the intent to cause death in second-degree murder trials. According to former defense attorney Jeff Deen, there are three factors for second-degree murder: A person of ordinary judgment would know it is reasonably certain to kill or cause serious injury to another and is done out of ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent and is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.



Zimmerman's original attorneys, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, withdrew from the case after they lost contact with Zimmerman for a few days. Zimmerman is now being represented by Orlando attorney Mark M. O'Mara, who most recently served as an analyst for WKMG Channel 6 during the Casey Anthony trial. CFNews13 documents reaction from a host of prominent persons, including Governor Rick Scott, Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Jacksonville), the ACLU, and Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. Al Sharpton also added his two cents worth, but Fat Al was relatively restrained, saying "We don't want anyone high-fiveing tonight. There was no winner tonight. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice."



Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder wants to horn in on the action, saying that the Justice Department will take appropriate action if it finds evidence that a federal criminal civil rights crime has been committed. Holder made the comments in an appearance before a civil rights organization founded by Al Sharpton. Holder added that Justice Department officials including Tom Perez, the assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, and U.S. Attorney Robert O'Neill from Florida have traveled to Sanford to meet with the Martin family, members of the community and local authorities. This raises the spectre that in addition to the state charge, Zimmerman could also face federal hate crime charges. This is not officially considered double jeopardy because it would come from a different jurisdiction; the double jeopardy prohibition simply means the same jurisdiction cannot try someone more than once for the same offense unless the first trial results in a mistrial.

Considering the Justice Department has suffered a string of losses with Ted Stevens, Vic Kohring, Pete Kott, the Hutaree Militia, and are repeating many of the same mistakes in the Schaeffer Cox case, perhaps the Feds might want to back off and let Florida do its job.

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