Over at EBONY, I explain what the second degree murder charge in the Trayvon Martin case means and what happens next. Yesterday, George Zimmerman was finally arrested and charged for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman is in custody and will have a standard bond hearing today which will be televised. The special prosecutor Angela Corey in a poised press conference explained the charges and that her team had done a full investigation and would do their best to get a conviction on a charge which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Via EBONY.com:
Zimmerman faces life in prison if convicted. “With use of a firearm a conviction for this offense has a 25 year mandatory minimum sentence,” said Bernstein.
Angela Corey had options in terms of what she could charge George Zimmerman with including less serious charges.
Bernstein says, “The prosecutor could have gone with aggravated manslaughter: essentially a killing without malice or premeditation of someone under 18 years old. That also carries a steep punishment or the traditional involuntary or voluntary manslaughter.” It is also possible that lesser included offenses like manslaughter are options once the case goes to the jury.
Considering the choice to go with the more serious charge of second degree murder it is even possible that as special prosecutor Angela Corey has evidence and information about the case that the public does not know. “I wonder what is it we don’t know: is it a witness, a tape, [or] forensics?” Bernstein said.
It is important to know that there are number of proceedings that need to occur even before we get to a trial with a jury of Zimmerman’s peers. “Long before we get to a jury is the unique pretrial hearing on the Stand Your Ground statute. The defense will file a ‘Motion for Declaration of Immunity.’ Remember stand your grand is not merely a defense but rather that a defendant is immune from prosecution or a civil suit. This filing interestingly when filed a judge triggers a hearing before trial in which the judge would determine there is enough evidence to get beyond immunity,” says Bernstein.
That means that a judge will ultimately make the determination if the “Stand Your Ground” law applies to this case and whether Zimmerman is immune to the murder charges as a result. If Zimmerman and his defense were successful in this pre-trial proceeding then the case would be over and it would not move forward to a jury trial.
It cannot be overstated that the arrest is only the beginning. It is a very important step towards seeking justice for Trayvon Martin and his family and we should let the justice system play out accordingly.