Trayvon Martin murder case: next legal steps for George Zimmerman (+video)
Neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the killing of black teenager Trayvon Martin. His attorney hopes to free him on bond Thursday while defense and prosecution build the case for trial.
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Formally charged with second-degree murder and taken into custody Wednesday, Mr. Zimmerman and his new attorney first will ask that the suspect be released on bond while prosecution and defense organize evidence for an expected trial. That decision is likely to come Thursday.
But in this highly charged case – the shooting death of an unarmed young black man by a white-Hispanic neighborhood watch captain in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. – the first concern may be for Zimmerman’s safety. There had been threats on his life, and neither special prosecutor Angela Corey nor Zimmerman lawyer Mark O’Mara would say Wednesday where Zimmerman (who turned himself in) is being held.
“There’s been a groundswell of emotion on both sides,” Mr. O’Mara said at a press conference Wednesday evening. “We need to calm this down. If George Zimmerman were walking down the street today, he’d be at risk. We’re hoping to keep him safe.”
The initial response from Trayvon Martin’s parents, civil rights advocates, and local officials expressed the same desire for calm and a safe atmosphere in which to proceed with the legal course of justice.
"We simply wanted an arrest," said Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, at a press conference. "I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, justice will be served.”
Unrest in the community will subside now that Zimmerman has been charged, predicted Shayan Elahi of the Florida Civil Rights Association.
"The arrest is partial closure for Trayvon's family and the community at large," Mr. Elahi told the Sun Sentinel newspaper in Ft. Lauderdale. "It also means that Zimmerman will have his right to due process in court and not in the court of public opinion."
That due process includes the following steps, as outlined by the Miami Herald:
•Zimmerman faces a charge of second-degree murder with a firearm, a first-degree felony punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison and up to life behind bars.
•Within 15 days, prosecutors must start providing Zimmerman’s defense attorney with “discovery,” the first witness statements, police reports, and photos that will be used as evidence against Zimmerman. Most of the evidence will be released to the public and media, although the substance of any of his confessions can be withheld before trial.
•Once all the evidence has been provided to Zimmerman’s defense team, his lawyer can file a motion for immunity under Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law. A judge must hold an evidentiary hearing and decide by a “preponderance of the evidence” whether Zimmerman was acting in self-defense.