In a surprising move, special prosecutor Angela Corey charged George Zimmerman with second-degree murder. Zimmerman turned himself in last night, and now sits in jail awaiting a hearing to decide whether the “Stand Your Ground” law applies in his case.
“It seems like an enormous swing to be able go from not feeling you have enough evidence to arrest him, to charging him with essentially as high as you can charge him in second-degree murder,” Richard Hornsby, a criminal defense attorney in Orlando, Fla., told msnbc.com. “Second-degree murder requires him to have engaged in an intentional act with ill will, hatred or spite. It means he basically went and was looking to shoot Trayvon Martin.”
It does seem like an extreme charge given the information that has been released to the public. However, we do not know what evidence the prosecutor has. The evidence may point to a higher charge. Also, the second-degree charge does not require premeditation. All it requires is that Zimmerman acted in a way “demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.” The prosecutor may be able to demonstrate that, however, there is a problem.
Before the case can go to trial, a judge must decide whether the “Stand Your Ground” law applies in this case. The defense will present their evidence, and presumably so will the state. Should the judge rule in Zimmerman’s favor, the charges are dismissed and Zimmerman walks. There is an extra wrinkle for the state: the judge only needs to rule based on a preponderance of the evidence. That means the judge need only find that Zimmerman’s story is more likely true than it is untrue.
This is the same level of evidence needed in civil cases like lawsuits and custody cases, so this does not bode well for the state if they do not have much evidence contradicting Zimmernman’s story.
Even if the case goes to trial, the evidence we have seen so far does not point to second-degree murder. It barely points to manslaughter, and that is only if one takes into account Zimmerman’s 911 call and his past behavior. It is a problematic case, and it is possible that Corey charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder in order to get a plea deal. We will have to wait and see what happens.