George Zimmerman Charged With Second-Degree Murder


Today George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teenager he shot on February 26 in Sanford, Florida. ABC News reports that he is being held at the Orange County Jail in Orlando. 

Florida law defines second-degree murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual." It is punishable by a prison sentence up to life. By contrast, manslaughter, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, is "the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification," when the killing does not meet the definition of murder.

"We did not come to this decision lightly," Angela Corey, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, said at a press conference today. "Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition."

The New York Times persists in mischaracterizing Zimmerman's defense, saying, "Critical to the prosecution will be whether or not the shooting fell under Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law, which gives wide leeway to people who claim self-defense, and which does not require people to retreat before using deadly force." As I've said before, if the fight that ended with Martin's death happened the way Zimmerman has described it, he had no opportunity to safely retreat, so the right to "stand your ground" is not relevant. Assuming Zimmerman gives the same account in his trial that he has already given to police, the crucial issue for the jury will be whether he reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent Martin from killing or seriously injuring him.

Previous coverage of the case here.