aside Second Murder Degree Charge and George Zimmerman

Florida State Attorney Angela Corey
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey

The famous attorney and Harvard Law Professor, Alan Dershowitz has been a harsh critic of the prosecutor,  Angela Corey in her filing of an Affidavit of Probable Cause in April, 2012 by which the Court allowed her to proceed to trial with a charge of  “second degree” murder against Mr. George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida on 2/26/2012.

The Harvard Professor has explained on just about every TV show that he can be invited on how Ms. Corey did not include exculpatory details in her affidavit on behalf of Mr. Zimmerman such the serious injuries he suffered which would add credibility to Mr. Zimmerman claim of self defense.  The self defense laws are so lax in the State of Florida that these types of facts would make this prosecution very difficult to prevail and the argument is that on this basis, Ms. Corey should not bring this case to trial.  All the affidavit said regarding any physical confrontation was that there was a struggle.

A Cornell Law Professor, William A. Jacobsen states that the affidavit was inaccurate in alleging that the 911 operator “instructed Zimmerman not” to follow Martin.  I have read the transcript which is a part of Florida public records regarding the conversation between George Zimmerman and the non emergency police dispatcher on 2/26/2012 which is as follows:

Dispatcher: Are you following him? Zimmerman: yeah

Dispatcher: OK.. We don’t need you to do that.

Zimmerman: Ok

This same Cornell Professor states that the affidavit claims that the Mom believes that the voice she heard screaming on the recording was her son but the law professor states that it inaccurately did not include information that Trayvon’s Dad originally denied that this was Trayvon’s cry,  The problem with this is that Mr. Tracy Martin at trial strongly countered this characterization of this version of his denial.

While I am extremely critical of the State Attorney, Angela Corey’s handling of this case I do agree with her on the concept, that if a prosecutor truly believes in justice for her client and in the interests of the public good, she should proceed to trial even if it would be difficult to prevail.  I do believe there was a case to be made on behalf on Trayvon Martin and I just would have liked Trayvon to have had his voice heard.  This is where we would want someone in the mold of a Nancy Grace. In short, there is no other prosecutor who would have had the courage to bring this case to trial and I admire this!  I just wish she and her office were up to the task.

DEFINITION OF SECOND DEGREE MURDER FROM GRETA WIRE BY GRETA VAN SUSTERAN                                                            

To prove the crime of Second Degree Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Trayvon is dead.

2. The death was caused by the criminal act of George Zimmerman.

3. There was an unlawful killing of Trayvon Martin by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating  a depraved mind without regard for human life. An “act” includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose. An act is “imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind”  if it is an act or series of acts that: 1. a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and 2. is done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent, and  3. is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.  In order to convict of Second Degree Murder, it is not necessary for the State to prove George Zimmerman had an INTENT to cause death.


Definition of Second Degree Murder

The crime of Second Degree Murder occurs when a person commits either:

Murder with a Depraved Mind

Murder with a Depraved Mind occurs when a person is killed, without any premeditated design, by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind showing no regard for human life.

The primary distinction between Premeditated First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder with a Depraved Mind is that First Degree Murder requires a specific and premeditated intent to kill.

Murder with a Depraved Mind occurs when a person is killed, without any premeditated design, by an act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind showing no regard for human life.

The primary distinction between Premeditated First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder with a Depraved Mind is that First Degree Murder requires a specific and premeditated intent to kill.

Accomplice Felony Murder

Accomplice Felony Second Degree Murder occurs when you are an accomplice to a person who kills another human being while engaged in the commission, or attempted commission, of the following statutorily enumerated felonies, regardless of whether they intended the death:

Penalties for Second Degree Murder

The crime of Second Degree Murder is classified as a First Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 10 offense severity ranking under Florida’s  Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Second Degree Murder, a judge is required to impose a minimum prison sentence of 16¾ years in prison and can impose any additional combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to Life in prison.
  • Up to Life on probation.
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.


Under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, a person who uses a Firearm to commit Second Degree Murder must be sentenced to a minimum-mandatory prison sentence of 25 years.

Defenses to Second Degree Murder

Self Defense

Also known as the justified use of deadly force, self defense is a defense to the crime of Second Degree Murder. Please view the Florida Self Defense section for more information.

I did look up Richard Hornsby’s review on Florida self defense which is as follows:

Self Defense in Florida“

In Florida, Self Defense is referred to as the justifiable use of force. In simple terms, the defense allows a person to use force, sometimes deadly force, to protect one’s self, one’s property, or another person, so long as the force used  is proportionate to the threat faced.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law

Traditionally, if a person was anywhere but their home, the Self Defense law required a person to attempt to first retreat before engaging an aggressor.  And to further complicate matters, the defense could only be raised at trial.  But in October of 2005, Florida passed the Stand Your Ground Law, which dramatically changed the legal landscape of self defense law.

Under the Stand Your Ground Law, a person who is attacked has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand their ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if it is reasonably believed necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

Also, the Stand Your Ground Law now allows a person to raise the issue of Self Defense both at a Pretrial Hearing and at trial. As a result, if a judge finds that your actions were justified, the Judge is required to dismiss the charges and no trial is required. If the judge does not find your actions were justified, the defense can still be presented to a jury and they can make their own independent determination of whether your actions were justified.

Justifiable Use of Deadly Force

A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to    retreat if:

  • It is reasonably believed that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony (i.e. Robbery).
  • It is being used against a person who is unlawfully and forcefully breaking in, or has unlawfully and  forcibly broken into a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.

Exception to the Use of Deadly Force

Deadly Force cannot be used against:

  • A lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder (Unless there is a restraining order in place).
  • A parent who is retrieving a child or grandchild for whom they have lawful custody (Meaning you can’t shoot an ex-spouse who is picking up children for the weekend and then claim they broke in.)
  • The person who uses defensive force is engaged in unlawful activity or using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity.
  • A known law enforcement officer who is engaged in a legal duty.

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