Trayvon Martin murder case: next legal steps for George Zimmerman (+video)
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.
•If a judge denies his motion for immunity, a date will be set for a trial in front of a jury. Zimmerman’s defense attorney could also ask for a “change of venue,” meaning Zimmerman could be tried in a different county in Florida if a judge deems pretrial publicity has been so overwhelming that it is impossible for the defendant to get a fair trial close to home.
Many legal experts had expected the prosecutor to opt for the lesser charge of manslaughter, which usually carries 15 years behind bars and covers reckless or negligent killings, rather than second-degree murder, which involves a killing that results from a "depraved" disregard for human life, the Associated Press reported.
The most severe homicide charge, first-degree murder, is subject to the death penalty in Florida and requires premeditation – something that all sides agreed was not present in this case.