Breaking: Zimmerman to be charged in Martin shooting; Update: Zimmerman arrested, charged with 2nd-degree murder

posted at 2:56 pm on April 11, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

So says the Washington Post:

Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey plans to announce as early as Wednesday afternoon that she is charging neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the shooting ofTrayvon Martin, according to a law enforcement official close to the investigation.

It was not immediately clear what charge Zimmerman will face. …

Corey told reporters Tuesday night that she would hold a news conference about the case within 72 hours. A news release from her office said the event will be held in Sanford or Jacksonville, Fla.

The latest update on the case before now was that his attorneys had resigned from the case, and that they had lost contact with Zimmerman.  Given the bounties that groups like the New Black Panther Party tried to put on his head, his disappearance is somewhat understandable.  Today, former Zimmerman attorney Hal Uhrig expanded on what he knew about Zimmerman’s whereabouts:

“You can stop looking in Florida,” Uhrig told reporters. “Look much further away than that.”

A few days ago, I wrote that we needed to let the investigation proceed and have the facts established on the record, rather than to continue speculating through the prism of media bias and competing agendas, as has been the case for the last couple of weeks.  If the Post proves accurate with this report, it appears that the special prosecutor in the case has found evidence that Zimmerman’s use of lethal force does not meet the statutory requirements for its use in self-defense.  That evidence will have to be weighed by a jury, and they will have to decide whether the prosecutor can prove that case to a reasonable doubt.

Of course, a trial can’t start until Zimmerman returns to the jurisdiction, if in fact he’s left it at all.  But thanks to the way that this case has been handled by the media and by activists, there will be some reasonable doubt as to whether Zimmerman can get a fair trial.  Media outlets broadcast defamatory and false information about Zimmerman, and some even became activists themselves in the case.  Florida should be able to find twelve people who can fairly judge the evidence presented at trial and only that evidence, but it won’t be an easy task to seat such a panel.

Finally, as I suspected all along, the Stand Your Ground law appears to have nothing to do with this case (although it still might be argued by the defense, of course).  If the law was a problem, the prosecutor wouldn’t be able to file charges against Zimmerman.  This case will hinge instead on the normal, core self-defense laws governing the use of lethal force.  Let’s hope we can all wait to see the evidence and weigh it properly in that context when the time comes.

Update: CNS News provides more insight on why Stand Your Ground is irrelevant in this case, courtesy of Ken Blackwell and Ken Klukowski of Liberty University School of Law:

Under any version of the facts, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law did not apply in the Trayvon Martin incident. If Zimmerman pursued a confrontation with Martin, then Zimmerman was an attacker and cannot claim SYG. If Zimmerman’s account is true that he was on the ground and Martin was on top of him, then retreat was impossible, so there would be no duty to retreat anyway. A victim in such a situation can use deadly force, but only if he reasonably believes he is being attacked with deadly force.

To our knowledge, that is the law in all fifty states. It was the law before SYG statutes were ever passed, and SYG did nothing to change it.

So why is this not common knowledge after all the reporting on the Martin shooting? Tragically, some anti-gun activists are misinforming the public. They are aided by media commentators who failed the public trust by not researching and understanding the SYG issue before presuming to editorialize on it.

The police are usually not at hand when you are attacked by a criminal. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of law-abiding people to defend themselves. And laws like Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground have restored that right in states where it had been eroded, not to take innocent life, but instead to preserve it.

Be sure to read it all, as they also discuss the high standard involving the legitimate use of lethal force.

Update II: The prosecutor filed second-degree murder charges, and the AP reports that Zimmerman has been arrested:

The neighborhood watch volunteer who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was arrested and charged with second-degree murder Wednesday after months of mounting tensions and protests across the country.

George Zimmerman, 28, could get up to life in prison if convicted in the slaying of the unarmed black teenager.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charges but would not discuss how she arrived at them or disclose other details of her investigation, saying: “That’s why we try cases in court.”

Second-degree murder is typically brought in cases when there is a fight or other confrontation that results in death and but does involve a premeditated plan to kill.

Manslaughter would have been another option, so it’s interesting that she went with murder two.  I assume that this means the prosecution believes they can prove that Zimmerman pursued Martin and shot him, but we’ll know more when the preliminary hearing comes.

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