Dershowitz: The charging instrument filed against George Zimmerman is “unethical” and will never make it past a judge
Four and a half minutes of brutal criticism for prosecutor Angela Corey, whom he accuses straight-out of grandstanding for political gain. It’ll take you 30 seconds to read the entire charging instrument but I’ll save you 20 and post the critical bit:
Second-degree murder under Florida law is defined 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
Dershowitz’s point: There’s nothing in the charging instrument that suggests probable cause to believe Zimmerman had a “depraved mind regardless of human life” when he shot Martin. On the contrary, he notes, the facts as stated are consistent with self-defense. (Tellingly, there’s also no reference to Zimmerman’s injuries.) The prosecution can amend the affidavit to strengthen its case if the judge throws it out, but then you’re left wondering why they didn’t submit a more detailed affidavit in the first place.
I don’t understand Corey’s strategy in charging him with murder two. Maybe she thinks Zimmerman will plead to a lesser charge, but if it’s anything less than manslaughter she’s going to take tremendous heat for having gone too easy on him. That’s a weird predicament for a politically-minded prosecutor to put herself in. She’ll take some heat even if she gets him to cop to manslaughter, in fact, since manslaughter is a crime of simple negligence and people who want him prosecuted believe Zimmerman’s far more morally culpable than that. (This is all assuming he’d be willing to make a deal, which, given the weakness of the charging instrument, he probably isn’t.) In fact, I also don’t get why she insisted on filing an affidavit of probable cause instead of taking the case to a grand jury. If they refused to indict him, she could have blamed them for him getting off and claimed she’d given it her best effort. As it is, if Dershowitz is right, her own affidavit’s about to be tossed by a judge and then she’ll have to answer for why she couldn’t even get to first base on a conviction.
Maybe her plan is to use the judge here as a get-out-of-tough-cases card? She probably knows she can’t get Zimmerman on murder two, but she also doesn’t want to be the one to have to break that to the public. She also doesn’t want to have to try to prosecute him on murder two if the evidence isn’t there, which would be a risk if the grand jury did indict him. So instead she’s taking the middle path: Go directly to the judge with a weak charging instrument and rely on him/her to throw it out. Then come back with a new affidavit listing a lesser charge — manslaughter or murder three — and say that she has no choice but to prosecute Zimmerman under that because the court stymied her on murder two. I’ll be curious to see what the fact pattern in those affidavits looks like because, frankly, if it’s as thin as the excerpt I posted up top, I’m not sure she’ll get the court to sign off on those charges either.