|Friday, 13 April 2012 09:40|
George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old North Miami Black teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has been formally charged with second degree murder.
In one of the most anticipated decisions in America's legal history, on Wednesday evening Duval County State Attorney Angela Corey, the special prosecutor assigned by Governor Rick Scott to investigate Zimmerman's involvement in Martin's death, confirmed her decision. The announcement brought relief to Martin's family and millions of protestors angered at the delay of Zimmerman's arrest.
With charges of second degree murder, Zimmerman, who turned himself into police, could face a minimum sentence of 25 years without parole to life in prison.
However, as several attorneys have stated, although public opinion tilts in favor of Zimmerman's conviction, the case is by no means a slam dunk.
A Miami attorney who believes that although Corey "threw the book" at Zimmerman, problems could arise in picking an impartial jury if the trial is held in Sanford. He said the defense will insist on selecting jurors who are not influenced by the publicity, which is no easy task following the extensive media attention surrounding the case.
The attorney also argued that, based on publicized information about the case, most of the evidence is circumstantial. He warned it would be risky for anyone to predict the outcome of the case until all the evidence has been presented and deliberated in court.
Another key concern is that with the death of Martin, Zimmerman becomes the only eyewitness in the case. Much will depend on how his testimony fits the circumstantial evidence, such as the 911 tapes.
The integrity of the forensics, or lack thereof, will also come into play as speculations abound as to the quality of the initial investigation conducted by the Sanford Police Department.
Meanwhile many Sanford residents expressed relief over Zimmerman's charge. Blanche, a resident of the Retreat at Twin Lakes complex where Martin was killed said she is "relieved" by Corey's decision, "because no one, regardless of color or race, should be shot and killed without provocation."
Two other residents expressed gratitude to Governor Rick Scott for his intervention in the case and for appointing Corey as special investigator.
Although many supported charges of first degree murder for Zimmerman, this major charge was still a surprise for many spectators. On Monday, Corey had announced she would not be submitting the case to a Florida grand jury, as previously indicated by Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger – which suggested lesser charges for Zimmerman, as only a grand jury could have indicted him for first-degree murder.