And so it begins. George Zimmerman, who allegedly shot and killed unarmed Sanford, Fla., teenager Trayvon Martin as he walked home, is scheduled to receive a bond hearing and begin his trial April 20 at 9 a.m., and were' covering it live.
Update April 20 11:50 PM Trayvon Martin family attorney says Zimmerman's public apology at bond hearing was "insulting to the family"
11:10 George Zimmerman granted release from jail on $150,000 bond
- Zimmerman's attorney asks for a bond of just $15,000 and permission to leave the state.
Zimmerman: "I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son. I did not know how old he was...I did not know if he was armed."
- Zimmerman says sorry for loss of Trayvon Martin, says he didn't know if he was armed.
- Prosecutor: "Would you agree you changed your story as it went along."
Zimmerman: "Absolutely not."
- Prosecutor asks Zimmerman if he remembers sending a message concerning the victims father.
- Investigator reveals that Zimmerman initially claimed Trayvon Martin was "circling his car."
10:45 AM According to George Zimmerman's attorney, the investigator's use of the word "confrontation" in the affidavit was "antagonistic."
10:15 AM A new photograph obtained exclusively by ABC News showing the bloodied back of George Zimmerman's head, which was apparently taken three minutes after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, gives possible credence to his claim that Martin had bashed his head against the concrete as Zimmerman fought for his life.
Zimmerman's father: "I haven't had much contact with my son since his head was beaten."
10:00 AM Trial Talking Points
Prosecutor reading from affidavit of former Zimmerman girlfriend. Says he slapped her with an open fan and "asked her how it felt."
Zimmerman's wife says she doesn't agree that striking a police officer in 2005 is an "incident of prior violence."
Zimmerman's father says his son "is not a violent person": "I've never known him to be violent at all, unless he was provoked."
9: 00 AM An attorney for George Zimmerman is asking the Seminole County judge to let Zimmerman post bail at a hearing Friday. Zimmerman is in the courtroom, shackled but dressed in a suit. Martin’s parents are also in the courtroom.
Experts say Zimmerman stands a good chance of getting bail since he has proven he’s not a flight risk. He turned himself in to authorities last week after he was charged with second-degree murder.
April 12 5:10 PM Zimmerman's defense attorney is Mark O'Mara, a lawyer who frequently commented on the Casey Anthony case. O'Mara is not taking a fee for Zimmerman case.
5:00 PM Zimmerman appears in court. Zimmerman wearing a prison jumpsuit, was firm and calm as he answered the judge's question with "Yes, sir."
The judge in the case, Mark E. Herr, told the courtroom that he found probable cause to move the case forward.
The arraignment will be held on May 29 before a different judge.
2:15 PM Mike Tyson: It's a "Dsgrace" George Zimmerman Hasn't Been Shot Yet: Wow.
In an interview with Yahoo News about his upcoming one-man show in Las Vegas, the former heavyweight champion sounded off on the polarizing case:
"My personal feeling is that, as a young kid that was beat on by a bully, that was pretty much singled out — the guy [Zimmerman] stalked him, didn't follow instructions from a superior officer, when they said, 'Stop following the kid.' That tells you everything right there. But my all-around perspective, I wasn't there, I don't know what happened.
"But it's just so widespread and overt what happened. Even though this is the best country in the world, certain laws in this country are a disgrace to a nation of savages. It's a majority versus a minority. That's the way God planned it. He didn't want to do something about it, He wanted us to do something about it. And if we don't, it's gonna stay this way. We have to continue tweeting, we have to continue marching, we have to continue fighting for Trayvon Martin.
"If that's not the case, he was killed in vain, and we're just waiting for it to happen to our children. He'll have gotten away with impunity. It's a disgrace that man hasn't been dragged out of his house and tied to a car and taken away. That's the only kind of retribution that people like that understand. It's a disgrace that man hasn't been shot yet. Forget about him being arrested--the fact that he hasn't been shot yet is a disgrace. That's how I feel personally about it."
2:00 PM Zimmerman appeared in the courtroom shortly after 1:30 p.m. He entered the courtroom in handcuffs. Flanked by a police officer and his lawyer, Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman acknowledged the second-degree murder charge against him. O'Mara said a not guilty plea was entered.
The judge agreed there was probable cause to proceed, and set for a formal arraignment on May 29, at 1:30 p.m.
Zimmerman is being held in protective custody without bail in Seminole County Jail, but asked for the case file to be sealed. The prosecutors agreed to the request.
His lawyer is hoping to secure the crime watch volunteer’s release from jail, where he has been held in protective custody since being taken into custody Wednesday on the murder charge.
Judge Mark Herr will preside over the hearing, but may appear by way of video teleconference, officials said.
Although media will not be permitted inside the courtroom, filming can take place from a glass-walled viewing area.
Now that the case has formally hit the courts, here is some layman’s legalese to help explain the process from here on out from PolicyMic pundit Mark Kogan:
Assuming no pre-trial settlement, which is unlikely due to heavy media attention, Zimmerman’s case will advance through pre-trial legal maneuvering and hit a Florida court room in the near future.
In order to secure a conviction for second-degree murder, the state will have to convince a jury that Zimmerman’s actions were “imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life.” Should the state succeed in securing a conviction, Zimmerman would face a minimum of 25 years in prison, with the potential for a life sentence.
Dan Markel, a law professor at Florida State University, told The New York Times that he was “very surprised” by the second-degree murder charge “in light of the evidence that seems to have been brought to the attention of the public so far.” Although the charge caught some by surprise, it is important to remember that nobody outside the prosecutor’s office has yet seen the evidence she based her decision on.
Generally, prosecutors will charge a suspect with the highest charge they believe they can get a conviction with. Lesser offenses in the hierarchy are generally understood to be included automatically by most jurisdictions. Prosecutors can and often will request that lesser included offenses be included in the jury instructions so that jurors have the opportunity to choose a lesser offense should they not be convinced of the top charge. This means that should the jury fail to convict on second-degree murder, they could still convict on a lesser charge such as manslaughter.
Lesser charges also give defendants the opportunity to “plead down,” accepting a lesser offense and lesser sentence to avoid the risk of a trial and being convicted of a greater offense. While the media attention may pressure the prosecutor to pursue a trial and not giving plea options, it is still a very real possibility (over 90% of criminal cases are settled via plea bargain).
In the immediate future, the respective attorneys will be preparing for one of the most important phases of the trial — jury selection. The selection will occur behind closed doors well before the arguments formally kick off and will inevitably be a cause of controversy due to the racial tensions inherent in this case.
While some may ask how Zimmerman could possibly get a fair trial considering the media coverage over the last month, the Supreme Court has held since the 19th century that simple exposure to media coverage concerning a certain case does not necessarily equate to bias or incurable prejudice. Courts assume that, barring some other showing of incurable prejudice or bias, an individual is capable of hearing the facts and deciding a case fairly, regardless of prior exposure to media coverage of the case. While the defense may request a change of venue in order to work with a jury pool that is less invested in the outcome of the case, the seating of a full jury should not be difficult, although it is certain to be extremely contentious.
Assuming the Zimmerman case advances as expected, we can safely assume that the media circus will follow it into the court room as this country’s next great legal drama. Even though this case will likely get docket priority due to the attention it has drawn, pre-trial motions and requests will still take a fair deal of time, so expect the pace of coverage to slow down as the legal system engages in its slow but methodical examination of the case. Hopefully, regardless of outcome, citizens will feel that the judicial process worked and gave both sides of the case a fair trial.