George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, has been both convicted and set free in the court of public opinion a thousand times over. But the real prosecutors in the Zimmerman case will face a few hurdles in proving Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder.
Lawyers for the prosecution plan to clarify to a judge and jury that Zimmerman "profiled" the teenager, assuming Martin was a criminal, the same as those who had broken in to houses in the area, Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman felt that Trayvon did not belong there in that gated community and called the police. Martin was unarmed and not behaving in criminal manner. He was simply walking home from the store. Zimmerman was the initial aggressor who ignored instructions from the 911 dispatcher and confronted Martin before he shot him in the chest.
The recording of Zimmerman's 911 call on the day he killed Trayvon Martin may prove to the public that Zimmerman had an obvious lack of concern for Martin's life, to say the least. But whether that recording will prove Zimmerman's disregard in a court of law is another matter. Whether Zimmerman's words will make the murder a hate crime remains to be seen.
What may or may not make matters more difficult for prosecutors is Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, who, in a Today show appearance last week, said that she believed her son's killing was an accident. That comment flew in the face of the charge brought forth by the Florida state prosecutor. Dr. Boyce Watkins, a professor at Syracuse University, is calling for Rev. Al Sharpton, for one, to "get her off the stage."
Caught on tape
A recording of Zimmerman's 911 call proves that he ignored the dispatcher's instructions to leave Martin alone. It proves that he found Martin suspicious. It does not prove that there was a scuffle between Martin and Zimmerman in which Zimmerman sustained visible injuries, as has been reported, though 911 calls from witnesses do report chaos and a male voice screaming for help.
Video of Zimmerman being led into the police precinct after the killing shows a very clean face, not marked or bloodied, making an argument of self-defense a hard sell. This might be a bright spot for the prosecution.
Second degree murder is defined as an intentional killing that is not premeditated or planned, or a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender's obvious lack of concern for human life. If convicted, Zimmerman would face life in prison under this definition. Manslaughter is a killing that is not premeditated, or otherwise in circumstances not amounting to murder. The penalty in Florida is 15 years.
The case will be very long and drawn out. At the very least, Zimmerman could be guilty of manslaughter. However, it is a possibility that the tough justice the public has wanted for Zimmerman may not come in full. He will be tried in the state of Florida, after all, the same state that set Casey Anthony free.