Life for Zimmerman? Don't Count on It
Prosecutors face many hurdles to prove the second-degree-murder charge in the Trayvon Martin case.
While the Trayvon Martin case has drawn much attention and much speculation about the law and the known facts, another Florida case may be more indicative of what lies ahead. The Tampa-area case of Trevor Dooley dates back to September 2010.
The defense in the pretrial hearing is asking that the charge be tossed out entirely based on Dooley's insistence that it was self-defense when he killed an unarmed neighbor during a dispute over who could use the neighborhood basketball court. He is relying on the "Stand your ground" law as his defense to a manslaughter charge. That is probably the course that Zimmerman's lawyer will follow months from now.
In the meantime, this is what is known about what the prosecution plans to pursue: The two investigators on Corey's staff who filed an affidavit (pdf) explaining why a second-degree-murder charge was warranted said that Zimmerman "profiled" the teenager and "assumed Martin was a criminal." Zimmerman, who lived in the same gated community that Trayvon was visiting, felt that Trayvon did not belong there and called police. "Martin was unarmed and was not committing a crime," the affidavit states.
Zimmerman is depicted as the initial aggressor who ignored instructions from a police dispatcher to not pursue the person he described as acting suspiciously. "During the recorded call, Zimmerman made reference to people he felt had committed and gotten away with break-ins in his neighborhood. Later while talking about Martin, Zimmerman stated 'these ---holes, they always get away' and also said 'these f--king punks.'
"Zimmerman confronted Martin and a struggle ensued," the affidavit states. Then came chaos, some of it recorded in numerous 911 calls from witnesses in the townhouse complex. "Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest. When police arrived Zimmerman admitted shooting Martin."
The unanswered question so far is whether at some point in the confrontation Trayvon gained the upper hand, leading Zimmerman to reasonably fear for his life -- and to stand his ground and fire away.
E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a frequent contributor to The Root.