George Zimmerman: 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter?

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As we wait for a verdict I thought I would discuss what the difference is between 2nd Degree Murder and Manslaughter accoring to the State of Florida. Both of these charges are being considered by the jury in the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. The shooter, George Zimmerman, was 28 years old at the time of the shooting.

So what is the difference between the conviction for 2nd Degree Murder and Manslaughter?

Second Degree Murder: When someone does something on purpose that could cause someone to die, knowing that it could cause someone to die, and someone does die.

Manslaughter: When someone does something on purpose that could cause someone to die without thinking of that possibility and someone dies.

Discussing the two possible convictions gets a little confusing for the jury when they are deliberating. Second degree murder is done with ill intent while Manslaughter is done with intent to cause death. The real difference between the two is that manslaughter is a death to another due to reckless disregard of human life. While the person who committed the crime may not have intended for anyone to die, they did not care if they cause a problem where someone might die and someone did in fact die from their action.

To prove second degree murder, a prosecutor must show that the defendant acted according to a “depraved mind” without regard for human life. Unlike first degree murder, there does not have to be proof of intent to kill.

Defenses to Second Degree Murder Charges:

*Justifiable use of deadly force to defend against a felony committed against a person or property
*Excusable homicide committed by accident
*Spontaneous or negligent killing that might qualify as manslaughter instead of murder

Penalties and Sentences for Second Degree Murder:

A second degree murder prosecuted as a first degree felony may result in a sentence of imprisonment for a term lasting up to thirty years. Florida laws also permit the state to request a term of life imprisonment. If the defendant has a prior record of felony convictions or has committed other homicides, the state may request an increased sentence of imprisonment for life.


In Florida the law regarding manslaughter is “…the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification…, is manslaughter, a felony of the second degree.”

Voluntary Manslaughter: Homicide intentionally committed while in the midst of a provocation. To prove the case for voluntary manslaughter the prosecutor must show a sudden, unexpected event or circumstances serving as provocation. As a result of the prosecution, the defendant must have felt a temporary anger, heat of passion, or emotion that immediately resulted in an intent to kill or an intent to commit the act that resulted in the victim’s death.


*The discovery of a spouse’s adultery is a commonly recognized provocation that may serve as the basis for a manslaughter charge. However, if a period of time lapses between the discovery and the homicide, the state might be able to establish premeditation or a depraved mind sufficient to charge the defendant with murder instead of manslaughter.

*A verbal insult or verbal abuse might not qualify as provocation to reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter, because the verbal insult might not sufficiently inflame the defendant to a heat of passion as defined by law.

Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter Charges:

*Justifiable use of deadly force to defend against a felony committed against a person or property
*Excusable homicide committed by accident

Penalties and sentences for Manslaughter:

Florida prosecutes manslaughter as a second degree felony, which may result in a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine of an amount up to $10,000, or both. If the defendant committed aggravated manslaughter, such as manslaughter of a child or elderly person, state law treats the offense as a first degree felony, which increases the potential term of imprisonment to a maximum of thirty years. Florida laws also allow the state to consider the defendant’s criminal history and determine whether the defendant is a career criminal or habitual violent offender; if so, the state may be able to increase the defendant’s punishment.

Involuntary Manslaughter: When someone is killed due to a negligent act such as killing someone while drunk and driving. This would also apply if someone died during the commission of crime due to other than direct means such as the victim having a heart attack.

In my opinion, and based on the testimony and facts shown in court regarding this case, I believe George Zimmerman will be convicted of Voluntary Manslaughter. The two definitions are very clear. Voluntary Manslaughter does not need proof that the person who committed the act had a depraved mind with disregard to human life so it makes it an easier conviction than 2nd degree murder. I hope the jury finds him guilty of Manslaughter and he is sentenced to 30 years because of the special allowance for killing a child.

So now we wait and watch. I see protesters of all colors of the rainbow on the lawns awaiting the decision which will change many lives. What we do now is up to us. How we choose to act or not is our choice. What mark we leave behind in memory of Trayvon Benjamin Martin is our choice. What will you do? What changes will you help bring about? Remember that this is a son to Tracey Martin and Sybrina Fulton and all they want is justice for their son. Please do not bring new violence from the past violence.

Now I wait. Thanks to WESH TV for providing great and unbiased coverage. Check the latest updates on their website and follow along from a locals point of view.


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