Today in court the exact charges that will be given to the jury will be revealed. These charges will likely go to the jury on Friday. The jurors will be asked to find George Zimmerman guilty of one of the following three offenses: Second Degree Murder, Manslaughter and Aggravated Assault. They will be listed as far as we know now in that order. This will be important to remember as you read further, as there is one charge that has the potential for a much lower sentence than the rest, and it is not the one you think. The jurors have a fourth option of finding the defendant not guilty on all counts.
Florida’s 10-20-Life law imposes more severe penalties for crimes that involve a firearm. This law is in play for all three possible guilty verdicts because Trayvon Martin was killed with a firearm.
The law has two cases in which sentencing is increased by the use of a firearm :
1. Any felony in which a firearm is used is reclassified as follows
A. In the case of a felony of the first degree, to a life felony;
B. In the case of a felony of the second degree, to a felony of the first degree;
C. In the case of a felony of the third degree, to a felony of the second degree.
In this case, 1(b) is the relevant point.
2.For “enumerated” felonies, a Mandatory-Minimum Prison Sentences must be served if the following apply as determined by a jury through special jury findings, which they return along with their primary verdict.
A. Possession of Firearm during commission of the enumerated felony (10 year minimum prison sentence);
B. Discharge of Firearm during commission of the enumerated felony (20 year minimum prison sentence);
C. Discharge of Firearm causes death or great bodily harm during commission of the enumerated felony (25 year minimum prison sentence and maximum sentence of life imprisonment).
Here is the relevant part is 2(c). But you are going to have to follow this closely.
Let me try to list the sentencing parameters for each of the three charges if guilt is determined:
If Zimmerman is convicted of Second Degree Murder, the judge would be required to impose a 25 year mandatory-minimum prison sentence and could sentence him up to life in prison.
If Zimmerman is convicted of Manslaughter, because Manslaughter is not considered an enumerated felony under the 10-20-Life Law there is no mandatory minimum sentence. The maximum sentence is up to 30 years in prison or 30 years of probation.
Here is the weird part. If Zimmerman is convicted of Aggravated Assault, the judge would be required to impose a 25 year minimum-mandatory prison sentence and could sentence him to life in prison if she so decided.
This seems crazy to me. I am getting this information from Richard Hornsby’s blog. The blog discusses all the possible lessors, but I have put only the lessors that the court agree on today. Hornsby was very credible during the Casey Anthony case and is a criminal defense attorney from Orlando, Florida. It makes no sense to me that Manslaughter gets bumped up to Second Degree but Manslaughter is not considered an “enumerated felony.” Yet Aggravated Assault under the 10-20-Life rule gets bumped up to a FIRST DEGREE FELONY and has the same sentencing as second degree.
Okay just as I was about to post this I heard Jinkasaurus say on Jane Valez that the minimum sentence for aggravated assault is three years. So I went and read three more sources. While Jink is correct, that there is a minimum sentence of three years for aggravated assault, if a firearm is used in the commission of the assault, 25-year to life term if the accused discharged the firearm and killed or seriously hurt someone. I also figured out why the law applies to aggravated assault and not manslaughter, the 10-20-Life statute enumerates the applicable crimes, (I was thinking the word enumerates referred to first, second and third degree, that was an incorrect assumption) the statute enumerates MURDER (all degrees) and Aggravated Assault but for some odd reason DOES NOT enumerate manslaughter. So in this instance Jink is incorrect and you can expect her to recount her suggestion that the minimum sentence for aggravated assault is three years. If JINKASAURUS does not know this, then there is certainly no one on the jury who knows.
Does this make sense to you guys? Don’t you think if the jury sees these three charges listed in this order and wants to do anything other than not guilty they are likely to go with aggravated assault assuming that it is the charge with the least penalty when in fact it is manslaughter?
I would expect for O’Mara to ask to remove Aggravated Assault as a lessor included charge tomorrow based on the 10-20-Life Statute. He may ask for both lessors to be removed, but Aggravated Assault is the most dangerous charge currently under consideration.
UPDATED: It seems that the prosecution magically decided overnight to replace Aggravated Assault with Third Degree Murder based on Child Abuse. The judge said while talking about other things that Aggravated Assault did not apply. This is dirty pool by the prosecution. WEST is pissed.
IF the jury is charge to consider 3rd Degree Murder, the judge would be required to impose a 25 year minimum-mandatory prison sentence and could sentence him to life in prison. So in essence, it is the same sentence if they had gotten aggravated assault. They are going to come back to this.
Now they are arguing about the language in the proposed instructions with regard to justifiable homicide..