Special prosecutor decides against a grand jury in #Trayvon Martin case

Via the Associated Press (bolded emphasis added by me):

ORLANDO, Fla. — A grand jury will not look into the Trayvon Martin case, a special prosecutor said Monday, leaving the decision of whether to charge the teen’s shooter in her hands alone and eliminating the possibility of a first-degree murder charge.

That prosecutor, Angela Corey, said her decision had no bearing on whether she would file charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has said he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense. Corey could still decide to charge him with a serious felony such as manslaughter, which can carry a lengthy prison sentence if he is convicted.

A grand jury had been set to meet Tuesday in Sanford, about 20 miles northeast of Orlando.

Corey has long had a reputation for not using grand juries if it wasn’t necessary. In Florida, only first-degree murder cases require the use of grand juries.

Corey’s decision means she doesn’t have to rely on potentially unpredictable jurors, said David Hill, an Orlando criminal defense attorney.

“Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she knows there isn’t enough for first-degree murder but she wants to maintain control and charge him with something else,” Hill said. “What does she need a grand jury for? She cuts out the unpredictability of the grand jury. She goes where she feels she has more evidence.”

Corey took over the case last month after the prosecutor who normally handles cases out of Sanford recused himself. That prosecutor, Norm Wolfinger, had originally called for the case to be presented before a grand jury.

“From the moment she was assigned, Ms. Corey noted she may not need a grand jury,” said a statement from Corey’s office.

Well, from this news we know that if the special prosecutor plans to bring charges against Zimmerman, it won’t be first-degree murder, which I suspect even the Martin family attorney knew wasn’t going to happen based on what is known about the case to date.

Doug Mataconis speculates:

As to the first issue, it seems pretty clear from the evidence that has come forward that this is not a First Degree Murder case so there really isn’t any legal need for a grand jury. At most, what we’re looking at here is Second Degree Murder, or more likely Manslaughter, at least as far as an initial charge goes. Given the controversy that has surrounded this case, of course, one would have thought that the prosecutor would have wanted the “buffer zone” of a grand jury so that she wouldn’t be the one responsible for making the sole decision here. But she obviously doesn’t think its necessary.

There is another possibility, of course. Given the nature of the self-defense claim that Zimmerman will obviously raise in this case, she may have feared that a grand jury would have refused to indict based on the evidence, which would have been politically troublesome to say the least. Zimmermann will still have an opportunity to raise the argument of self-defense before trial, but at least this way Corey would be able to have Zimmerman arrested and charged, which would likely go a long way toward cooling tensions in Seminole County.

Or, perhaps he won’t be charged at all – so speculates Tom Maguire:

Applying my “Sauce For The Goose” doctrine, I  infer that a prosecutor can also issue a report in the absence of an indictment.  However, clearing that up would be a great clue as to where this case is headed, because I don’t think the public will stand for an announcement of no charges unless accompanied by a comprehensive report.

So, either this prosecutor will be charging Zimmerman or she will be issuing a report. If the law does not allow her to issue a report except by way of a grand jury, then Zimmerman will be charged.  If the law does allow a prosecutor’s report, then toss a coin or find your answer here.

MY TWO CENTS: Maybe the forensics make Zimmerman out to be a liar.  But what we have seen publicly makes me think we are miles from a path to a conviction.  With that “public info” caveat, I predict no charges.

Corey’s statement is here (via Jeralyn Merrit).

As they say, stay tuned.

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