Neighborhood watch volunteer charged with second-degree murder

Whether you live in Birmingham or elsewhere, most people have been following the Trayvon Martin case. The controversial case has sparked a national debate over whether 28-year-old George Zimmerman was justified in shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Although the case has stirred strong emotions, the interest of justice sometimes requires that we look more closely at difficult situations.

Recently, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. The 28 year old turned himself in after prosecutors announced the charges. He plans to plead not guilty.

The shooting took place on Feb. 26 in a gated community in Florida. Martin was returning home after stopping at a nearby convenience store. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, thought Martin looked suspicious and began following him. He called 911 and was told to stop following Martin. However, a struggle ensued.

Zimmerman says Martin punched him and repeatedly hit his head on the sidewalk. Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self defense.

The second-degree murder charges came 45 days after the shooting. For a conviction, prosecutors must prove that Zimmerman intentionally went after Martin. However, the case could be dismissed by a judge based on Florida's "stand your ground" law in which people are allowed to use deadly force during a fight rather than fleeing.

Although the case has become controversial, it is important to remember that everyone is entitled to a fair trial, something Zimmerman's attorney says he is concerned he won't get.

If convicted, 28-year-old Zimmerman could face life in prison.

It is not clear at this point how this case will end, but it illustrates how important it is for someone facing criminal charges to have a strong criminal defense and a chance to tell their side of the story in court.

Source: Associated Press, "Prosecutors face hurdles in Trayvon Martin case," Greg Bluestein, April 12, 2012

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