Well, under F.S.A. § 782.04 (2), second degree murder is:
(2) The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the second degree and constitutes a felony of the first degree, punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life or as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 782.04 (West).
In some jurisdictions, this is know as the depraved-heart murder.
Second degree murder in Florida has three elements that have to be met; it’s an unlawful killing that:
is characterized by “an act or series of acts that: (1) a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and (2) is done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent, and (3) is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.
State v. Montgomery, 39 So. 3d 252, 255-56 (Fla. 2010).
This makes it look like Angela Corey is putting all her second degree murder eggs in the racism basket; if she can’t prove racism, I don’t know how she’s going to meet that second element.
Florida also only has one manslaughter statute, F.S.A. § 782.07 (1):
(1) The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification according to the provisions of chapter 776 and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder, according to the provisions of this chapter, is manslaughter, a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
Fla. Stat. Ann. § 782.07 (West).
Manslaughter is a lesser-included offense to second degree murder. State v. Montgomery, 39 So. 3d 252, 259 (Fla. 2010). This is more broad; if someone dies as a result of another’s act, procurement, or culpable negligence, and it’s not justified or excusable, it’s manslaughter. Zimmerman acted, Martin died as a result of that act; if Zimmerman wasn’t justified under a self-defense doctrine, he’s going to be guilty of manslaughter.
Basically, Corey’s decision to go for second degree murder lets her fall back on manslaughter if she can’t meet the elements required for the more serious charge. It also gives the jury the option to convict Zimmerman of the lesser charge if they decide that is more appropriate.
Of course, Corey has to meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard when she attempts to prove either second degree murder or manslaughter; Zimmerman merely has to prove his affirmative defense by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard.
If Zimmerman can show that it’s more likely than not he acted in self-defense, then it doesn’t matter what Corey can prove. If he acted in self-defense, then the killing was justified, and Zimmerman is immune from criminal and civil actions.
*This started out as a response to one of Weerd’s comments on the charging of Zimmerman, and quickly got out of hand.