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Prosecution acting in defense?

I should start by stating that I am not a lawyer, nor do I claim to be well versed in the law. However, something struck me this morning after seeing that the prosecution in the Trayvon Martin case went for a second-degree murder charge against George Zimmerman (right, in a photo distributed by AP).

Legal experts have said that prosecutor Angela Corey will have a tough battle ahead getting a second-degree murder conviction.

Manslaughter, which covers reckless and unintentional killings, would seemingly be the charge more likely to stick based on the accounts of what happened.

Not knowing what evidence the prosecution has or what they are basing their charges on, I won’t speculate on what their specific strategy behind going for those charges might be, but this got me thinking purely hypothetically.

Would it be beyond the prosecution in this case to go for the maximum charge with the hope of NOT getting a conviction?

Sounds crazy, I’m sure — to think a prosecutor would aim to fail.

However, considering the political implications as well as public perception and immense pressure to bring Zimmerman to trial, did the special prosecutor really have the choice not to prosecute Zimmerman?

I understand that it is not uncommon for prosecutors to charge high and settle low. However, let’s just say that a prosecutor believed a killing was truly an accident or an act of self-defense and did not want to press charges at all, yet felt pressured to bring the perpetrator to trial simply because of all of the public scrutiny surrounding the case.

Faced with that much pressure, couldn’t they throw up a paper tiger of a charge so they could look tough and prosecutorial? So they could go through the motions of a trial that they never wanted to have and leave the defendant with the same ‘not guilty’ status he would have had if there were no trial?

If a ‘not guilty’ verdict was returned, they could say “we tried, the evidence just wasn’t there for murder.”

In Zimmerman’s case, those who wanted him brought to justice might not be happy with such an outcome, but they could at least have the peace of mind of knowing that he was tried. The prosecution comes off looking like they did all they could and the blame would then likely shift to the jury, much like we saw happen in the Casey Anthony trial.

In a way, they would almost be using what the prosecutors in the Anthony trial got wrong (failing to get a guilty verdict by shooting too high with their charges), in an intentional, and strategic way with the opposite desired effect.

IF this were all true, the prosecution could in an odd way be acting in defense; both of George Zimmerman and their own careers.


  1. I completely agree with you! From the beginning of this situation, I have always believed that the prosecutor would have no choice but to bring charges – that the pressure, the risk of riots, would be too great to do nothing. This way, the city gets its cake and can eat it too.

  2. Based just on the information that seemed clear to the public, he should have been charged as the lead detective had recommended the night of the incident. It is grossly unfair to suggest that the prosecutor had no choice because of political and social pressures.