The Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman Florida self-defense case has made national headlines. It has thrown Florida’s self-defense laws and the Florida Stand Your Ground Doctrine into the national spot light. Just last month, Jacksonville became part of Travyon Martin’s homicide investigation and George Zimmerman’s argument of self-defense based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground Doctrine. As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, I am not a stranger to defending criminal cases, such as battery, aggravated assault with a firearm, and homicide charges, based on Florida’s self-defense laws. Jacksonville has its fair share of murders and shootings. These violent Jacksonville criminal cases will sometimes be based on a Florida self-defense argument, such as Florida’s Castle Doctrine or Florida’s Stand Your Ground law (See Defending Yourself in Florida by Standing Your Ground).
Jacksonville’s involvement in the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman shooting case began when Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, appointed Duval County’s State Attorney, Angela Corey, as the special prosecutor on this Florida self-defense case (See Jacksonville State Attorney Office to Prosecute Florida Self-Defense Case). Although Ms. Corey is referred to as a special prosecutor or State Attorney in Florida, she is a Jacksonville criminal lawyer. When most people hear the term “Jacksonville criminal lawyer,” they automatically think of a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney or a lawyer in Jacksonville that defends people accused of crimes in Florida. This is not the case. Prosecutors and Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers are both Jacksonville criminal lawyers. They are just on opposite sides of the Jacksonville criminal case. They both know the same Florida criminal laws, including self-defense laws, and know how to apply those laws to Florida criminal case.
As the Florida prosecutor over the Trayvon Martin shooting death investigation, Ms. Corey has likely researched the Florida criminal laws applying to Zimmerman’s case. As a seasoned and respected Jacksonville Florida Attorney, she has worked with investigators to make a determination about this Florida self-defense case. Originally, Ms. Corey planned on taking this possible Florida murder case to the grand jury to decide whether homicide charges should be filed against Zimmerman in reference to Martin’s death in Florida. Instead, Ms. Corey decided to make the determination herself as to whether Zimmerman will be charged with murder or another Florida homicide charge.
Ms. Corey’s decision to take this case away from the grand jury is not unusual in Jacksonville homicide and self-defense cases. In Florida, the Duval County State Attorney may charge a Jacksonville criminal defendant by information or indictment. An information is the formal charging document that tells the Jacksonville criminal defendant what he or she will being charged with under Florida’s laws. An indictment is handed down from a grand jury after they have heard the evidence presented in the Florida criminal case. In most Jacksonville self-defense cases and shooting cases, an information is usually filed. Few Jacksonville criminal cases ever make it to the grand jury for an indictment.
The New York Times reported that “Compared to her predecessor, [Corey] is much more aggressive in terms of filing criminal charges, much less likely to dismiss charges… She prosecutes every potential charge to the hilt…Corey’s decision on Monday was likely not a surprise to those familiar with her work… She has a record of avoiding grand juries, and last month, she told the Miami Herald her office would probably proceed on its own.”
The New York Times also gave the opinion of another Jacksonville criminal defense attorney stating, “She definitely wants to see justice done… She has a lot of compassion for the victims of crime, but she knows when a case is not going to be able to be prosecuted… She wants to do the right thing.” I am sure many Jacksonville criminal lawyers will be very interested in seeing where this Florida self-defense allegation will be going and the future of the Stand Your Ground Law in Jacksonville and the rest of Florida (See Florida Self-Defense Shooting Focuses on Florida Stand Your Ground Laws).