Understanding the court system


Professor’s Instructor

The US court system plays an imperative role in ensuring that the lawprevails. The court system, which includes the federal and statelevel courts, helps the society interpret the constitution andprovides guidelines to correct and punish lawbreakers. The case studybelow will bring an understanding of how the US court system works.

Seminal facts of the case

In Feb 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot in Sanford, Floridawhile visiting his father, Tracy Martin. Trayvon who was born in1995, was a student at Krop Senior high school and lived with hismother Sybrina in Miami gardens (CNN library, 2015). He had justreceived a ten-day suspension from school stemming from the discoveryof drug residue in his school bag and gone to visit his father. Theperpetrator of the shooting, George Zimmerman, was a part timestudent at the Seminole college and watch captain at Sanford’s twinlake retreat gated community. On 26th Feb 2012, Zimmermancalled 911 to report a suspicious person in the neighborhood. Theresponse from 911 was not to get out of his SUV and not to approachthe person.

However, he disregarded the instructions and moments later gunfirewas heard, Zimmerman had shot Martin. His claim was that he did it inself-defense. The next day Martin’s father filled a report formissing person’s after his son failed to return home. Policevisited his residence and he was able to identify his son’s bodyusing a photo. Following the medical reports from the injuriesleading to Martin’s death, it was reported that he had an openscalp wound and no other complications were mentioned. On March 13,one homicide detective from Sanford’s police department ChristopherSerino, recommended that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter (CNNlibrary, 2015).

The main laws violated in the Trayvon’s case are the right to lifeleading to manslaughter. Manslaughter law deals with cases ofhomicide in which the defendant culpability is mitigated by a lack ofdeliberation (manslaughter, 2014). Manslaughter is classified asfirst and second degrees of murder in which crimes involve killingunlawfully. Zimmerman shot and killed a young man in the name ofself-defense despite having received instructions not to confronthim. According to a homicide detective, Zimmerman did not identifyhimself as a concerned citizen or watch member when he called toreport a suspicious person outside on two occasions on the night ofthe crime. The authorities released seven 911 calls from the night ofthe shooting whereby one of the recording was a warning againstZimmerman not to go out. One of the recordings also indicated thatvoice screams and ‘help help’ voices in the background were heardfollowed by a gunshot sound. On March 19th the FBI andJustice department launched an investigation into Martin’s death.

The18th US code, part 1, chapter 51 and 1112 definesManslaughter as killing of a human unlawfully without malice. It isclassified into two, voluntary and involuntary. Voluntarymanslaughter is killing suddenly after a quarrel or a during theheated moment, while involuntary is described as killing following anunlawful act that cannot be termed as felony without due caution andcircumspection leading to death asserts manslaughter (2014). Anunexpected trigger of emotions leading to intentional killingcharacterizes voluntary manslaughter. Involuntary manslaughter crimeoccurs by accident under circumstances leading to death. At times,manslaughter is termed as the issue of provocation leading the crimeand an excusable killing. The provoking event in this case must havecreated a sudden heat leading an individual to act in an irrationalmanner. Manslaughter can be termed as murder on the subjective level.

Possible penalties associated with the manslaughter laws

Manslaughter is a devastating act no matter how it happens. The lossof life is always painful as the family of the deceased can neverfill the void. To deal with manslaughter, laws to punish offendersare classified according to the voluntary and involuntaryjurisdiction. The US territorial jurisdiction states that if foundguilty of manslaughter (voluntary) one shall be imprisoned for 15years and fined under this title while those found guilty ofinvoluntary manslaughter shall be fined and put to prison for eightyears or less (manslaughter, 2014).

Explanation for the case in a federal court system

After one month of Trayvon’s death, rallies took place in citiesacross the US including Sanford where the city commission holds townhall meetings. The rallies and movements campaigning for Trayvon’srights, let to the Obama Administration taking needed steps to filefor federal charges. Unidentified sources revealed that Obama andJustice Eric holder from the Justice department had filed chargesagainst Zimmerman. The charges were termed as violating Martin’scivil rights. New criminal charges were also being pressed down bythe civil rights following George’s acquittal on second-degreemurder and manslaughter charges. The Florida federal court was wherethe proceedings were taking place. Most times, crimes are heard incourtrooms near the venue of crime. In this, case the crime havingtaken place in Florida prompted for proceedings to take place there.

According to federal jurisdiction center (1996), the relatedjurisdictional requirements for a case should be the evidence ofcrime, crime perpetrator and witnesses who are willing to testifyabout the crime. The federal courts are established by the US forpurposes of settling disputes concerning the federal constitution andlaws passed by the congress. The US district courts are the mostnumerous federal courts with 94 federal judicial districts anddistrict court. The district courts are also the federal trial courtswhere federal cases are tried, witness testify and juries serve theirrole asserts Federal judicial center (1996).

Fundamental reasons for the case being heard in the federal courtsystem

Being a criminal case, Trayvon’s case was heard at the Floridafederal courtroom. According to federal judicial center (1996), thebeginning of a federal criminal case is more complicated than a civilcase. The criminal begins when a lawyer for the executive branch ofthe US government or attorney tells the federal grand jury about theevidence that indicates the person committed a crime. That person mayor may not have been arrested when the grand jury meets as the USattorney attempts to show the jury that there is enough evidence toincriminate the accused. If the jury agree they give a formalaccusation referred to as indictment. An indictment is followed by anarrest and arraignment of the defendant who pleads guilty or not. Ifthey plead guilty they return to the court for sentencing.

The outcome of the case summarized and the decision made by the jury

In Trayvon’s case, prosecutor Angela announced that she would notpresent the grand jury on April 9th. The next day attorneyHal and Craig announced that they had lost contact with Zimmerman andwould no longer be presenting him. On April 11th as hisnew lawyer told CNN that Zimmerman had turned himself in and wasbeing charged for second degree murder. After Judge Jessica hadapproved a motion to disqualify herself from the criminal case forlegal reasons, Judge Lester took over. On 20th April,Lester set Zimmerman’s bond at $150,000 as Zimmerman apologized tothe family of Martin for his death (CNN library, 2015). In May 15, amedical report by George’s family doctor revealed that Zimmermanhad a fractured nose, black eye and lacerations on the back of hishead after the Feb shooting. Later on, his wife was arrested forcharges of perjury and Zimmerman arrested again. The bail set washigh for his next release leading his supporters to request for a newjudge. By May 28, another judge had taken over the case. Judge DebraNelson ruled on several motions by defense and denied a request totake the jury to the crime scene. The jurors were anonymous beingreferred to with numbers only. They were an all female jury and thetrial began in June 24, 2013. The six-woman jury had three choices,which were guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of lesser chargewith manslaughter or not guilty. The deliberation that took over 16hours led the jury to conclude with a not guilty choice (CNN library,2015).

My belief in the outcome of the case being not guilty is that it waswrong for Zimmerman to kill the young man without any proof that hewas a criminal. Though the innocent life cannot be replaced and thejurisdiction cannot be taken back, the court processes were a longvicious cycle of many rationales showing the complexity of the USjudicial system.


CNN Library (2015). Trayvon Martin shooting fast facts, CableNews Network, turner broadcasting system retrieved fromhttp://edition.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/trayvon-martin- shooting-fast-facts/

Federal judicial center (1996). Federal courts and what they doretrieved from http://www.fjc.gov/public/pdf.nsf/lookup/FCtsWhat.pdf/$file/FCtsWhat.pdf

Manslaughter. (2014). Funk &ampWagnalis New Encyclopedia, 1pfrom http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.library.gcu.edu:2048/eds/detail/detail?vid=2&ampsid=948b3480- b5e7-4c32-a20e- [email protected]&amphid=4205&ampbdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2Nv cGU9c2l0ZQ==##db=funk&ampAN=MA035800