April 11th, 2012
08:02 PM ET

Zimmerman charged with second-degree murder

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who says he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has been charged with murder in the second degree, special prosecutor Angela Corey told reporters Wednesday.

Read the charges (PDF) | Read Corey's remarks (PDF)

Corey said that Zimmerman has surrendered to authorities in Florida and has been arrested. The charge carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.

Police say Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, on February 26 in Sanford, Florida, after Martin began walking home from a convenience store. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic and was a neighborhood watch volunteer, had called 911 to complain about a suspicious person in the neighborhood. He was released without charges after claiming self-defense, but the case was referred to Corey for a review as thousands converged on Sanford to join in protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest.

The following are running updates on the story:

[Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET] Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara, said that he expects to file a motion seeking bond for Zimmerman on Thursday. Currently, Zimmerman is being held without opportunity for bond.

O'Mara told CNN by phone that he thinks Zimmerman is "troubled by the fact that the state decided to charge him," but that he "understands what is in front of him," and he's "doing OK."

At a news conference outside his office seconds later, O'Mara told reporters that Zimmerman voluntarily surrendered to Florida authorities, and that authorities were in the process of moving him to custody in Seminole County, Florida.

"He's concerned about getting a fair trial and a fair presentation," O'Mara said. "There's obviously been a lot of information flowing. I think a lot of it has been premature and inappropriate."

"The worst thing that can happen in this case is that it doesn't get tried properly," O'Mara said. "Give us our chance to do it the way it's supposed to be done."

On Tuesday, Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.

iReport.com: What's your reaction?

[Updated at 7:04 p.m. ET] Sanford's mayor, Jeff Triplett, called "for continued calm in Sanford, its surrounding communities and around the nation."

"The case is in the hands of the justice system. Please allow it to work through the process and come to a natural conclusion," Triplett said in a news conference in Sanford, following Corey's announcement.

[Updated at 6:58 p.m. ET] Martin's father, Tracy Martin, thanked "everyone for being compassionate about this."

"As (Martin's attorney, Benjamin Crump) said, this is just the beginning. We have a long way to go, and we have faith," Tracy Martin said.

Trayvon Martin's parents and their attorneys were at a news conference with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Washington, D.C., where the parents have been visiting an annual conference held by Sharpton's National Action Network.

Tracy Martin spoke of the marches in which people called for justice in the case.

"The first time we marched, I looked to the sky and said, 'I will walk by faith,' Martin recalled. "We will continue to walk by faith. We will continue to hold hands on this journey - white, black, Latino.

"We will march and march and march until the right thing is done."

[Updated at 6:56 p.m. ET] An emotional Sybrina Fulton - who is Martin's mother - reacted to Wednesday's news:

"First of all, I want to say: Thank God. We simply wanted an arrest," she told reporters in Washington, D.C. "We wanted nothing more and nothing less, and we got it. And I say thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus."

[Updated at 6:49 p.m. ET] The attorney for Martin's parents, Benjamin Crump, standing with the parents and the Rev. Al Sharpton, told reporters in Washington, D.C., said that if one were to look at the facts and evidence fairly, Zimmerman "had to be arrested, and this matter had to go before a judge and a jury."

"We can take a short breath, because we are just now getting to first base," Crump said. "This is only first base. Trayvon's legacy cannot be tarnished based on people doing sick things and acting (on) ignorance or using violence."

[Updated at 6:42 p.m. ET] The Rev. Al Sharpton, standing with Trayvon Martin's parents at a news conference in Washington, D.C., said "there should be no high-fiving" over Zimmerman's charge.

"There’s no winners here. … This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice. We have not won anything. All we have established is we have the right to redress," Sharpton said.

Sharpton said that he believed public pressure didn't lead Corey to file the charges, but he believes public pressure caused Florida's governor and Corey to review the case.

"If we did not get this far, we would condemn them," Sharpton said. "We must say that despite the fact that we are of ... different political persuasions ... we came together and said only the facts should matter."

"We are trying to make sure that something happens so that this will not happen again," Sharpton said.

[Updated at 6:34 p.m. ET] Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, issued a statement following the announcement of charges against Zimmerman:

“Forty–five days after Trayvon Martin’s life came to a violent end, the wheels of justice have finally begun to turn. This is an important first step toward bringing justice for Trayvon and his family," Jealous' statement began.

"As we have seen, the system does not always work perfectly. But we have shown that when we stand together as a nation we can compel it to work. For the NAACP, this case has always been about the rule of law. We are encouraged by today’s charges, but we know that this is just the beginning. We anticipate and expect a thorough federal investigation of the Sanford Police Department and their role in exacerbating this tragedy," Jealous said.

Jealous said "Trayvon’s case moved the nation because it underscored the twin tragedies that affect so many of our young people: Trayvon was profiled because of his race—looked upon as a threat rather than the loving son he was."

"And then, once he became a victim, he was neglected by the very police department tasked with protecting our communities and families," Jealous said. "As a nation, we’ve got to address the issues of racial profiling and the valuation of black mens’ lives by law enforcement. In the months ahead the months ahead, the NAACP and our allies in the civil rights community will continue to take these issues on as well as the urgent need to repeal stand-your-ground laws.

"Tonight our thoughts and prayers are with Trayvon’s family. We are grateful for the courage and tenacity of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin that continue to help shape a national movement for justice for their son and for all of America’s children.”

[Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET] In Florida, a charge of second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to CNN and HLN legal analysts. Florida does not offer the chance for parole for those convicted of the charge. The sentence would, however, take into account several mitigating and aggregating factors.

[Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET] Zimmerman is being held without opportunity for bail, but Zimmerman's lawyers are entitled to request a bond, Corey said. Once they do so, a bond hearing will be held, she told reporters.

[Updated at 6:16 p.m. ET] While Corey said that Zimmerman surrendered and is in the custody of authorities in Florida, she declined to say exactly where, citing concerns for the safety of Zimmerman "and everyone else."

[Updated at 6:12 p.m. ET] Corey said she wouldn't discuss what led her to file the second-degree murder charge, other than her conclusion is based on her review of the evidence.

Florida state attorney Angela Corey said she spoke with Trayvon Martin's parents before telling the media about the charge against Zimmerman.

[Updated at 6:07 p.m. ET] George Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the February 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin, Corey said.

What happens now that Zimmerman is charged in Trayvon Martin death?

[Updated at 5:51 p.m. ET] George Zimmerman has turned himself in to law enforcement and is in custody in Florida, according to CNN legal analyst Mark NeJame.

Zimmerman also has a new attorney, Mark O'Mara, according to NeJame.

NeJame reported that Zimmerman, before he surrendered, was "out of the state of Florida, as I understand it, for his safety."

On Tuesday, Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.

[Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET] Florida Gov. Rick Scott has released a statement ahead of the special prosecutor's news conference:

"We are fortunate in our state that most Floridians and local civic leaders are law-abiding, responsible citizens who all want justice to prevail. No matter what State Attorney (Angela) Corey determines following her investigation of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I trust in the goodness of all Florida citizens to allow our justice system to reach an appropriate conclusion in this case."

[Updated at 3:34 p.m. ET] The parents of Trayvon Martin plan to hold a news conference after the special prosecutor makes her announcement.

Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, will be accompanied by their attorneys and the Rev. Al Sharpton in Washington, D.C., where the parents have been visiting a conference held by Sharpton's National Action Network.

[Updated at 3:07 p.m. ET] Many people in Sanford, Florida and around the world have been captivated by the Trayvon Martin case and have lent their support to Martin's family.

Upon hearing the news that special prosecutor Angela Corey was holding a press conference today to update the media, Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton tweeted that the case was in God's hands now.

[Updated at 3:02 p.m. ET] The office of special prosecutor Angela Corey has confirmed that a news conference updating the media on the Trayvon Martin case will begin at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville, Florida at 6 p.m. ET.

[Updated at 2:51 p.m. ET]  Corey's office, which is investigating the Trayvon Martin shooting case, said that charges against George Zimmerman have not been filed. The office would not confirm whether the office planned to charge him, according to HLN's Josey Crews.

Earlier, CNN reported that Corey is expected to announce a decision Wednesday regarding whether she will file charges against Zimmerman, and a senior law enforcement source familiar with the Martin death investigation said that Zimmerman would be charged.

[Updated at 2:39 p.m. ET]  George Zimmerman “will be (criminally) charged if (he) hasn’t been charged already,” according to a senior law enforcement source familiar with the Trayvon Martin death investigation.

It's not clear what the charges would be.

[Initial post, 2:29 p.m. ET] A special prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin shooting case is expected to announce a decision within the next four hours regarding whether she will file charges against George Zimmerman, CNN reports.

The news comes a day after attorneys for Zimmerman told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.

Police say Zimmerman fatally shot Martin, a 17-year-old African-American, on February 26 in Sanford, Florida, after Martin began walking home from a convenience store. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic and was a neighborhood watch volunteer, had called 911 to complain about a suspicious person in the neighborhood.

Zimmerman told Sanford police the shooting was self-defense, and Zimmerman was released without charges. Authorities have said Zimmerman was not immediately charged because there were no grounds, at the outset, to disprove his account that he'd acted to protect himself.

But thousands converged on Sanford to join in protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest and criticizing the police department's handling of the case. Martin's death has triggered a nationwide debate about race in America and Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force anywhere they feel a reasonable threat of death or serious injury.

soundoff (5,135 Responses)
  1. JV

    No way. . Sad fooking day in america people. Angela Corey is a weak minded fool, Zimmerman will get off, but the fact they bent to a bunch of monkeys throwing their bannas around shows that our justice system it not based on rule of law anymore.Now im waiting for her to charge the black panthers idiots with the threat on zimmermans life. Be afraid people, Be very afraid.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. TPF

    Donate big and donate now to the Zimmerman defense fund! All neighborhoods need more Zimmerman's.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Arlene

    Thank you prosecutor. Hope Zimmerman goes away for a long time. This incident is an embarrassment to the City of Sanford, which demands to live in the past, and to the US. I am sure that foreigners will clamor to come to this great tourist state in the future........not.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. xcrafter

    its amazing how stupid people really are rail road the man get or rocks off fla

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cece

    The evidence was all there. He should be tried for 1st degree murder because he knows he did it purposely. I lose another kid in my generation that couldve been the next engineer or business man in the future. This case shouldve never taken this long. The Martin family still lost a loved one and Zimmerman gets to live and get off easy on a 2nd degree charge.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • sharky

      I am glad you are not a lawyer as you have NO clue what first degree murder is. Give me a serious break you bloody thirsty revenge nut.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • who cares

      An engineer? How bout a trap star

      April 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cynical

      If he hadn't have been too stoned to be at school where he belonged none of this would have ever happened. So whose really to blame?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jaime

      Although I agree with your statement that he should've been charged...there are probably a billion teenagers. Unless you knew him personally, you didn't lose anything. Don't make this to be something that's about you.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick287

      I wouldn't bet on this kid's chances to become an engineer. Last time I checked he was kicked out of school for posession of drugs...

      April 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • DarkShadow

      Learn the law, he could not be charged for 1st Degree Murder as it was not premeditated.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • peacemaker11

      I am truely sad for the parents, losing a child is the worst thing in the world! So Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton while your praising our Lord almighty for looking down on us and getting justice, please remember a true Jesus Lover will understand and realize that there is another set of parents the Zimmermins that tonight will be very heart broken and worried about their son who will be killed in jail, over the race baiting by Jessi Jackson and Al Sharpton.
      May God have mercy on our nation as brother and sisters, I pray he heals all the parents broken hearts.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Amanda

    That prosecutors statement was sickening. "we don't prosecute in a court of public opinion"... Pretty sure that is exactly what is happening here! Zimmerman wouldn't be charged if it were not for the public out cry! Stop showing that picture of Trayvvon when he was 12 rocking a hollister t shirt. The media is doing a great job painting a false persona of this kid. Please, stop pulling the race card. Shall we recap all of the past black on white crimes? Race has nothing to do with this case and I'm tired of hearing about it.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nina Aoki

      I agree with your statement of the media race-baiting tactics Amanda.
      However, if you strip this case to the basic core of the facts (whatever they may be) you still have an unarmed person who is not here to give his side of the events that occurred that evening.

      What we do have is IMO, is a police department which dropped the ball, creating the forum for the ensuing controversy. We've been privy to the UNEDITED version of the 911 call, where Mr. Zimmerman was advised against pursuing Mr. Martin, which he blatantly ignored; thus setting the stage for the debacle that we have before us today.

      Make no mistake, this has led to the reopening of wounds which were not properly healed and addressed in terms of many injustices, not just rooted in race. But, in the ineffectiveness of those whom we place blind trust to handle the issue of justice itself.

      I myself am tired of the media and those who wish to contort this solely for their own agenda, but I am glad that the due process has begun spinning it's wheels.

      Shall it be cathartic that one must not be in doubt and fear, while having complete distrust that should no person should ever have the means to take the law into their own hands as a means of vigilante justice, without being brought forth upon a jury of their peers, with sufficient facts to face the punishment for their crime(s).

      I hope that those who have played judge, jury and executioner based on unmitigated facts; should never find themselves in the position of having someone commit any criminal act against them without fear of consequence.

      Judge not lest ye' be judged.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Klaas Jan

    It is a statistical recorded fact that blacks are the most violent group in the country. Take a look at prison demographics. 16% of the population, 80% of the prison population.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      That's a false conclusion you reached. Being imprisoned doesn't necessarily mean you are violent. That statistic (where did you get it from?) should be interpreted as African-Americans are the most imprisoned/sucessfully prosecuted population. You should look up statistics regarding prosecution rates, and compare them to rates for white defendants charged with similar crimes. You should also turn your focus away from race and look into class. Don't you think if I have the ability and means to hire an expensive attorney, the chance that I am not prosecuted for a crime substantially increases?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nina Aoki

      Please take the emotion out of the equation and let the jury decide the outcome of this case.

      It seems you are no better than those whom wish to use this crime to further their own agenda, instead of letting the case be decided without prior BIAS in a court of law.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  8. who cares

    Who cares...a black guy's dead and a hispanic is in jail. What's up with Apple and Google these days?

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cynical

    So now it's come to this........an avowed self righteous, self centered, egoist and race monger like Al Sharpton is allowed to dictate who is charged with what crime by our federal government. Talk about disgrace.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • joebrown

      Ha Ha your mad!!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • David Walsh

      A crime was still committed.

      It would simply be foolish for a prosecutor to pursue charges simply based on public opinion, WITHOUT having sufficient evidence to press charges.

      Give credit where it is due, and please leave your personal emotions out of it.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JennC

    Finally.. Justice will be served. Its just very sad it took so long.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  11. fiscal2020

    Not a surprise to anyone who knows anything about the law. Zimmerman's lawyers gave up stand your ground, and castle doctrine doesn't apply. Without stand your ground or castle doctrine, self-defense is an affirmative defense. All the prosecution has to prove is Zimmerman killed Trayvon, then Zimmerman has to prove he had no other choice but to kill the kid. Good luck with that.

    It's how the law has worked for hundreds, thousands of years. You cannot ambush someone in private, kill them, then claim self-defense without a tremendous amount of evidence on your side. The gun nuts and white whiners will claim reverse racism and political interference, but the reality is if you kill someone you pay. You literally have to have no other choice but to kill the person to save your own life. Without castle doctrine or SYG, Zimmerman is going to prison.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • YouAreWrong

      @Fiscal – a 17 year old Black man approached the hispanic neighborhood watch guy. He did this after being followed, but it is the black man who made the confrontation.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sebastian

    They guy being Hispanic is completely irrelevant. Let's stop feeding racism!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ro

    Why is everyone talking about everything but the real story. A 17 yr old boy was shot and killed. Doesn't matter his color, his height, his weight...Let this get taken care of by Justice. Not race baiting, trolls, and fighting. We should all be happy that George Zimmerman is finally in custody. Breathe a little people! and Grow up!. We are supposed to be the UNITED States of America remember?

    April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • cho

      God people like you are a joke. A neighborhood watch captain killed some THUG and he is guilty?? what a joke! I love how CNN keeps posting pictures of Travon the THUG when he was like 12. Media bias at its finest.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • SV

      Thanks for the sane post.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. xcrafter

    tpf amen

    April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Maxwell

    It seems like people would be angry about this INSANE LAW in Florida that allows people to use deadly force so freely. That's really what killed this kid and it will surely happen again, it's completely legal. This guy's not going to prison for murder, no way; he's protected by the law.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • insight

      The GOP has added it to the overall gun laws nation wide.... this is why the Dems could not pass the last bill that was on the table. The Dems said "if this law is passed the streets of America will run in blood". I guess this case actually backs their comments on gun control. Republican voting Straight Dem ticket 2012.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
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