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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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. Mark in Omaha

    Somebody died at the hands of another person with very shady details. Justice must have her day.

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

    So, what prison term or stipulations does a second-degree murder charge carry in Florida?

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

    When will the positive drug test come back on dead one?

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

      positive drug test results? what . . . the kid smoked a joint . . . big deal. Marijuana should be legal, except the CIA is making billions of dollars off illegal drugs and Marijuana.

      Get real!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Allen

    After this circus is over the DA should be fired. People should not be arrested to placate the mob! The American judicial system is based on an assumption of innocence. Americans are not locked up until the prove their innocence. This lady has turned the court onto its head, and the Florida Bar should be looking to have her disbarred.

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

      You are so very WRONG , A suspect is ARRESTED, DETAINED, PROCESSED and then MAYBE released.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TP

    For claiming that George Zimmerman wouldn't be tried in the court of public opinion, Angela Corey seems to be running for office with that speech of hers more than prosecuting a case.

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

      You're wrong. The evedence is NOT there for first degree murder. First Degree means he planned to murder the kid. He never met the kid before hand. read Florida Code 782 for a discription of each charge type.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Larry

    If George Bush was in office Zimmerman would take over Martin Luther Kings Birthday. But Obama is there and a decent man is in Jail. A travesty of justice

    DUDE!!!!! I SO AGREE WITH YOU. ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

    Thanks man. Im so tired of seeing these colored people walk all over this great country.

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

      your both idiots

      April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • BushTheBully

      is equally as criminal as Obama.
      Trust my words.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Al

    Say whatever you want to say, but it's time for the courts to decide. You nor I have a say in this situation. May the wheels of justice began to grind!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joyce

    I will be interested in hearing how the Corey team arrived at this charge. I. Honestly. Would.

    Because up until now, the facts pointed to self defense.

    If he is found innocent, I hope that the Mob will be satisfied. If he is found guilty, I hope I will be satisfied.

    The outcome should not be in any way influenced by the fact that there were so many protests and marches and statements by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It should be based on facts, and evidence, and proof.

    I know what I believe, but it is based on what has been released so far. I do hope that Zimmerman is not made a sacrificial lamb, in an effort to appease the Mob, and that it is based on facts.

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

      This is what it all boils down to. The jury will be instructed on intent.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • chrsnck

      Actually Joyce the facts in this case have been misconstrued and some outright falsehoods on both sides of the argument. You cant even go by the 911 tapes because they bleeped out the curse words. It would interesting to find if it was a racial slur or something simple as cursing because he stubbed his toe. Until the real facts come out in trial you nor anyone else can say whats real and whats not.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • GJ Joe

      You have made up your mind, so a trial isn't necessary. He's innocent.

      You are no different from the folks who say he's automatically guilty.

      A trial is the best outcome here.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Roscoe Hyatt

    Zimmerman for President

    April 11, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
  10. willie

    how did we arrive at 2nd degree murder when zimmerman was the only one with a gun

    April 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JD

    Arrested because of politics, not because of evidence. Not a good precedent at all.

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

      AGREED!!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • GJ Joe

      The evidence shows an unarmed guy was killed by a gun.

      That's about all the evidence we have so far.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. WellTakeIt

    Mitigate down to man 2 and we have a deal.
    (That's how its done these days, I hear)

    April 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Name*reel

    Folks.. Let's stop the hate. All men were created equal(black,white,green,yellow) WE gat the blood(RED). I weep for the u.s!! Let's embrace one another please! God bless america!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. valwayne

    2nd degree murder? I haven't heard any evidence to date that would support more than a manslaughter charge. However, I'm not going to jump to conclusions like Obama, Sharpton, Jackson, and the other members of the lynch mob. We can wait for the trial. With Florida being 23% latino it will be interesting to see how many members of the jury are Latino. If there aren't 2 to 4 you'll know the entire system has been rigged to give the lynch mob the hanging they've been screaming to get. As for the leaks and stuff today....not very professional and certainly not justice!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • newshead12

      This decision came from people who have law degrees, police experience, and who have actually SEEN the evidence that has been submitted. You have only been watching media clips, therefore you can't possibly make this determination.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. newshead12

    45 days later, he is charged. The media has to back off now and let the process play out. Remember the media craze over the Casey Anthony trial?

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