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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    I am happy that they finally decided to do the right thing and give this idiot his day in court I just hope the court isnt made up of a bunch of cavemen. black ppl has been denied justice for too long. they love to watch black ppl be great sportmen(OJ, Hank Aaron, Michel jordan, Tiger Woods) and leaders yet they continue to disrespect us individually, what a shame and stupid way to behave bigots

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

    I think second degree will be hard to get. Manslaughter seems more likely to me. It reminds me of the Anthony case (I know everyone is sick of that case). If they had gone for second degree I really believe she would be in jail right now. Instead they went for the death penalty.

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

    I cant wait for the brothers to get ahold of Zimmerman.

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

    From an adjacent headline - I wonder if "Davis' Sister" would have anything to say about this.

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

    LOL that prosecutor has got to be an attention wh0re.. there was supposedly only a single eye witness prior to the shooting that claimed Z was attacked.. I can't wait to see this chick lose.

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

      Your key word...supposedly

      April 11, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian Hartman

      I was surprised by the second degree murder charge, too, but we can only go by what's known publicly. The prosecutor presumably has access to things like forensic reports, etc. For instance, it will be very easy to tell the distance from which Zimmerman shot Martin. From the second degree murder charge, I assume it wasn't at point blank close range.

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

      Ok, set let that witness testify under oath. Your right if Martin was a different race, ethnicity wouldn't have been as big an issue. And the fact is Zimmerman would have been charged long ago, so it would even be less of an issue take race out of it. You have a neighborhood watch leader, running around wiht a gun, who kills an unarmed teenager, who was simply walking back home from the store. Yes, let's leave race out of it, how many parents would idly sit by and not expect or do their darndest to get the killer prosecuted. I'm black and absolutely wish they would take race out of it, because, it wouldn't have even been issue as to whether charge Zimmerman or not, it would have been done.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Texan

    He can share an apartment with Casey Anthony if he's acquitted. Then they'd both sleep with one eye open.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kensi

    Hmmm...the original, on-site investgators didn't find evidence of murder, but the political hack from out of town, citing NO new evidence, decides it's murder.

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

      Just because hte onsite investigation of probably a couple hours did not produce a charge does not mean that a murder was not committed. Rarely murder investigations get determined in a couple of hours. Generally, if enough evidence exists against a suspect, the suspect is charged and released on bond while the investigation continues. The issue was that Zimmerman was not charged and the investigation was basically dropped. And the parents argued had it been Martin regardless of guilt or not, he'd have been arrested and eventually put on trial. Which is all they asked for Zimmerman, be investigated, brought to trial and found guiilty or not guilty. I mean regardless of race or anhything else you had a neighborhood watch ,lead shoot a teen, who wasn't guilty of any crime, that was simply walking from the store back to home. That in itself is enough reason to hcarge. If there had been a cop who shot Martin an even more thorough examination would have been done than what a non-law enforcement officer initially recieved. Police didn't even interview witnesses that night? Come on, really?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. amac

    We'll STILL have to wait many MONTHS to learn what evidence the prosecutor has to back up her charge of second-degree murder. Don't think the speculation and finger pointing and name calling and race baiting will end in the meantime, though.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jim

    I must have missed something. What about the option that it was self defence as stated? Just because Zimmerman killed a 17 year old and says it was self defence, doesn't mean it wasn't.... There have been many.... MANY 17 year old or younger violent offenders. Unfortunately, Zimmerman's life is now in ruins regardless of the outcome. Makes you wonder if it's really worth it to give service to your community.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. willie

    Murder is murder, regardless of the color of the participants. Zimmerman is not a cop. He shot and killed an unarmed man. It doesn't matter whether or not you liked Trayvon Martin or think he was a troublemaker. He had a right to live, and Zimmerman murdered him.

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

      Sorry Willie .. murder is not murder ... read the Florida Statutes regarding this

      April 11, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Betilu

    I saw the results of the Casey Anthony trial and will predict a similar outcome for this case. The lady is speaking lots of words while smugly smiling. Words....words words

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. the country we live in

    I'm sure if Trayvon was a different race this wouldnt be as a big issue as it is now. Just because George Zimmerman is a different race other than African American there's a problem. WHERES THE RIOT FOR THE BLACK ON BLACK VIOLENCE? A person dies every day that are killed by their own race smh this is the society we live in

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

      Your right if Martin was a different race, ethnicity wouldn't have been as big an issue. And the fact is Zimmerman would have been charged long ago, so it would even be less of an issue take race out of it. You have a neighborhood watch leader, running around wiht a gun, who kills an unarmed teenager, who was simply walking back home from the store. Yes, let's leave race out of it, how many parents would idly sit by and not expect or do their darndest to get the killer prosecuted. I'm black and absolutely wish they would take race out of it, because, it wouldn't have even been issue as to whether charge Zimmerman or not, it would have been done.

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

    there are plenty of borthers in jail to get ahold of him.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Johnson2525

    I don't have a problem with the charges that were just filed. But, I do have a problem with the way the media is making out the victim as if he was an angels in the past and they keep showing his picture when he as about 12 years old. Furthermore, nbc puts on a false 911 report to make the defendant sound racist and then plays it off by saying it was a mistake from a producer.

    White, black, yellow and orange people, please understand that the media is trying to make everyone upset to draw on our emotions so that they continue to gain ratings and make money. It's the media that is truly destroying our country.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikey23

      And who owns the Media? Who owns all the networks, all the newspapers, and all the news magazines. The Jews.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. He was charged because

    This man was charged because blacks will riot otherwise.

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

      Let them riot. Then we can send in the national guard and open fire. They only destroy their own neighborhoods anyway.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
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