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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Hmmmm has Al ever stood up for a white man murderd by a Black ....Personally none of us were there so how can they pin it on Zimmerman oh yeah because the heat is on what about the bounty on Zimmermans head from the Panther group sounds pretty much like a threat . The kid was a thug it doesnt mean he deserves to die it just means when you go out and get yourself in trouble be prepared for the concequences. You dont know what it could lead up to .

    April 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Nina Aoki

    I find it simply appalling that those who wish to cry about this case simply being brought forth due to "media outcry" cannot give an educated and unbiased opinion WITHOUT personal emotions clouding their judgement.

    Unarmed vs Armed – If you've ever been unfortunate enough to be the victim of any crime, you have entrusted your local judicial system to bring forth the perpetrator, without any of their personal convictions/feelings and to simply present/try the case based on facts.

    This is why they're elected to the position of making such crucial decisions, they've been trusted to enact the due process based on FACTS and not personal OPINION. Which is not to say that they do not possess such, it is simply that they're practicing the act of conviction without depending on said bias.

    I see quite a few emotional characters who are simply sprouting off based solely on just that. EMOTIONS.

    May we all be lucky to never have those characters, whomever they may be in the position of being in any role that doles out consequences based on your personal feelings instead of the facts.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Let me show ya somethin

    Hey NRA, looks like you can't just tout your weapon around like the old west. There is actually some responsiblity tied to having and using that weapon.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • FactsNotFantasy

      Yeah, the responsibility to defend yourself if someone is bashing your head into the concrete (if that's indeed what happened). Please don't have children.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Pedo

    This would not have been a major story if it wasn't an election year...the whole thing is sad to watch. I'm tired of it already.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jwfinjef

    Hispanics and Whites need to wake the hell up by Nov.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TEFU

      What do yo mean by this?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dezz

    Every body calling this boy a thug!!!! Sh!@ am a thug and would hurt this men EZ no gun!!!!!! And anybody would like to help will get it too!!!!!! I put that on everything......

    April 11, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • a computer scientist

      jar jar, I don't speak ebonics I'm not sure what you are trying to say.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • BuzzardBreath

      Yes, yes you are. An illiterate thug.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Area Mann

      The implication of all the hubbub is that a) Hispanics are racist against blacks, or b) any black killed by a non-black has racist motives by default. Hispanics have been strangely silent during all this . . . maybe too smart to get into sucked into the vortex of an unending debate?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Area Mann

      fool

      April 11, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • a computer scientist

      I'm hispanic
      The way I see in my culture, there are 2 types of hispanics lazy ones and non lazy ones. If you want to succeed in life you need to put work and effort in. Hispanics don't knock their own race for trying to succeed, I didn't get accused of being white because I went to college.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marline

    So sickening !! I'm disgusted.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave

    So I guess the special prosecutor is willing to bend to public pressure to charge Zimmerman. Great. That's a wonderful precedent that is being set....not only that but this case has shown that reverse racism and white guilt is still very prevalent in our society.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • valencia

      White guilt?! Are u kidding me?! This grown man chased this young boy down...and then shot him! Nothing Zimmerman says is valid all because he followed, chased, and accosted this boy...cuz he was black! Then he shot him...cuz he was black! Trayvon was defending himself against a "trigger-happy" grown white man! Come on now...let's keep it real!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      Valencia – cuz he was black. cuz he was black. Dude really? I'm taking a wild guess that you are black? We all got it that you hate white people. Did you know Zimmerman is Mexican? Close enough to white though for you to go off on a rant about white people? Another wild guess is you haven't made it passed the fifth grade yet.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kramer

    Sharpton wants a damn holiday for Trayvon. Are you kdding me.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sal Voce

      WHY IS SHARPTON THERE??? He SHOULD be in BALTIMORE chasing down the thugs that mugged that guy at the courthouse!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      Sharpton is an idiot and a disgrace to his race.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • valencia

      No, r u kidding me? is this Kramer from Seinfeld?! We all remember his racist rants!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sal Voce

    WHY IS SHARPTON THERE??? He SHOULD be in BALTIMORE chasing down the thugs that mugged that guy at the courthouse!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    Will the trial be exclusive on Black entertainment tv ?

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bethanie

    Have we forgotten that an unarmed teenager died? Zimmerman was the aggressor....all keyed up..got out of his car and followed the unarmed teenager....disregarded the dispatcher instructions to not follow him..... Zimmerman is a wanna be cop that decided to murder a teen who was simply walking home. He thought he was going to get away killing a young black male. Not so....

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • a computer scientist

      Yeah, and 50% of the community that he was watching over was black, also some of his close friends are black.

      Kid should of not escalated the situation. Also if you read the police report about the gun, someone else had a hand on that gun when it went off. Making popcorn this is going to be a good quick trial. All the tarnishing facts about Martin and Zimmerman will come to light. Zimmerman will likely be let go.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      I'll bet Sharpton would want you on the jury dude.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • a computer scientist

      doubtful they'd want me as a juror, but I dont know that there is really any evidence to support that this guy was looking to kill a black kid. Which I wish people would stop trumpeting "He was just a boy" Shawn Tyson was 16 when he gunned down 2 british tourist in Florida. He was just a kid too, right?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Clydene

    I love that in the USA each of us have a voice, though, and we can each let it be heard.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JC

    I think this charge might be a mistake, possibly intentionally. By most definitions of 2nd degree murder, the prosecutor must prove intent. I'm not sure that exists here, because that would mean that Zimmerman made a spur of the moment decision (i.e. one not planned in advance) to follow and kill Martin. I don't see that as provable because, by the classic definition, he could have shot at any time. Furthermore, it is fairly clear that the firearm discharged while being in Zimmerman's possession, but not completely under his control. Don't get me wrong; I think that Zimmerman should be held accountable for taking a life, because he 1) armed himself 2) followed Martin, and 3) unnecessarily confronted Martin with no justifiable reason. At best, what we have is unlawful use of a firearm in the commission of a crime, and Manslaughter. Perhaps there will be a plea deal? He won't deal.
    Let me explain what's going to happen: the Jury, finding a lack of intent for reasons mentioned above, is going to find Zimmerman innocent. There is going to be a level of anger in the black community making the current situation look like a picnic, and there will be some violence, but not an explosion. The federal government will step in with the only charge they can bring, violation of rights, and Zimmerman will get off with a few years and a slap on the wrist. The black population will explode, and there will be copy-cat violence everywhere, because despite what has been said, this is about vengeance, not justice. If I were Martin's family, and I really wanted Zimmerman held accountable, I would be down at the prosecutor's office asking her to withdraw those charges and refile. So is it to be justice, or just a pound of flesh?

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      JC is right on the money! The State prosecutor will never be able to show intent on a 2nd degree murder charge. I agree with the other commenter who stated the special prosecutor did Zimmerman a favor by charging him with 2nd degree murder. He'll beat that and be a free man.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • a computer scientist

      good post

      April 11, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • adriana

      this is a hate crime because zimmerman shot him because he was black ! we just need to prove it!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Totally right on!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Doug

    None of us are completely innocent. We've all sinned a few times here or there. Regardless, even if Trayvon wasn't completely an innocent kid, he didn't deserve to be killed. Just because someone smokes a little mary jane here and there doesn't mean they deserve to get gunned down.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
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