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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    No biggie. This is simply the right thing to do. GZ will now be tried in a court of law, and a jury will decide whether he is guilty or not. This is how the American judicial system works. No big deal.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Levittownman

    I understand the hurt felt by Treyvon's family. But this is a croc of crap...From the moment this became viral it became a linch mob mentality. It became a political football. Why haven't the MSM given the same coverage to both Black on white and black on black violence? Regrettably this issue is creating an environment of hate. An environment of division and mistrust.

    When are we as americans going to realize that the "Race baiters" and politicians who capitalize on dividing us are using us... We need to demand that those in power follow the rule of law.That all of us (Regardless of race color or creed) have a right to the due process of law. That noone should be judged in the the "Court of opinion".

    April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John Galt Ramirez

    Florida caved to a public that is looking for a lynching of a hispanic man. He will be found not guilty and then watch out for crazy Florida rioting.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Name*kennet barham

    White power..... White hoodys is how ya take a picture next time they wanna photo thereselves on tv what theworld to do poor little boys dead lets throw our importance of natinsl sercurity from other countries bombing us please god someone give thys boo family some money thats all they want then we can get on with life cutem a check pay there bills something

    April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. BoBo

    Zimmerman is a wanna-be law enforcement/Vigilante punk on an ego trip. Always has been and he couldn't make the cut. Simple as that. Rev. Sharpton... your more of a joke than ever, leave town and take the media circus with you. The people of Sanford will decide the fate of this case as it should be. Yet another schmuck for the citizens of florida to feed in prison.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mark

    Hey boy...the bell tolls for thee.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. nautiusm

    i think New Zealand is looking really appealing. Getting tired of all this stupidity that is drummed up by our media.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dave

    America is Ameria's own worse enemy. On a path to self destruction. When a young man going about his own business can be confronted, shot to death, and then the shooter can turn around and claim self defense.
    Trayvon was minding his own business. Zimmerman is not a police officer, so what authority was he under when he confronted Trayvon. Zimmerman had a gun. If anyone should be claiming self defense, it should Trayvon, but we know that's not possible. The problem here is Trayvon commited the crime in America, which is called Walking While Black(WWB). America will never change, and there's hope for this once great nation. Trayvon was talking on the phone with his girlfriend, so why would he attack Zimmerman. Zimmerman claiming that he was attacked makes no sense. Stand your ground dosen't apply here, because there was no threat to begin with. You don't a law degree for this one. You don't even need basic common sense. It's a no brainer. If a black man did something like this, there's on way he would away with this. The whole world is looking at this case to see if America will change it's color.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • nautiusm

      Dave, you're an idiot. You weren't there and much of what you are saying is supposition. It's this kind of "court of public opinion" bs is exactly what we DON'T need.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • John LI

      Were you there? Point is. No one knows what happened but Zimmerman at this point. Someone SHOULD be arrested, but the trial should determine what happened and if or when a sentence should be imposed. Jumping to conclusions is the huge fault of our media.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • obamaliar

      I sense blackness here not a neutral color. I hope Zimmy wins

      April 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dale

      Say, do you feel outraged about the white man in Baltimore that was robbed, beaten and stripped of his clothes by a group of blacks?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. E Aelterman

    Zimmerman acted against the dispatcher's advice, pursued and subsequently killed an unarmed man. I think the charge is fair. It is unfortunate that whatever his reasons, two families are destroyed because of them.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. yneemee

    Blacks hate whites.... period

    April 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • udub

      Should they not?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jesus

      ...and whites hate blacks too.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Oh please. Get over it already.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick from Minnesota

      You sure? I'm friends with some blacks and they don't hate me.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • stephanie

      No...that's not true at all...I am a African american women and my to best of friends since grade school are white and I love them more than anything...our kids play together eat togehter and pray at church together.. so please don't think that.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tiara Grim

    All of you are sad ....this is about justice and how everyone who wears a hoodie is a thug....I'm sure if a black person shot your son because of his attire you would be asking for justice too .....not asking but screaming this black man shot my son ...grow up and get your head out your behind ....zimmerman was told to stop his pursuit of this young man and he deliberately disobeyed the authorities ......so he deserves to be tried for 2nd degree murder...and you all always get mad at obama well hell you were mad at bush just 4 yrs ago ...so you will never be satisfied ...and you all hate us so much yet my ancestors didn't asked to come here you all need us ....just like you need us now to blame societies problems on when you can't take the blame .....every race has bad apples or as you all call yours white trash

    April 11, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • nautiusm

      There are far more black on white crimes than the reverse. So why do you think blacks deserve so much special attention? They don't. No race does. Quit making this a race thing.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Old-skool conservative

    This is simply the way it should be. In the American judicial system, people are tried by jury, before a judge, rather than in the media, by 300,000,000 know-it-alls who only have the biased part of the story that they want to believe.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. er

    if it was the other way around where a black killed a white it wouldnt hv been reported out of the area
    this guy is screwed because the dead person is black

    April 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • BalUchistan

      Very true .
      The media never used the term "white" hispanic til now.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Szilard

    Prediction -- Massive Riot Across the Country when Zimmerman is found Not Guilty. State's Attorney had no choice... she had to charge Zimmerman with 2nd Degree Murder... I laughed every time she talked about justice because this is clearly a political case at this point. Trayvon Martin's death is tragic but unless the prosecution has a video with audio of the entire altercation there is no way there will be a guilty verdict... Politics, Politics, Politics nothing more....

    April 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronnie Boy USA

      Somebody please tell me what Travons mother meant when she said "they killed my son, now they want to ruin his reputation"...could they mean white people or the like? You bet it did! Who is racist here?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • nautiusm

      @szilard Agreed

      April 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. R. Harris

    I knew he be charged with something, but this is a media/public frenzy (like Casey Anthony) AND Florida. The outcome will be a joke to minimal at best.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
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