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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    All these racist comments in here just show the sad state of America. If I had the means I would go to Europe and live there, at least the people there are more open to people of color. People think America has changed since the civil rights movement, all that changed were the laws. The people today are just as racist if not more racist than they were then. I bet the majority of the people posting racist comments have all kinds of black friends/coworkers and wouldn't dare say anything even close to resembling what they post here if they were in their black friends/coworkers presence. I hope all you racist people slip up and say something racist around someone of color and get embarrassed.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      lol, try being a muslim in Europe.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • White America

      They don't work!

      April 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      what a pile of crap, sorry. there's racism on both sides – which is definitely deplorable. I don't want to hear that all blacks are thugs and i don't want to hear that we whites are all "racist".

      What you are saying is it's white racism. BS.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boyd Cartwright

      Good. we want people like you to go.. but promise you'll leave soon. deal?

      But while you're still here – make a trip down to this kids neighborhood and shout out loud! that you're white, and you're here to help.. also leave your car doors unlocked. I promise, I promise that they will embrace you...

      April 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chris

    The only thing I keep thinking is...this man could of left it after the 911 operator told him there was no need to follow this kid, someone was coming to investigate this. I understand that there is two sides to this story, but I do not think this man had any right to go after this kid with a gun. It does not matter that this kid had a record for marijuana use, there could be millions that could have that on their record. It was wrong that this kid was shot. He should of been stopped and questioned, that is all not shot dead.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lonny Bush

    grorge zimmerman did nothing wrong FREE HIM

    April 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Apparently, the prosecutors don't have the crystal ball you have consulted from behind your keyboard. The truth is, none of us know exactly what happened. This is all those of us who are inclined to believe the Martins' story wanted, an open investigation of the facts. Let justice play itself out. That is what makes this such a great country.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michigan GR

    I am sooooooooooo sick of this whole thing. That unnecessary 24 minute show that prosecutor put on made me about want to throw up.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • CommonPeoplertg

      Dito

      April 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Weezy

    Black power

    April 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • White America

      White power!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ding dong song

    they can do better than that. give him first degree murder and execute him today.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shelle

      Well my aptly named friend, if you want to live in a country with a judicial system like that, you are welcome to move to North Korea. Here in America, we have trials first, where evidence is presented and a jury decides if the accused is guilty or not. We don't just off people because of a media frenzy whether or not the "evidence" they present seems damning.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      Shut up. This is america not north korea

      April 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. CommonPeoplertg

    Some of the most racisit people ive heard latley are our white african american brothers

    April 11, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lonny Bush

    Have you nancy grace or cnn asked the mother who took over the rights to sell here sons name or to market here son name is she whating to make money on her son death!!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moonbeam

      She had to apply for the trademarks to keep other people from profiting from her son's death and to control how those phrases are used in the future. I think her lawyers probably suggested it - people not familiar with intellectual property law usually do not think of those things themselves.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. IRAQVET04

    THIS IS A SAD DAY FOR OUR COUNTRY..THIS JUST SHOWS US ALL THAT WE WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO RIGHTFULLY DEFEND OURSELVES,,OUR FAMILY AND WHOEVER IS PUT IN A BAD,,DANGEROUS SITUATION WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO SELF DEFENSE. I HOPE THIS DOES NOT DISCOURAGE ANYONE TO FEAR THE USE OF DEADLY FORCE IF NEEDED,,I CAN PROMISE I WILL NOT HESITATE TOO IF A THUG MADE TO LOOK LIKE AN INOCENT CHILD COMES AT ME WITH ANY THREAT TO ME OR MY FAMILY. GOD HELP US AND OUR COUNTRY,,LET THE TRUTH COME OUT.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boyce

      The world would be better off if garbage like you were dead. I hope it happens soon for You.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • matthew

      No, you are wrong. You CAN defend yourself, as long as it is not against a black male.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian wright

      I bet if it was a black guy that shot Trayvon none of you would give a sh**. some of you would say "one less _____."

      April 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yung Remmy

      Indeed racism is alive an affluent I see

      April 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Darryl Finley

    How not 1st degree you can't run out your house with a gun and then say self defence

    April 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dot8

    Racism is being fueled by the internet, the media and Al Sharpton.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ouch

      I agree. There is no way to get a free trial here.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ouch

      I agree. There is no way to get a fair trial here.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hate begets Hate

      Thank you for responding with that. It needed to be said.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. J

    If a shot has to be fired thers places on the body you can aim at that will take a person down till the cops get there...... Just because your trying to steal my tv. Or stereo. Doesnt give me the right to steal your LIFE..... A BELONGING CAN BE REPLACED A LIFE CAN NOT

    April 11, 2012 at 8:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BritinCan

    Wow. Love your comments! I think we should march for Zimmerman so far I have seen more action from the other side!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. descarado

    Tax-paying working people are getting sick and tired of carrying the welfare-crackhead Obama tribe on their backs every day.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moonbeam

      Taxpaying working people are exactly the people that Obama is trying to help. If you earned less than $250,000 last year, Obama got you a tax cut.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. matthew

    Has anyone really read articles on why he was following Martin? Supposedly it as because there had been a reash of break ins in the area where the same descriptions had been given of suspects. He was doing what any community that cared about their neighborhood should do. There are only so many officers and the community has to work with them to make a better world. None of us were there and can't say what we would have done. I guess we just have to make sure if we end up hurting someone in self defense or otherwise we just have to make sure that they are the same race as us or else we will get labeled a racist profiler. I guess the only "self defense" is justifiable ONLY if the aggressor is your race. I love the way they "appointed" a black female to make the decision to charge or not. I'm sure that wasn't a coincidence. I'm not a racist in any sort of fashion but I am sure that I will be called one for speaking my mind, the truth. A racist can be anyone, not just a white person.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
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