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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    just sad that people can not see the real issue at hand who care what race he is...he should have left him alone once he was told to there for he opened this can of worms for himself....and the only reason people are so voicestress with there racism is because they hide behind a http address and they would never say any of this to a black person face ...or will they every express any disgust with any race anywhere unless it is behind a computer. racist have issues with everyone not just blacks. racist hate that hispanics can cross the border, you hate that after 911 that arabics can still operate businessed in the usa...you hate because hatred is what your family was built upon....yet people can't be judged off the bad people within there race. thats why we are individuals

    April 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Knicks

    Free Zimmerman!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ouch

    No fair trial for this guy. The state of Florida needs to be on trial for having the law in force to begin with.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Moonbeam

    I wonder if the special prosecutor actually has enough evidence for 2nd degree murder, because I heard that neither Zimmerman's gun nor his clothing were immediately held for inspection. The police work appears to have been sloppy in certain aspects. Hopefully, the prosecutor has good reason for the second degree murder charge and has ample evidence of which we are unaware. I fear that asking for a conviction for anything above manslaughter may jeopardize getting a conviction at all, unless the jury will be given an option for manslaughter too. The Casey Anthony case was over-charged and she walked. It is so frustrating to think a suspect is allowed to go home with his gun and his clothing and that trace evidence might have been destroyed (if that is indeed what happened).

    April 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lonny Bush

    CNN is now puting george zimmerman Down shame on you!!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. walkthetalk

    Looks like the Sanford PD are going to have to hire a new PR firm.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • tom

      al sharpton is a criminal himself. jessie jackson is worthless! the blacks always get what they want. heart disease will get them all....

      April 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TRUTH N MUSTACHES

    TRUE: Criminal Justice

    Black people are more prejudice than white people. Get over it.
    I would have not believed it unless I saw it, and not just to whites but to Hispanics and other races, somehow one race thinks its superior to any other, sad – no race is, are we are all equal ! until you throw the media in, then it becomes a "aww poor so n so, we owe your ancestors for bringing them here" and America is so unfair, – Well F@#k that, go back, go somewhere else, if America is so bad, so.. racist leave.. oh wait theres no wellfair or foodstamps, or easy drug dealing freedoms like in America... STOP USING THE RACE CARD, All other races are sick of it.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grawp

      Citation needed

      April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boyce

      More whites are on public assistance than any other race you flaming idiot. Go die somewhere...

      April 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • yep

      and christians are the worst

      April 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • yep

      and, as I said, christians are the worst

      April 11, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Arlene

      Folks, this is a comment by the face of the Republican Party. Darned uneducated jerk. Go back to school.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian wright

      They didnt pull the race card. Zimmerman pulled the trigger because he got his a55 kicked by a kid he shouldve left alone when he was advised to. Racism is so stupid, what are we going to do when all the aliens from space start living here?

      April 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dave Sharpe

    Story should read "suspect tried by the media". This man (Zimmerman) who only wanted to give his time (volunteer) to keep his neighbors life and property safe. Any death of a child, teen or anyone is sad regardless of race or denomination but there are not always answers and the martin family sought those answers through mob justice and media and political in playing. I fear this decision was motivated for all the wrong reasons and it will shadow the real issues which are stricter gun control and better community unity without an us and them faction..

    Many should be embarrassed no justice has been served today. Still my prayers to the boys family but popular or not many prayers to Zimmerman and his family at this time. Stand tall and know not everyone is against you.

    Dave Sharpe – Canada

    April 11, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boyce

      Yea when YOUR child is shot dead after being harassed in his own neighborhood, you should just take it up the rear when the police tell you there will be no arrest.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bubba

    No one here was there – they don't know if he's guilty or not. I hope justice is done and a jury discovers the truth of what happened. If he's guilty – I hope they find him guilty...if he's innocent, I hope they find him innocent! So far, this has been a 21st century lynching!!! Let's wait and see what ALL of the facts are!

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

      I agree with you Bubba, but America loves this drama. Life if boring so they try to make it like the movies.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marquise

      You are right, that night when Trayvon was murdered by a gun and not a noose!

      April 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lonny Bush

    FREE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN!!

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

    Martin is still dead ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Debra Surry

    I wonder if he was charged to prevent backlash from all of those who think he's guilty, those who play the racism game, and so forth. Reason being is that if he was not charged right now, perhaps there'd be riots, death threats, and who knows what else. This world is so sad.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Weezy

    White ppl have no life

    April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jay

    Very sad that this would even draw partisan lines. This is a no-brainer people. The victim was only a teenager, against a 27 year-old man much larger in build and carrying a firearm. You cannot argue for self-defense when there is recorded evidence of being told to stand down. The fact that Zimmerman pursued the victim suggests that Trayvon was the one in self-defense; unfortunately only with a bag of skittles and iced-tea. Florida's 'stand your ground' law would only apply to Trayvon Martin in this instance, not George Zimmerman.

    April 11, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • bubba

      No one – not even Zimmerman has said this is a "stand your ground" case. That's NOT what this is about. It's about Zimmerman defending himself...or not – and that will be for a jury to determine...not a bunch of people on the internet who don't know half of what went on, one way or the other.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lonny Bush

    Free george zimmerman

    April 11, 2012 at 8:54 pm | Report abuse |
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