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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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. Salero21

    Finally this vigilante-wannabe-cop, who is not even a Security Guard will have to answer some questions. Maybe then we'll all know the whole true and nothing but the True. If that is at all possible.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Fred

    In order for this situation to be made "right" again, Corey needs to charge Zimmerman with either manslaughter or murder, The New black panthers for placing a unlawful bounty, spike lee with reckless endangerment of the public for giving out a bogus address, which could have cost the elderly couple their lives and the NBC crew for doctoring the tapes. Unfortunately even if all of this happens, Trayvon will still be dead. and that is a real tragedy. May he RIP.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • hopemac

      Ya, where is Eric Holder on this million dollar bounty on Zimmerman, dead or alive? That is a terrorist threat. The New Black Panther should have already been arrested.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Lonny Bush

    Hey i' give george any help !!!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. tiara grim

    nancy i hope God watches over your family because death has no friends and no favorites...you could be next and your familyy just in a different situatuion. you laugh at this young mans death. blacks have never gotten fair treated me not even when we were voted too.....if you knew that your ancestory where treated they way mine have would you not be upset...and to be judged on what this person does and that person does but your not judging me for me.....is unfair....is racism right no.....but people make us look so negative every ethnic race has it bad apples ....

    April 11, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lonny Bush

    blblabla said nancy grace FIRE HER!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TeeTee

    So now that he has been charged, he is Hispanic?!! Did they think saying he was white would buy his freedom? Weird!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tommy from LA

      Who cares what race he is? Black people are protesting for no good reason. Zimmerman is innocent. Black people are racists.

      April 11, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Lonny Bush

    MMM bboooo hhooo my past NANCY GRACE

    April 11, 2012 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Linda

    However much time he gets, they need to add the 44 days he was allowed to walk free. I've seen some really ugly comments here, which tells me a lot of people are just as racist as he is, and probably think they have the right to kill and unarmed black person, because they think they could get away with it like he thought he could. People really have no problem showing their true colors. Red necks. No, that is not at all surprising.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boyce

      Dont let faceless racist internet troll cowards bother you. I have lived 40 years and I have never had a white person say anything racist to me. The internet is their sanctuary. They are as yellow as they come.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian wright

      Tell me about it and I bet these same racist people will go to work tomorrow and have coffee with their black coworkers like they never had a racist thought in their lives

      April 11, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Drake

    Why does everyone have such a soft spot for black people? 70% are awful and their race commits the most crimes...most dont even have jobs.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian wright

      you are so full of chit. and i hope you die in a fire.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • udub

      More whites ate on welfare. They kill their parents and they eat people. Who's the animal?

      April 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I'm assuming your statistics are straight out of the census bureau, or did you borrow "udub"'s encyclopedia on race cultures?

      April 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tommy from LA

      I don't. They deserve everything negative for acting stupid for protests. They are bringing down society.

      April 11, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Lonny Bush

    See travon mother as for tradmarke she need money.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Salero21

    Maybe now we'll all know the truth of Zimmermans motivations. Maybe some justice will be done to an unarmed teenager, killed by an ARMED vigilante-wannabe-cop. Who at the age of 28 should know better than a 17 year old.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. tiara

    not every black person is the same so stop judging a nation of people off of one person demenor.......you all are idiots and think you know everything.....i am a 25 yr old african american female who live is the nicest county of my state...i dnt have a criminal record...my daughters attends a highly recommended school district as does my brother who is 18 yrs old ...he cares a 4.0 average and is active in every sport from baseball to football...he wears a hoodie everyday but has never been suspected of any crimes...he has never had any run ins with the cops ....so not every black person is a criminal ...just like every pope isnt a cchild rapist ...not every german hates jews and not every italian hate black people...not every black person hates whites...i will have a white sis in law soon ...so please save the bs for another peron

    April 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Stand Your Ground

    George. They don't allow guns in jail. And the black guys you're going to meet in there are going to be a LOT bigger than 160lbs. How are you going to fight them off you sniveling little coward? You're butt hole is going to look like the Lincoln Tunnel. Enjoy.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ernie McCracken

      Come on man, just when I was getting down with the though of Abe as a modern era vampire hunter, you go and bring up the anal turnpike reference. I bet they build a parking garage in that cavity.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Marcelo

    Fine let's see a fair trial, but I doubt that the trayvon side will be happy with the result if it's not life in prison.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dave

    It's funny how everyone knows whether Zimmerman is guilty or not. There's a legitimate question in all of this: what provoked a man (who was, in all fairness, giving up his time to his community to a sense of duty) to shoot a man (who, in all fairness, was simply walking home from a convenience store)? If Martin were Hispanic (and no "race-card" to be called) we'd all be asking what exchange occurred, but because they were of different races, everyone is assuming without question that they know exactly what transpired. Zimmerman called into 911, so we know he was truly concerned about Martin's presence, but what was it that sparked this concern? Martin's colour or his actions? This is best considered in a court of law, not in the ignorant blather of people who's opinions were formed by the op-ed's of others just as ignorant... Both Zimmerman and Martin deserve a court ruling on this matter, and they deserve the public's respect of that final decision, whatever it may be.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian wright

      I agree with you . All these racist comments and national racial tension is a tragedy all in its own.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • matthew

      Maybe Martin tried to rob him? Who knows, we were not there. Maybe Martin saw him following him and decided he was an easy target, who knows. Only two people know the truth. One is dead and one is not.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
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