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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    The charge of Zimmerman sent out a chilling signal to the majority of people (White, Latinos, Asians) that in case of life or death fight with a Black, you either give up (Let him kill you) or you will be charged with murder (If you act in self-defense and kill him). You decide!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jim Dirks

    If I see one more of the CNN reporters, coddle and hand-hold the Martin 'side', while lambasting and convicting Zimmerman, I'll be switching CNN off for the rest of my life. Under FL law, under precedent of Stand Your Ground, like it or not, agree with it or not, Zimmerman committed no crime. His arrest, is a publicity stunt to avoid a riot. His conviction will be the same, and his murder in prison, will be courtesy the New Black Panthers. Congratulations to all of you, for railroading a man who sought to protect his own life.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stand Your Ground

      Trayvon was the once Standing Ground. He was stalked turn after turn, block by block by some stranger in a car, following his every move. Trayvon probably thought he was about to be robbed, so when the guy who had been stalking him got out of the car, Trayvon Stood His Ground and fought back, thinking he was about to get ganked. Trayvon was only a boy, but he fought like a real man, with his fists and the heart of a lion. This sniveling little chalupa coward pulled a gun when the boy started to win. Now he gets to go to prison.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      Hopefully nothing will happen to George Zimmerman while he's in jail, but I wouldn't hold my breath. With the Black Panthers offering the bounty on him, I'm sure someone will try to harm him. I wonder why Obama and Holder aren't investigating the Black Panter placing the bounty on George Zimmerman. It makes you wonder if they represent all the citizens of the U.S. or just the African Americans.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • ilex

      Stand Your Ground: How do you explain the location of Martin's body if he was running away from Zimmerman block-by-block? Nevermind, that's for the prosecutor to explain. I'm very curious, though.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Rose

    I blame the Martin family for this tragedy as much as Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Since their son had been suspended from school for 2 weeks because he brought drugs to school, why was he walking the streets at night instead of being confined to his house by his parents. Clearly, this is a case of poor parenting by the Martins which brought upon the death of their son. I'd like to know if Trayvon had been charged criminally for bringing drugs to school or was he just allowed to break the law and get away with it because he was a minority. I hope George Zimmerman gets a fair trial, but with Obama and Holder running the country and probably this case, I doubt he will.

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

      Um Obama and Holder are not judges. They have no control over this...

      April 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Roberto H

    Man I feel bad for the family of both guys but hispanics and blacks have tendency of being killers, gangs etc here in Los Angeles people get killed all the time blacks ,Mexicans, whatever racist no Mexicans and blacks those guys be Banging

    April 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • udub

      Whites bang also they just do it in suits.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Amen, udub. You should write a book on racial cultures. I'd buy it.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KMJ Records

    Well finally we will see the evidence. In Florida there are cameras in the courtroom. I'm just glad he has been charged and will be tried for the killing of that young man!! Time will tell!!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hate begets Hate

    Hate begets Hate is defined as: ""Ill feelings against a person (or group) may encourage him (or them) to hate you in return. Seldom do people respond to an expression of hate with understanding or kindness, although that would be the moral ideal."" ++++ This whole incident stemmed from hate (as far as we are being told-via witnesses) that this was a hate crime. Perhaps it was or wasn't. Does it really matter? Whether he was hated because he was African-american or hated because George Zimmerman would have killed any teen at that time of the night because he hates anyone that is not exactly like him. Or is it because he was full of false power and wanted to prove that he was in charge of his neighborhood? Honestly, will we ever know and does it matter? I think it matters more how we as a country understand that a teenager who was unarmed was shot to death by a man. Why does it always start with allegations of racial profiling/racial hate crimes, and then keeps fueling itself with the help of Al Sharpton, the media and many people that were not exactly there and all we all know is that a young unarmed man was killed. Does it always have to be OVERSHADOWED by racial hate? The loss of a life and the actions of Zimmerman should be remembered. Prayers and thoughts should go out to both families. Hate begets Hate and that is all we ever do as a country. Why must we put a "WANTED: George Zimmerman DEAD OR ALIVE" circulated through the media by the Black Panthers. How can respect be given when it is not received. I know there are people out there that feel that way I do-they are gay, black, white, straight, elderly, teenage, female, male, Jewish, etc. We are all striving for justice, but justice for all. Why can't we as a country form a March and get angry about other kinds of murders like hate or insanity against the elderly or the gay teens or the Arab couple down the street? Why do we only form marches against one race causing more strife instead of banding together as a society. Thank you letting me comment. These are just my personal beliefs and are not meant to offend. They are meant to discuss and share. Thanks.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • MITPhD

      You need to get out more. There are marches against injustice against gays, women, muslims, union members. the poor, etc. No person can be truly free while other humans are repressed for any reason.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian wright

      The term "Hate begets Hate" is going to stick with me thanks to you :).

      April 11, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Jim Dirks

    Piers just did it. See you CNN. How did he do it?

    "Trayvon Martin is dead. Why did your brother take out his gun and shoot an unarmed teenager?"

    Morgan has already convicted Zimmerman, and appears eager to pull the switch for execution. Maybe, he is auditioning for Nancy Graces show. After all, she has never in her life seen a defendant she would not have gleefully executed.

    Buh-Bye CNN

    April 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 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 tragic. May he RIP

    April 11, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. barbara williams

    zimmerman's brother on cnn makes me want to spit on him. he doesn't seem to understand why the outrage over what george did. he's a stupid ass

    April 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tommy from LA

      Zimmerman is innocent. The black people are protesting b/c they feel injustice. Zimmerman was right to use force – I would if someone jumped me, don't care what color they are. So where have you been? Can't you see what the black people are doing? What happen to the protest of the young father with his 8 -year old daughter playing in the park? A black man across the street started arguing with the white father-it turned with the black man shooting the young white father in the heart with his 8 year old daughter watching the whole thing. This was also a hate crime. What happen to the white people protesting around the country? Enough said. The black kid got what he deserved. If I knew who you were, I would spit on your face and say "shame on you".

      April 11, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hope

    reverse discrimination is more common than anyone thinks about. white-on-white murder occurs and no one is screaming for justice, black-on-black murder occurs and no one is screaming for justice, so on and so forth. but when a person not of african-american descent shoots an african american it is total war!!! why is america like this? we don't know what happened with zimmerman and martin. we weren't there. so people should keep their mouths shut until justice is being served. and for zimmerman...him being charged with second-degree murder isn't like the end. by all means, it could turn to that he is innocent of all charges. i absolutely disagree with all the riots and stuff. let the law enforcement, judges, attorneys, and prosecutors do their jobs. i feel sorry for both sides the martins and the zimmermans. the martins lost their son and george zimmerman have been receiving death threats. no wonder he left the state of florida. i am kind of relieved that he turned himself in instead of police bringing him in themselves. i hope all this goes over as fast as possible. for both sakes. it is always said innocent until proven guilty and they need a fast and speedy trial.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Pull the other one now

    "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."

    OK, you big phony. If you're such a Christian, why didn't you call the Panthers and tell them to take the 10K bounty off the head of Zimmerman? YOU will stand trial for your words, lady, at the end.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • MITPhD

      I have heard the family call for calm repeatedly. Where have you been? Too busy listening to other haters?

      April 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. yawningatyourstupidcommentsincali

    I'm glad he's charged, because the facts and the evidence of the case call for him to be charged. It was maddening to see this white male adult get out of jail free when he clearly murdered a teenage black male for no reason. But, I knew the facts and evidence would speak for themselves, that the Special Prosecutor would put all the pieces together and hand down the right charges, it was only a matter of time. Frustrating, yes, but it was absolutely going to happen. And so it did. Now, the rest of you just need to deal with your issues or take a chill pill. peace.

    April 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tommy from LA

      You're stupid just like this dead black kid. This special prosecutor was appointed directly/in-directly by the Obama's administration and was under a lot of pressure to charge Zimmerman. I see what's going on. This is totally injustice. Zimmerman had a right to protect himself – I would do the same thing if you came up and jumped me – I would use the necessary forece to subdue you. ZIMMERMAN IS INNOCENT. AMERICAN JUSTICE IS GUILTY. BLACK PEOPLE ARE RACISTS.

      April 11, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Baddday

    Fair treatment should be earned, but not by wearing your pants below your rear end, not by living a life of leeches, not by using violence against other human beings.

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

    Hermanos y hermanas, recuerde en Noviembre!!!

    Recuerde! Recuerde! Recuerde!

    April 11, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. 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, had some decided to do something stupid, and the NBC crew for doctoring the tapes. Unfortunately even if all of this happens, Trayvon will still be dead. and that is tragic. May he RIP.

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