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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    zimmerman not guilty

    April 12, 2012 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. DurpDurp

    My bad Dave. Hard to keep track of all the comments. I apologize.

    April 12, 2012 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      No worries, this isn't an academic debate anyways.

      April 12, 2012 at 1:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tiara

    Durp Durp I'm am writing this on my phone ...so therefore my phone auto types the words and that's what happens ...I happen to be talking about your ignorance with others so I apologize if you aren't smart enough to get what I sd but basically you are a pompus idiot and you are sad to think that black people haven't contributed to this country ...the welfare system wasn't made for us .....however....there are blacks on welfare as there are whites ......and that we aren't the only ones that commit crimes ....roberry has been done by Italians ...white ...Hispanics etc.....as a going black female it is sad that crime is high within my race but we have people other than al sharpton and Jesse Jackson trying to make changes ......

    April 12, 2012 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Tiara, your race has very little to do with crime rates. While the crime rates are greater among black and hispanic youths than other groups in the US, a better correlation is found by comparing economic status of both the victims and perpetrators and type of crime. The only reason race is involved is because its easier to see someone's colour than their net worth. In general, poorer people commit much more violent crime than rich people, while rich people commit more "white-collar" crime (embezzlement, larceny, etc) than poorer people. If the distribution of race was equal across the economic piers, then chances are, so too would crimes committed by each race (e.g. Canada).

      April 12, 2012 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tiara

    Dave I'm not trying to make this a race issue I stated before not every crime involving a black individual is a race crime....and yes I also stated before that our crimes are more violent ...while whites will kill for insurance money...etc....but dnt highlight our crime and key the other be brushed under the rug ...I dnt use the race card I am a 25 yr young black woman wo isn't on welfare but I am a single mother ......not every person is the same ....when crimes are commuted I am for what is right ....when I voted for obama I didn't vote because he was black I voted because of his views

    April 12, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tiara

    I dnt use the race card......and sorry for the misspelled words my phone thinks it is a genius

    April 12, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lecia Albro

    I cant understand why the Governor of FL has not spoken out or appointed a prosecutor over the Bounty on Zimmerman? Hey Media NBC News ABC News CBS News FOX News CNN News.

    April 12, 2012 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. smuck

    They only charged because the public out cry Zimmerman a victim lets pray that truth and justice preval

    April 12, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
    • sam

      No, no, Smucky, the 17 yr old kid is the victim. Haven't you heard, he was the one who was murdered by a wannabe cop who was warned not to engage Martin. What, praytell, was Zimmerman a victim of? He was the aggressor. Martin was concerned about his safety and he told his girl friend as much right before GZ engaged Martin.

      April 12, 2012 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Leif

      Floridians are the victims of the stupidity of the "stand your ground" law. It is the poster child for a poorly written law.

      April 12, 2012 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
    • TREEMAN

      i agree. the left is painting martin as an innocent bystander. he was the agressor. he was at fault. zimmerman defended himself. this is reverse racism. it is a disgusting manipulation of the justice system by the liberal left wingers

      April 12, 2012 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
    • jim

      I don't care.
      Zimmerman was a wanna be.
      Tryvon (nice name by the way) was also a wanna be.

      Good riddance to both. A wanna be cop and wanna be thug.

      BOTH LOSERS!

      April 12, 2012 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
    • jp

      Reverse the colors and nobody cares!
      What a load of crap this whole case is!

      Oh, and the black panthers have done a lot to help the world haven't they?

      WHAT A JOKE!

      April 12, 2012 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
  8. karlheiz

    I will gladly give to Zimmy's defence fund and reimburse him the cost of the bullet he used.

    April 12, 2012 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Em in Oz

      Truthfully, Karlheiz doesn't have enough money for half a bullet. They do however have the ability to talk big online.

      April 12, 2012 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Thunder

    A WITCH hunt, It's the 1600's all over, masses want something so someone has to be burnt at the stake........
    Any way, now under Florida laws the juvenile records of TRAYVON can now be made public.......

    April 12, 2012 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. PK

    If I kill someone, and I am happy to be alive because I kill someone in self defense, I don't think I'd have much of a problem airing the case in court. In fact, why not make court hearings a standard practice in self defense killings? Cops are cops. They should never be judge and jury too. The media is the media, They definitely shouldn't be judge and jury. The rest of us are just people with opinions who have not heard one thing about the evidence in this case that we could put our own lives on to say was true.

    April 12, 2012 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rock

    There are a LOT of people responsible for racial problems in this country. Both white and black. Bill Cosby said it best I believe when he said, pull up your pants and learn to speak English. Some blacks make people think all of us are ignorant or on crack etcl President Obama didn't end up where he is talking about mo fuchers and talking "white", I think a lot of everybody needs to get together and become one nation. Ending the hate will be a long process.

    April 12, 2012 at 5:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. edward ryder

    we all need to sit down and have and intelligent discussion about race in this country.we are all americans,lets come together as one people(americans).and move beyond the ignorance of racism

    April 12, 2012 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. larry5

    I'm glad to see that this terrible incident is still in the headlines. That must mean there has not been any mixed race murders since then. It's such a relief to know that the media is keeping us informed on the only shooting in the past couple of months. And it's good that Obama got involved to speed up the process and has sent some of Holder's people down to Florida to create a federal case to save face for Obama. Poor Zimmerman. It's too bad for him that he's not a Muslim like Major Hasan that killed 13 people and wounded so many others. Hasan has been protected and may never make it to trial and Hasan's case is a slam dunk with dozens of eye witnesses. Due process may never see the light of day for Zimmerman.

    April 12, 2012 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
  14. lord of war

    poltical and public pressure to charge him, they also want to use this case to fight the castle law, i hope he gets a fair trail,but i see to much poltical and public pressure for that to happen.

    April 12, 2012 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. william thomson

    as usual,the blacks will get what they want or they burn down the town,cause a riot or intimidate society...its history people..this is how the blackman got to where he is...

    April 12, 2012 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
    • j

      Wait black people riot? No....you mean they destroy their own stuff?
      I am shocked....
      NOT!

      April 12, 2012 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
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