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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    "dave

    People have always been able to defend themselves."

    I would rather have it spelled out in law, given the differing political views of prosecutors. I have seen people defending their homes drug through the mud for defending their families.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Had It

    I hope all of the race baiters, the media and the chat-room prosecutors are satisfied, the self-serving media pigs Sharpton and Jackson can go home and the Black Panthers can STF U. It took time, but the system worked and justice could be forthcoming as 12 citizens, after hearing all of the evidence will decide if a crime was committed and what the appropriate punishment will be. The public and the media is not the appropriate venue to adjudicate the case. And I wish CNN would stop using old photos of Treyvon, it really shows bias. RIP dude.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      perfectly said

      April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. David

    typical CNN... Zimmerman has support too... but they won't share that because they get higher ratings if Zimmerman gets the chair... they don't care whether he's guilty or innocent, they want racial unrest and more deaths so that they can make more money...

    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. aja2007

    Scares me that I see some here saying poor 12 year old Trayvon. Media has really confused the facts. And this 7 year old photo of him isnt very honest of CNN. Kid was 6 foot 2 and nearly 18.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      AJA2007 – Trayvon just turned 17 the month he was killed. A lot of kids are tall, but they are still kids.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. streetsmart66

    When everyone saw OJ barreling down the I-state with the police in hot pursuit we all knew he did it. Why run if you werent guilty? Why would run & hide from his own attorneys, doesnt he want to help them prove he innocent so he can get on with his life? At least give em your phone # !!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • no

      He probably did want to defend himself from accusations. However, black people are crazy and break laws all the time. The streets weren't safe for him. Not that it is safe for any "White, Hispanic person" at any time....FACT: welcome to reason of racism. take a look, the numbers show everything. ( and people call it stereotypes...HA) Anyway, I would have gone into hiding as well. For my own safety!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. haha

    wow to see all the hate in people heart may allah forgive.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ProfS

    Even if Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, he did so because he was already afraid from a stranger following him. I probably would have done the same, as the most of you. Zimmerman should have stayed in the car, to wait for the authorities to arrive. Instead, he freaked that kid out, and than shot him to death.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Roger

    The claim that there will be "riots" or that the charges are FINALLY being filed to avoid "riots" is just another backhanded charge made by racists. There have been no riots so far and my prediction is there won't be any. The Black community and many others has been very organized and disciplined and will continue to be so. But the pressure must be kept on the State of Florida to prosecute the trial effectively and get what I believe is a proper conviction.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • no

      sike. organized in the fact that Trayvon's mother is tweeting updates out about the case. If my child was murdered, Twitter would be the last thing on my mind. I would still be mourning and social media definitely wouldn't help. More attention seeking for the whiny liberals! She must be looking for punitive damages.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Donna

    First of all, I am sorry but I have no idea what I would do if my daughter or son was killed in the same manner. Travyon wasn't doing anything. I would have to say that I would also play the race card just to get attention and get some kind of justice. The Martin family doesnt know the whole story or claim to either. They want to hear what he has to say. It's a shame that it has to come to this. The parents want some kind of justice. All this could have been avoided had Zimmerman listened and kept his ass in his truck. He could have waited and seen the young man enter the apartment and have the cops question him then but no, he took things into his own hands and now his life will never be the same, charged or not.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. James PDX

    My money is on negligent homicide.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • sassysticks53

      Justice is going to prevail for Trayvon Martin whether the racists like it or not. You can tell by their ignorant, childish, hateful postings that they are in pain. That kid in Mississippi who beat and ran over an innocent black man is going to prision for life; the racists who shot and killed three black people in Oaklahoma are in jail on 9.2 million dollar bond each and they will go to prision for life. Justice will prevail for Trayvon Martin too! Sorry some of you just can't stand seeing a white man go to prision for killing a black man. Oh, well....

      April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Justice

    This should be tried in court, not in the media. He should have been arrested from the beginning just based on the facts from the 911 call. He was told not to pursue and he did anyway. Bottomline – it should go before a jury and let them make the decision with all the facts presented before them. That is justice (hopefully)– it drives me crazy all the comments posted – no one even knows the facts because you can't trust what is said in the media...

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ForGoodOfAll

    I am thinking about Trayvon's parents and other family members & friends. This will not bring Trayvon back, but I hope the results of this new development leads to some measure of justice for the grieving people. My heart and sympathy goes out to them. In addition, I hope this case leads to a serious discussion in Washington D.C. regarding stricter gun laws in this country. I do not feel safe in America's towns and cities anymore, and I worry about my own children and grandchildren as well. Murder by a gun in the hands of a crazy person can happen anywhere – campuses, malls, restaurants, elementary schools, neighborhoods, playgrounds, you name it. It is scary and it is shameful. What an embarrassment to our great country – citizens shooting each other just about every month now. Please reintroduce talks and legislation regarding gun control. The present 'system' is not working and it is deadly.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ThePastaSauce

    @timothy – dude do you know ANYTHING about the case 1) Trayvon was 17 not 12, 2) its hard to "walk-away" when someone is on top of you beating your head, 3) Trayvon wasn't going to graduate being expelled from school every few weeks, 4) not knowing the "whole truth" is enough in this case to prove "reasonable doubt" NEVER GETTING A CONVICTION AFTER THIS MEDIA CIRCUS

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      @ThePastaSauce – Dude, do you know anything about the case? Zimmerman was never going to be a police officer. He annoyed the 911 operators and police on a daily basis complaining about dogs in his yard, garage doors open, and every car he didn't recognize. The dude was crazy!!!!!!! And now the Home Owners in that neighborhood are going to have to pay the price when they get sued for letting this crazy guy walk around their neighborhood with a gun.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Opal Monroe

    I don't think he should have been toting around a gun because it makes the fight un fair and I think he's partly responsible because he went looking for trouble but it is sad how people just jump to conclusions without hearing his side I mean the kid clearly knocked him around as well an if someone slammed my head into concrete my first instinct would be to shoot an get them off of me they say he's remorseful maybe things just went awry- he should make a public announcement so people can see he's not a monster if in fact he is not-- an white or black the goodie thing has always been a symbol of trouble in popular culture- he wasn't shot cause he was black - we interact blacks and whites everyday and the guys 28 if he had it out for black he would have started a long time ago-

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXjBYp94fSU&w=640&h=390]

    April 11, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. sortakinda

    Does CNN have any plans to report the true story about the special prosecutor's decision or will this speculation suffice?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106 107 108 109 110 111 112 113 114 115 116 117 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 125 126 127 128 129 130 131 132 133 134 135 136 137 138 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 146 147 148 149 150 151 152 153 154 155 156 157 158 159 160 161 162 163 164 165