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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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. Dark gable 1359

    Uh oh! Here comes Jose Baez! Wanna bet?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Debby

      I hope so he is an excellent defense attorney and should be helping his fellow hispanic.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. D

    ..charges have still not been filed...and who is "a senior official"? The fact that his Attorney's have bailed, hes violated every priviledge, judicial prudence and common decency..hes still not arrested and charged...do they even know where he is at this point?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jtt

    There is no accusation of premeditated murder in the Trayvon Martin case, so a first-degree murder charge is not an option.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • DON

      HANG HIM BY THE NECK AND LET HIM SWING.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brian Flanagan

    I think the guy is guilty but i dont see him being convicted. If the evidence was there, he would have been charged two months ago.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • larryb

      are you aware of the history of the sanford police force?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becool

      Agree...This is another OJ like verdict incoming.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • c

      If he is to be charged -they have evidence.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Not quite.
      In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the Sanford PD either didn't look for any incriminating evidence or they mostly ignored any such evidence that they did see.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. JC

    Thank God. Have a trial in court instead of in the media. He goofed and an innocent guy is dead. Give him a couple years for manslaughter like anyone else would get, then let him out to enjoy his ruined life.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanity

      Lucky he didn't kill an animal or he would be facing life...

      April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sharon

      Amen!!!!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      If Zimmerman does go to jail or prison, I suspect that he will have to sleep with one eye open....

      April 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dom

      Yeah, he'll never have a job or be able to contribute to society again. If he had a significant other, she's gone now. Plus we are assuming he's not killed in prison.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. larryb

    lets hope it's true and justice is done. and lets hope it leads to FL getting rid of this insane law and a clean out of the corrupt sanford police dept

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rick S

    Hopefully we can prosecute the special prosecutor... Remember Nyfong and what happened to him for politicaly prosecuting someone.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Brian

    if he hasn't been charged yet as confirmed by the prosecutor, why wait until 6pm and have a press conference. this could all be a fake story that he's being charged. it doesn't make any sense.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dutspup

    Get ready to see more of your tax dollars fly out the window after the aquittal is announced. I guess a smoke and mirrior trial is cheaper than calling in the national guard huh Mrs Corey.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  10. darrell

    There’s no way he will get a fair trial. The jury will be terrified of riots should they acquit

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. denroy

    Guilty of a bad press would be my verdict – the guy is completely innocent and has been harrassed by the PC media for no purpose other than ratings

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. 9eiscott

    OK listen up BLACK PEOPLE he is mexican not WHITE stop bieng so racist

    April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      George zimmerman is half white and half Peruvian (Hispanic). Who is being racially now? Apparently all Spanish people are Mexican now huh?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • c

      Zimmerman's father is a Jewish American- his mother is Peruvian- that makes him A Jewish Hispanic. His driver's liscense has been put on the web- Zimmerman says he's a white man

      April 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nick

    Are all of you so ignorant that you think that this doesn't happen all over the country? People are killed everyday but because this was "White" on Black and he was a teenager it is getting publicity. It is very sad that this happened and I hope justice is served either way. However, there are more important things going on in the world, i.e. all of us over here in Afghanistan!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • sanity

      Yep, just another little boy gone, big whoop! This country is very sad....

      April 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Sanity, little boy? Really?!?! This is a 17 year old young man. Do you know how many people both his age and younger have committed crimes? He is old enough to live on his own and lets not forget that he was suspended from school at the time as well. Oh that's right, I forgot he was a perfect little boy.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • tika

      "More important things"! I'm sorry for assuming the life of a young man in his prime was important enough to seek justice for his killer. All life should have value, and one was cut short at a very early age...and I can't think of anything more important than that. If that had been your son, I'm sure you would find it very important as well.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Tika, I did not say that it wasn't important. What I said was that there are more important things in this world. Soldiers lose their lives everyday here in Afghanistan but it is hardly ever reported on the news. They give their lives to protect the freedom of the USA but nobody is rioting over that. It gets pushed under the rug and people go on with their daily lives. I agree that his life was cut short too early but that doesn't automatically mean that Zimmerman is guilty. The court system is in place for a reason. Remember everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I'm sorry that I didnt assume that this had a direct impact on your life.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Janet

    The forensics will be the determining factor in this case. There is a great deal that we don't know. We will find out more during the trial. Some of the evidence/testimony won't even be allowed in for various reasons. Trayvon is not here to tell what really happened and of course Zimmerman will say anything to save his behind. Let us pray for all the families involved and that the truth will prevail.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hey

    Don't Know

    April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
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