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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Can somone explain to me how you continuously slam someone's head into ground if that person has no hair?

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

      by punching them real hard over and over in the face

      April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • chelle52370

      Particularly when an eyewitness looked out her window and saw Zimmerman straddling Martin. But y'know, pesky facts...

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

    He'll need the Chewbacca defense.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    I didn't realize the media were going to let the criminal justice system handle this case. Why bother having a trial when CNN's "experts" can make the decision for us and get better ratings for themselves? Everybody wins, except of course the people who want justice more than they want revenge or a media circus.

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

      Why have police when you have George Zimmerman?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Gordon

    Today is a GREAT victory for thugs all over the USA. What his arrest shows is that any thug can now beat you to your death and if you defend yourself you will go to prison. This is a huge injustice for all Americans that would defend themselves. However, if someone (white, black, blue or purple) messes with me or my family, they will get just what Trayvon got!

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

      A shot dead between the eyes will teach any young punk to threaten you with sweet tea and skittles.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      thugs are a dime a dozen
      all cowards
      as long as we keep them in their place, and they kill each other off, we have no problem

      April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peter

      It is far from clear that the scenario you just fantasized is what happened. All that's happening here is that he is being charged, which, if you believe in the rule of law, should not be a problem for you. Personally, I believe in America and I believe that the law and justice will prevail. No one has been convicted, yet.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lc

      Did you forget Trayvon was the one who m
      Got "messed with". Remember to also teach your family members that if someone is following you and approach.....don't defend yourself. stand there and wait for them to see what they want.(side eye).

      April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JR

      He followed the "thug", confronted him like a criminal, and then created the altercation. The "thug" then fought back and beat him silly. If you are going to force a citizens arrest, expect the so-called "thug" to say "NO YOU WON'T. YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY OVER ME." If you shoot and kill said "thug", you will be held accountable.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jomm

      Oh shut up, Travon was NO thug. The only THUG was ZIMMERMAN. And the law you are talking about does NOT apply to this case. So stop the drama.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • fab4k2002

      @Gordon...your comment really is sad. The fact is that a child was killed walking home from the store by someone who should have not even been armed. This has nothing to do with thugs. Trayvon was not a "Thug" being black, does not make you a "Thug". The only thing I agree with you on is the fact that I would have taken the matter in my own hands and dealt with Zimmerman the same way he "dealt" with Trayvon. We wouldn't need a trial...he(Zimmerman) would be 6 feet under. What makes you think your family is any more important (or loved) than Trayvon's. You are pathetic.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Danny A. Moose

    He won't be convicted, and the blacks will riot and loot and burn their cities down. The only difference will be that the state of Florida will be out the million or so bucks that it will cost to take this case to trial.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MindMatters

    How many times can you BEAT a story into the ground. All these talking heads, saying the same thing over and over, then after they are the source of the information...they say "we have been hearing" or "this just in" or "breaking news" really. The simple fact that they have HAD current images, but then they keep showing whatever image will best DRIVE this story. SO SICK of the manipulation of society. THEY ARE DRIVING THE RACE WARS...that is what they want! Just a bunch of BS, YES, something went down, and YES, it should be investigated, BUT.... an arrest ONLY BECAUSE they have tried this case in the MEDIA...I hope 2012 and the Mayans are right, we need to clean this world and start with CNN!

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

      Oh please. I get tired of people talking about there is going to be a race war. If you do not care abour race, this is NOT going to make you react to a race war. If it does, that means it was ALREADY in you. I have whites around me who are just as upset as blacks about this case and we all are getting alone and they understand the anger toward THIS case.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  7. The Verdict

    Let me tell you how this is going to go down step by step:
    1. Guy gets charged
    2. Media attention still exists
    3. Prosecutor plays tape of dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to pursue Martin
    4. Found guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter

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

      You GOT IT!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danny A. Moose

      "3. Prosecutor plays tape of dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to pursue Martin"

      Well, yeah, except for the fact that she didn't tell him not to follow, only that "we don't need you to do that."

      Of course, they could pull an NBC and edit the recording to say "don't do that." And it still wouldn't matter, because 911 operators' suggestions and orders have no force of law.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JB

      lol, YOU MAY WANT TO LISTEN TO THE REAL TAPE, NOT THE EDITED VERSING BY NBC!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joy

    Looks like it is time for Zimmerman to come out of hidiing, man up and face a jury of his peers.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JB

    LOL, try one hispanic and call him white when 100's of blacks are killed each week by black and never a protest. The funny part is if there were no hispanic or whites, the blacks would still be killing each other.

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

      And JB, WHITES WILL BE STILL KILLING WHITES even if a white woman is going to be shown to killed and all over news when this story is gone. And HISPANICIS will STILL be killing HISPANICs. What is your point? OTHER killings DOES NOT exucse THIS killing.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. inkman66

    I am sure that if Zimmerman is acquitted or given probation, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton will put their faith in the courts decision and let this case drop. I am sure there will be no protests or riots.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ALICE

    I feel Zimmerman SHOULD BE CHARGED...for the murder of Martin, one for the racial things that he (Zimmerman) did say...And also for the fact that, as the WORLD listened to the tape; it did not sound that Zimmerman was in any danger. But as the world listened, it’s evident that Martin was clearly in danger for his life...HE (MARTIN) was the one that was clearly crying out for help. MY QUESTION IS....WHAT CAN AN UNARMED PERSON DO TO A PERSON THAT IS ARMED???? MR. ZIMMERMAN KNEW THAT HE HAD THE UPPER HAND THAT NIGHT, AND HE HAD THE CHOICE TO WALK AWAY, JUST AS THE 911 OPERATOR TOLD HIM TO DO....AND NOW THAT THIS WHOLE THING HAS BLOWN UP IN HIS FACE, HE WANTS TO CRY SELF DEFENSE???!!!!! THAT IS A COWARD MOVE. YOU (ZIMMERMAN) WANTED TO ****BE THE MAN**** THAT NIGHT AND TAKE THE LIFE OF ANOTHER; THEN BE THE MAN AND ADMIT TO YOUR WRONGS AND FACE THE CONSEQUENCE....YOU MADE THIS BED NOW LAY IN IT!!!!!! ....... ZIMMERMAN HAD NOT VISABLE SCARS OR BRUISES, SO THAT WAS ALSO A LIE THAT HE TOLD POLICE. AND THE WORLD WAS ONCE AGAIN ABLE TO SEE THAT HE DID NOT HAVE THE SCARS HE CLAIMED TO HAVE. ZIMMERMAN????!!!! WHEN WILL THE LIES STOP??!!! ….STAND UP AND BE THE MAN YOU SO CLAIM TO BE, AND FACE YOUR PUNISHMENT….THE WORLD IS WAITING….REMEMBER ONE THING, GOD SAW WHAT YOU ARE TRYING SO HARD TO HIDE AND/OR FORGET….YOU MAYBE ABLE TO RUN AND HIDE; BUT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO RUN AND HIDE FROM YOURSELF, AND THE DEMONS YOU CARRY WITHIN….NUFF SAID.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreddyZ

      Exactly what racial thing did he say. It's been proven by experts that no racial slur was made.

      Do you eat paint chips?

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

      Unfortunately, NONE of what you wish for, is legal evidence. Even if you CAPTIALIZE IT.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. FreddyZ

    The charges: Failure to kill a thug on the first shot.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • ceg

      That person you call thug, could be your son or grandson. Its people like you who make the stupid mistake that Zimmerman did going after someone because they look a certain way. Don't judge a book by its cover!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Decima

    "If Trayvon were white I am certain that there would be outrage and a demand for charges..."

    Umm... pretty sure there's outrage and a demand for charges now.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Josh

    Protests are not evidence.

    Politics are not evidence.

    Dislike of the "stand your ground" law is not evidence.

    Making the Martin family feel better, is not evidence.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC1973

      Whatever she has that's convinced her to file criminal charges against him *is* evidence.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. darrell

    If Martin had not looked like obama’s imaginary son, we would have never even heard about this self-defense case. If this goes to trial, it will be impossible to seat an untainted jury – obama and his race-radicals have made sure of that.

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