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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Why a special prosecutor? Have there been any signs of a cover up or official misconduct? This is a racially motivated witch hunt. Shame on CNN for its biased coverage of this incident. Let's have special prosecutors for every case where a black jury has used nullification to acquit a black murderer of a white person. Let's have a special prosecutor to examine the OJ Simpson case.

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

      To reality check – remember OJ is in jail. Don't look at things with such narrow mind.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. derriquestuckey

    Zimmerman's lawyers backed down, purely from political pressure. Why else would Zimmerman go behind their backs to find other legal representation? This shouldn't even go to trial, because per federal law, he acted in self-defense. This trial is going to be a waste of taxpayer money, when he's found unanimously not guilty.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Cynthia R

    FIND HIM FIRST!!! THEN TELL ME WHAT YOUR CHARGING HIM WITH.

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

      ???they don't need to find him first in order to charge him.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Justice for Truth

    When support in the case is so polarized that all fault must lie with one party, this case isn't about justice anymore. Period.

    It looks to me like both of them got overzealous and defensive. Zimmerman pursued someone he was told not to in the interest of his own idea of community watch responsibility, and I'm sure that Trayvon didn't take very well to being followed and questioned like that (I wouldn't have). But where is the criminal cold blood here?

    It doesn't look like either party did anything to DE-escalate the conflict before it became a street brawl – and you can't legislate a judgment call when the Stand Your Ground law leaves loop holes you can drive a truck through. If Zimmerman had been carrying a tazer instead, no one would have given this a second glance. It was tragic, but I can't see either of them being criminally at fault for the other's behavior.

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

      Well stated!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • deb

      I don't see it your way at all. He wasn't supposed to pursue, period. In addition, if any of the recordings can be expertly verified as to whom it was that yelled "help," or if zimmerman used a racial slur, and if this evidence is admissible in court, then I think it will look like zimmerman escalated it in a one-sided fashion. In fact, if it's true that it was martin who was yelling for help, then zimmerman is skewered.

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

      That's exactly what I've been saying all along. What charges could they possible bring on the table? This is not justice anymore, I just hope they can find a jury who will actually work with the facts and not just their believes and what the media says.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Northernstar

      Zimmerman has an added responsibility as a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon; you cannot minimize that responsibility when you are carrying a gun with the expectation that you might use it. Martin as a teenager is more than likely to use poor judgement (that is the nature of being a teenager). He should not have died that night at the hands of Zimmerman who was clearly over his head in the situation. Neither may have done anything to De-escalate the situation but Zimmerman has a greater responsibility to act with greater care – Zimmerman instigated the situation; Zimmerman was carrying the gun; Zimmerman was supposed to be the adult. He was not supposed to be trigger-happy.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rundvelt

      > When support in the case is so polarized that all fault must lie with one party, this case isn't about justice anymore.

      Agreed.

      > It looks to me like both of them got overzealous and defensive.

      You won't know till you have the facts.

      > Zimmerman pursued someone he was told not to in the interest of his own idea of community watch responsibility, and I'm sure that Trayvon didn't take very well to being followed and questioned like that (I wouldn't have). But where is the criminal cold blood here?

      Actually, he was not told not to. The exact words are "You don't have to do that". Let's not misrepresent facts here. Also, the dispatcher has no legal standing to order anyone to do anything.

      > It doesn't look like either party did anything to DE-escalate the conflict before it became a street brawl – and you can't legislate a judgment call when the Stand Your Ground law leaves loop holes you can drive a truck through.

      It's not that, it's that you need to prove what has occured. If a mother can murder a child, then dump the body and the jury can say... "We don't know that she murdered her", then you know you have a huge standard of evidence to overcome. Then again, that jury was so stupid they'd have aquitted a mafia boss after a body was found in his home because the mob boss said "Oh, he drowned".

      > If Zimmerman had been carrying a tazer instead, no one would have given this a second glance. It was tragic, but I can't see either of them being criminally at fault for the other's behavior.

      Depends on the facts.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ike Isaacs

      @prozimmerman,
      You need hooked on spelling. Morons has two Os dummy. Technology and a dumb AZZ are terrible things to waste.
      Now, what part of NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH incorporates using a deadly weapon, especially when you were told not to engage the youngster?
      Tray onus now a symbol for the BS that minorities have dealt with for years. Forget sainthood, we want JUSTICE!
      Eff youand every "MORAN" (sp) like you duphus.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Concerned citizen

    Boy his parents are milking this for all its worth

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

      Your kidding me right?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bob vincent

    It's getting to the point that whites will have to march and protest this racist black adminitstration. They are taking race relations back 50 years. I never thought I'd have to say this but Barak Obama is a racist and his inner circle is a snakes den of racists. I'm on my knees every day praying that he does not get re-elected. If he does get re-elected, all white people are going to be on their knees.

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

      You know Obama's father was black and mother was white, right?

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

      Let's march. I am sure we wouldn't all be labeled racists...lol
      Face it, pay your taxes so people that don't want to work can have the food and things they want, then be politically correct. Then we will have fallen in line to the point they only want to work us harder...how is the slave now??

      April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • deb

      I'm white and I think the evidence points to a boom in white supremacist groups after Obama was elected–whites are still the more racist group. I do not see that relations are being set back. In fact, it's about time that some of the ongoing discrimination against blacks is fully addressed. Until all the white hate groups are gone and/or rendered ineffective, I don't see how you can say what you are saying, bob.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Vincent

      To quote from Potter Marshall – Hard Core Racism – I know it when I see it!

      April 11, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Geri Chatmon

    The attorney's press conference yesterday was just a ploy to free them to put Zimmerman's lie out there before Corey's decision without violating attorney/client privileges. It was an insult! Anyone being stalked has a right to fear for his life, especially when the stalker has a gun and the victim is unarmed and within his rights to be where he is!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Calm yourself

    Here's what's wrong with Zimmerman's story

    1. He used excessive force against a person he was almost twice the size of. Look at the difference in their builds, young skinny teen vs. Full grown man. If he claims Treyvon attacked him, all treyvon had is his hands and his skittles. And he shot him. Excessive force.

    2. He was instructed not to follow the teen, and ignored it. He followed and harassed the teen. When the teen felt threatened he may have turned towards his persuer. Stand your ground applies in this case, but NOT for Zimmerman. It stands for Treyvon, who bravely turned around and confronted the man persuing him for no reason.

    This is enough to haul it into court.

    Kiss your bum goodbye Zimmerman.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. LeahC26

    This man will never get a fair trial whether he is guilty or not. There is something to think about..This country is all about race. No matter if your white, black, or whatever. The whites frown down on the blacks in racist or prejudicial ways. The blacks frown down on whites for assuming were all racist or denying them something because of race or that we are all prejudice. Or perhaps its because they still hold a grudge over when slavery existed. Slavery is over. Hating is ugly. Everybody just needs to grow up and behave and everyone love eachother. No more hate, its contagious. It's too much.

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

    What a joke, did the prosecutor receive a call from the White House? Wow how things can change in this country. Is there any evidence that isn't tainted with the media spin? False 911 calls and tapes, what is next. Zimmerman good luck it would be best for you if you were all hispanic, not White-hispanic then you might not face these harsh charges.

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

    Charging and sentencing this guy to a LONG prison term is the ONLY thing that will chill you Cowboys.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Clydene

    This is a lose lose.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Come on...

    Ok...good. Both sides will have their day in court. What will the af american community do if he's not found guilty? LA riots?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Rick

    I hope zimmerman makes a million and walks. Im sick of blacks in this country and their race card. What a bunch on ignorant people.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. betty

    in case you dont know, ANDERSON COOPER.
    GOOGLE : tourist attacked in Baltimore, otherwise dont ever mention how fair and brave you are...

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