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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    I never hear oh poor white guy why did that black guy kill you. Or some bunch of morons callig for justice because some black guy hurt some white person. Even though every black person is racist against white people. I say more people start shooting first it will solve the problem.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Michael Vick©™

    Can anyone care to explain how Zimmerman got blindsided with punches? According to Zimmerman, Martin approached him and asked "Do you have a problem?", then Zimmerman answered no. Then Martin said "You have one now". How could anyone get blindsided at that point? Did Zimmerman decide to turn his back after that conversation? You see, he couldn't even get his fake story straight.

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

      YOUR A JOKE

      April 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ramona

    What we have yet to hear is that even if Trayvon did throw a punch at Zimmerman, he must have been trying to defend himself against this strange man (Zimmerman) approching him. Zimmernam was todl not to pursue Trayvon and he did so anyway.

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

      "You don't have to do that"

      That's not an order. This is an order...

      "Do not follow him."

      Learn to read.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    Hey Steve and the rest of you who think race is the difference between all of us. If you want start using crime stats, start looking at the differences between economic classes instead. A person raised in a good neighborhood with good parents is more likely to be a "good" person. A person raised in a poor neighborhood with poor(character) or missing parents is more likely to have poor character as well. I was raised in suburbia. I still live in suburbia. If I'm walking home at night and some jerk is driving slowly and watching me, my first instinct is that this person might be a threat. I'm ready to attack if need be. Now the jerk jumps out of his car and rushes towards me(if thats what happened). He'll be lucky if I don't punch him in the mouth before he says anything. I don't understand why some people think its OK to stalk someone, then jump out of a car, start a confrontation. Then use a gun to defend yourself.
    Statistics never lie, liars use statistics. And racists use words like "they" and "them".

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    This has turned into a circus. Where has this process been anything than a protest/media led lynch mob?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jim

    "the people clamoring for his arrest for allegedly murdering Trayvon Martin"

    There's no "allegedly". He killed the kid. The question is whether it was justifiable. And that's up to a court to decide.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z_2k

      Yes, GZ shot and KILLED TM. But it has yet to be decided if it was MURDER. There is a difference, although apparently not in YOUR mind.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jack black

    Mr or Mrs Aprilev
    Trayvon was found face down – fact
    shot from behind – false
    People need to get fact straight before making decision. Also stop making story up.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Greenspam

    And the chance of getting 12 men and women to agree unanimously on this controversial case is......?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ian

    I'm a white male, but I couldn't be happier to hear this! He needs to be charged.

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

      Why ? Because he had a Gun ?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. JRduck

    The problem is that they will have to find him first. This guy may have already left the country already.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Captain Caveman

    The little punk is dead and the world is a better place because of it.

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

      and you are a horrible person

      April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MG

    If Zimmerman is never charged or be guilty, he will still be living prison life i.e hiding. If charged and go to prison, he will be beaten by the inmates. Zimmerman cannot create a life, so he doesn't have right to take a life of an unarmed human being (black or white or anybody) in that way.If Martin attacked him Zimmerman should have fought with him bare handed, not cowardly with a gun. If it was self defense, why he didn't shoot at any extremities? He actually tried to kill him.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Confused

    They couldn't gat a regular prosecutor to file charges so now they have a special prosecutor dupe to do it for them.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. abel

    OK all of you who said let the justice system run it's course. THE RACE HAS BEGUN!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
  15. darrell

    The feds will manufacture evidence against Zimmerman to gain a conviction at all cost,Holder like his boss has a chip on his shoulder the size of a freight train with regards to race relations in this country and to put it bluntly they’re both racists.

    Holder‘s DOJ has stated they won’t prosecute blacks if the allegation is voter intimidation against whites.
    Just read any of Barry’s books he claimed to write and you will come to the same conclusion,he’s an anti-colonialist a Marxist and racist,he’s achieved the trifecta of all that is un American,I digress I know but these two are so vile in their conduct and their agenda so twisted that I have to respond.

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