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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    They are doing cartwheels in the cable news production meetings.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Bismoney

    I have no idea why CNN is calling Zimmerman Hispanic. It is to divert the known fact that racism is rampant in whites but trying to bring havoc between blacks and M13 gang. Zimmerman is White born from a white father and hispanic mother. In the world of white if you are mix, you are not worhty to be called white. That is Arayan ideology like Hitler...

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

      OOOOOOR alternatively being Hispanic means you are a mix of various influences already, and having a little white in there too doesn't change the fact that you are hispanic.

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

      i don't know why the media calls Obama the first black president. His father was black but his mother was white. He obviously a white African American as Zimmerman is a white Hispanic

      April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      You're an idiot. His mother was pure Peruvian native American. Which if you knew the first thing about being Hispanic, you'd realize that basically the Hispanic heritage is 1/2 European, 1/2 native American. Which is EXACTLY what Zimmerman is...regardless, keep on going through life being the absolute idiot that you are.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      He father is from Israel, not the US

      April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      What on earth are you talking about, fool?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • EACH1

      i would LOVE to sit down and have an intelligent conversation with ALL the "good, God fearing" people on here talking about how disgusted they are, what's the big deal and why are black people SO mad. i say "God fearing" because i'm willing to bet that malority of you were in church last week praising God, yet showing so MUCH hatred and vile for your fellow brothers and sister. if it were YOUR son walking home from the store, minding his business, then got shot in the chest and killed by a regular citizen would your tone still be the same? and if that person wasn't even charged but let go to escape the country because HE said that he killed YOUR son in self defense; would you then be trolling the web sites talking about how disgusted you are for the outrage?!!! what kind of human being can NOT see the injustice happening here or empathize for a mother who's son was gunned down like a dog by a man claiming self defense. one can NOT claim self defense if you follow and pursue. he was not a police officer, he did NOT have the right to pursue him, and he does NOT have the right to kill whom ever he pleases. what if someone justified shooting your son, your daughter, your mother in the chest because they followed your loved one, they were the aggressor and the instigator, what then? what has happened to the soul of america? God help us ALL.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. TREEMAN

    UNBELIEVABLE. THIS IS REVERSE RACISM.

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

      No, just plain old regular racism.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Melodykari78

    Why do people feel they need to identify themselves by race, political affiliation and/or gender when leaving comments?

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

      BecauseDemocrats and liberals say they must. They don't want people, they can only survive by division and mistrust.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Stephen

    Thank God! Now all of the black people might shut up about this for a while.

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

      Yes I am so sick of the racist black community calling me a racist. I will be so happy in November...

      April 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Liber8Me

    Let the facts come out and let justice take it's course. As long as the case is fairly tried and judge and jury are impartial, this might be the best solution to this mess. If Zimmerman violated the law and murdered Martin, he will pay and the Martin family will have their justice. If he acted within the law as it is written, he will be cleared and can go on with his life, albeit a radically changed life. I'm interested to see how all of this turns out.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Caylee Anthony

    This has to go to trial if for no other reason than to let the steam off the situation .. let's just hope a jury isn't so intimidated as the state is & reaches an accurate verdict. Please have a better jury than the one I had on my case.

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

      Ooooor this needed to go to trial because someone was shot and killed.

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

    This trail will not put a end to this, these vigalanties looking to hang this guy will claim the courts were fixed.......They cant take no for a answer.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jack

    Either way, this is a disaster for Obama, who injected his opinion into the story. Trial or no trial, this matter will now drag on for months, into the election season, and merely highlight the racial tensions that Obama said that he would put to rest. The only folks happy about this dragging on are many black Americans, who feel that justice is being done. But they were going to vote for Obama anyway (since Obama enjoys 98% approval among black Americans). Meanwhile, many white Americans who may have voted for Obama will now see any trial that results in a conviction of Zimmerman (in the absence of strong evidence of his guilt) as O.J. II. Hardly the story you want on the front page every day when you're holding yourself out as the post-racial President.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Doc Sinn

    You know whats annoying to me? This notion that all black people riot and steal in the face of injustice. If black people rioted everytime a racial injustice occured there would be a riot every day and twice on Sundays.

    That and white people will loot, riot, and set things on fire if their favorite team wins a championship......

    April 11, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dean

    Zimmerman's an idiot , he should have shot the thug Trayvon before he got close enough to punch him, he could have been killed......

    April 11, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. thomas e

    Sreaphim you r no angel. He was a punk and deserved to be shot for attacking a nice man who was trying to keep those kind of people out. It was a gated community. He had no right to be roaming the streets while daddy was banging his fat chick. Baby mama was who knows where.

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

    Guilty or not, Zimmerman will NOT get a UN-biased trial. Like many of you said they will most likely convict him either way (guilty or not) out of fear of what will happen should they find him “not guilty”.

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

    Hey CNN – you forgot to include that martin was carrying skittles and snapple- I think this is the first time in the 1000s of stories you have done on this case – what gives???

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

    So we don't know? Just a "source" thought so? Then why does the headline on the homepage say Prosecutor plans criminal counts against Zimmerman? I had to go back to see it again. So you don't know. The article just says
    "plans to announce at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday new information in the case, which could be a decision on whether George Zimmerman will be charged." More misleading the public there CNN.

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