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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    The shooter certainly has a right to a fair trial. When you have a dead teenager laying on the ground and a guy with a smoking gun in his hand standing over him, it doesn't look good for the defendant.

    We had a lot less evidence on OJ.

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

    I'm betting on 'Involuntary Manslaughter'...but is anybody else sick of this tragic story yet? This is about as constructive for our society as "Occupy Wherever" was. Sadly, I guess bad news equals good ratings.

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

      @ Warren: Ohhh sooo close my friend. Agree with the first sentence, passionately disagree with you on the second! OWS was a profoundly important movement that has simply NOT gone away, I promise you.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pro Zimmerman

    This is not about Justice this is all about race. They make it sound like Trayvon was a saint going to the store and buying skittles and ice-tea and out of nowhere Zimmerman shot him for the hell of it. It does not make sense. All those morans protesting, make use of your time and go to work!!!

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

      That what you need to do.........go to work.

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

      Yeah, all those "morans". The only way Martin could have physically confronted Zimmerman was if Zimmerman got out of his car; which he did...after being told to stop following the kid. The Zimmerman had the right to defend himself then so did Martin. People are making it about race but it isn't. The race thing sells stories. Zimmerman wasn't law enforcement. He had no business bothering the kid. Period. You can't just shoot someone and go "Oh self defense" and walk away. That means that any of us can handle things with a unnecessary force and not be held responsible.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJohnson

      Your point is mute! Yes, him being a saint is debateable, what 17 year old is? It does not negate the fact that he was murdered without cause. Dont believe me? Stayed tuned...hoodies up!

      By the way, I'm on my lunch break.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob vincent

      And Dezz you need to learn proper english. It'll help your racist butt get a job.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. LWZRGHT

    He's gone.....he left when you strongly considered charging him. Stupid police

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

      Yeah Im wondering.. unless he made a plea deal, has he cut n run?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mommers

    I was sympathetic to Martin and his family. But after watching bl ack people convict without a trial and bully the justice system I am disgusted!

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

      Yaaa we don't need you......

      April 11, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryan

      That should have no bearing on your support for the Martin family. I'm black and I don't like how this story is being exploited to further an agenda. But again, whether its about race or not. Zimmerman wasn't law enforcement. "Neighborhood Watchman" doesn't make you authority. He called the police and he should have left it at that. He decided to leave his vehicle to confront this "threat" after being asked not to follow him. That's when the problems began. Martin has just as much right to defend himself against an armed stranger as Zimmerman claims he had a right to do. Bottom line: Don't follow the kid, go home, let police handle it and no one dies.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob vincent

      Yes, now we have the full picture of Obama. Racist agenda. He HATES white people!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Butch

    Come on... You guys only get 15 minutes of fame. Your time is up.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wayne

    Z did his duty as neighborhood watch on the phone and that is where it should have ended for him. The authorities were on the way. Everyone would have walked away ALIVE with no charges. Z was wrong.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. 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.

    For those racists who called Trayvon a thug, there hasn't been any evidence he acted as such, except in Zimmerman's story.

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

      Media reporting isn't evidence., except to the dim-wi tted...

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

      Better yet, how do you let someone who you've already deemed a "threat" and up to "no good" approach your car when you have a gun? And, how did you end up out of your car? Did Martin drag you out? That's weird. He obviously must have held onto his skittles and ice tea the whole time he was dragging you from the car and fighting you because they were found next to his body in the grass away from your car.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob vincent

      It's just racists like you that can't see the truth. Don't worry about it though. Your racist president will take care of it... Feel free to go hate whites elsewhere now...

      April 11, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. bill in florida

    the news media already has him charged, look at the head lines what a bunch of crap

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

      Bill, the new may have him charged but Zimmerman acted as police, judge, jury and executioner. The only 'story' we got was his. If he would have obeyed the 911 operator to not follow, he wouldn't be in this mess now. Vigilante justice is wrong.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Everett

    This "stand your ground" law means you can kill someone in "self defense" go to the police tell them you killed someone in self defense and you won't be charged and the case won't be investigated, the police will take your word for it and thats it? Is that what you are telling me about this florida law?

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

      From what I understand that sums it up. No charges will be filed unless there is evidence that concludes the killing was not in self defense #epicfail

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

      Only for whites and upstanding citizens, Im betting. If Martin and Zimmerman's roles had been reversed, ask yourself... would the outcome had been the same?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. EJohnson

    This is not a matter of race this is a matter of justice. I can guarantee some opinions would change if Trayvon was their son!

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

      Sorry dude. You can't hide your racism anymore. We all know the deal and will take care of it with the vote. If I had a son like Travon he'd be in Military School. The sad part is no one even cares what a troubled teen he was. This kid was in real trouble and was headed for a bullet. If a black kid kills a black kid is it racism? It happens about once every 1

      April 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob vincent

      This is COMPLETELY about racism. Anytime Al Sharpton, the Black Panthers, Jesse Jackson, Barak Hussein Obama, Eric Holder (What do they all have in common?) are involved it's racism.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tractor

    I reserve my opinion until ALL the facts come out. I was assaulted before, It happened in 1968 when the public schools in my neighborhood were integrated. I can say it happened more than once, I did not provoke it I was minding my own business and still don't know why i was chosen. It happened so fast I could not initially tell you if the perpetrator was white or black, you don't even know what is happening. It took me several minutes (yes minutes) to figure out what happened and in one case the perpetrator ran away the second instance I was injured and I left holding my wounded head seeking assistance. I can tell you from experience it happens SO FAST and in my case the perpetrator moved away after inflicting injury, however if they continued to abuse me I would have done anything I could to make it STOP! I swear to you until you have it happen you have no idea of what it is like and I have read a bunch of posts and nobody seems to mention so I will. If my perpetrators had continued to abuse me I would have used any and all force/power/weapon I could get my hands on FIRST, then maybe, after I was safe, only then would i begin to try and figure out what happened. Seriously people we need to get all the facts and lets just see what REALLY happened to Mr. Zimmerman and/or Trevon!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. George F.

    Why is this blamed on whites? Zimmerman is clearly HISPANIC. This case brought out the first time I've ever heard white-hispanic. Give me a break!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rtertyhdf

    This guy thought he was batman or some thing. He got it in his mind that the kid was a criminal up to no good, and he set out to bring him down. In the end he found out he killed an unarmed kid out buying some candy. That's what this boils down to.

    Is he guilty of murder...no. Is he guilty of manslaughter, yes.

    The self defense plea might hold water if you can see signs of significant injury. But looking at the police video when he arrived at the station, you see nothing. No blood, no grass stains, nothing. If there was any of that then it certainly wasn't enough to claim your life was in jeopardy. On top of that he was sitting on the kids back and shot him in the back. There is no way i can accept self defense for shooting an unarmed kid in the back while you pin him down....

    He may not be a murderer, but in the end a kid is dead, a crime has been committed, and he needs to go to jail for manslaughter. I dont believe he set out to murder someone, i do believe he set out to 'stop criminals', and he screwed up big time; time to pay the piper.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Sagebrush Shorty

    Perhaps the Panther Pukes will go home now.

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