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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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. MZeb75

    Their doing it to prevent a huge riot from happening. They have no choice in the matter because it's been blown way up.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Candace

    I knew an arrest would be coming but I think it's for all the wrong reasons. I do believe this was self-defense. But because she and all others have been afraid of riots...they will follow through. I have heard more than one time people say...if not for GZ getting out of his car that night...TM would still be alive. But I think....if he had had parents who knew how to parent...he'd still be alive. This young man had been suspended from school. He should not have been allowed out of the house and should have been doing hard labor in the house for such behavior. As a parent, if my child had ever been suspended...you can bet your butt he would not have been walking to any store at any time whether it was 10am, 3pm, 8pm etc. He would not have been allowed to do anything!!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • PookieBear

      self defense stemming from an altercation that never should have happened. Claiming self defense and getting off is like breaking into someone's house, getting attacked by their dog, and suing because of the dog attack. You would not have been attacked had you not broken into the house!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Congratulations! You get the "most idiotic post on the internet of the day" award. Tell her what she's won!

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

      So if Trayvon want suspended would it be different how is following someone self dense, how is someone been suspended a way to justify murder you sound stupid if your child happen to be a good child and was walking and was murder how will you feel he was walking not towards a house but towards his step mother house gz was told to stop following him and he didn't that's wrong if anything it was a police matter not a matter for Zimmerman he was dead wrong

      April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • lisa

      candace, you are an idiot. TM deserved to be shot for being a teenager? wow. i guess you're a perfect parent with perfect kids.

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

      You're right Candace, clearly every kid on school suspension who leaves their house & gets killed does so because of bad parenting. & it is clear that it was self defense. You know how dangerous those skittles can be. You can really hear TM attacking Zim on those 911 tapes where he's screaming out. Intelligent point! If your kid with no criminal record gets killed while unarmed, may you realize your stupidity.

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

      That's right, it's his fault he got shot. Your view isn't unique, you're not just blaming him but now blaming his grieving parents. Hope you haven't turned your kids into bigots already. Not much hope.....

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

    Let's have "hug a person of another race" day. We'll spread peace and love throughout the land.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Batman

    Where is Zimmer now? Hiding like the killer that he is? Maybe committed suicide?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. John

    Zimmerman didn't need to shoot this boy.
    Martin was a bad seed. His life was headed in the wrong direction. Most likely he would have ended up in jail before he was 20..

    April 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike O'keefe

    Hey, we all have our opinions, but let's be respectful. There are many different cultures, races, etc in our country. The problem is we tend to paint each other with broad strokes while looking at ourselves as complex individuals with depth. Not all white people support Zimmerman. I sure don't. Not all black people care for Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. But whether you do or do not, it has nothing to do with this case, so let's not lose sight of what is important. A boy's life was lost. A boy who was unarmed. I have no idea if Martin attacked Zimmerman 1st or not. I do know that none of you know that either. So let's wait for that part to play out in court before we act like we were all witnesses.

    I will say that I understand the frustration of many people who feel like they are not granted the same justice as others. I can't recall any case (correct me if I'm wrong) where an unarmed white kid with no criminal record got killed by a black man, the killer was known to police, but free to walk around. It just doesn't happen. I'm sure for some white people to act like we do not recognize that disparity is extremely frustrating to many African Americans.

    I know personally it is frustrating to be labeled a racist, without someone knowing me at all. If I disagree with you, it's not always because I'm a racist. Maybe I just disagree with you. The sooner we can have intelligent dialogue on race, & stop being afraid to broach the subject, the sooner we respect people's opinions that differ from ours, the sooner we will separate the divide that still exists in this country. God bless all of us.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bismoney

      Thank God there are still people who have not lost their mind and who believe that there is a God who will ultimately judges us according to our deeds.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Mike O'Keefe, out of all the messages I have read, I wish all of America could read and understand yours.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • andrew

      Zimmerman isn't caucasian. This isn't white on black, it's armed bigot vs. minority.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. citizenwife

    Reblogged this on Citizen Wife.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bismoney

    If you kill a man because you are fat and unable to take punches, you don't deserve to be a neighborhood watch. You cant even watch your fat ass. Martin is dead. If I were his father, I will avenge my sons death.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ted

    It is obvious that Corey got rif off jury so that she would indict Zimmerman. Then she conned him in talking to her instead of his attorneys. Now comes the arrest. Then comes selection of pro-Matin jury, and trying to convince them that it was Zimmerman who provoked the attack. Unless Zimmerman gets a good lawyer who can stand the ground and prove that "provocation" means physical assault and not following and words, Zimmerman would be convicted.

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

    Racism is the highest form of ignorance . Simply put, if Trayvon was your son or daughter you would want justice. Melanin is a pigment in the skin that protects the skin from the sun. Having more does not make you better having less does not make you worse and vice versa . Racism is fueled by prejudice , hate, fear, and a ton of ignorance which make people say very silly and childish things; it is a primitive way of thinking .

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

    To hell with Zimmerman and Treyvon, Lock them all up, including that racisit so called leader of the black panthers for his threating comments,and haul his nappy headed buddy Al Sharpton in too,
    But I gusses we all know what side of the fence President Obama is on, By making that stupid comment, "If I had a son he would look like Treyvon" he should have kept his mouth shut. That comment just gavee the thumbs up to this mess and I say lets get his but out of the white house and back where he belongs.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      It's about time!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. coastlinecascot

    Whats going to happen if he gets aquitted? Rodney king all over again.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tony

    The National Repugnant Rife Association is Satan's little helper.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Julie

    THAT PICTURE IS NOT ZIMMERMAN. CNN FIX THIS.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jurby

    Finally! It's about d*** time Zimmerman got charged. I hope he gets convicted and his a** thrown in prison for the rest of his life for murdering Trayvon/an unarmed teenager (unless you consider a bag of candy and bottle of soda being 'armed').

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