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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Should've just stayed in your car, Jorge.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. PR313

    If he followed him after being told to stop, shot a kid that weighed about half his weight and Trayvon was heard in the back yelling help...Yes.... It's about that time. Black or White Zimmerman was not right. Let the legal system play out! It's only right for him to be charged.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • MouseD

      Martin was not half the weight of zimmerman ...get your dang facts correct...they both weighed almost the same....might have been a 10 pound difference....lets add in the fact that Martin was also a HS football player that workes out....by looks of Zimmerman he only works out with a box of donuts.....

      April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. meme

    people need to look beyond color , the crime to me is that a grown man hunted down a child and shot him in cold blood. It is murder no matter how you look at it. right is right and wrong is wrong if it had been a white child i would feel the same way. How can you say he stood his ground , he got out of his car and chased a scared child. if Trayvon did hit him it was because he was terrified, anyone in his situation would have tried to fight for their lives. Please people be honest with yourselves.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joyce

    @Kenny G – OJ got away for a while but Karma eventually got him. Everyone should simply pray that justice is served.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cedavid

    guess lynch mobs still work

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Zimmerman Supporter

    I guess people did not learn ANYTHING with the Casey Anthony case... This has an even better chance of a "NOT GULTY" outcome.. The have no case... When Zimmerman is found not guilty then what ? The parents want a jury trial, try this in civil court.. Why should the TAX PAYER foot the bill on this media charged case... The media is pushing this case because they have nothing to lose.. WE the taxpayer foot the bill... I'm not to keen on paying for media ratings.. I still have to ask, why is the media using the picture of young "Trayvon" ? Im sick of footing the bill of these media charged events to fill up airtime as the new reality TV.... It gets old..

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BMW410

    There always people that just will not obey the laws Zman was one of them he started this and now he will have his day in court. You know it's like not listening to your parents and then when it happen your Father / Mother said i told you so. you would not listen this is what happen to you. The Po po told you we did not need you to follow Travon but know you had to follow the young man a hard head meakes a soft a$$$. and if you would have just seen he was going into his on resident you would not have this issue/ case on you now. i will be following your court case now. later

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gabe

    He captured Harper’s Ferry, with his nineteen men so few,
    And frightened "Old Virginny" till she trembled thru and thru;
    They hung him for a traitor, themselves the traitor crew,
    But his soul is marching on.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Carol

    Take him straight to the electric chair. He has already been tried and convicted in the eyes of the public. Our old judicial system gets pushed to the side and mob justice is the new justice. I am not saying if he is innocent or guilty but mob justice should NOT be the new justice.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MmmRocks

    What if a black man chased a white woman through their neighborhood even after a 911 dispatcher told them to stop, then the white woman maced the black man when they caught up to her and the black man shot her dead? Is that stand your ground?

    April 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samantha

      You left out the part about TRAY-VON trying to kill Zimmerman by repeatedly bashing his head into the pavement. Maybe this type of behavior is something you see every day in your black culture. Us normal people dont see that so much.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  11. oprahofsports

    Zimmerman thought he was making brownie point with the police, but taking the law in his own hands. Because there is no Grand Jury, there will not be a charge of First Degree Murder with Florida Death Penalty; but I predict Second Degree Murder, because there was no premeditation and forethought to just find someone to kill, he just happen upon his target, and when he had an opportunity to retreat he did not. Therefore he was the aggressor (Aggravated Assault) and when he took a deadly force with the absence of another deadly force, he committed Second Degree Murder. This will be somewhere betwee 15-30 years in prison; but a lifetime to think about what he did.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • realitycheck

      Really....another idiot that doesn't read the facts and falls victim to the media manipulation machine. Really??? Had a chance to retreat. Mr. Zimmerman was assulted a few feet from his vehicle. Mr. Martin, who is 6'3 and has a history violence assulted Mr. Zimmerman while Mr. Zimmerman was returning to his vehicle. This is a tragedy that a young man lost his life. However, the young man was the assulter. This has nothing to do with race. NOTHING. But the Media beats race into everyone's head. If Trayvon was White, there would be no protests, not charges weeks later, no media coverage beyone the week of the incident. This is total BS.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. bob vincent

    The case is a loser but they seemed to have pushed all in before got a good look at their cards. They want to start race riots so they can declare an emergency to put NDAA and NDRP into action. If they can't start race riots, they'll pull off a false flag operation and get their "emergency" that way.

    People, don't buy into the racial hatred they're trying to stir up. It's bad for your health and ultimately bad for your eternal soul. Doctored tapes and photos, the usual suspects trotted out to pour gas on the fire. . .it's blatant manipulation to get the end result they want.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. vic

    @Dustin

    if you read the first part of my statement i said "i personally dont think " witch indicates im stating an opinion. if you do not know what an opinion is ill provide you the definition.

    "A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof"

    April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Common Sense

    If trayvon was shot while beating Zimmerman's head into the ground there would have been blood all over Zimmerman..there was not so trayvon had to be at least 5 feet away..that's murder..the boy was crying for his life people damm!. Zimmerman is a vigilante and needs to taken off the streets..

    April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC1973

      I have a feeling that if we learn about new evidence tonight, it's going to be forensics. You can't lie to science.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wondering

      I don't think it's a reasonable scenario: Zimmerman standing any distance away from Trayvon, holding a gun on him, with Trayvon just standing there screaming for help as was heard on the 911 tape, and THEN Zimmerman shoots him in the chest? Why would Trayvon just stand there screaming, and not run? Why would Zimmerman not shoot him quicker when all the screaming started? I don't know *what* happened, but I DO believe there was a physical struggle of some sort that resulted in the gunshot. What led to that, who was the aggressor, who followed who, etc. is unknown to ANY of us.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. rita

    All i can say is thank GOD. For me this was not about white or black but what is right. Now let a jury of his peers decide.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
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