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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Stand your Ground. ok that's fine but Zimm weighs 110 more pounds then the YOUNG MAN (17 years old). Regardless if Martin attacked him or not, Zimm is a pansy for resorting to a gun (which he shouldn't be carrying for WATCH duties). This whole case is a circus on every end and corner. Yeah there is racism still in America and all over the world...big surprise. "the justice system targets too much blacks and there is too many in prison today." Ok I won't be ignorant and say that there is no truth to it, but #1 race crime is black on black. So I just want to throw the race card out for a minute or 2 knowing that much. Somebody said Martin was a great student who had great grades. Didn't he drop out? I don't care if he is a "thug" or "punk" or "innocent" stop showing pop warner football photos. Media added gasoline to the fire and it's made the public turn it into an explosion. Let's be real. If Zimm doesn't get charged or charged to high enough degree (public opinion) just maybe don't you think a sniper won't hesitate to take his ass out?

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

      "Stand your Ground. ok that's fine but Zimm weighs 110 more pounds then the YOUNG MAN (17 years old)."

      Ah, right. So if you weigh more than someone who attacks you, they can continue attacking you because you're prohibited from doing anything to defend yourself.

      Smart.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      Except he wasn't 110 pounds heavier, Trayvon was 6'3 and 160 pound all muscle hs football player pretty sure a reasonable person being charged at by that would potentially fear for his life

      April 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dean

    Trayvon would have been murdered by his rival gang sooner or later.

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

      Absolutely true......unfortunately. If some dude attacks me, I am not going to "fight it out". If I have a weapon, and my state has a law that allows me to use it in that situation, darn right I am going to pull that weapon out and fire. No hesitation whatsoever.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • floridanative32

      And you know this how?? Have some compassion for a fellow HUMAN being that was killed!

      April 11, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ronnie

      What Gang was he in? I am interested because you seem to know that he was in a Gang. And peopl wonder why African Americans are standing up for this kid, because of the general thought that all African Americans are in Gangs or Thugs, based on what they wear. You need to seriously look in the mirrior at yourself, not only as an american, but as a person.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • tyrone

      I wonder what gang was he a member of...I didn't hear anything about this young man being in a gang

      April 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheMovieFan

      So, do you have a link to a story with a reputable source (not stormfront dot org) that ha information on his gang activities?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank

    Oh, so I'm guessing self defense is a crime now.... Does this mean our troops should go to jail too?? Because, basically they're defending themselves too. Right? I feel bad for Zimmerman. Now, he has to spend the rest of his life in prison for defending himself.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mingler1

      Hey Frank...Go to his website and put your paycheck where your mouth is.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Datruthhurtz

      ARE YOU DUB OR STUPID ..I SUGGEST YOU READ WHAT YOU WROTE . COMPARING TROOPS TO THIS WANNA BE COP IS ABSURD . BY THE WAY YES TROOPS CAN GET LOCKED UP FOR KILLING INNOCENT CHILDREN AND WOMEN. OH THAT JUST HAPPENED RIGHT ??? THAT PUNK WAS NOT PROTECTING HIMSELF HE WAS RACIALLY PROFILING AND THEN BECAME A MURDERER ...

      April 11, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      Self defense is not a crime, BUT, IT MUST BE SELF DEFENSE

      April 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      yes if they kill children

      April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. John

    @ Debby , your right , they tarnished their case in the worst way possible

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

    Erasing my comments makes my name even stronger . The truth does hurt !! But besides all of that Zimmy will get what he deserves very soon !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  6. WATCH THIS VIDEO ON CNN FROM BALTIMORE

    http://www.cnn.com/video/?hpt=hp_c2#/video/crime/2012/04/09/tsr-sylvester-man-beaten-baltimore.cnn

    LOOK AT THESE INNOCENT BLACK PEOPLE BEAT THIS BAD WHITE MAN

    OH I BET IT WAS HIS FAULT BEING IN THE CAGE WITH THE ANIMALS

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

      Look up James Craig Anderson...can I blame all white people for that?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea

    "He was being followed, he got scared. I would have done the same thing."

    That is BS, if you are being followed, you run away not attack.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • truthordare7

      I don't buy that for a sec. If somebody is scared and he has a huge area to run off to, then why did he follow Martin back to his car and ecalated the confrontation? People, deal with facts, not blind adherence to race baiting. I find those protesting with hoodies as retarded and the black panthers as criminals.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      What happen to stand your ground? or he doest have that right because he is black?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Anonymous

    He is being charged, not convicted. There will still be a trial, only then will we know the real outcome of all this. We can claim he will be found guilty, but that doesn't always happen.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mingler1

    Great post Slick

    April 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Isaac

    As a white middle aged male. It bothers me that people don't see that racism does STILL exist. With that said America is a melting pot, so for those who wish blacks, whites, asians, hispanics, arabs or any other race would be eliminated is a fool because everyone is here for good until the end of time. As far as this case is concerned a young UNARMED black male has now lost a life. I tried to see Zimmerman's side, but I can't due to the fact that he should have never chased this young man, especially once the 911 dispatcher told him to stay put.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • truthordare7

      He did not chase him. He followed him and then lost sight of him and returned back to his car or was returning to his car when Martin followed him and started the confrontation. I see the case for both and it would have been a minor issue if the tragedy of misunderstanding and temper brought about this sad occurence.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • dottie

      as someone who was physically assaulted I can tell you that I really am afraid of the implications of the parsing of when you can use "self defense" – I had no gun or knife and couldn't effectively defend against a drugged teenager – but I tell you- this is not all just about Zim & Trayvon- people are tired of being targets..... what is so hard to understand there?
      This is not just liberal vs. conservative, I think we divide into crime victims and blowhards......

      April 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Saige

    ABOUT TIME – DUH!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MmmRocks

    What I don't understand is how Zimmerman claims he was assaulted at his car and his head smashed into the ground, but then Trayvon's body was found face down in the back yard of a house.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Common Sense

    @oprahofsports nice comment..the fact's

    April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. John

    @ JamesS i have seen small people do damage to an individual of a larger size. Like the saying goes size doesn't matter.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Eric

    I live in a gated neighborhood (all races, not just white, but black, asian, hispanic, middle eastern, etc) and in 12 years I've had 3 encounters with trespassers going door to door to solicit products and services. I say trespassers because our neighborhood is private property and does not allow solicitors – it states this at the entrance. The only solicitors we allow are our residents – basically kids selling stuff for the school and organizations – and well know each other. Each time the trespassers were black (outside of my neighborhood the nearest black family is probably 6-10 mile radius – so these weren't local school kids). And each time I politely asked them to leave and told them we do not allow solicitors. Each time I was met with belligerence from the young men (typically 16-24 year old). At which time I informed them I was calling the sheriff's office (I did each time and they responded) and one time retrieved one of my firearms because I felt threatened. Now, if I told you I was white, you'd say I was racist. If I told you I was black, you'd say I was doing the right thing. I don't know if Zimmerman is guilty (I wouldn't have followed Trayvon, though), but I guarantee Trayvon was not squeaky clean and was trespassing. Think about it – trespassing on private property at night – a bad idea no matter what color you are.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mingler1

      Eric – Trayvon was visiting his dad. That is not trespassing.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
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