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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Considering some of the remarks on here, it seems we should also give serious consideration to how to PREVENT another tragedy of this type.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdKlC-6ww-Q&w=640&h=390]

    April 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. todmngd

    How about showing pictures that are current. Not a recent photo of the accused and an old photo of a baby faced kid who looks much different than he did at the time of his death. Don't know whether he deserved to be killed. But all faces should be current. Only fair.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikey

      who cares, this will be tried in an actual court now as it should be instead of in the news.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danielle

      A Curent photo wouldn't make a difference. Appearance has nothing to do with anything. And that the problem with this case.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • ArtInChicago

      todmngd, don't know if he deserved to be killed? I would say that statement has earned you that prize, at least for right now.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      you mean da one where no_limit_nicca is flashing the finger with his his gold tEEF, or the other one where hes flashing the finger with his olf tEEF?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • obamajoe

      you are right ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,truth,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,matters,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,for a good system

      April 11, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • longshot

      this is what you focus on? amazing

      April 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • longshot

      how about some of the proven fake photos that fox news types just keep acting like are the real things (and even if they are it wouldn't matter to the case) – fox news types are proving themselves to be, as surveys have shown, the most misinformed news viewers in the US

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

    I don't know enough of the details to give an opinion on the degree of charges, but at the very least, this man excuted extremely poor judgement that resulted in the death of an innocent boy. That surely means he should be held accountable and charged with something. This is the right course of action.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jack the Ripper

    Indeed, we need Civil War again, this time wipe the South clean of the inbred rednecks.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  5. who knows

    my heart is broken after reading comments on this story...

    April 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryant

      Don't worry.... most of the nutjobs on this site don't represent educated Americans.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  6. HenkV

    This explains why there was no need for a grand jury. They just could not take the risk that the grand jury would say 'no'.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Double Standards Abound

    It astounds me how much America is in denial.
    "If it were a white boy shot by an unarmed black man, this would not be news." No, it wouldn't, because the black man would have been immediately arrested. Honestly, we all know that.
    "The President helped influence this case unfairly." Really?? Raise your hand if are influenced by ANYTHING President Obama says. Didn't think so.
    "I'm glad they killed that black thug." Racism abounds. Blacks are not the only ones committing crimes. Take a look any any of the school or church masacres that have occurred in the last 10 years, as just one example.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      Blacks commit the most violent crime by far in our country and they are only 13% of the population. That's why blacks don't get the benefit of the doubt. Blacks haven't earned it. When blacks get a handle on their youth gang banger problem and reduce these numbers, maybe then things will change.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tmac

    Be real if Trayvon was to have shot Zimmerman he would be under the jail right now!! But since its the other way around they need to do investigation! The proof is in the pudding, the operator told him don't follow him and if he didnt wanna listen to what the operator said then the hell was your reason for calling 911.. This ain't the only incident where a black man has been racially profiled, but this time we letting the world know that we not going for this type of BS!! If Trayvon was your son, grandson,brother,uncle or father u would want justice for your family!! He was young and inicent and had so much life to live. Yea I know Zimmermanis all fu(ked up in the head as he should be, he had no right to take his life!! And he knows that the whole freaking world hates him, we gone fry that Mf like a egg! All those Zimmerman supporters ya As$

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

    People of the United States of America and President Obama,
    So what happens if the SP does not go ahead and press charges?the DOJ comes in and fabricates a racial hate crime charge so the Black Community does not burn down FLA.Zimmerman is doomed.

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

    No matter what any of you say towards this situation, whether you put your two cents in it especially for you racist people that can't get over the fact that were not in the 1800 anymore, Zimmerman will get prosecuted for what he did and thats that/

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

    at Sinfear , i understand what your saying , but if you want to state an argument do it correctly. A percentage of latinos are illegal , a percentage of blacks are addicts. but this is true for a large portion of whites.

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

    KK is pooooooopy. : ). : ). Pooooooopy : )

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

    Someones head must roll or our cities will be burned down like back in 1968. America the land of the messed up, those raised up to use the victimhood card.

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

    I cannot believe the ignorant people that post on here. I still don't understand why this got so out of hand when there have been far worse crimes perpetrated on other races. I am sickened by Trayvon's death and it was so wrong and I feel so sorry for his parents but why has this triggered such hate?

    April 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      The hate is always there from the Blax...but whites are just fed up now. Hence the escalation.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Maybe_Me

    Hopefully this man will finally get a fair day in court and this can all come to an end, guilty or innocent. He's already been tried & convicted in the court of public opinion, now let's get this over with #JusticeForGeorge

    April 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
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