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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    This is obvious move to protect the don't back away law. Zimmy a pawn to keep scrutiny of the law.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Stand Your Ground

    If I break into your house, and you come at me with a baseball bat, then I shoot you, can I claim the Stand Your Ground defense? That's what Zimmerman's trying to do here. Same principal.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Zimmerman was not in his house.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • BE KIND

      But that law in and of itself is the wrong approach. It gives permission to any nut job with a gun to shoot.
      You and I and everyone do not know the facts. So stop rushing to judgement. Your analogy doesn't have relevance as no one broke into a house, no one was rushing anyone and the boy wasn't armed. So you have an adult with a gun who shot a boy without a weapon. THAT IS A VERY BIG QUESTION MARK.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobious

      Wrong

      April 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • SeauxGood

      True. A lot of people are overlooking the fact that BOTH these men probably thought they were standing their ground. Too bad only one of them lived to tell about it.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gene Green

      George: these were suggestions from 911 call operator, not instructions from police. It was stupid for Zimmerman to follow the teen around, however it was not illegal AFAIK as both were on public streets. I think it all comes up to who attacked whom first, and what happened after that (and no, following someone is not an attack). If Zimmerman's account of events was correct, he acted in justifiable self defense, even if he followed Trayvon,as long as he didn't try to physically restrain / harm him. If someone follows me, I can call the police, but I can't just attack them. If Zimmerman lied – which is entirely possible – then he is a murderer. Unfortunately with race thrown in, I am afraid we are looking at another OJ trial.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gene Green

      Sound Off: not the same. If someone is following you on a street, it's definitely a reason for concern, but it's not yet an attack and you can't use deadly force to protect yourself. Otherwise the Jehova Witnesses would be dropping dead all over Florida.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. hawk75701

    the way people are responding to this is really making me consider looking for work in Canada.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TJ

    Riddle me this, batman... I've seen numerous article that all parrot the justification of Zimmerman in shooting Martin because (so they say) Martin attacked Zimmerman. Explain to me why Trayvon Martin was not justified in defending himself OR "attacking Zimmerman" using the same Stand-Your-Ground law??? I mean, Zimmerman is the one who was following and tracking Martin. Zimmerman was the one who had a weapon. From any objective point of view, Zimmerman is the one who would have come across as the "thug," not Trayvon Martin. Martin was not doing anything other than walking down the road with his hoodie up in the rain. I have never seen ANY case in America, outside of this one, where that would have been considered probable cause for anything. Zimmerman was the aggressor. He should be charged with manslaughter at a minimum.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mobious

      Did Zimmerman attack Trevon first? There is no law saying he cant walk or patrol his neighborhood. Even the police cant tell you to stop following someone in your neighborhood.

      The question is who attacked who first.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      Just because you are being followed then questioned by the neighborhood watchman, does not give you the right to attack him. That is not self defense.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vance

    Of course he's gonna be charged. Anything to satisfy the black community.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • hommie12

      This is what you call kowtowing to the blacks. He will be found guilty even if he's innocent.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abbey

      People like you all fleeing to Somalia to find your small government and personal freedom would satisfy the black community. Get packin'!!

      April 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • hommie12

      This is what you call kowtowing to the blacks. He will be found guilty even if he's innocent.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. UGH

    ridiculous the way media just exploits and embellishes things. fact is we werent there to see what happened. I dont know either one of these two guys. I pray God settles this. Im tired of hearing about racism. I know it happens but really? is that the case here? dont drop labels just to fuel an already angry/confused community. May God find truth in this tragedy. Let the experts find the truth. I pray God watches over Trayvon Martin and heals his family. to Mallory Simmon, you should be careful how you write your articles, they can influence readers.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Name

    If this took place in Oakland, California and both the suspect and victim were black, it probably wouldn't have even made it on the local news

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • BE KIND

      True – and you have to then think of how this country has gotten so messed up that this is the case. What can YOU do to change it for the better? Every person on this board has to own that and every person in this nation has to own it or we all lose.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abbey

      Because the suspect would have been arrested.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Donnie the Lion

    If nothing else, Zimmerman is guilty of:
    1) Disturbing the peace
    2) Harassment
    3) Martin and Zimmerman are both guilty of assault and battery

    Zimmeran COULD be guilty of:
    1) Assault with a deadly weapon
    2) Manslaughter

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abbey

      How is Martin guilty of assault and battery?? He had one wound – a fatal gunshot wound. Don't blame the victim here.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. dmstyres

    Zimmerman took a human life. Of course he's going to be charged. This "race" stereotyping is absurd. We all bleed. We are all equal in the eye's of the LORD. If your child is sick , mentally, you can only blame yourself ( parent's) for not recognizing it & changing your families sickness through the generations.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nic

    XXOO I pray that you find Jesus to get that hate out of your system!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. ferari lover

    Trayvon was probably gonna end up a criminal and in prison, so Zimmerman did him a favor!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abbey

      Good grief, why are you on CNN? All the other Klan members are on Fox. Go find your brethren. And learn to spell Ferrari. LOL! If you can't spell it, you definitely can't afford it.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. BE KIND

    To everyone on both sides of this tragic issue – please, slow down and wait for the facts. This digital era has created a rush to judgement on everything we experience and that is just as wrong as the outcome of this horrible event. Trying this in a court of law is the only way to try and find a fair outcome. Sadly, a young man lost his life at the hands of another relatively young man who's life is also now ruined directly due to his actions. Beyond this, it is the State of Florida frankly who is in the wrong. The Shoot First Law is a crime in itself and born out of paranoia and very poor management of gun laws. There must be a way to change that law to something rational and to find the truth in what has happened. And along the way – BE KIND TO EACH OTHER. We don't need anymore pain from this situation.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Wendy

    Many of you are posting that Trayvon's pics on facebook were "thuggish." What you don't seem to realize is someone hacked his page and put the pictures on the page. That was reported though I know some of you will say its an excuse.

    The bottom line is those of you with racism and hatred in your heart will continue to spew it no matter what happens. No matter what minorities (particularly African Americans) do and no matter how we contribute to society, there will always be a critique by you.

    No wonder other countries laugh at us.....

    April 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mountain Goat

      We had a civil war where 600,000 whites died fighting for Blax. We have affirmative action all over the place, grants, college money, tolerance of your double standards and more. Still Blax hate and complain against the white man. We are fed up.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RichieRich

    There are so many things wrong with what Zimmerman did that night he unlawfully took Trayvon Martin's life, and so many things wrong with the perfunctory investigation the local law enforcement officials performed. To anyone who thinks this is a blacks / whites problem, take a good look at the crowd protesting for justice for Trayvon, especially his neighbors, his high school classmates from the community he lived in. They're everyone.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. George

    I'm shocked at some of your responses here. Does it matter if he is black or white? Martin's death occured during the commision of a crime by Zimmerman. Zimmerman had been told to not follow Martin. But Zimmerman chose to disregard those instructions from the police. By doing so he then became gulty of "Stalking" (for whatever reason racial or otherwise). A person commiting a petty theft. cannot claim self-defence when they kill someone who confronts them. The man was wrong to begin with. Now as far as Martin, even if he was a problem kid, that is nothing new. Each and everyone of you who have any remark here has at leaste one kid that they know that is a troubled teen. Some in your own family. Regarless if they punks, gang-bangers, or thugs, the are still members of your family. They are still kids, they still do not deserve to die. Whether it is a hate crime or not someon else will have to figure that out. But it is a crime just the same. Just like the Manson murders were a crime. Just like the shootings in Tulsa were a crime. Just like the white teenager who intentionally drove his truck over a black man in mississippi after he and his friends had beaten the man. Just like the man who was beaten and stripped naked in Brookllyn. Why do I mention all of this? It's to remind you that there are Crazies, Racists,Biggots, Criminals in every town and in every ethnic group. Just the remember the the person you choose to defend as justified, would not be justified at all if it was amember of your family. We should all want justice served. The martin family and Al Sharton aor anyone else is not protesting because because Zimmmerman is white and Martin is Black. They are protesting because Martin is dead, and he was an unarmed youth beign stalked by his killer.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
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