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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    IF this isn't about race... why in the heck is Al Sharpton involved. You know that the urban community is rallying around the race issue and that they want an example to be made. At the same time, it's obvious to most people that more restraint was required in the part of mr zimmerman.

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

      Say what you want about Al Sharton.Love him hate him it is up to you. But Al Sharpton did not shoot an unarmed teen. And if it was not for the Al Sharptons, would the Sandford police chief be called out for his incompetence. Would the district attourney have ever investigated it. WE all have a duty to speak agaist injusticce agaist anyone. Regarless or what color your side of the fence is painted. Remember that it is not the color of the fence that keeps us separated it is the fence itself. The Fence that divides us, that separates us, that surounds us, that imprisons us with hatred and ignorance that keeps us trapped in hateful backward living.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. donna

    I think people are missing that the race issue isn't just about Zimmerman's actions, but far more importantly, it's about the law enforcement's actions. I don't give a hoot if Zimmerman is racist or not. But we should all be concerned if law enforcement didn't arrest him and didn't investigate the event properly because *they* were influenced by race.

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

      Do you even read? The police wanted to arrest him that night. It was the SA that made the decision not to press charges. It is extremely unlikely racism had anything to do with it. Now, you should examine yourself and ask yourself why YOU are so hell-bent on making it a racial issue. Think carefully (yeah, right).

      April 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neece

      Praise Jesus!!!!!!! Here's to justice being served appropriately! What man won't do, God will! God doesn't like ugly!!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      That is so true.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest

      When is the race garbage going to stop? just because one human is darker than another or whiter like me kinna like mayo from Texas. I can not believe that in these days and times we are still treating each other like trash. I was brought up as racial as could be but I stepped out of that shaddow and learned what other races and peoples from other countries had to offer. Love the world and love each other dont let hate fill your heart. trust me on this, you have no time for hate in your life, this is to all.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamest

      Donna,

      you are right the police failed that young man and his family.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lbijoux

      Thank you! Finally a reasonable, rational voice. I've thought the same thing all along. It is beyond tragic that this young man (CHILD) was gunned down for no apparent reason other than minding his own business. It is criminal that the police and state prosecutor seemed to have dropped the ball and were influenced by factors other than the unarmed kid with a hole in his chest. I hope once the case against Zimmerman is concluded, all the folks initially involved w/this sad situation are investigated. Then maybe; just maybe, Trayvon can rest in peace and his mother can lay her head down for a moment and remember the fond embrace of her lost child.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sammy

    They keep printing "Zimmerman a Hispanic man"... ummm, his dad's white, probably white Jewish, and his mom's Hispanic. How the heck can they just make him 'Hispanic'? lol.

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

      By the same thought process that makes a person with a Causasian mother and an African-American father exclusively black.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neece

      I always thought that race has was determined by the race of the father, but what do I know.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • George

      Zimmerman's voter registration record lists him as Hispanic. This is not a white/Black issue, only a racist who hates the white race would keep calling Zimmerman white.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. winstonsmith

    The point isn't what the court decides, it's that a court decides!! A case like this deserves to go to trial. From there, then it's in the court's hands and they will know better than the fickle opinions of the masses. But the masses were right to be outraged, this should go to trial, that doesn't mean he's guilty. Too many people think in such simple terms.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. nino338

    Get ready for riots after they find George not guilty. Al thanks for posting that video, it shows the double sidedness. If this was a white on black the tv commentators would not be dancing around their words.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. QMAX1234

    Fine upstanding black man, you have not idea of what Trayvon was being groomed as! Were you stalking him like Zimmerman too?

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. IanJ

    I knew it was finally going to happen. Was just waiting for those brain-dead law enforcement officials to get there act together.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Honestly People

    What is truly sad the comments made from both sides... The whole this got media attention in the first place is because the parents of Trayvon were not getting any answers as to why charges were not filed... Race hoodies and skittles are a complete crock and yes I do feel that Sharpton and Jackson made this racial divide.... but we cant forget that the issue here is that a teen not an adult lost his life due to what is allegedly profiling but Zimmerman is also losing his life no one is giving him his time to tell his side .... Let it go court let the evidence come out .... Give both families closure in this matter and lets move on ... its sad for both sides

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Donita

    Bitcccccccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Donnie the Lion

    Zimmerman is in poor health and in hiding. A righteous man fears nothing....he stands proud of every deed, and sleeps well every night. Seems the guilt more than the fear for your life is creeping inside of you, Mr. Zimmerman.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Peikovianyi

    White racists will be outraged that Zimmerman was charged. Black racists will be outraged when Zimmerman is acquitted for insufficient evidence. The law attempts to do justice, but in this case it can't satisy anyone's expectations. Meanwhile Florida is a state with 29 Electoral Votes, so it is crucial to the ambitions of national politicans and it is crucial to the ambitions of local street hustlers-turned-community activists.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl D. Uzamere

      How the hell does a dead black man amount to insufficien evidence. Whoever made such a statement in idiot.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Sam S.

    This is going to trial in the same state that acquitted Casey Anthony ... lol

    April 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kris Haney

    it's about time that jezebel getting charged. He need a MURDER ONE charge. not no manslaughter bullcrap

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

      First degree murder is premeditated. Unless there's some sort of new evidence that Zimmerman had been plotting to track down and kill Trayvon before the night in question, he's not going to be charged with first degree murder. Manslaughter (the unjustified killing of someone with no malice aforethought) has a much greater chance of sticking.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dagobert II

    Well thank goodness Nancy Grace will have another six years employment security to analyze another case. I wonder what her prediction is on this verdict?

    April 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Neal

    DOH!!! Zimmerman forgot that blacks think Hispanics are White people!!! blacking shooting black OK, blacking shooting white OK, white shooting black NO GO!!!

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