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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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. cyke1

    Question now is will this trial be a fair trial, givin all the news coverage even the bounty on Zimmerman's head. All the news coverage and bad PR, if the evidence doesn't show it was murder beyond a reasonable doubt could all the ppl mad play a roll in influencing the jury's choice.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  2. QMAX1234

    I Love black people

    So do all black people beat and steal? I guess All people must drink and act stoned to get robbed too right? LOL. Dude get your states right. Baltimore MD, isn't Florida.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. WOW - are Americans really that clueless??

    I am really and truly shamed that there are so many rabidly racist people in America..For a nation that calls itself a " super power" and a leader in the international community this is a joke.

    The real shame is fully 75% of the comments on this page are racist in nature, no people are going to idlely stand by and watch their children be killed off systematically regardless of color, yet that is exactly what is happening in this country..Our justice system makes certain of this by being lenient to the point of criminality when certain ethnic groups only prey on their own, but allow other ethnic groups to prey on any and everyone without any reprecussions at all.

    This should be a wake up call to all of you reading through these posts, the real issue in this cvountry isn't race, the real issue is a systematic policy of ignorance and seperation that is allowed to continue unchecked so Americans will never come together to address what is really wrong with this country, we have a governement that has since it's inception worked dilligently to make certain the mass remain clueless to the real rulers of the country MONEY and those that have LOT's of it make the rules.. So faithful peons keep fighting eachother and in the meantime watch the rest of the world lose what little confidence they have in America as a leader.

    The reality is the more idiots that kill or abuse their fellow countrymen for a misguided ideal of racial purity are only gristle for the jail labor mill..Keep up the good work morons!!
    that the rest of the peons live by.

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

      Racism lives on your lips. No one knows what is happening in this case except the political knuckleheads that are trying to appease the people that know the least about anything. Eurotrash go home.

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

      This is probably pointless to try and talk some reason into you but I'll give it a go anyways.

      a) You're clearly way too emotionally attached to this which is making you overreact.

      b) As far as "super powers" are concerned we are one. We just have a horrible history of racial prejudices that goes along with it. We've come a long way in those regards from where we once were but we clearly still have a ways to go.

      c) Nobody is systematically killing or plotting against anybody. You went off on this conspiracy theory tangent about government corruption which I think is a bit of a stretch.

      d) The reason why our judicial system treats cases that involve race in a special manner is because of the aforementioned terrible racial history of this country. So far there haven't been any glaring mistakes by law enforcement or the judicial system regardless of what the court of public opinion thinks. Here we go by innocent until proven guilty. What this really means is that we would rather let a guilty man go free than risk wrongfully convicting somebody who is innocent. If you don't like that policy, quite simply, get out/stay out.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AlongTheWay

    Not about race. Keep hearing that. Sadly – that's exactly what keeps being mentioned. In fact, CNN started running segments, coalitions jumped onboard, and more...and more. Not surprisingly and sadly - it's all very one-sided.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Admom

    Some of these comments are too much get a life people.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ilya

    Someone needs to "stand your ground" against all those black panther thugs and remove them from society. Especially before Obama can use them to threaten voters to vote for him again in november.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Donita

    He is being charged rejoice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    April 11, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Mr Dalloway

    Has he been arrested yet?

    April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jerry

    well...if OJ got off this guy will too...or oh wait..maybe not, he is not black...only part white and latino.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. SonOfSammy

    Exterminating without a license !!!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. The Shiny Truth

    Honestly, it is pathetically sad that the leftist mainstream media is trying hard to turn this incident into a race crime. It does not matter if George was racist or not, the question is whether he shot Trayvon in self defence or not.

    And, the fact of the matter is that there is no proof that George chased down Trayvon and shot him just for being black. The police on scene, eye witness accounts and the State Attorney all concluded that George acted in self defence.

    If a 6'3" black guy in a "hoodie" jumped on you and started attacking you, breaking your nose, in the middle of the night what would you do?

    Eye witnesses called the police because George was yelling for help. A witness stated "the guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, 'Help! Help!' and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911...And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point."

    The leftist mainstream media might as well post baby pictures of Trayvon, without the gold "gangsta" teeth, since they are trying so hard to paint the black guy into a sort of saint. Yet, the fact of the matter Trayvon is the type of guy who was kicked out of school for possession of drugs.

    In the end, the leftist mainstream media and obama seems to be trying really hard to rally their base and win the battle ground state of Florida in the upcoming elections.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. QMAX1234

    I love black people,

    Did you know Zimmerman has a domestic violence history also before it got expunged including fighting an officer? Did Trayvon or black people lead him to do this? You know that video is also on CNN how come you haven't posted that one also. You talking about Trayvon in 2 years we can talk about Zimmerman in the past 5 years. LOL.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BLACK PANTHERS

    WE SUPPORT OUT BROTHER Obama and we will intimidate all you white folks to vote for him again.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jon

    Regardless of where you weigh in on this issue, it was fairly obvious that due to the media's coverage and whipping this into a frenzy that the prosecutor would have to charge Zimmerman with something. Imagine the firestorm if she decided not to indict? This way she can bring it to trial and then if the jury finds a lack of evidence and rule not guilty for self defense she can just blame it on the jury and go about her business. It's a shame that public officials now rule by public outcry rather than the facts. Also the judge has the power to rule self defense even before trial and grant immunity, but doubt a judge will have any more backbone than the prosecutor.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  15. El Flaco

    I'm not the only American who is worried about the gun nuts walking among us packing heat.

    I figure about 25% of the population is stupid or nuts.

    I figure about 90% of those people own a gun.

    A lot of them are muttering about using the "Second Amendment" to kill people like me and overthrow the government.

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