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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    By the way CNN....Great news! This is why CNN is below dirt when it comes to cable news ratings!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Chuck

    And the Media Lynch war goes on

    April 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. David Laubach

    One of the things I've truly learned from this Trayvon Martin case and the subsequent Media Circus is that we really are a pathetically undereducated nation that has not grown up from it's racial problems despite ample opportunities over the years to do so. And I'm not choosing sides.
    If we were concerned about cleaning up our inner city neighborhoods half as much as this isolated case, we'd be offering our youth so much more to look forward to. Instead of seeking united opportunity, we ultimately divide.
    there is just too much hatred in the air here in America.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just ... wow

      Hear hear, Mr. Laubach, hear hear!
      Your government keeps its people divided and blinds them with "freedoms" that exist less by the day.
      The more comments I read, for the most-part, the more I'm reminded of the movie Idiocracy.. coming to a Nation near you... SOON.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jesus

    The prosecutor is bowing down to pressure. This just shows the amount of power that Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the like of them, have here in our, The United States of America. Sharpton and Jackson played the race issue and came out the winner again. If this country begins a race war, then you can bet your sweet black or white ass that it is the power and influence that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have over the black community that will incite the social war.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Neesh

      Why do you guys blindly make statements that are not based on facts but your own opinion. Maybe the prosecutor did a thorough investigation & came to the conclusion that he should be charged. You guys must've forgot that the investigating officers on the scene wanted to arrest Zimmerman originally because THEY DID NOT BELIEVE HIS STORY but the prosecutor decided that cases should be filed. The officers on the scene were objective & well trained on the scene so I'm sure a lot of them would be able to determine whether he should've been charged the night of the murder.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paul

      How do you know he is bowing down to Pressure. You people feel its ok for one of you's to kill us and not be even arrested how dear you?? This is not about Al Sharpton or Jessie Jackson. Whites will never be consoling or be willing to admit their fears of bigotry towards Blacks and people of colour. And those Caucasian or white like you want to follow your lead like Zimmerman!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. QMAX1234

    I know I hate white pople to

    April 11, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. QMAX1234

    Jerry Pelletier,

    Huh? So Obama killed Martin and put Zimmerman on trial to keep up racism? Is this another GOP conspiracy theory courtesy of your mormon god candidate Romney? Go start another war in Iraq in the name of freedome for oil oops I mean for Iraqis!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TOMG

    U.S.A. LAW OF STEEL , ZIMMERMAN WILL PAY FOR HIS EVIL KARMA ACTION TO AN INNOCENT TRAYVON MARTIN , ZIMMERMAN WILL GO TO HELL AND WILL ALWAYS SAW HELL FROM THAT DATE ON THE FEBRUARY -26 2012 DAY , AMEN

    April 11, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. QMAX1234

    I never said I hated white people. Stop using my name you puke whoever you are. I don't hide behind the internet in the name of racism!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. p chocolate

    I think its really funny how all of the Zimmersaveacommunity supporters are all racist and the Martin supporters are all fighting goe justice..... Its sad because if you Zimmermans would actually sit back and take a look at the bigger picture you wouldn't be so hateful.... All we and we meaning 98% of the country, white,black,hispanic,arab,asian,etc......wants is justice for this lil boy and his family... just as if it was your kids....

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BWIZZLE

    Nice to read all the positive comments that most of you are posting. Just goes to show you, the majority of people are good common sense folks, being black in America shouldn't be a death sentence if you wear a hoodie when its raining. I'm a 48 yr old black man who wears sweat shirts with hoods all the time, I'm wearing one right now, does that give anyone the right to follow, harass, or shoot me, think about that the next time any of you think that Trayvon deserved to die, oh and by the way I have no criminal past or history, not even a jay walking ticket and yes proud to be an Amercian!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • edward

      Guess you had to throw in the fact that your black.. I agree with you but why is race and color always threw in.. If it was another black male that shot him do you think it would be getting all this attention

      April 11, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Joe

    One of your sons could be that little Hunter. He might not like what he saw you did to him mama and decides to take out his anger on his little classmates because they are unarmed and not as bad as you who's armed, who knows. Kids are never allowed to bring guns to school, I hope that's the case in your community.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mike58

    Why is it ok for the FBI to arrest a night club owner for trying the hire a hit man to kill the Fort Worth Mayor and City Attorney today. But they do nothing when the Black Panthers announce a bounty for Zimmerman??

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. QMAX1234

    I will defend black people blindly forever

    April 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. mike58

    Why is it ok for the FBI to arrest a night club owner for trying the hire a hit man to kill the Fort Worth Mayor and City Attorney today. But they do nothing when the Black Panthers announce a bounty for the killing of Zimmerman??

    April 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. QMAX1234

    p chocolate, that is so true. One guy keeps trying to post the Baltimore incident as proof of how black people act. What he fails to state is that these are grown folks not kids who were killed by an adult!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
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