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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    IF THIS CASE IS IN VIETNAM THE V.C VIETCON WILL GIVE ZIMMERMAN THE DEAD PANELTY PERIOD WITH NO QUESTION , BECAUSE ZIMMERMAN HE CREATED THE EVIL HELL KARMA ON THAT DATE , AMEN .

    April 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      You are obviously a racist and black. They have to calm the herd somehow. Black people murder white people at 7X the rate of white on black murder. For black people only being 12.6% of the population of people. They cause most of the crime. So mathematically black people are to be questioned and feared. This self defense might have been justified. But at least Zimmerman wasn't out robbing and raping then murdering someone. He was trying to help a community.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    AHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHA They have to calm the herd somehow. Black people murder white people at 7X the rate of white on black murder. For black people only being 12.6% of the population of people. They cause most of the crime. So mathematically black people are to be questioned and feared. This self defense might have been justified. But at least Zimmerman wasn't out robbing and raping then murdering someone. He was trying to help a community.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Yeller

      They do get arrested for more crime, anyway. Like when they shoot someone they get arrested, no questions asked. Apparently that doesn't work the other way around in some cases.
      "You say he came at you with the skittles? Good enough for me... you are free to go".

      April 11, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dan

    To all of the people posting in defense of The Martin Teen and trying to demonize Zimmerman I think you should all pick a very liberal crime filled country and move there soon! Take your bleeding heart liberal nonsense to Iraq or The Sudan.

    Had Martin got the gun away from Zimmerman and put 6 or 6 bullets in his head the black community and all of you liberal morons would be hailing Martin as a hero for defending himself from evil Zimmerman. Had Martin been white and Zimmerman been black none of this would have been on the news. Or if Zimmerman was black and Martin was white or Hispanic none of this would be on the news either. You are all the opposite of the KKK a bunch of racists pretending to dislike violence and love teenagers... Just a racist lie!

    April 11, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      YEP... AHHAHAHA! They have to calm the herd somehow. Black people murder white people at 7X the rate of white on black murder. For black people only being 12.6% of the population of people. They cause most of the crime. So mathematically black people are to be questioned and feared. This self defense might have been justified. But at least Zimmerman wasn't out robbing and raping then murdering someone. He was trying to help a community.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • rob1300

      thank you Dan

      April 11, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ol' Yeller

      "Had Martin been white and Zimmerman been black none of this would have been on the news"
      You are right. Absolutely. Because had it been the other way around and the black shot the white there would have been an arrest. That is the WHOLE POINT. Man, did you eat retard sandwich?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Klaas Jan

    Casey Anthony part II. Someone put a muzzle on that dog Nancy Grace

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. QMAX1234

    I saw we start the war in front of the Court House if we dont get out way it will be Rodney King all over again

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ankenyman

    I'm sure the newsroom is celebrating at CNN. I knew they would end up caving in to all the media pressure and political correctness. CNN convicted him without knowing the evidence in the case and purposely withheld any facts about Martin that reflected badly on him. CNN has no credibility as a news agency.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Marty

    At this point, it does not matter whether Zimmerman is guilty or innocent. He MUST be tried AND convicted to prevent rioting and mass chaos. He is a sacrifice for the good of the state.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • wow

      Marty = m o r o n

      April 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. jmc

    HA. I love how once he's actually being charged the media changes his race to Hispanic..

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. hehe

    Actually if Zimmerman claims self defense he will have to prove it according to the law its a affirmative defense.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Somebody

    ok forget about it Raven . dont feel like explaining

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim

    I am not saying this shooting was right. I am not saying the law is right. What I will say, is that any decent attorney is going to get him acquitted here. I would give myself a 50-50 chance of getting this dismissed before it went to a jury for deliberation.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TexinCa

    YES YES YES YES YES. So much for Florida and "stand your ground"; murder will not be permitted by just people.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tee

    Ha Ha! Only 2nd degree.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Embarrased

    I can actually and now factually say after this case and the Anthony trial. That I am totally embarrassed and disgusted over the Florida justice department. It is now, an embarrassment in the United States. First, you don't work for the police down in Florida. That goes without saying. I know why all Florida's good police chiefs stepped down in many districts. In fact, they brought a 'SPECIAL' prosecutor to make a decision on a case with Zimmerman/Martin to decide on whether it was criminal or not. The 'REGULAR' prosecutors weren't good enough. That is enough to speak volumes for the Florida justice department. And this case is getting preferential treatment due to news and media?!?! But, you don't do it to every case. So, you let other people make this decision for you?!?! People who weren't even involved in the altercation?!?! The decision at the scene and at the police station was not to arrest Zimmerman. Why?!?! Did they like Zimmerman over Martin so they decided not too?!?! Or was he not black so they didn't arrest him. In fact, he was brought into the police station and still released. So, were they not good people at the scene??? Were all these people bad??? Sadly, a scene where Martin died.
    More importantly now, You DON'T do ANY neighborhood watch for ANY segment of Florida neighborhoods. No matter what, you will be criticized for whatever you do. So, in NOWAY should you put yourself in that situation. You shouldn't help anyone who is getting robbed or shot. In the end, it isn't your problem. And in NOWAY do you make it your problem. And you don't work for the police force. In the end, you will resign from your position due to an incident someone in the world doesn't like. Which is always going to be the case. And in the end, the prosecution will be 'SPECIALLY' flown in for these 'SPECIAL' cases. I've heard and went through everything that was accurate and inaccurate with this case. I wasn't on the scene either, but was the police out of line?!?! Even with witnesses to back Zimmerman. Or does Florida justice department convene in private, until they trump up probable cause.... in the end... what are they doing?!?! ....

    April 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lets

    Both Obama and Zimmerman have white moms. If Obama can be black then George can be Hispanic. Btw. I think both are ok fellas.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
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