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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    It is pretty darn obvious that ol' George here hunted down the kid and things went down hill from there...he should be charged...as should the cops who botched this case.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Lets

    Let's all be nice and smile at the next person we see. Than maybe they'll smile and be nice to the next person and so on and so on. Then we would all be friends an buddies and things like this might not happen as much. :). 🙂

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    TO BAD 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 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. martin

    he will be charged then he will get off because there is no evidence to go against what Zimmerman has told authorities. Zimmerman followed martin from a distance because it was a gated community and he didnt recognize martin. Then Zimmerman turned back and started to walk back when Martin followed up then attacked Zimmerman and pinned him down and beat him until he broke his nose, and cuts to the back of his head. If Zimmerman feared for his life then shooting him was justified under the florida state law "stand your ground" . Although the media has convicted him already on this it wil be hard to get a jury of hs peers in court, he will get off 100%

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • derriquestuckey

      Zimmerman will be found not guilty. This is a waste of time. 90% of you are missing the most important aspect of this: Martin reached for Zimmerman's gun. BAM. Under federal law, Zimmerman was justified to shoot, in self-defense. Game over. This should have been obvious when the Grand Jury, who can indict a canned ham, wouldn't even touch this one.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • B j pOLLEY

      The Media has already tried this man. He will never get a fair trail.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • liz48

      I think it is a very good thing this is going to court...there Zimmerman can tell his side and a court will decide. The truth will come out and the hood and mob will be exposed. There was no other way. I think the prosecutor was smart...if she said there was no case to charge him with the mob would have been mad saying she is protecting the police and that she is white....

      Now it can go to court and the prosecutor can lose but it still has had its day in court. I believe Zimmerman is doing the right thing. He kept in touch with the cops, they were able to take him into custody and will support him in his case with their reports from the scene etc.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. derriquestuckey

    Just to add insult to injury, 'guilty' folks don't turn themselves in. Sorry to break it to all the haters.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • sleepytime

      Of course they do.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • derriquestuckey

      @sleepytime- WHO? Sorry, but your failed attempt at generic answers aren't good enough for me.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Questioner

      He shot Trayvon dead, didn't he? How is he not guilty? And FYI, guilty people turn themselves in all the time. Geez!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  6. complete neutrality

    Latinos account for roughly 40 percent of the population while Blacks make up 15 percent.
    So from a demographic standpoint that Hispanics would carry more weight politically is no surprise.
    But in the US we do this unique thing where minorities are protected by the rule of law.
    As are all citizens. May this forever be the case.
    But lately the fear mongering right has been crafting some really goofy laws and obstructing the legislation that would help ordinary folks.
    Don't believe every campaign add you hear and be careful who you vote for.
    With less guns and less fear of a lurker around every corner this could have been prevented. Love your neighbors.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • liz48

      Florida brought their rising crime rate down by allowing more guns and giving people greater freedom to carry them. The thugs get the guns and sadly according to statistics, the thugs who prey on innocent people because the thugs know the innocent people cannot harm them (not having any protection) happen to be mainly black...sad but true; and I am not white...

      April 11, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Obamahater

    cnn sucks

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raging Bull

      I bet you watch Fox News / Fox Entertainment- http://www.fair.org/extra/9806/foxbgh.html

      April 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jim

    The guy must be guilty. Jessie and Sharpton agree. Case closed.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Klaas Jan

    Look at the stupid colored people in that press conference laughing and joking like it's a party. Disgusting.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • SpeakingFromThePresent

      Abuse has been reported. Comment all you like, but please be literate. We're all colors, friend. Your qualifier of the people the conference didn't help a single reader understand who you were alluding too. So, please, this time clear it up with a descriptive word fitting to the noun itself. Thank you

      April 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Joe

    Hmmm...a 6 p.m. news conference....someone's got plans for political office.

    April 11, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. BBoy

    "Earlier, a senior law enforcement source familiar with the Martin death investigation told CNN said that George Zimmerman would be charged in the case." Whew! For a minute there I thought the police were going to charge Martin for being black and in the wrong place at the wrong time... that would seems to be more in line with justice in Florida!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. rob1300

    If a trespasser walks towards me in place I am living or protecting and say stop or whatever, if they don't leave I would shoot their ass too. Even without them getting close enough to hit me. He was in a place he shouldn't of been and paid for it. People die everyday so the news can now cover the thousands of other people that died now. What about the white student that was shot by 3 black men (not students) at a university that same week, where was the news on that?

    April 11, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBoy

      We can only hope some one treats you the same way!

      April 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Klaas Jan

    Is this a press conference or a celebration? A party? This frog-faced dog of a "woman" in the red jacket is a piece of garbage.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chox

      A celebration...and it's only the Beginning.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. liz48

    It was clear a court of law had to make a decision so that the uninformed and the ignorant will have their emotions quelled. I am glad he was not immediately arrested but only after a prosecutor went into the details. This meant that the hood and thugs led by such as sharpton did not win their way....

    In court, there will be both sides telling their stories and a decision will be made. I hope there is some way to protect the judge or jury from the mob...sad to say – sense and reason don't seem to go well with the folks set up by the sharpton and jackson crowd....May God protect His people and let those who lead the mob be brought low...

    April 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    Say what you want. But did Zimmerman really need to kill the kid. He's 17, you're a grown man. Doesn't make sense.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • dubrats

      say what you want but have you ever been robbed by a 17 year old football player?....home invasion?....ok.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jay

      Wow, that is the most thoughtful and insightful comment I have ever read. Clearly backed up with facts and an argument of reason.

      April 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
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