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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

[tweet https://twitter.com/SybrinaFulton/status/190153784981327872%5D

[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. equal justice for all

    juniorbarnes, had zimmerman had not "profiled" a 17 year old KID minding his own business then Trayvon Martin will not be dead. One way or another Zimmerman is going to face justice once he is flushed out of hiding, jail may actually be the safest place for him.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike D

    Next, charge the bias and incompetent Sanford Police who handled the original investigation with official corruption. I have several law enforcement officers in my family. For those people who handled the original so called investigation to call themselves law enforcement officers is a joke and a disgrace to their badges and shields. Also for the new black acting chief who is vigorously defending this incompetent department, shame on you.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jerry

      You are correct. SDadly, the corrupt sanford police chief took off on a disability pension to escape his cover up. He should be fired, lose his pension and go to jail. But nothing will happen here. These corrupt animals are immune from the law. The laws only apply to honest taxpayers.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  3. candy

    It is about time they had to do something anybody could kill you all charges are not pointless he killed a person weather it was racially motivated or not

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. its true dude

    there wont be an election, its racist to run against a black man.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • walkthetalk

      that's not even funny. LAME.

      April 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • 305ladyleo

      Booo!! Get off the stage!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MMM

    This is not going to end good. He will be charged, there will not be enough evidence and this will end in a not guilty from the Jury. And in true Rodney King form there will be riots. Just like all those who are rallying now, they are probably the same who cheered when OJ was set free. Scraping for charges just because the media and rallyers are calling for it is not good form. You do what is right, not necessarily what is popular. That is what makes a good public servant.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. walkthetalk

    Gotta love a news leak. Maybe we will find out about the end of days on Twitter.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Monkey see

    Let's see if justice finally prevails.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. TJ

    He's toast no matter what happened, considering the L.A. riots and all. He doesn't get charged, there'll be riots. He get's found not guilty, there'll be riots. This guy's gonna have to pay big time for not doing what 911 told him to do, that alone will invalidate the "stand your ground" law.

    Just rubber stamp guilty on the paperwork and ship him off to prison, then Nancy Grace and Al Sharpton can go howl about some other gross injustice.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Outraged

    This is outrageous. The ONLY reason he is being charged is simply because the media has blown this story way out of proportion making it into a racist hate crime and if Zimmerman's not charged there will be riots. Stupid media, thanks for ruining another mans life...

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Zimmerman "ruined" his own life when he ignored what 911 told him. He also ruined - ENDED - the life of a young man who was just trying to walk home with some candy and iced tea. If Zimmerman stayed in observer mode - as he was told - that young man would be alive and Zimmerman would be fine. He created this mess and now he's facing justice.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      If Zimmerman or Simmerman or Timmerman goes out and kills one of your family, and he claims self defense, will you ask the court to judge that or you are okay to just take the killer's words ?

      April 11, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just ... wow

      ...And his family's, and the poor sot who has the misfortune of having almost the same name. Craziness.

      April 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ...a laurel and hardy handshake......

    And now, we shall here a hearty tale told by Mr. Zimmerman !
    . "That great big man attacked me and I simply had to invoke my 2nd amendment Rights – MY RIGHT TO SHOOT ANYONE THAT DOES NOT ALLOW ME TO 'STAND MY GROUND', WHEREVER THAT MAY BE !!"

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dave

    He should only be charged with littering, nothing more.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. "Y"

    I really believe that Zimmerman is in Peru. When his daddy found out that the Prosecutor was going to handle the case. Pops told him to get out the USA because he was going to jail and those NI-- are going to kill you!

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. SC

    Don't respond to the insane racist comments that are posted on this or any other site. They are the product of morally bankrupt mob. Insults will only make us stronger.

    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. its true dude


    April 11, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • MISSY


      April 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  15. taurran

    Nice job on setting the precedence that media lies and mob rule can direct the justice process in this country. What a farce...

    April 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just ... wow

      Not like this is anything new, taurran. Trial by media, trial by public... Bleepin' sad.

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