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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Paul you really need help!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mkeey

    @nancybrad check out what is going on here, everybody just pounding on you and guess what, they are blacks they are whites, europeans, asians, arabs and latinos. What is that saying of you? Now i don't wnat to miss to add my own comment –> YOU ARE A FISH BRAIN!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. larper2

    If the evidence supports Zimmeran's self defense notion and he is found innocent there will be riots. Will Zimmerman be a scape goat to prevent riots.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Maxwell

    Another waste of taxpayer's money, trying to convict a man of something that the state of Florida made legal. This is ridiculous and it sounds like someone wants to be re-elected.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • mkeey

      Stand your ground law does not permit you to act barbaric...get that straight. Zimmerman case is not a race issue it should be an issue every decent person would disqualify undermining the race of Zimmerman or TM. Anybody that would make this a race issue is silly (spike lee you are the nr.1 Idiot), I wouldn't deny there was a race profiling in the case, but our argument should not be based on that! TM could have been anybody's Child…doesn't that goes beyond just the color of his skin!?

      April 11, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • obamaliar

      notice Corey says"sweet Martin family" justice for Trayvon, prayed with Martin family. What about the Zimmerman family? This angela corey needs to be taken aside and talked to by her superior

      April 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vance

    It's about time. What I find funny is that race will have nothing to do with the prosecution of this event. It will come down to decisions made by Zimmerman. He made a lot of mistakes and he will pay for those mistakes.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • FactsNotFantasy

      Can you list those mistakes? A neighborhood watch captain confronts a stranger in the neighborhood, calls 911.. who knows what happened after that. I think you're talking our of your butt. Probably nothing new for you. At lease your in good company.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • obamaliar

      I hope not...I think that Corey picked the hardest charge to prove knowing that she will lose;but appease the black community that like unions protects the problem people in their groups

      April 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Karen E

    One of the many things I do not like about all the uproar over Trayvon Martin by Mr. Shrimpton and all the others who are standing on the bandstand is that WHY are they not doing this when a black child is shot and killed by another black person. Yes it is a tradegy but the killing epidemic of the black teens etc goes unchallenged. A BIGGER tradegy in my opinion. Where are all these so called advocates when someone just as important looses their life?

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • JC

      This kid was not important, he acted like a thug and now poor Trayvon. This is bull

      April 11, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Karen E

      JC, My point was not to name Trayvon as important but to say that all humans are AS important no matter who they are. My argument is to the fact that senseless killing is going on each and every minute, hour, day, month , etc. WHY does it have to happen at all? Taking the life of someone else has become the NORM rather that the abnormal.

      April 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Wolf8161

    This is a sad day for people who try to protect not only their communities they live in but their very lives. george Zimmerman is being sacrificed like a lamb on a spit to satiate the Martin family thirst for bloodlust. they are NOT interested in justice....................just in trying to keep their kid on the pedestal they put him on.
    With any luck, Zimmerman will walk away free and this will serve as a warning to anyone of any color\race\creed\gender that if you are going to be aggressive, there's a price to pay.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. matt

    If I had won the mega millions, id hire him a legal dream team like oj simpson had.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Vmann

    They are going to waste tax payer money and this man will go free when he is found Not Guilty on Florida law.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BaTmAn858

    Dear God, if he gets off THEY will riot for days.......

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tyzao

    She has basically said Zimmerman had the right to possess the gun, but only had the right to "defend himself" if it was apparent that Martin has the capability to immediately kill him...right to bear arms laws are ridiculous, when is the USA finally going to wake up and APPEAL individual rights to bear arms. There is absolutely no logic here at all.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Texas snake

    Dress like a thug and act like a thug then you ask to be shot at! Blacks sure do cry for everythin! When a black kills a white man do you see them act uncivilized crying racism! Damn monkeys!

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. joebrown

    Zimmerman booty on sale at your local count jail. lol lol

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Observer

    Free Zimmerman.

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jason

    DONATE Black Panther http://www.cbpm.org/files/contactus1.html

    April 11, 2012 at 6:47 pm | Report abuse |
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