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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    How can a person chase someone down (check the 911 tapes) and then claim self-defense?! Zimmerman pursued Trayvon...that in itself, speaks volumes; and on that fact alone, the self-defense claim should have been thrown out!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Area Mann

      valencia, I have seen your other posts. you clearly don't care about anything except lynching this zimmerman guy. you have already decided the case, and I guarantee you don't know the facts because you were not there. maybe he is a fiend, but you don't know that. you just believe to your core because that's what you want it to be.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mike D.

    What a joke...You would think somebody shot the Pope, the way this prosecuter was presenting this case. I wonder if she prays with every victims family ?

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. drakester

    Its been obvious with the firing of reporter from nbc last week for botching the actual 911 call that the media has turned this into a circus and that the public has not heard the true evidence supporting zimmermanns self defense plead..FREE ZIMMERMAN and arrest Sharpton and the rest for the riots they have started. If this had been a white man killed their would have not been as much attention if any at all.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Donna

    My deepest condolences to the Martin family. I cannot even begin to imagine your loss. Please do not let your son's passing turn into a media circus. Distance yourself from Al Sharpton. Find good, honest,sincere, kind hearted people to surround yourself with at this time of sorrow. Do not bring the negative attention (that always accompanies Al Shartpton) to your family.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • captain gay pants

      i know. its called smelly justice!!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ann

    Unrelated to this case, how is Al Sharpton paid? Who pays him? He seems to spend every moment of his life protesting one thing or another. It's clearly his career, but where does the money come from?

    April 11, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Jesus

    Put me on the jury, please, and I'll let him walk. This man is innocent.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bubba

      Thankyou Jesus...lol

      April 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brenda

      Are you crazy? He followed Trayvon, confronted him and then wound up shooting him!? Trayvon was on his phone walking with candy and a drink. How do you figure Zimmerman is innocent? What if someone decides to follow YOU in his car, exit his car and confront YOU, and when you fight back shoots YOU, is that OKAY with YOU?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ish

      Can YOU, sir, prove that beyond a reasonable doubt.. Or is he innocent because he is white?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • FactsNotFantasy

      Brenda, stop filling in the holes with your fantasies. You are just dumb. No other way to describe you. Go tune into Nancy Grace, idiot.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Brenda

    Zimmerman followed the boy in his car, exited the car and confronted the boy, regardless of what happened in between and regardless of the boy's lifestyle or behavior, Zimmerman shot and killed him. Zimmerman chose to follow Trayvon, Zimmerman chose to exit his vehicle, Zimmerman chose to confront Trayvon, end of issue. We in America have the RIGHT to walk in neighborhoods without being followed, confronted, assaulted, or shot!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • 1 less menace

      STAND YOUR GROUND! if you start punching me in the face i will pull a weapon and kill you. you may not like it but its the law here.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • peace and love

      Brenda, if someone started assaulting how far would you let it go before retaliating? the second he was hit, it was his law abiding right to respond with any force he desired

      April 11, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • WestVA

      I must have missed the memo; I don't remember any evidence being released indicating Mr. Zimmerman confronted Mr. Martin first. And last time I checked there is nothing illegal about me observing someone's actions when they are in public; especially if I was part of neighborhood watch. No one has yet explained why Mr. Zimmerman would shoot Mr. Martin in cold blood because he hated black people, ask someone to call 911 and then hang around for the police to show up. My guess is he was pretty sure it was self defense and I have a feeling the prosecutor is going to have a hard time convincing a jury of 12 this was 2nd degree murder.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. PF

    This changes nothing, if anything this is a win for Zimmerman.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Imahoodie

    Give me a break! The prosecutor's press conference may as well stated that 'Zimmerman is guilty' as much as she spoke of poor Trayvon. Geeeessssss! Now, lets see if the black community stands together and screams 'George deserves a fair trial', as I don't think that will happen anytime soon. Justice is just that..........both sides of the story and not both sides with the media weighing-in heavily with bias. I will bet that black viewership of CNN has increased since the Trayvon incident. I guess that's what they have to do to increase ratings! AC (Anderson Cooper), you need to do a '180', instead of a '360' on this one. Zimmerman account of the incident deserves just as much coverage as Trayvon. Oh, wait a minute, Trayvon wasn't sround to tell his side of the story. Candy and iced tea will kill ya every time!!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kramer

    Sharpton is paid in food stamps and lowered rent in the ghettos like the rest of the colored people

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bubba

    the Hispanics got to start marching now they out number blacks 3:1

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Bryan

    I'm sure CNN is thrilled that they were part of forcing these charges.....the facts of course are meaningless compared to the race war they would like to incite.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Steve

    Maybe all the Hispanics should riot he was charged. That seems to serve African Americans well..

    April 11, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • emil

      we're better than that, but it IS a pretty good idea.
      No I think as an educated Latino, we shoul have a a million of us get together in washington, maybe have one of us with a stupid speech impediment hock a bunch of crap about dreams, maybe count all of the white people who will be with us puttign their asses on the line for tjeir beliefs and agree that things are wrong, then wait for someone to tell us that Civil rights only applies to people who look like Obamas' son Trayvon

      April 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |

    Thank God....

    April 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dimitry Aleksandrovich

    This is a good turn of events. Zimmerman will face a public trial and God willing the truth will come out. If he is found to be innocent he will be aquitted if he is found guilty he will be sentenced accordingly to the charge. Let our justice system work. It is not perfect, but its better than letting bigots on both sides of this case from using the case to fan the flames of racial tensions and God forbid leading to violence and bloodshed that could have been averted.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
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