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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    People are going to freak when he gets bail. we may not know anything for awhile, actually not if George keeps talking...

    April 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. zaggs

    There better be something explosive in the autopsy report, or Corey is in deep kimchi.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff

    One of the biggest problems that bothers me about this case is this. The police dispatch aksed Zimmerman not to follow or pursue Martin. Why did Zimmerman follow him after being told not to. Police were on there way. This is the biggest glaring piece of evidence where Zimmerman looks like he was looking to cause a problem. But like I said prior, there is a larger part of the story the public still really doesn't know. What happened that led to the Gun being used ? All the public has to go on is police tapes and various witneses who have conflicting stories as to who was yelling for help. I am glad that this case is finally moving forward though.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jasper

      How do you know that he continued to follow Trayvon? And even if he did thats not a crime and when ur getting ur ass beat by someone why does it matter if they only have skittles and tea?

      April 12, 2012 at 4:31 am | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    So now evidence can be presented and we can finaly know the truth and no matter how it turns out I will feel like the system worked. For those that can't understand that outrage that this case has received than something is indeed wrong with you.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David Laubach

    I just have to wonder what Prosecutor Angela Corey has in her pocket that would promote second degree murder charges or is she indeed grandstanding to the media and the public pressure. She looked more like Bette Midler than Marcia Clark at the podium and I'm not advocating Clark by any means.
    It seemed this case was a logical manslaughter case and unless there is a big piece of the puzzle missing 2nd degree murder charges are a far reaching stretch.
    This new attorney Zimmerman brought in today is much more polished than the two clowns who held yesterday's bizarre press conference. I believe they were simply covering their own asses with that charade. I think the upcoming bond hearing will show that.
    I assume this case would go to trial sometime after the November elections. But because of "discovery" and the Sunshine Law in Florida we could be hearing bits and pieces of this case each week up until then so the media can milk it to death.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DavidFox

    Go black people, yay!!!!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • To DavidFox

      U are stupid

      April 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |

    How ironic that Zimmerman's new defense attorney just happens to be the current president of the Seminole County Bar Association and the Central Florida Family Law American Inn of Court. Good job!!! Now let's see if justice will be really be served up in the courtroom. Had Zimmeman followed police instruction to not follow this young man, he wouldn't be on his way to life in prison.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  8. BillH

    Totally disgusted. Outraged actually.

    The Black community better realize that this will alienate them even more from the Hispanics and Whites of the USA. This smacks of the same placating as was the OJ verdict.

    America should be embarrased by this.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I know I am. Pitiful situation all around. ASSURED Mr. Z will NOT get a fair trial.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merlin1935

      Black people alienated? What a silly comment. Black people should accept injustice just so you could pretend to love them? Right?

      Your comment is not even worth a reply other than the fact that of its stupidity.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Juanmom

      You should be embarrassed by your comments, why lump a WHOLE race with actions of some? Black, white and Hispanic people for the most part understand that people should be judged by the content of their character and NOT the color of their skin. You are pathetic!!!

      April 11, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick 2

      Why is this gonna alienate the black community from the white community? Why should america be embarrassed? As a white male, I am embarassed that a man can fatally shoot someone and not be arrested for 2 months or however long because he claims self defense. If thats the case I might as well get a gun and shoot whomever and can claim self-defense and gp a long about my day. Its not a race thing, its that there was no charge even made, now that is embarassing

      April 11, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Loren

    Michael – i agree. Martin's mom says they wanted nothing more nothing less than this arrest – yet when a jury of HIS peers cannot find him guilty of 2nd degree murder beyond a resonable doubt – she will sing a different tune. Justice to most on Martin's support team means alot more than an arrest. if a jury finds reasonable doubt – as they did in what the entire nation thought was a slam dunk with Casey Anthony – then what? I just sat on a jury two weeks ago in a compentency case. Most said that was a slam dunk and yet all 12 of us decided just the opposite of what the media had indicated would happen. Let's just see if those doing all the protesting will be satisfied when a jury sets him free.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KKK

    They are very far from a conviction, and Ms. Corey knows this. Zimmerman will get bail, it is a given as he has more than enough supporters and family to come up with the cash, my guess his bond will $1,000,000 – 5,000,000 and he only needs 10% to bond out. In the long run this is the best approach as the Martin supporters can have their day in court and Big Zim can do his best to clear his name. The most important part of this coming trial will be jury selection, and in the past it has always been difficult in high profile cases when the community is split. OJ and Cathy Anthony to name a couple. If Martin's supporters want to help convict the man they need to get registered to vote so they can try to get as many liked minded people in the Jury pool. Remember, the particular community that this County is in is quite conservative (I imagine, not positive as haven't been there), and filled with people that are pro law enforcement, pro 2nd amendment, and more than likely pro Zimmerman. I hope this arrest goes a long way to healing a community that is obviously torn along racial and political lines and that whatever the outcome good or bad, the Country learns from this experience and does what it can to avoid the situation in the future.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merlin1935

      @ KKK. You want Zimmerman to clear his name? I don't see that he gave Trayvon much of a chance.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. yneemee

    When the jury returns a verdict of NOT GUILTY, the lawless blacks will begin the riots all over the country and the lawless whitees, lawless latinos and the lawless of all races will have the chance to STEAL televisions, computers, diapers, beer and other necessities from the lawful shop owners and business people. This will then afford the shameful news commentators, pundits, political hacks of both parties to beat their breasts and wail on and on – oh... I can hardly wait.

    April 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. What?

    Try to guess the verdict under these 3 different situations
    1. All jurors are Black
    2. All jurors are Hispanic
    3. All jurors are White

    I will just leave it there!!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      I am a white female who was born color blind (figuratively, not literally). My children are hispanic. I believe that GZ should be held accountable for blantantly disregarding what the police told him. He is a neighborhood watchman. They are to watch and report – only. Mr. Martin was simply walking down the street. If GZ had done what he was supposed to do and listened to the police; Trayvon would still be alive. He made a wreckless choice.. a stupid choice that cost a young man his life. If my child was walking down the street and a man twice his size accosted him for no reason, I would hope he would put up a fight too. GZ was nothing more than a bully looking for trouble that day. He deserves life in prison. Even if Trayvon hit him, that's what he gets for following and probably scaring a young man. Again, I don't have a racist bone in my body, I am just an unbiased third party with somewhat of an education placing her opinion. I do believe the arrest is right and GZ will have a hell of alot of explaining to do about his strange tale of what happened.

      Fact: Trayvon was walking down the street
      Fact: GZ was told to leave the kid alone
      Fact: The kid is dead

      What more do we need to know?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noah

      I'm white and as a juror I would want a clear definition between "Murder" and "Manslaughter". To my knowledge if Martin and Zimmerman were fighting before the shot occured this would be Manslaughter as the death wasn't premeditated but happened in a heated escalation.

      There's little chance I would vote to let Zimmerman go free but would probably charge him with Manslaughter. If Zimmerman felt threatened he should've called the cops before even confronting the kid. He made a bad decision but I don't think it was premeditated murder.

      Either way, I feel bad that a young man is dead for such a foolish reason. If I had to guess at what happened, I think Zimmerman yelled a racial slur at Martin who turned around and said something back, then Zimmerman taunted him again causing a physical altercation. It's common for young people to feel "invincible" and Martin probably didn't know the guy had a gun until it was too late. Zimmerman was the obvious instigator here, too bad Martin didn't just walk away.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Kevin

    I don't know what actually happened but, it is common place in neighborhoods of that sort in that area to "check in" with security when you are a visitor so they know who you are. I don't believe Mr.Zimmerman knew that he was a visitor to a residence in the neighborhood. I think since he did not know he was a visitor and treyvon ran from him, he most likely thought he was a trespasser or criminal. What I am most interested in though is the response from the "black community". You never see any white folks acting this way. You never see any other race here in america acting this way. I want to know where is "WHITE ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION", where is the National Association for the Advancement of Non-Colored People? Why is it that no matter what the cause, it is always a bunch of organizations related to being black that is on the front lines?

    April 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mimi

      You obviously haven't read your history books!!! REALLY KEVIN??? Are you serious with that question?

      April 11, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merlin1935

      @ Kevin
      1. In this free country you expect a visitor to an open residential community to go looking for people to "check in" with, right? Notwithstanding the fact that Trayvon's father fiance lives in that community and his father was there?

      2. Even if Trayvon ran as you claim, who gave Zimmerman the authority to be law enforcement, judge, jury and executioner?

      3. Does it occur to you Kevin that if a stranger trails you at night, that for your safety you should run?

      4. You don't see white people taking to the streets demanding for their rights – simply because white people are not oppressed in this society. Not that they should be.

      5. Yes, only a few years ago Hispanics took to the streets nationwide to protest on an important issue affecting them – immigration policy.

      6. Until you understand what black people have suffered through in this country, you'll continue to be ignorant and frustrated in these matters.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • David Laubach

      That is the best laugh I have gotten in a long time, at least a week or so..... I have to give thanks where credit is due.
      The National Association for the Advancement of Non-Colored People?
      Did I get that right?
      Everybody has a color to their skin. I'm white or caucasian or call me what you want I don't care. But that's a color.
      So who are these non-colored people and how did they get on this planet?
      I read the bible every morning and make an honest attempt each day to treat all brothers and sisters as if they were my own until they cross the border of respect. Now if I run into one of these non-colored people, I'll treat them the same way whether I recognize them or not.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. White America

    Black People Im not going to take it anymore. People join me in letting them know this. If you see a black person committing a crime do whatever it takes to stop them. If one tries to intimidate you dont be scared fight back. These people need to be taught what its like to be civilized

    April 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick 2

      as a white male, I am offended by this. Why are you trying to race bait. People of all races are arrested and charged all the times for committing crimes. Last time I checked shooting someone fatally is normally a crime, so getting an arrest sounds like a fair step.

      April 11, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • CAH

      Go for it...it is your duty to make sure that black people don't commit crimes. Don't wait for anyone else....go for it. Do it by yourself tonight. Go to the hood and clean it up. I will be waiting for the headline, I wish you the best. LOL

      April 11, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Merlin1935

      @ White America says:

      "Black People Im not going to take it anymore. People join me in letting them know this. If you see a black person committing a crime do whatever it takes to stop them. If one tries to intimidate you dont be scared fight back. These people need to be taught what its like to be civilized"

      If you have not seen injustice in what happened to Trayvon Martin, your claim to being "civilized" is false and dishonest. So is your allusion that only black people commit crime. I hope you're never a victim of a crime. But mark my words, the next time a crime is committed against you, it will NOT be from a black person. It will be commited by one of those you think are "civilized". And you'll remember these words.

      April 11, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Noah

    I couldn't believe it when I heard Martin's lawyer say "This incident would NOT have happened IF we had better Anti-Racial Profiling laws"

    Huh? This guy seriously thinks a better law would've kept Zimmerman from provoking the kid? For one thing he is NOT a Police Officer so he probably would have no clue about any kind of profiling law that PO's need to honor. What a boneheaded comment!

    April 11, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
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