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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Just from the comments, its obvious that racism is still alive and kicking. It would not have been a white child for the simple fact a white child would not have been questioned for being present in a gated community! (That is not even a relevant statement!) As far as this incident being hype: the definition of Hype is publicity: greatly exaggerated publicity intended to excite public interest in something such as a movie or theatrical production. We are all aware this was not exaggerated intended to excite anyone and it was not a movie. That unfortunate incident that ended Trayvon Martins life happens daily to minorities stereotyped by ignorant people. As far as Trayvon Martin being labeled a "Thug", what Thug do you know that was being a menace to society or the Sanford gated community his father resided in with a pack of skittles and tea?? Go ahead, l will give you a minute to think about it........NONE! Stop the ignorance. Tolerance of all people, not just for those with the complexion of protection!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • RF Burns

      I despise the race card being played but I'm affraid it's probably a significant factor here. I believe if Martin was white. he'd still be alive today. Also if Zimmerman was black, it would have barely been reported.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • daddy d

      Okay chew on this. There are how many poisonous snakes in the us? How many now Poisonous? What happens when you see a snake? You immediately fear it because you associate it to danger!!!! Even though it may be harmless you still attack it
      Now lets put this in terms of people. When you look at a known Dangerous Thug (anywhere on the local news or elsewhere) whether he or she be white, black, brown pink.. they will be wearing a hoodie, have pants dragging and gold teeth.
      Now your mind will immediately associate that look to danger. So what happens when a seemingly harmless person regardless of color approaches you wearing this same attire? You will think DANGER. Is that racism? NO, It is a NATURAL response.
      If you want your kids safe thenteach them to dress and act respectful so that they don’t ever get associated to something dangerous.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Christine

    This is crap. Since when does the public get to decide who gets charged with what. It is a shame that this man is going to be charged for defending himself when they still have not made an arrest for that group of black people who beat, robbed and stripped that white man in Baltimore. But of course, there is no such thing as black on white hate crime.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      Maybe you should band together your community to speak out about this. You're upset becuase the black community doesn't approve of racial killings of their own? I suppose you want them to keep quiet and take it like a man?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • paul

      Defended himself against someone he followed and confronted?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • RF Burns

      Don't expect to see Jesse & Al in Baltimore anytime soon.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Albany

    Each time a black person was killed by a white person, the community exploded. Sharpton and Jackson hold speeches. How about when blacks kill blacks? Which, according to CDC, is 93% of the case in teenager murder rate.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Obvious

      Zimmerman isn't white. Pay attention.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RF Burns

    If Zimmerman really was the aggressor here, he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, if he is tried and found not guilty, there will almost certainly be significant civil disobedience and perhaps revenge killings. If I am on that jury, that possibility has to be in the back of my mind. So, that leads to the question can Zimmerman get a fair trial if he is in fact charged?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Obvious

      You don't know what civil disobedience means.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • harryjp4jp8

      Sadly, I see a "if it doesn't fit, you must aquit" for this decade on the wall. If Mr. Zimmerman IS guilty, string him up! But if he isn't, he probably will get strung up none the less.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • dbrooks602

      Obviously you know nothing about the law or this case. This is the highest profile of the year, they can not find any jury members who have not heard or seen this on the news. In lamer terms...there will be no trial. Idont think Zim is dumb enough to take it to trial. He will then be facing a hate crime and face the maximum amount of time.He will take a plea bargain or either commit suicide.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KEVIN

    He is on Madoanaasdassdlasnda Island now, who can find him? LOL

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  6. dbrooks602

    I will "stand my ground " and say Zim is F!@#$%. Unfortunately, I predict he will only get manslaughter. I think manslaughter only carries a max of 10 years. Either way it goes he's done, he cant live on the streets and he cant live in prison. People in prison are dying to get their hands on him. He might as well get the same gun he used and put it in his mouth. It's sad, but it's the truth.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • RF Burns

      I can't argue with your assessment.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Too bad hateful, vindictive monsters like you can't be sent away simply for being you.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Erin

    The only reason this has become a racial situation is because it keeps being brought up as one. At the end of the day someone is dead following a situation which could have been prevented had Zimmerman followed the direction of the dispatcher and that for which he was trained. This is a man who attended police training. He should have waited for assistance, being in a neighborhood watch does not mean you are deputized, you are simply there to observe and report. I wish they would get passed the racial nonsense and file charges already, get over the mistakes made and move forward to correct them by properly charging him and letting a jury decide his guilt.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Foreskin

    "The honesty of Zimmerman has flown away and he is in hiding; acknowledging his guilt."

    He's in hiding from all the nutjob spades.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Captain Obvious

      This coming from a nutjob racist.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ken Witmer

    Keep up with the story, Martin was 17, not 12 (even though the picture they keep flashing is several years old)

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Chyrel Jackson

    Perhaps now the family friends and loved ones of this young man can have some peace and finally closure. The fact that we are this many 44 days later and Trayvon in the words of his father is lying in a mausoleum with George Zimmerman walking free is an absolute, colossal travesty.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jd_hawk

    The charge in the end will be for manslaughter. Unless there is something that has been provided by the media which much of that has been inaccuracies. It never appeared to have anything to do with race. Zimmerman appears to be a wanna be cop whole overstepped his boundaries. You want a hate crime you'll find that one in Tulsa. You want another hate crime see what happenned to the white guy who was attacked in Baltimore. No decent humans beat a man while they are out cold those blacks were behaving like animals just the two whites in Tulsa. The law should be enforced that way as well but its not.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. zaggs

    If he's charged, no way for him to get a fair trial. CNN running video of Zimmerman at the police station, never mentioning he had been treated by first aid at the scene but said "look, no bleeding" without enhancing the video. NBC and CNN falsely editing his 911 call to make it seem like he offered information that Martin was black when in fact they had edited out the part of the 911 operator asking him the person's color. Failure by most media to mention Zimmerman took a voice stress test (like a polygraph) the night of the shooting, and that he had passed. Multiple sources reporting Zimmerman called 911 46 times in a year when in fact it was 46 times over 8 years.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nicki

    If people were paying attention they would have noticed that stand your ground has nothing to do with following an individual, almost to the point of harrassment (on the part of GZ). If somoene was following me while walking on my street, I would have been on the defense. People need to search their heart and come to realization the reason why they embrace the behavior of GZ. Please do not answer me, ask yourself and come to term with it.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Elizabeth

    What this let's me know is a black thug can physically attack you and pound your head into the pavement. If you try to protect or defend yourself from the black thug then you will be charged with a crime. If your skin is black then you can do anything and get away with it. Nothing but thugs and animals.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Gordie

    Ummmm Timothy, where are you getting that Trayvon was 12? The media has been showing pictures of him as a 12yr old to make him appear innocent. The "child" was 17yrs old, had just been suspended from school for possession of marjiuana and had a previous record of assault and gang activity while at school. Not so innocent now huh?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      He may not have been innocent of pot possession and whatever, but that makes it ok for someone to kill him?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
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