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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Once again, Trayvon aged another 5 – 10 years.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Arran Webb

    It now has nothing to do with justice even if Zimmerman is guilty. So who is making the arrest? CNN? An angry mob? Obama?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • epin

      So why do I feel that this guy should be charged and sentenced???

      April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Short Neck Ostrich

      I saw Obama riding in a CNN van with Ed Shultz driving. The sign on the back said Florida or Bust, or both.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Reginald Riff

    1. Trayvon should have stood HIS ground.

    2. Zimmerman – once he left the car became the aggressor.

    3. Neighborhood WATCH means WATCH – not get out of your car and shoot.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheSoughtful

      Perfectly said!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patrick Clarke

    HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHARGED SINCE DAY ONE!!!!!!!! I am appalled it took this long. Had people stayed silent, he would have still been a free man.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      he should be a free man... do you think they'll actually be able to convict him when it was this hard for them to even charge him? can't wait for the race riots after this innocent verdict...

      April 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. epin

    Carried a 9 M.M. gun. He was told to stay away from the kid. Then he killed him. It is pretty clear that he over stepped his boundaries... We do not know what did he say to the kid or how he interacted with him. From teh tapes, I can tell that there is anger in his voice. He was prejudiced towards this kid that was just walking to his father's house. He should be charged and sentenced.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • DK

      Although you are probably right, it will not go down like that. He will say he did back off and Martin jumped him. This will not end like you think. I think he's guilty but he'll get off. But then, I thought OJ and Casey Anothony were also guilty.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. ten

    what is so wrong with going to trial ??????????????????
    Don't you guys believe in the justice system that has always been on your side?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. equal justice for all

    What is disturbing is that this country continues to deny that their is a race problem and pretends all is well. This was a coverup from the beginning and I am glad the US Attorney General is now involved, and yes he is a black man so deal with it.
    Obama12 – four more years, deal with it.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Gail

    OK FL Prosecutor – try real hard this time not to bungle. (see how far you get)

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Derrick

    Manslaughter is what he'll be charged with. Maybe 2nd degree murder.

    Type DerrickDuffie into your web browser to visit my website and learn about my new novel, Unfinished Business.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jeff in New Orleans

    Will justice prevail or will the mob rule? How is Zimmerman going to get a fair trial after this circus the media and race pimps have staged for us all? This mockery of a trial will only divide us more by allowing for even more questions than answers...questions such as why haven't members of the Black Panthers been charged for the bounty they issued, or the hate speech they spew? If Zimmerman goes on trial so should the Black Panthers and NBC execs for their parts in this. The sad part is this all fits into the Obama game plan but you all are too stupid to see it... 1) Divide by wealth, 2) Divide by gender, and 3) Divide by race. Why ya think NBC ran the altered 911 call?

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

    If you're too dark, you're a thug. If you are too flamboyant and look at the wrong person, you deserved to get jumped/likked. If you're middle eastern, everyone on the plane gets anxiety. If you're latino, you better have your green card on you.
    It's all the same with you bigots. Minorities always "get what they deserve". Some of you should be absolutely ashamed of your comments.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rundvelt

    Isn't it interesting that the mother thinks God's in control of this situation. Where was God before he was going to get shot? Out for a coffee?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mark in CT

    As long as this is not a witch hunt and is based on facts for which he broke the law as it existed when the crime occurred.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Human

    God bless you Ms Fulton and Mr Martin for your resolute calm and focus, if this is what it takes in this country to find a measure of justice then let us ALL keep standing up in numbers. 2012 is the year we ALL need to stand OUR ground! It is indeed unfortunate that we must suffer in order to stop suffering. I hope this arrest brings some small from of closure to a horrible situation to ALL families that have suffered your son's loss. He is our son too, regardless of color or style of fashion he wore; the only race he belonged to was to the Human one.

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

    Google "Daniel Adkins" who was killed last week in AZ: "Black man shoots mentally retarded white man who was walking his dog. Says he thought the leash was a pipe." Black shooter not arrested. Wonder why this story isn't getting any coverage.

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