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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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

    Hey CNN how about waiting for the press conference instead of annoucing the outcome based upon your annonymous law enforcemnt source?

    April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jesse = KKK

    If you are driving around looking to pick a fight with someone, then they beat your a$$, no you shouldn't be able to defend yourself by shooting them. Every human should have the responsibility to attempt to flee before using lethal force (outside of their home of course).

    April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wolf8161

      Why the hell should I have to flee? I'm gonna stand my ground..............not run like a frightened child. You pick a fight with me and if you're not prepared to finish what you start, I sure as hell will.

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

    If Martin was really beating Zimmerman's head against the ground the shooting was perfectly justified. Beating someones head against the ground can very easily kill them or cause permanent, life changing brain injury. The only evidence we have seen supports the story that he was in fact doing that. Zimmermans injuries and the one leaked witness report are both consistent with that story.

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

      I think so. It will be intresting to see the route the prosecution goes as so amy other cases will hinge on it.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stand Your Ground

      According to the Stand Your Ground Law. Treyvon had every right to beat an unknown man that was following him with a gun. Everything doesn't add up no matter the race.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • livinlife420

      I am wondering if zimmerman pursued martin, never identified himself and Martin was in fear for his life, thus ensued the altercation.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  4. russ

    Lets hope there was evidence to charge him, and not just political pressure. I doubt zimmermann will be able to get any kind of fair trial, as everyone will have already formed an opinion. Now that he's probably hiding or running, I imagine we'll just find his body somewhere. Justice served america style.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Benson Lee

    First, I'm expecting this will happen, so life would move on peacefully.
    Ah, by the way, CNN Writer LZ Granderson posted a great article online. Wish you have few minutes to read it:

    Last thing: Get Educated, Learn Right from Wrong, Respect Youself, Respect Others.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. jeanne

    so in florida, you can murder your 3 yo child, stuff her in garbage bag and throw her is a swamp to rot and not be charged with anything......but if you defend yourself from a black punk who is charging at you and beating you up and you shot him you get charged with murder because black people wearing hoodies are screaming louder than white people......YIKES...I' for one am gonna get a white president back in office....this is crazy.....

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • @youignantdotcom

      Jeanne: Before commenting, I would suggest a little research. Casey Anthony was charged with first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and misleading police in the investigation.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sure

    Trayvons mom just posted "We're on pins&needles waiting for Ms. Coreys decision but we're prayerful that justice will prevail." Yeah lady, we are all on pins and needles because we all know if he's arrested it will be ok, but if he is let go there will be riots and killing and to me at least, there is something very wrong about that.

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

      Hang on Sure, they still have to try him.

      If he gets acquitted the mob will still have a chance to lynch him.

      How ironic.

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

    I'm so glad I don't live in the states. what an odd race/religious fueled country where the media sway people so easily. Not saying that's the case here, but people have a tendency to convict a person because CNN, NBC or Fox said so. I would agree that every unnatural death should be investigated, but the racists comments and the folks playing the race card on this board are just plain lazy and uneducated. None of this would've happened if the country didn't have such pathetic gun laws.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ArmedAmerican

    Maybe these punks will think twice about assaulting someone.

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

      You are talking about punks like Zimmerman, right?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. slp

    Congratulations, America! You have just become a country of mob rule rather than a country of due process. I don't know if this guy is guilty or not. Here is the kicker....neither do any of you! Surprise! If he is guilty, then he deserves to be punished for his crime. However, he will never get a fair trial now. There is no one in this country who hasn't been bombarded with coverage of this case for weeks. Good luck finding an impartial jury. If the evidence shows him being not guilty and he is acquitted, there will be riots and more innocent blood will be spilled. This sadly is a situation that doesn't have a good ending no matter how you look at it. Looks like George ZImmerman will be found guilty no matter whether he did it or not. He already has been found guilty by the court of public opinion and by the media.

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

      Yeah, but he should have been arrested and it should have gone to trial from the get go... There are too many conflicts just to say okay, you're free to go. So who's fault is it that he won't get a fair trial?

      April 11, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • slp

      Most of those conflicts have been created by the media. Just like no one knows what went down when Travyon was killed, we don't know what happened when he was taken to the police station. This situation is messed up.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lauradet

    All the insults and N-words that were flying over this...how you like us now? LOL!

    Zimmerman is a murderer and needs to go to jail where his tacos will be crushed.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  12. me

    HE SHOULD BE CHARGED because he went against the dispatchers orders, and continued to follow Trayvon! Trayvon did NOT have any prior charges, no weapon, no history of violence so WHAT CLASSIFIES HIM AS A THUG? EXPERTS agreed that was Treyvon's voice YELLING FOR HELP, Treyvon felt threatened because HE WAS BEING FOLLOWED, if he did try to DEFEND himself then good for him, who in their right mind would allow anyone in STREET CLOTHES to follow them, with a “registered” gun and not feel threatened!!! White, Black, Green or Blue, Trayvon didn’t deserve this and Zimmerman will suffer the consequences one way or another, the same way most of you will for being so full of hate and IGNORANCE!!!

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob vincent

      Hmmm, let me guess, you're BLACK!

      April 11, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sure

      Dispatchers cant give orders.

      April 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ken

    Of course they are going to charge him. Lawyers at this level are political creatures. And the pressure they are getting means they will file charges so it goes to a court case, even if they think he'll walk out of court a free man. That's also why this didn't go to a grand jury. First the grand jury would have taken a week or more (unacceptable in such a media storm). Second, the GJ likely would have come back with a no case ruling, angrering the mobs. So they'll take it to court, where the case will play out over many months. That will allow the public to get busy with other aspects of life, lose track, and take the edge off everything. So then when the court finally hears the case and he walks out a free man based on existing law (stand your ground), they hope the community response will be muted due to the passage of time. Sure they might destroy and innocent man, run his life and family. But hey, it's better for them politically.

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SOMFOM

    "It's not yet clear what the charges would be"

    I'm sure they will think of something to charge him with. After all we need to placate the lynch mob.

    How ironic...

    April 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  15. David

    Is anyone else tired of this, can we say Mike Nyfong...

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