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Zimmerman's former attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner told reporters they had lost contact with Zimmerman and no longer represent him.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. We are ants to them

    Dear Media, why are you pushing for a race war in America??

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mttrailboss

    One word describes George Zimmerman.., "Coward".

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jack

    Look, this is a case that is being tried by a bunch of opinionated clowns on TV unaware of the facts and not qualified to make ANY legal judgement of good vs innocent. I'm sick to death of hearing that anyone who isn't screaming "Lynch Zimmerman!" is a racist. Or anyone hoping for an arrest is "black power". The media has refueled racism and set America back 25 years with this case, and all for ratings. Use your god-given brains, calm down, and let people who went to school for this do their jobs. There will be plenty of time for Joe Public to weigh in AFTER the evidence is released.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. alfranken

    I'll bet anyone of you Zimmerman will be charged for voluntary manslaughter.

    The whole reason CNN covered the Casey Anthony is because they knew that the prosecutor was over ambitious by charging her for murder when everyone knows now she would have been convicted for involuntary manslaughter if that is what they originally charged her for.

    - the intent to intentionally take her daughters life obviously wasn't there but rather gross neglect was.

    Politically speaking, both cases being from Florida and being controversial, the lesson learned heer is not to be over zealous and be an embarrassment/stooge to CNN/media but rather get the charge right and get a conviction.

    Or the Florida prosecutor could be an egotistical gambler "all or nothing" but for a second degree murder?

    I bet not.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Frank

    People of the United States of America and President Obama,
    If I were trying to keep my community safe,and I called the PD to report someone suspisous,told the PD where we were,got out of my car and said what are you doing hanging around here and the suspisous person punched me in the face for asking the question,then started pounding my head into the ground,I would have shot him to! Why should I have to be put in a coma or die just because someone did not like being asked a question.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea

      If that is the true story, then I agree!

      April 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TisJustMe

    So why is Al Sharpton injecting himself into this case? Was he involved in the incident or a witness? Is he a relative of Trayvon Martin's?

    It is amazing how many people have absolutely zero knowledge of what actually happened yet have strongly held opinions on the matter. If there is one thing this case is no longer about, it is justice for Trayvon Martin. And that is a sad thing indeed. It is all about politics, angry protests and $$$ now. The courts need to get rid of all that nonsense at bay and deliver justice based on facts not public opinion.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. DeBrickishaw Courtney

    The prosecutor had to charge him to avoid a Rodney King episode. Hopefully she is as effective a lawyer as Al Sharpton is a spokesman for the black race, then Zimmerman can put this behind him and start cleaning up more of them!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheryl Taylor

      No that's not right, Walk in black people shoes and then you can talk. If not shut the hell up.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cheryl Taylor

    People keep on saying that ts about Black people, No
    its all about right and wrong. Wake up America.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • TisJustMe

      Correction – New outlets keep saying it is about black people vs. white people and some folks are drinking that poisoned Kool-Aid. If blacks and whites riot and fight each other, then the media has a riveting story to report. It will keep a lot of eyeballs glued to the TV screen, reading the Internet, newspaper, etc.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Isaac

    ProZimmerman I'm a white male and I'm appalled at your comment! Someone of another race could say the same about some whites getting botox lip injects, and fake buttocks put in, oh and tanning. We all need to take stereotyping and throw it in the trash. I've been around good blacks, I've been around bad blacks, I've been around good caucasians I've been around bad ones, and the list goes on. The difference is I don't lump them all into one like every black steals, or kills because that's not the truth

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea

    Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea, sounds nasty. I would have bought a Snickers and a Dr. Pepper!

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gosh

      I woulda got a 6 pack of bud ice. Guess I woulda been really scary. Maybe I coulda offered him a cold beer though.

      April 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. joseph arthue

    In the land, a man is innocent until proven guilty. -He goes free or is sentenced.. But this life is very short for all of us.

    God, Allah, Odin, Grandfather Spirit, only knows is the only of to rightfully judge and sentence for eternity.

    (Now if your a Buddhist , what would George zimmerman turn into after this life?)

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Why

    Why on earth would CNN allow comments on a story like this? Oh yeah, just to get the races hating each other even more.

    Tell you what, next time a white person is killed by a black, the KKK better hold a press conference. Just sayin

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gun should be the last resort

    Scared, followed and just pull the trigger ! Who trained these volunteers and how is this self defence. In self defence first thing is to avoid confrontation. Assuming this is really a threat and Martin tried to kill Zimm, he can at least make sure he does not carry a weapon before firing. Ya, I know sometime people just pull the trigger from nowhere, hence self defence may not work. At this point, asking Martin to just raise his both hands would have make it far more self defence to zimm, as he had the gun. Stop watching those die hard 1 2, 3 .. jus kidding

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Adam

    Thank god this kid will get justice at last.

    April 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Q

    If a skinny little teen can beat him that bad, he is not going to do well in the big house. No guns in there. Better shank up ASAP...

    April 11, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
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