Zimmerman Charged With 2nd Degree Murder
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – George Zimmerman arrived at the Seminole County jail Wednesday night after being charged with second-degree murder for the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Cameras captured a man, believed to be Zimmerman, wearing a plaid shirt and covering his face with a jacket being led into the jail. He was booked, and his photo was made public, the first look the public had of Zimmerman as he looks today.
He faces an appearance in bond court Thursday at which time prosecutors will ask that be held without bond until his trial.
“We voluntarily surrendered him to law enforcement, with the realization that the charges were going to come,” said Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney.
“I think anyone who would be charged with second degree murder would be scared, so yes, I’m certain that he’s frightened.”
Earlier in the day, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charges in a news conference.
“It is the search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment,” state attorney Corey said.
Corey also had a message for those who have been rushing to judgment on the case.
“You cannot know what it’s like to launch this type of investigation and come to this conclusion,” State Attorney Angela Corey said during the press conference.
“We don’t prosecute by public pressure or petition. We prosecute cases on the relevant facts of each case and on the laws of the state of Florida.”
Watch the full announcement here, in 2 parts:
Corey said both of Martin’s parents, Sybryna Fulton and Tracy Martin, have been notified of the charges and arrest of Zimmerman. Corey said Zimmerman was in custody in Florida and that the charge carries no bond initially.
Multiple reports said that Zimmerman is being held in Orange County.
Corey said Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyer can petition for a bond hearing.
The state attorney said that the decision didn’t take a long time, despite it more than 40 days since the original crime was committed.
“It didn’t take long,” Corey said. “Remember, the prosecutor’s burden is proof beyond a reasonable doubt. We have numerous homicides where immediate arrests are not made. We have to have a reasonable certainty for conviction before we file charges.”
Under Florida law, second degree murder is the unlawful killing of a person when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind, regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual. The maximum sentence for the crime is life in prison.
Corey said the decision to charge Zimmerman was made last week. She said Seminole County officials have worked with her office to set up the courts for coming hearings.
State Attorney Corey lauded her staff saying she had the best staff in the country and that the case “is a lot like the difficult cases we have handled in this district,” and that “we did not come to this decision lightly.”
Corey also chided the release of evidence in the Trayvon Martin case.
“So much information got released on this case that should have never been released,” Corey said of Trayvon Martin’s shooting
Governor Rick Scott asked for calm after the second-degree murder charge was announced.
“This matter is now in the hands of the judicial system and I am confident justice will prevail. As the process continues, it is critical that we be patient and allow the proceedings to move forward in a fair and transparent manner. I thank State Attorney Angela Corey for her diligence in conducting a thorough investigation. We will all continue to look for answers to the Trayvon Martin tragedy.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi released a statement saying she had full confidence in the charges.
“When I worked with Governor Scott to appoint State Attorney Angela Corey to the case involving Trayvon Martin, I did so with the full confidence that a swift and thorough investigation would be conducted,” Bondi said in her statement. “Today, State Attorney Corey’s decision to press charges against George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon demonstrates Corey’s commitment to bringing justice to Trayvon’s family and allowing due process for Zimmerman.”
Reverend Al Sharpton spoke first for the family after the charges were announced.
“There is no victory here; this is about pursuing justice,” Rev. Sharpton said.
“We simply wanted an arrest,” Trayvon’s mother Sabryna said. “And we got it. Thank you lord. Thank you Jesus.”
Fulton also thanked everyone involved with everything leading up to the charges issued Wednesday.
“From my heart to your heart because a heart has no color,” Fulton said. “It’s not black, it’s not white, it’s red; and I want to say from my heart to your heart, thank you.”
“This is just the beginning; we have a long way to go,” Trayvon’s father Tracy Martin said. “We have faith. The first time we marched, I said to myself, when I walk, I will walk by faith. We will continue to march and walk and walk and walk until the right thing is done.”
Martin family attorney Ben Crump held a press conference in Washington earlier Wednesday and said, “from day 1 there was enough evidence to arrest George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin.”
“We’re not talking about a conviction. We’re not talking about a conviction. He’ll have his day in court,” Crump said. “All we are asking for is an arrest. So that we know the wheels of justice will start to turn.”
The case started on February 26th when Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed that he acted in self-defense out of fear for his life. Zimmerman made the claim under Florida’s “StandYour Ground” law.
The law states that an individual may use deadly force if they feel their life, or the lives of their loved one, are threatened or in danger.
State attorney Corey said that if stand your ground becomes an issue in the case, “we fight it.”
The exact events that led up to the shooting have been in question since the night of the shooting. Emergency calls made to Sanford Police on the night of the shooting showed that Zimmerman was told by 911 operators not to engage or follow Zimmerman.
“This guy looks like he is up to no good. He is on drugs or something,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher.
Just after Zimmerman’s first call, 911 dispatchers were inundated with calls about a scuffle between two men, some screaming, and then a gunshot.
“There is somebody screaming outside,” one female caller said. An unknown male voice can be heard crying in the background before a shot is heard.
“I just heard a shot right behind my house,” a male caller said. “They’re wrestling right behind my porch. The guy is yelling, “Help!” I’m not going outside.”
The outcry for justice for Martin and an arrest of Zimmerman started shortly after some of the details about the shooting began to surface. Multiple rallies were held around the state in the next few weeks drawing tens of thousands of protesters.
Students in Miami-Dade County and across South Florida walked out of their schools on March 23rd to protest the lack of an arrest in the shooting death of Martin. A total of 15 high schools in Miami-Dade County walked out on that day. The student protests all remained peaceful.
The case became such a controversy across the country that President Barack Obama would eventually weigh in on the shooting.
“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” President Obama said. “And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”
“I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how something like this happened,” Obama continued.
President Obama’s GOP rival in the general election, Republican Mitt Romney also addressed the situation calling the shooting death a tragedy.
“What happened to Trayvon Martin is a tragedy,” Romney said. “There needs to be a thorough investigation that reassures the public that justice is carried out with impartiality and integrity.”
As the controversy continued to boil, Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed State Attorney Corey to head up the investigation and decide if any charges would be filed against Zimmerman. Corey began her investigation quickly, but quietly.
Gun advocates and gun-control advocates would spar over the case as they fought over the “Stand Your Ground” law which was constructed with help from the National Rifle Association.
Incoming state Senate Minority Leader Chris Smith set up a group of experts to look into the law and hear public comments on the law.
Zimmerman went into hiding as the outcry over the shooting grew. No one, not even attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner, knew where Zimmerman was hiding.
Last weekend, Zimmerman launched a website, www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com, to solicit donations to help pay for his living expenses and his attorneys.
“On Sunday February 26th, I was involved in a life altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life.”
Under a section titled “My race,” the website has a Thomas Paine quote: “The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”
While the site does not have Zimmerman’s account of what happened the night of the shooting, he does write that “the facts will come to light.”
Tuesday, the case took another strange turn when both Uhrig and Sonner, who were at least publicly speaking for Zimmerman, announced that they were withdrawing as his defense council because he is not talking with them. The lawyers said they lost track of Zimmerman on Sunday when he stopped returning their calls.
“I know his phone works, but he’s not returning my text messages or my calls,” Sonner said.
Additionally, both lawyers said he never met face-to-face with them. As to where Zimmerman is, the lawyers said they believe he’s no longer in Florida.
Uhrig said that they had been trying to set up a meeting between Zimmerman and the special prosecutor’s office, but Zimmerman himself contacted the special prosecutor’s office without their knowledge.
Uhrig and Sonner also revealed that Zimmerman made a call to the Sean Hannity show on Fox News over the weekend without their consent or knowledge.
“George called Sean Hannity of Fox News off the record and he was unwilling to tell us what was said,” Uhrig said.
Hannity addressed the call on his show.
“Yesterday I was contacted by an individual that we in fact believe was George Zimmerman, he reached out to me, we spoke on the phone about his case and I agreed not to report on the contents of that conversation,” said Hannity.
The shooting sparked a national outcry and touched even the President of the United States. It sparked rallies and protests, but now begins a completely new chapter.