Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman is being charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whose death ignited nationwide protests.
Special prosecutor Angela Corey says that the 28-year-old Zimmerman is in custody, but wouldn’t say where for his safety. She said that he will be in court within 24 hours.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s new lawyer, said that Zimmerman will plead not guilty to the murder charge. O’Mara also said he is “hoping that the community will calm down.”
Corey says that authorities did not come to the decision lightly, nor was it based on public pressure. She wouldn’t disclose other details of her investigation, saying: “That’s why we try cases in court.”
A second-degree murder charge in Florida carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. It is typically charged when there is a fight or other confrontation that results in death and where there is no premeditated plan to kill someone.
Corey said the decision to bring charges was based on the facts and the law, declaring: “We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition.”
Meanwhile, the parents of Trayvon Martin said charges against George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting their son would start the healing process, but they won’t stop fighting until he’s convicted. “We just wanted an arrest and we got it,” Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, said.
“The question I would really like to ask him is, if he could look into Trayvon’s eyes and see how innocent he was, would he have then pulled the trigger? Or would he have just let him go on home?” said his father, Tracy Martin.
The shooting brought demands from black leaders for his arrest and set off a furious nationwide debate over race and self-defense that reached all the way to the White House. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
One of the biggest hurdles to Zimmerman’s arrest over the past month was Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which gives people wide leeway to use deadly force without having to retreat in the face of danger. The lack of an arrest had sparked outrage and rallies for justice in the Orlando suburb and across the country.