Angela Corey, the special prosecutor investigating the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, announced Wednesday evening that George Zimmerman, who told police he shot Martin in self defense, has been charged with second-degree murder, according to The Huff Post.
Speaking at a press conference Corey said Zimmerman had voluntarily turned himself in, and was now in custody. She said she would not reveal where Zimmerman was out of concern for his safety. “He is within the custody of law enforcement officers in the state of Florida,” Corey said.
The Telegraph reports that saying that the decision to charge him was not taken lightly, she went on: “Today we filed an information charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree. It is the search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment.”
Trayvon Martin, 17, was on his way back to the home of his father’s fiancee when Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighbourhood watch coordinator, spotted him and considered him suspicious, calling police and defying their advice to give up following the teenager.
Zimmerman told police he was walking back to his truck when Martin attacked him, decking him with one punch to the nose, tells Reuters. Zimmerman’s brother and father have said that Martin then repeatedly slammed Zimmerman’s head against a concrete walkway. Zimmerman then pulled out a 9mm handgun he was licensed to carry and shot Martin once in the chest.
In deciding not to arrest Zimmerman, police cited Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of being killed or suffering great bodily harm.
According to law enforcement experts, Sanford police made key errors early in the investigation and made crucial decisions before important evidence was gathered.
Martin’s cell phone records were not immediately checked. Investigators did not talk with key witnesses for more than a week. While police conducted a criminal background check on Martin, as well as post-mortem drug and alcohol tests, Zimmerman was not subjected to similar tests.
Trayvon’s 16-year-old girlfriend, who police failed to speak to before releasing Zimmerman, has said that she was on the phone to Martin at the time, and that he had said he was being followed and was frightened.
She also said that she heard the sound of someone challenge then slam into the teenager, before the line went dead.
An emergency 911 call made by a neighbour alarmed by the sound of a struggle was also released – on it, someone can be heard screaming in pain or fear before a shot rings out.
Speaking at the press conference Miss Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, said: “We simply wanted an arrest. Nothing more, nothing less and we got it and I say thank you.
“And I want to speak from my heart. A heart has no colour, it’s not black and it’s not white, it’s red. And I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart,” she said.
The charges comes just a day after Zimmerman’s previous attorneys withdrew their counsel, saying they lost contact with him and that he repeatedly ignored their legal advice.
The lawyers said Zimmerman reached out to Corey’s office directly and had an off-the-record conversation with the Fox News host Sean Hannity without their knowledge.
They said they feared for Zimmerman’s emotional and physical well-being from the stress of living in hiding, mostly alone, while television commentators and sports stars demanded his arrest.
But his new lawyer, Mark O’Mara, said Zimmerman was fine. “I’m not concerned about his mental well-being right now,” O’Mara told Reuters. “He seems very lucid.”
By seeking second-degree murder to Zimmerman, Angela Corey reaffirmed her reputation as a prosecutor who will seek to bring the most serious charge possible. If convicted, Zimmerman could face a prison sentence of up to 25 years to life.