Duval County State Attorney Angela Corey announced Wednesday that neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman will be charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Zimmerman, 28, claimed he acted in self-defense under the states Stand Your Ground law in what escalated into a nationwide racially charged case.
At a news conference in Jacksonville, Corey, appointed special prosecutor in the case by Gov. Rick Scott, said Zimmerman is in custody in an undisclosed location. Zimmerman, who turned himself in, will appear before a judge in Seminole County within 24 hours, Corey said.
"It is the search for justice for Trayvon that has led us to this moment," Corey said.
Corey said she spoke to Martin's parents before making her announcement.
At a news conference after Corey's announcement, Martin's mother was pleased with the development.
"We just wanted an arrest and we got it," Sybrina Fulton said.
Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara said his client had the opposite reaction.
"I think he's troubled by the fact the state decided to charge him, O'Mara said.
Asked by reporters outside his law office in Orlando if Zimmerman is pleading innocent, O'Mara said, "It's a not guilty plea."
Scott, who released a statement prior to the announcement urging Floridians to let the case be handled by the justice system, later expressed confidence that the system 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, Scott stated in a release. 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.
Attorney General Pam Bondi also praised Corey.
"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 stated in a release. 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."
Following the release of 911 calls made by Zimmerman and residents ofSanford the night of the shooting, public outcry grew to the point where legislators have called for task forces and special sessions on the 2005 Stand Your Ground law.
The night of the shooting, Zimmerman, a nonblack Hispanic, called 911 to report a suspicious man. Moments later Martin, an African-American, was dead.
In a statement to police the night of the shooting, Zimmerman stated that he was attacked by Martin, who punched him in the nose, slammed his head on the ground and attempted to take his gun.
Scott assigned Corey to the case on March 22 as protests grew about the handling of the case by the Sanford police.
Police Chief Billy Lee temporarily stepped down amid accusations that his department bungled the initial investigation.
The debate over the shooting and the state law reached the White House, where President Obama responded to a reporter's question by saying that if he had a son he would have looked like Trayvon Martin.
Meanwhile, tensions have grown as social websites have fueled allegations about both Martin and Zimmerman.
The New Black Panther Party announced a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman, while the New Socialist Movement, a white supremacy group, threatened to patrol Sanford to protect whites.
Shots were reportedly fired into an empty police cruiser this week in the Sanford neighborhood where Martin was killed.
On Monday, Zimmerman launched a website -- www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com -- to raise money for his living and legal expenses.
On the site, he wrote that because of the incident and media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life.
On Tuesday, attorneys who had claimed to represent Zimmerman, despite never actually meeting with him, announced they are no longer his legal team. They declared they had lost contact with their client.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.