Special Prosecutor Decides on 2nd-Degree Murder Charge

Barrington M. Salmon | 4/12/2012, 1:15 a.m.

Zimmerman Behind Bars

Forty-five days after their son was shot and killed by a man who considered him suspicious, Trayvon Martin's parents got a measure of vindication when Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charged George Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

On March 22, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed Corey to take over the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Trayvon's death after the Sanford Police Department and State Attorney Norman Wolfinger declined to file charges against Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 28, admitted shooting the 17-year-old after he followed the honor student for several minutes. He said they got into a scuffle and he shot Trayvon in self-defense because he feared for his life.

Trayvon was unarmed, only carrying a pack of Skittles and a can of iced tea he'd purchased from a nearby 7-11 convenience store. His murder generated widespread outrage nationally and abroad, and forced America to confront its views on issues of race, racial profiling and vigilantism that would allow someone to follow a person, confront him, kill him and then claim self-defense.

"Just moments ago we spoke by phone with Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin," Corey said in the opening moments of an April 11 press conference in Jacksonville, Fla. "Three weeks ago our prosecution team promised those sweet parents we would get answers to all of their questions, no matter where our quest for the truth led us. And it is that search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this night."

"We did not come to this decision lightly. We do not prosecute by pressure or petition ... We're law enforcement. We enforce the law."

"... Remember, it is Trayvon Martin's family that are our constitutional victims and who have the right to know the critical stages of these proceedings."

The charges filed by Corey now set in motion the legal process that will determine Zimmerman's guilt or innocence. Second-degree murder is typically brought in cases when there is a confrontation or some type of fight that results in death but involves no premeditation to kill. It carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years behind bars when a gun is used.

Zimmerman, whose parents are Peruvian and Caucasian, is being held without bail.

Trayvon's parents have said from the beginning of their ordeal that their most urgent desire was a simple one. They are special guests of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, which is holding a four-day conference in the District.

"First of all, what I want to say is 'Thank God,'" said a visibly moved Fulton at a press conference immediately following Corey's in Jacksonville, Fla. "We wanted nothing more, nothing less [than an arrest] ... a heart has no color, not black or white, but red. I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart."

A clearly relieved Tracy Martin also offered thanks to the many thousands of people who joined in his family's quest for justice.

"He's in custody," he said. "It feels good to know that he's off the streets, considering the circumstances surrounding the case. I want to thank everyone for being so passionate about this. I said to myself that I would walk firm, hold hands in this journey with whites, blacks, Hispanics. The journey will continue."