Saturday, April 14, 2012
George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch captain who shot African American teenager Trayvon Martin in February, stepped into court for his first appearance Thursday afternoon after his arrest the previous night. The judge found probable cause in the charges of second degree murder, but Zimmerman's lawyer held off on making a bail request out of concern for his clients safety.
At a Wednesday evening news conference in Jacksonville, Florida, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced Zimmerman willingly turned himself in. A law enforcement official said at the time Zimmerman was in custody at the Seminole County Jail in Florida. Corey said, "It is the search for justice for Trayvon that has brought us to this moment."
Zimmerman, 28, was involved in an altercation with the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin that led to Martin’s death the night of February 26 in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed self-defense when he shot Martin. Martin was in a gated community returning to the house he and his father were staying at carrying a pack of candy and iced tea when Zimmerman followed him and called the police to report a "suspicious" character. Since then, black leaders have demanded justice for a murder that they believe to be driven by race.
Zimmerman’s arrest and charge occurred after his lawyers announced Tuesday they were quitting the case after having no contact with him since Sunday. They also said Zimmerman was in a fragile mental state.
In Florida, a person charged with second-degree murder can spend life in prison, and the charge is usually when a confrontation ends with the death one of the parties involved. Florida also has a Stand-your-ground law, which means people can use deadly force in cases of self-defense, which is expected to play a major role in the case. In the United States, 24 states, including Florida, have such a law while the other 27 states do not. The National Rifle Association pushed for the law's passage in Florida seven years ago.
Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, have been publicly calling for Zimmerman to be prosecuted. They appeared at a press conference after the special prosecutor's announcement with Reverend Al Sharpton in Washington, D.C. Fulton said, "We simply wanted an arrest. We wanted nothing more and nothing less, we just wanted an arrest. And we got it."
Zimmerman's lawyer Mark O’Mara has already signaled that his client will plead not guilty at a future hearing which the judge set for May 29, but he also expects to request bail for his client once safety details are worked out.
== Sources ==
Associated Press. "Zimmerman makes court appearance in Trayvon case" — AZCentral.com, April 12, 2012
Lizette Alvarez. "2nd-degree murder charge in shooting" — The New York Times, April 11, 2012
Sonya Ross and Suzanne Gamboa (AP). "Trayvon Martin parents elated by Zimmerman arrest" — KXAN.com, April 11, 2012
Gary Fineout and Brendan Farrington. "Second-degree murder charge in Trayvon Martin case" — The Salt Lake Tribune, April 11, 2012
Sari Horwitz. "George Zimmerman is charged with 2nd-degree murder in Trayvon Martin shooting" — The Washington Post, April 11, 2012
Cora Currier. "The 23 states that have sweeping self-defense laws just like Florida’s" — ProPublica, March 22, 2012, 1:05 p.m.