George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., has been arrested and charged with second degree murder, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced Wednesday afternoon.
Zimmerman, a Hispanic man, has said that he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked on him. Martin, a black teenager, was walking back to meet his father after going to a convenience store.
"We did not come to this decision lightly. This case is like a lot of the difficult cases we've handled for years," Corey said in a press conference.
Controversy erupted because Sanford police declined to arrest Zimmerman and the local prosecutor decided not to pursue charges, citing Florida's "Stand your ground" law. The Martin family has been outspoken critics of that decision — to the point that state and federal investigations were opened to see if mistakes were made.
"Just moments ago we spoke by phone with" Martin's parents, Corey said. "We ask that you continue to pray for Trayvon Martin's family."
Corey said she met with Martin's father Tracy Martin and his mother Sabrina Fulton when they launched the investigation, and prayed with them even. She promised them nothing, and even said they would try to help them if charges couldn't be filed.
But, ultimately, Corey decided there was sufficient evidence for a serious charge to be filed.
At the same time, Corey also insisted that she was adamant about getting justice for Zimmerman, as well as for Martin and his family.
"We are seekers of the truth. We stay true to that mission," she said. It's a "never-ending search for the truth and a quest to do the right thing for the right reason."
Corey said her office launched an intensive investigation and late last week concluded that these charged would be appropriate. Since then, her office has worked to bring proper charges against Zimmerman. After the charges were filed, Zimmerman turned himself in and was arrested. He is in custody in Florida, but Corey declined to reveal where Zimmerman was being held, other than to say he's in the custody of law enforcement in Florida.
Zimmerman's attorneys withdrew from the case on Tuesday, saying they could not get in touch with him and in fact had never met him in person. Corey said Zimmerman has hired new counsel "within the past few hours."
Zimmerman is expected to appear before a judge in Florida for formal charging within the next 24 hours. Under Seminole County court procedures, Zimmerman has not been granted bond at this time, but his lawyers will be able to request bond be granted and a hearing will be held. That hearing must be held in Seminole County.
Second degree murder convictions carry up to a life sentence, but Corey said she'd made no decision on what sort of sentence she'd seek. She said she'd only reach that decision after, and if, a judge or jury finds Zimmerman guilty.