Zimmerman Charged with Second-Degree Murder in Shooting Death of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012. Clay Duda/JJIE

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin in February, turned himself into authorities late yesterday after prosecutors announced he would face second-degree murder charges in a case that has sparked protests around the nation.

The announcement by state prosecutors came 46 days after local Sanford law enforcement decided not to charge Zimmerman in the shooting, citing Florida’s “stand your ground law.

His attorney, Mark O’Mara, said Zimmerman would plead not guilty to the charge, the Washington Post reported. If convicted, Zimmerman could face a maximum sentence of life in prison under Florida law.

Martin’s parents applauded the arrest.

“We wanted nothing more, nothing less, we just wanted an arrest – and we got it,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, said at a press conference on Wednesday. “And I say thank you. Thank you Lord, thank you Jesus."

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.


Related articles:

- OPINION:The Tragic Case of Trayvon Martin and the Danger of Stereotyping
- OPINION:The Myth of the Young, Black Male: A More Subtle Racism

Students, Community Members Gather in Atlanta to Protest Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012

ATLANTA -- Hundreds of Trayvon Martin supporters gathered to chants of “I am Trayvon” in Downtown Atlanta on Monday, exactly one month after the Florida teen was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in an Orlando suburb.

Bands of student demonstrators, mainly organized by student groups from nearby universities, joined activists, community members and a long list of organizers on the steps of the state capital to call for the arrest of George Zimmerman – the self-appointed neighborhood watch captain who claimed to have shot the 17-year-old in self-defense.

“It’s a general issue of justice,” said Richard Hunter, 42, who attended the rally with his nine-year-old son, Matt.

“I think we’ve seen that when we get involved things can change,” Hunter said about the importance of getting young people involved in justice issues. “A lot of people sit back and act like nothing is going to happen instead of showing up. So I decided to show up.”

The hodge-podge of protestors also challenged Georgia’s own “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows the use of deadly-force if you fear your life is in danger.

Zimmerman admitted to shooting the teen, but claimed self-defense under a similar Florida law and has not been arrested.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Morehouse student Jonathon Howard said to a cheering crowd, delivering a still powerful quote more than half a century after it was first penned by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Trayvon Martin Rally Atlanta March 26 2012 KIPP Atlanta Collegiate
Students from KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, a local school, join the protests at the Ga. State Capital. March 26, 2012.

Many protestors carried bags of Skittles and wore hooded sweatshirts adorned with the “I am Trayvon” slogan despite temperatures in the 80s. Martin was wearing a hoody and carrying a bag of Skittles when he was shot and killed returning from a local 7-Eleven in Sanford, Fla. He was unarmed.

Demonstrations in more than half a dozen major cities around the country marked the anniversary. Seventy-three percent of Americans said they felt Zimmerman should be arrested and face charges for the death, according to a recent CNN poll.

In Florida, a special prosecutor has been assigned to investigate the case. A grand jury is scheduled to begin deliberation on the case April 10.

Earlier in the day, Sanford officials confirmed an altercation ensued between Martin and Zimmerman prior to the fatal shot. Signs of the scuffle appeared in the original police reports, but had not been confirmed by law enforcement. City officials also announced a replacement for the Sanford Police Chief who stepped down, at least temporarily, last week amid community outrage over the department’s handling of the case.

Longtime civil rights activists Rev Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson joined Martin’s parents and supporters for a rally in Sanford.

“It’s justice for someone who hasn’t gotten any,” Joanna Carter, 23, said back in Atlanta. “If you let it continue this just ain’t right, no matter the color.”

Photo credit: Clay Duda/JJIE

Trayvon Martin Rally Georgia State Capital March 26 2012

The Tragic Case of Trayvon Martin and the Danger of Stereotyping


Trayvon Martin (left) and George Zimmerman (right)
Trayvon Martin (left) and George Zimmerman (right)

“This guy looks like he’s up to no good … he looks black,” George Zimmerman told a police dispatcher on Feb. 26, 2011.  Moments later he shot and killed an unarmed, 17-year-old.

Trayvon Martin is the latest fatality in the deadly, insidious disease of stereotyping young black males as “dangerous.”

“I will never look suspicious to you, even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers,” wrote Michel Skolnik, who is white, in a commentary about the Trayvon Martin murder.

You are right Michel. White young men, no matter how many piercings, how baggy the pants are, tend to be seen as possibly mischievous or youthfully exuberant, but a threat? No. So what was Trayvon Martin’s crime?

In his final phone call to his girlfriend, according to Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, Trayvon could be overheard asking Zimmerman, “Why are you following me?” Zimmerman could be heard replying, “What are you doing around here?”

So it seems Trayvon’s crime was existing.

The alarming degree of danger young black males are exposed to is, in part, attributable to a lack of common sense, the unrelenting depiction of young black males as criminals, and a legal system that marginalizes black life. Zimmerman has yet to be arrested.

As the mother of two black sons, I personally know the vulnerability and dark cloud of suspicion young black men experience regularly. Adolescents suspended from school more often than others, pulled over by the police more often, and viewed as guilty until proven innocent more often.

Most of us will never kill another human being when our feelings and prejudices escape our subconscious. All of us must examine, expose and dialogue about these stereotypes. We must come out of denial about the influence of stereotypes in our lives, examine our thoughts, check our feelings and be deliberate in our actions.

Trayvon Martin committed no crime. He was just a young black man who went to the store to pick up some Skittles and a drink and now he’s dead. The shooter is free. The public is talking. The investigators are investigating; but what will we learn?  How do we protect our black male children in a society that marginalizes them?

Treating each other with respect, with the care and compassion we would want, or we would want our own children to receive, takes a consciousness of love and a refusal to let the lies, characterizations, and stereotypes win. Black young men are not by nature violent. It is our responsibility to take action to change ourselves and our society.

If life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness do not apply to all of us, it does not apply to any of us.


UPDATE: Trayvon Martin’s Parents Want Their Son’s Killer Arrested for Murder, Dismiss Self-Defense Claims

Trayvon Martin (left) and George Zimmerman (right)

[UPDATE, March 23, 2012:] President Obama today waded into the growing national controversy surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, commenting, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," the The New York Times reported. Obama dodged questions about whether George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin, should be arrested for the killing, saying he didn't want to impede any possible investigation by the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder.

At a rally Thursday in Sanford, Fl., the orlando suburb where Martin lived, Rev. Al Sharpton, with Martin's parents at his side, called the case a civil rights issue, according to an Associated Press report.

"We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us ... and then walk out with the murder weapon," Sharpton said. "We don't want good enough. We want George Zimmerman in court with handcuffs behind his back."

In response to the controversy, beleaguered Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announced Thursday he would temporarily step down, CNN reports.

"I am aware that my role as a leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation," he told reporters. "It is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process. Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position."

[Original story] The parents of a slain Florida teen are calling for the arrest of the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed their son, claiming he is getting away with murder. During an interview Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton said George Zimmerman followed their son because he was black and dismissed his claims to have shot in self-defense.

“I strongly feel he needs to be arrested, because a crime was committed," Tracy Martin told Matt Lauer. "My son is murdered, my son is not with us no more. Nothing can bring him back."

The family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, who also appeared on “Today,” suggested Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white Hispanic, had not been arrested because of his race.

“It's crazy that this family has to wait for grand juries and stuff when, if it was the other way around, they would have arrested their son on the spot," Crump said.

The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Monday announced they were opening an investigation into Martin’s death. On Tuesday, local authorities said a grand jury would hear evidence in the case next month.

Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense has brought a seven-year-old Florida law called Stand Your Ground, and 20 similar laws around the country, back to the spotlight, The New York Times reports. The Florida law gives the benefit of the doubt to a person who claims self-defense, even if the killing takes place away from their home. It also allows someone who feels they are in imminent danger to “stand their ground” and not retreat to protect themselves, even if it would seem reasonable to do so. The National Rifle Association lobbied heavily for passage of the law despite opposition from law enforcement.

At a news conference Tuesday, Crump, the attorney representing Martin’s parents, said Trayvon Martin was speaking to his girlfriend on his cellphone in the moments before he was shot, The Times reports. According to Crump, as Martin walked home from a convenience store, he told his girlfriend he was being followed. Martin then asked, “Why are you following me?” Crump said. Martin’s girlfriend told Crump she heard another voice asking, “What are you doing around here?”

According to Crump, the conversation rules out Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

After calling 911 to report a suspicious black male, Zimmerman confronted Martin, despite warnings from the 911 dispatcher to remain in his car. Zimmerman says Martin attacked him and that he fired in self-defense.