Zimmerman Charged with Murder in Florida Shooting of Black Teen

Posted April 11th, 2012 at 6:55 pm (UTC-5)
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A Florida special prosecutor has charged a white Hispanic suspect with second degree murder in the shooting death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey announced Wednesday that George Zimmerman turned himself in to police. He will appear before a judge to hear the charges later this week.

Corey gave no details on the evidence that led to the charges in the February 26 shooting, but said there was a thorough investigation. She said Florida courts do not prosecute people by public pressure but on the facts and the law.

Second degree murder is defined as an intentional killing that was not pre-meditated. It could also be defined as a killing caused by a suspect's dangerous conduct and disregard for human life. The maximum penalty is life in prison.

Police did not arrest Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February. Zimmerman said he was attacked by Martin and shot the teen in self-defense.

Martin's family says Trayvon was unarmed and confronted because of his race — a young black man walking alone at night. They demanded Zimmerman be charged.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will take action if it finds evidence of a federal civil rights crime.

“Although I cannot share where current efforts will lead us from here, I can assure you that, in this investigation – and in all cases – we will examine the facts and the law. If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action. And at every step, the facts and the law will guide us forward.”

The case has ignited a national debate about racial tensions in the United States. Martin's supporters say the shooting shows how young black men are constantly threatened with violence, while Zimmerman supporters say race had nothing to do with the killing.

Two lawyers representing Zimmerman withdrew from the case Tuesday, saying they had lost contact with their client despite repeated efforts to reach him. Zimmerman now has new legal representation.