Zimmerman Charged with Murder in Florida Shooting of Black Teen

Posted April 12th, 2012 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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The man charged in the shooting death of an African-American teenager is expected to make his first appearance in a Florida courtroom Thursday.

The lawyer representing George Zimmerman says his client will plead not guilty to second-degree murder at a bond hearing.

Attorney Mark O'Mara says he needs his client out of jail so Zimmerman can assist in his own defense.

Zimmerman surrendered to police Wednesday after he was charged in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, in a gated community in an Orlando suburb.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey gave no details of the evidence that led to the charges, but said there was a thorough investigation. Corey 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 took Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, into protective custody the night of the shooting, but he was not arrested or charged at that time. Zimmerman said Martin attacked him and that he shot the teen in self-defense.

Martin's family says Trayvon was unarmed and confronted because of his race. They demanded that Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white Hispanic man, face criminal charges.

On Thursday, Martin's parents appeared on U.S television and expressed satisfaction that their demands for arrest have finally been met. Martin's mother said she believes the shooting was an accident.

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

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.