George Zimmerman Charged With 2nd Degree Murder in Trayvon Martin's Death

The charge of second degree murder was announced by Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey at a news conference this evening.

ABC News

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who admits he shot unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, was charged with murder today and has been taken into custody.

The charge of second degree murder was announced by Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey at a news conference this evening.

Corey said that "Mr. Zimmerman has turned himself in," but would not say where he was being held in custody for his protection.

"He is within the custody of law enforcement officers in the state of Florida," she said.

If convicted of the charges Zimmerman could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"We have to have a reasonable certainty of conviction before filing charges," the prosecutor said.

A bond hearing will be held at a later time when Zimmerman can apply for bail, she said.

Corey opened the news conference by saying that she had spoken with Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, when she took over the case last month and "we told those sweet parents" that they would get answers.

She also worried that the "overwhelming amount of publicity in this case" could complicate efforts to get an impartial jury, said that there was "so much information on this case that was released that shouldn't have been released."

The prosecutor's ruling is certain to provoke controversy in Sanford, Fla., where shooting took place and across the country.

Zimmerman, 28, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed Martin, who was 17 and black, on Feb. 26 after following the teenager for several minutes.

Martin's father attended a news conference with Rev. Al Sharpton this afternoon before Corey's decision was announced.

"I feel confident in Miss Corey," the father said.

The special prosecutor's ruling came one day after Zimmerman's legal team quit because they had lost contact with him, and suggested that the pressure of the case had "pushed him over the edge."

The lawyers said that Zimmerman had left Florida, but he has been taken into custody, ABC News has learned.

Earlier this week, Sanford Mayor Jeff Triplett said his city has become a "kindling box" due to the high emotions surrounding the case, and that he would "plan for the worst and hope for the best."

The mayor has planned a news conference in Sanford following Corey's announcement.

The case gained national prominence with rallies across the country demanding that Zimmerman be arrested and charged with murder. Zimmerman and his supporters say that the shooting had nothing to do with race and that he shot Martin in self-defense.

The U.S. Justice Department is also carrying out an investigation into the shooting.

Attorney General Eric Holder indicate today that the feds will have a higher bar to establish that the shooting was a hate crime.

"For a federal hate crime we have to prove the highest standard in the law it is something that was reckless, that was negligent... We have to show that there was a specific intent to do the crime with the requisite state of mind," Holder said.

The city of Sanford has been getting increasingly tense as the decision neared. Six shots were fired into an empty police cruiser earlier this week in the neighborhood where Martin was killed.

The New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 bounty for Zimmerman and his lawyers said Zimmerman had received death threats.

The New Socialist Movement, a white supremacy group, said they were patrol Sanford to protect whites and racists comments about the shooting have sprung up on social media sites.

Debate over the shooting became so widespread that even President Obama commented, saying if he had a son he would have looked like Trayvon Martin.

On his website, Zimmerman released a statement about the shooting this week, calling the incident a "life-altering event."

"As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately my entire life," he wrote.

In a written statement to police on the night of the shooting, Zimmerman said that he'd called 911 to report a suspicious man and that as he returned to his car, Martin attacked him. Zimmerman said that Martin punched him in the nose and knocked him down, slammed his head on the ground and tried to take his gun.

The police report noted that Zimmerman was bleeding from the back of the head and nose. His lawyer said later that Zimmerman suffered a broken nose.

After Zimmerman received medical attention, it was decided that he was in good enough condition to travel in a police cruiser to the Sanford police station for questioning. He was not arrested.

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