At a press conference held at six pm on Wednesday, Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that George Zimmerman will be charged with second degree murder for killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, on February 26.
President and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Ben Jealous, said in reaction to this decision in an official statement:
Forty-five days after Trayvon Martin’s life came to a violent end, the wheels of justice have finally begun to turn. This is an important first step toward bringing justice for Trayvon and his family.
As we have seen, the system does not always work perfectly. But we have shown that when we stand together as a nation we can compel it to work. For the NAACP, this case has always been about the rule of law. We are encouraged by today’s charges, but we know that this is just the beginning. We anticipate and expect a thorough federal investigation of the Sanford Police Department and their role in exacerbating this tragedy.
Trayvon’s case moved the nation because it underscored the twin tragedies that affect so many of our young people: Trayvon was profiled because of his race — looked upon as a threat rather than the loving son he was. And then, once he became a victim, he was neglected by the very police department tasked with protecting our communities and families. As a nation, we’ve got to address the issues of racial profiling and the valuation of black mens’ lives by law enforcement. In the months… the NAACP and our allies in the civil rights community will continue to take these issues on as well as the urgent need to repeal stand your ground laws.
Tonight our thoughts and prayers are with Trayvon’s family. We are grateful for the courage and tenacity of Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin that continue to help shape a national movement for justice for their son and for all of America’s children.
WATCH ‘THE LAST WORD’ COVERAGE OF THE CHARGES AGAINST ZIMMERMAN:
The death of Trayvon Martin has caused a firestorm of controversy leading to heated debates regarding issues such as racial profiling and other biases in law enforcement. Many believe that Zimmerman shot Martin, and that Zimmerman was not initially charged, due to racial bias on the part of Zimmerman and the Sanford police department that initially investigated the case.
Zimmerman was released after killing Trayvon Martin with a registered handgun in Sanford, Fla. after claiming he shot the youth in self-defense.
Special prosecutor Corey shot down claims that racism motivated any arm of Florida law enforcement in this case.
“We only know one category… that’s ‘V’ for victim,” she replied to reporters about how the race of Trayvon Martin might have impacted initial inquiries into his demise. Corey stated that seeking justice for victims is in her experience the sole motivation of law enforcement officials.
“We do not prosecute by public pressure or petition,” she added about the intense scrutiny the case has received in the press. Corey stressed that the decision to charge Zimmerman with second degree murder was made based on the facts and the laws of the state of Florida alone.
Her highest aim is to seek the truth for both the victim, and “the person responsible for his death, George Zimmerman,” the state attorney said.
Zimmerman is now in police custody in Flordia, but Corey would not disclose where he is in the state for the sake of his safety. Corey also said that as a member of law enforcement, she cannot discuss any evidence in the case, and regrets that so many details have been leaked.
Corey arrived at her decision to charge Zimmerman with second degree murder last week, but took additional time to make sure that all the legal requirements were in place to make the charge appropriately. Corey and her team have been reviewing evidence regarding Martin’s death for approximately three weeks.
Life in prison is the maximum sentence for a second degree murder conviction in the state of Florida. Zimmerman might be released on bond, but in Seminole county his lawyers must request a bond hearing to secure one.
Corey does not know if the trial will be held in Seminole county. It is the court of jurisdiction for the crime, but the case might not be tried there. The tainting of the jury pool by media reporting has been cited as one reason for this possibility.
“We have to protect this case and this prosecution for Trayvon,” Corey said, and “for George Zimmerman, and that’s what we are going to do.”
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb