Judge Says She May Have Conflict in Zimmerman Case
SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida judge overseeing the second-degree murder case involving neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman says she may have a conflict of interest.
Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler said Friday during a hearing in Sanford, Fla., that her husband works with an attorney who referred Zimmerman to his current defense attorney, Mark O'Mara.
The lawyer who made that referral, Mark NeJame, is a well-known Orlando defense attorney who is serving as a CNN commentator on the case.
The judge asked O'Mara and prosecutors to file motions with their views on the possible conflict.
Prosecutors say Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest during a confrontation on Feb. 26.
Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense and has pleaded not guilty.
The lack of an arrest for more than 40 days led to protests nationwide.
George Zimmerman Makes First Court Appearance
Sanford, FL (AP) -Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman made his first court appearance Thursday on a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, as a court document provided new details on the prosecution's case.
During the brief appearance, Zimmerman stood up straight, looked straight ahead and wore a gray prison jumpsuit. He spoke only to answer "Yes, sir," twice after he was asked basic questions about the charge against him and his attorney.
His hair was shaved down to stubble and he had a thin goatee, which appeared consistent with his booking photo from the day before. He had resurfaced Wednesday to turn himself in after weeks in hiding.
Judge Mark E. Herr said he found probable cause to move ahead with the case and that an arraignment would be held on May 29 before another judge. At a press conference following the court appearance, Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said he will seek a bond hearing "in the next few weeks." Zimmerman is expected to enter a not guilty plea. O'Mara said he was working on finding a place Zimmerman could safely stay if he is released before trial.
The affidavit of probable cause prepared by prosecutors shed some light on why they chose to charge Zimmerman. The Orlando Sentinel said it had obtained a copy before it was expected to be filed with the courthouse.
The newspaper says that Martin's mother identified screams heard in the background of a 911 call as her son's. There had been some question as to whether Martin or Zimmerman was the one calling for help.
Prosecutors also interviewed a friend of Martin's who was talking to him just before the shooting. The affidavit says Martin told the witness he was being followed and was scared.
Martin tried to run home, the affidavit says, but was followed by Zimmerman: "Zimmerman got out of his vehicle and followed Martin."
The affidavit says that "Zimmerman disregarded the police dispatcher" who told him to stop, and "continued to follow Martin who was trying to return to his home."
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, O'Mara said he was concerned that the case up to now has been handled in the public eye, with details coming out in piecemeal fashion.
"It's really supposed to happen in the courtroom," O'Mara said, deflecting questions about evidence in the case and his client's mental state.
"He's tired," O'Mara said when asked about Zimmerman's condition. "He's gone through some tribulations of his own, being the focus of the intensity of this event. ... He's facing second degree murder charges now. He's frightened. That would frighten any one of us."
Prosecutors face steep hurdles to win a second-degree murder conviction against Zimmerman, experts say.
Zimmerman was charged after a public campaign to make an arrest in the shooting that galvanized the nation for weeks. Now the prosecutor and her team will have to prove Zimmerman intentionally went after Martin instead of shooting him in self-defense, to refute arguments that a Florida law empowered him to use deadly force.
Zimmerman, 28, turned himself in at a county jail Wednesday after prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charge in the Feb. 26 shooting of the 17-year-old that set off a nationwide debate about racial profiling and the rights to self-defense.
O'Mara, said on "CBS This Morning" Thursday that he plans to seek his client's release on bond because Zimmerman posed no flight risk. (Watch interview at left.)
"We just need to sort of take it one day at a time," O'Mara told co-hosts Erica Hill, Gayle King and Charlie Rose.
On Wednesday, O'Mara said Zimmerman was concerned about getting a fair trial.
"He is a client who has a lot of hatred focused on him. I'm hoping the hatred settles down ... he has the right to his own safety and the case being tried before a judge and jury," O'Mara said.
Trayvon Martin's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, said on "CBS This Morning" that they were "at ease," "excited" and "overwhelmed" by Zimmerman's arrest.
"I felt a little bit at ease knowing that he had been apprehended, that he had turned himself in," said Tracy Martin, "and knowing that he wouldn't be able to possess a firearm after being arrested any more, knowing that he wouldn't be able to take another 17-year-old's life."
However, Fulton, who has campaigned with the rest of the family for an arrest and prosecution, said she thought the shooting was an accident.
Asked on NBC's "Today" what she would say to Zimmerman face-to-face, Fulton said she wanted an apology, then added: "I believe it was an accident. I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn't turn the clock back." She did not say more about how she thinks the shooting happened.
Legal experts said Corey chose a tough route with the murder charge, which could send Zimmerman to prison for life if he's convicted, over manslaughter, which usually carries 15-year prison terms and covers reckless or negligent killings.
The prosecutors must prove Zimmerman's shooting of Martin was rooted in hatred or ill will and counter his claims that he shot Martin to protect himself while patrolling his gated community in the Orlando suburb of Sanford. Zimmerman's lawyers would only have to prove by a preponderance of evidence — a relatively low legal standard — that he acted in self-defense at a pretrial hearing to prevent the case from going to trial.
There's a "high likelihood it could be dismissed by the judge even before the jury gets to hear the case," Florida defense attorney Richard Hornsby said.
Corey announced the charges Wednesday after an extraordinary 45-day campaign for Zimmerman's arrest, led by Martin's parents and civil rights activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. Protesters wore hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin had on the night of the shooting. The debate reached all the way to the White House, where President Barack Obama observed last month: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."
Corey would not discuss how she reconciled conflicting accounts of the shooting by Zimmerman, witnesses and phone recordings that indicated Martin thought Zimmerman was following him.
"We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts on any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida," Corey said.
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 12, 2012
David Royse, The News Service of Florida
The state on Wednesday charged George Zimmerman with second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and the special prosecutor promised to not only get justice but to find the truth in the case that has rocked Florida and captured the nation's attention.
Zimmerman was in custody Wednesday after a warrant was issued for his arrest, State Attorney Angela Corey said at a news conference in Jacksonville. She declined to say where Zimmerman was being held, but said he turned himself in.
"We've got a long way to go, and we have faith,'' said Tracy Martin, the father of the 17-year-old shot Feb. 26 in Sanford, near Orlando.
Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin under disputed circumstances. Police have said Martin was unarmed, but other than that, the facts haven't fully emerged. Lawyers who represented Zimmerman in the case until the last couple of days have said he acted in self defense when attacked by Martin.
Corey, who works in the circuit around Jacksonville but was assigned to take over the case by Gov. Rick Scott, promised to get to the bottom of those facts.
"We are not only ministers of justice, we are also seekers of the truth," Corey said. "We will continue to seek the truth throughout this case."
She declined, however, to specifically discuss any facts of the case.
The case has drawn protests nationwide, and a new look at Florida's stand your ground law, the self defense statute that says those who feel threatened have no duty to retreat even out in the street but can fight force with force. It's also drawn politicians, celebrities and ordinary people nationwide to declare they believe that Martin was the victim in the case. The teen's family also pushed hard for some sort of law enforcement action.
Corey, however, said facts were what drove the decision to charge.
"We do not prosecute by public pressure, or by petition," Corey said.
She did, however, make it clear she was sympathetic to Martin's family, calling him by his first name Trayvon on a number of occasions, and at one point, calling his parents "sweet."
Corey said prosecutors haven't decided what penalty to pursue. Technically, a life sentence is possible in a second degree murder case.
"We don't make that determination at this time," Corey said. "Once there is a decision then we would concern ourselves with the sentence."
When and if - the case comes to trial, it would default to Seminole County, where the shooting occurred, she said. But, she declined to speculate on whether a fair jury could be found there.
National media reported Wednesday that Zimmerman, whose original attorneys dropped him as a client in the last couple of days, had hired a new lawyer, Mark O'Mara of Orlando.
Scott issued a statement urging people to let the case go through the judicial process.
This matter is now in the hands of the judicial system and I am confident justice will prevail," Scott said."As the process continues, it is critical that we be patient and allow the proceedings to move forward in a fair and transparent manner. . We will all continue to look for answers to the Trayvon Martin tragedy."
Rev. Al Sharpton appeared at a news conference in Washington with Martin's parents after Corey's announcement. Sharpton said he initially didn't trust Scott, but praised the governor for appointing a special prosecutor in the case and for Corey's ultimate decision to file charges.
Sharpton said he didn't think state officials decided to file charges based on public pressure but said that public pressure made it more likely the case would be reviewed, leading to the ultimate decision.
"There is no victory here, there is no winner here they lost their son," Sharpton said. "This is about pursuing justice."
Jesse Jackson Lauds Zimmerman Charges
Chicago, IL (AP) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson is congratulating the Florida special prosecutor for her actions in the case of Trayvon Martin and the charges filed against the suspect in his death.
Prosecutor Angela Corey on Wednesday announced the filing of a second-degree murder charge against neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman for shooting the unarmed black teenager.
In a statement, the head of Chicago-based Rainbow-PUSH Coalition said he is hopeful the judicial process will be fair and just. Jackson adds despite the charge against Zimmerman, the issue of the law under which he claims he acted must be addressed. He says Florida's Stand Your Ground law should be repealed.
The 28-year-old Zimmerman was jailed in Sanford, site of the Feb. 26 shooting that set off a nationwide debate over racial profiling and self-defense.
Zimmerman Arrives at Jail After Turning Self In
Sanford, FL (AP) - The man charged with second-degree murder in Trayvon Martin's death has arrived at a Florida jail after turning himself in.
George Zimmerman was logged into the jail in Sanford on Wednesday night, hours after a special prosecutor announced the charge against him. He's expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday.
Television cameras showed black SUVs pulling into a loading area, but the suspect himself wasn't visible.
Zimmerman's Attorney Mark O'Mara says that his client will plead not guilty. Zimmerman is being held without bond but O'Mara said he plans to ask for bail to be set.
Zimmerman has acknowledged shooting Martin but says it was in self-defense after the two got into a fight on Feb. 26.
Statement from Governor Rick Scott Regarding the Trayvon Martin Investigation
Tallahassee, Fla. – “This matter is now in the hands of the judicial system and I am confident justice will prevail. As the process continues, it is critical that we be patient and allow the proceedings to move forward in a fair and transparent manner. I thank State Attorney Angela Corey for her diligence in conducting a thorough investigation. We will all continue to look for answers to the Trayvon Martin tragedy.”
Statement from Attorney General Pam Bondi
Tallahassee, Fla--"When I worked with Governor Scott to appoint State
Attorney Angela Corey to the case involving Trayvon Martin, I did so with the full confidence that a swift and thorough investigation would be conducted. Today, State Attorney Corey's decision to press charges against George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon demonstrates Corey's commitment to bringing justice to Trayvon's family and allowing due process for Zimmerman."
Here is the CBS News Special Report that happened at 6pm EST:
IT’S NOT OVER; GEORGE ZIMMERMAN’S ARREST ONLY BEGINS THE QUEST FOR JUSTICE
Washington, D.C. - Brady Campaign President Dan Gross released the following statement today in response to the arrest of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
“On the eve of the NRA’s national convention, we are gratified to learn that criminal charges will be brought against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman is the NRA. And Florida’s ‘Shoot First, Ask Questions Later’ law and the paranoid mentality it promotes are products of the NRA’s vision for America, where just about anybody can get and use a gun just about anywhere.
“Our hearts go out to Trayvon’s parents as they fight for justice for their son. But the quest for justice does not end with Zimmerman’s arrest. Justice means ending gun laws and policies that allow dangerous people like Zimmerman to carry loaded, hidden guns in our communities. Zimmerman had a dangerous and violent past. He should not have been able to carry a gun in public. If Zimmerman had not had a gun, Trayvon undoubtedly would be alive today. We must end the injustice of innocent young people losing their lives to the NRA’s vision for America.”
TRAYVON MARTIN'S PARENTS, CHANGE.ORG COMMENT ON CHARGES AGAINST GEORGE ZIMMERMAN
SANFORD, FL – Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced today that she would be bringing charges of second degree murder against George Zimmerman in the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. The charges come after a viral campaign on Change.org launched by Trayvon Martin’s parents was signed by more than 2.2 million people and sparked new investigations into their son’s killing.
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, the parents of Trayvon Martin, began the campaign on Change.org after Sanford police declined to charge Zimmerman with a crime. In just a few weeks, the petition became the largest in Change.org’s history.
“I’m a normal mother. I just want justice for my son,” said Sybrina Fulton, about her campaign on Change.org. “It has been so powerful to see so many people stand with our family by signing this petition and we feel much closer to justice with the decision to bring charges against our son’s killer. We are thankful to the millions of people around the world who signed the petition on Change.org and called for justice for Trayvon.”
"We will continue to fight for justice for Trayvon, not only for our family but to help prevent racial profiling from happening to other teens," said Tracy Martin. "Our family thanks all of the people who helped share Trayvon's story by signing our petition."
“Trayvon Martin’s parents have used the power of social media to accomplish something truly remarkable,” said Change.org Senior Campaigner Jonathan Perri. “Their petition on Change.org turned a local tragedy into an international movement for justice, inspiring millions to take action. Sybrina and Tracy can finally take solace in the knowledge that their son’s killer will be charged – and that the two million people who joined their Change.org petition have been heard.”
Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while walking from a store where he had just purchased a bag of Skittles and an iced tea for his younger brother. According to reports, Zimmerman called police to report a suspicious person after he saw Martin walking back from the store. Despite police instructing him not to confront Martin, Zimmerman allegedly approached the teenager. Witnesses say a scuffle ensued before Zimmerman shot the unarmed teen in the chest with a semi-automatic pistol, killing Trayvon Martin.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A law enforcement official says that the killer in the Trayvon Martin case will be charged with second-degree murder and is in custody.
The official with knowledge of the case says that the charge against George Zimmerman will be announced at a news conference at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The official says he's in custody in Florida but wouldn't say where. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information.
An arrest had been delayed because of Florida's so-called stand your ground law, which gives people wide latitude to claim self-defense in a killing and other altercations.
The lack of an arrest had sparked outrage and rallies for justice in the Orlando suburb and across the country.
CBS News will be providing a live broadcast of the special prosecutor's announcement in the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.
If you cannot tune into to WCTV to see the latest, just click on the video player below to see the announcement. That announcement is scheduled to happen April 11,2012 at 6pm EST.
April 11. 2012
Trayvon Martin Parents Eager for Arrest
by Suzanne Gamboa
Washington, D.C. (AP) - The parents of Trayvon Martin say charges against George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting their son would start the healing process, but they won't stop fighting until he's convicted.
Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, tells The Associated Press that right now she and Martin's father "can't get past our son being murdered and no one being arrested." His father, Tracy Martin, says it will be very important to also get a conviction.
Their comments follow news that charges will be filed against Zimmerman in the Feb. 26 shooting in Florida. Zimmerman's arrest also is expected soon.
The parents' attorney, Ben Crump, says although the family wants an arrest, "nothing is going to bring Trayvon back."
AP VIDEO: Trayvon Martin's parents say charges against George Zimmerman would start the healing process:
Statement from Governor Rick Scott
Tallahassee, Fla. – “We are fortunate in our state that most Floridians and local civic leaders are law-abiding, responsible citizens who all want justice to prevail. No matter what State Attorney Corey determines following her investigation of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, I trust in the goodness of all Florida citizens to allow our justice system to reach an appropriate conclusion in this case.”
STATE SENATOR GARY SIPLIN THANKS SPECIAL PROSECUTOR FOR GRANTING HIS REQUEST TO BYPASS GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION
ORLANDO, FL – State Senator Gary Siplin (D-Orlando) sent a letter to State Attorney Angela Corey today thanking her for granting his request to bypass the grand jury investigation and act within her authority in regards to filing charges against George Zimmerman.
“My office receives countless calls from concerned citizens who are distraught from the travesty of Trayvon Martin’s death. Many callers voice their diminished faith in the justice system, along with fears that their children or they themselves could easily become the next Trayvon,” Siplin explained.
“I pray that you will soon decide to file charges and arrest Mr. Zimmerman which will begin to restore their faith in the justice system and bring peace to the Sanford community,” Siplin stated in the letter.
(CBS/AP) April 11, 2012 -
CBS News has confirmed that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman will be charged in the February shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
According to a senior law enforcement official, the special prosecutor in the case, Angela Corey, is expected to announce later Wednesday afternoon that Zimmerman will face state charges. The number or nature of the charges was not immediately known.
Zimmerman says he shot Martin in self-defense after following the teenager in a Sanford gated community outside Orlando on Feb. 26. He said he was returning to his truck when Martin attacked him and that he shot the unarmed teen during the fight. He was briefly held by police but was not arrested, in part because of Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law.
The lack of an arrest has led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic. Martin was black.
On Tuesday, Zimmerman's attorneys announced they were no longer representing him and that they had not heard from him since Sunday, although he had contacted talk show host Sean Hannity and the special prosecutor.
Earlier Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Justice Department will take appropriate action in the killing of Trayvon Martin if it finds evidence that a federal criminal civil rights crime has been committed.
Holder said the department will conduct a thorough and independent review of the evidence in the Martin matter. One of the department's top priorities, said Holder, is preventing and combating youth violence and victimization.
The Justice Department launched an investigation of the Martin killing three weeks ago.
"I know that many of you are greatly — and rightly — concerned about the recent shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a young man whose future has been lost to the ages," Holder told the 14th annual convention of the National Action Network, three days of discussion on race issues. Martin's parents were scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the meeting.
"If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action," said the attorney general. "I also can make you another promise: that at every level of today's Justice Department — preventing and combating youth violence and victimization is, and will continue to be, a top priority."
Martin's parents were to speak later at a news conference at the meeting.