George Zimmerman, the man who shot dead unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, has been taken into custody and charged with second-degree murder.
At a press conference at 6 PM, special prosecutor Angela Corey confirmed that Zimmerman was in custody but would not disclose Zimmerman's location "for his safety." Zimmerman's attorney subsequently confirmed that his client was in the custody of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. In Florida, a conviction for second-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
"Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition," said Corey of Zimmerman's arrest, which has received enormous public and media attention over the last several weeks. "We prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida."
Martin's parents spoke after the announcement and his mother, Sybrina Fulton said, "We simply wanted an arrest; we wanted nothing more, nothing less. We just wanted an arrest, and we got it and I say thank you, thank you Lord, thank you Jesus."
“Forty five days after Trayvon Martin’s life came to a violent end, the wheels of justice have finally begun to turn," said Benjamin Jealous, head of the NAACP. "This is an important first step toward bringing justice for Trayvon and his family."
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Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida, released the following statement in response to the news:
“When it became clear that the tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death was exacerbated by problematic actions of the Sanford Police and local prosecutor, the ACLU of Florida joined in the call for outside investigators to more thoroughly examine what happened that night.
“As a result of that investigation, George Zimmerman is now being charged with second-degree murder.
“That more thorough investigation only happened because people marched, met, prayed, rallied and demanded that the criminal justice system not look the other way.
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“Now that charges have been brought, we must remember that George Zimmerman has all the rights of every defendant charged with a crime, including a legal presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
“This is not the end of the story, but the wheels of justice are turning. The ACLU of Florida will continue to monitor this case as it unfolds to ensure that the rights of all parties – from the demonstrators marching in solidarity with Trayvon’s family to George Zimmerman himself – are not violated.”
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Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People issued the following statement on the charges:
“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 men's lives by law enforcement. In the months ahead 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.”
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