After six weeks of mass rallies and protests against the authorities’ failure to prosecute for the killing, the 28-year-old is due before a judge in Seminole County Court for a hearing to be informed of the charge. It is expected that the hearing will also deal with whether to grant him bail, and any conditions for that.
Mr Zimmerman, who will plead not guilty, does not deny shooting the teenager, but has claimed it was in self-defence, alleging that he was thrown to the ground and pummelled. The case has become a national and highly divisive issue which has reached the White House and raised difficult questions over America’s race relations after police accepted his account and failed to prosecute.
The decision to press charges was welcomed by Trayvon Martin’s parents. Sybrina Fulton, his mother, said afterwards: “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.”
Special prosecutor Angela Corey, who was given the case after it was taken off Florida police, announced that Mr Zimmerman would be charged at a Florida press conference yesterday. She said: “Today we filed an information charge charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree.”
But she insisted that the decision to prosecute was based on evidence and not due to public opinion. “Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” Ms Corey said. “We prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida.”
Mr Zimmerman handed himself in to Seminole County jail on Wednesday night, when officers escorted him from a black SUV to the jail with a jacket draped over his head.
His attorney, Mark O’Mara, said he expected police to provide “protective custody” for his client, given the emotions surrounding the case.
“I hope he’ll get a bond,” he said. “It’s out of my hands and up to a judge. He is a client who has a lot of hate focused on him right now. I’m hoping the hatred settles down.”