Criminal justice lawyers said Corey faces an uphill battle in persuading a jury to convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder. Zimmerman told police he was fighting for his life in an altercation with Martin, who was 17 and unarmed, before he fired in self-defense.
Murder in the second degree, under Florida law, refers to a killing carried out without premeditation but with “a depraved mind regardless of human life.” If convicted, Zimmerman faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. His attorney, Mark O’Mara, said Wednesday that Zimmerman will plead not guilty.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
Martin’s parents applauded Corey’s decision to take Zimmerman into custody, calling it a first step toward justice.
“We simply wanted an arrest,” said Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother. “Thank you, Lord.”
His father, Tracy Martin, said: “We got a long way to go, and we have faith. . . . We will continue to hold hands on this journey — white, black and Latino.”
Corey said she had personally informed Martin’s parents of the outcome of her investigation.
“It was less than three weeks ago that we told those sweet parents that we would get answers to all of their questions no matter where our quest for the truth led us,” she said.
Martin was fatally shot Feb. 26 while walking in the Retreat at Twin Lakes, a complex of about 260 peach-colored townhouses in Sanford, Fla. Martin was staying with his father and his father’s fiancee in her townhouse, and he had left briefly to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven to buy a bottle of iced tea and a bag of Skittles.
Zimmerman, 28, who worked at a fraud-detection company, was driving to Target, according to his father. Zimmerman spotted Martin and called 911, saying that there had been a rash of burglaries in the area and that there was “a guy . . . walking around, looking about.”
“This guy looks like . . . he’s on drugs or something,” Zimmerman said.
Before police arrived, Zimmerman and Martin encountered each other in a grassy area between the back yards of two rows of townhouses. Zimmerman says Martin punched him in the face, knocked him down and slammed his head against the pavement.
He has maintained that he was defending himself when he pulled a black Kel-Tec 9mm and shot Martin at close range in the chest after the teenager tried to take the gun. When officers arrived, they found Martin dead in a pool of blood in the grass and Zimmerman bleeding from his nose and the back of his head.
‘Stand your ground’ law
Authorities in Sanford decided not to charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which allows a person to use deadly force in self-defense when there is a reasonable belief of a threat and which does not require people to retreat.