Zimmerman’s father has said that his son is not a racist and that he was trying to protect his neighborhood.
Martin’s parents and their attorneys heard the news of the charge on Wednesday in Washington, where they had traveled for the annual convention of the National Action Network, a civil rights organization founded by Sharpton.
“It is about justice, justice and only justice,” said Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump. “We can take a short breath because we are just now getting to first base. This is only first base in this game of justice.”
Zimmerman had been in seclusion for more than 40 days. Two lawyers who have represented him for part of that time, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, announced Tuesday they had lost contact with Zimmerman and could no longer work on his behalf. They voiced concern for his emotional and physical well-being and said Zimmerman had taken actions, such as setting up a Web site soliciting donations and attempting to contact the prosecutor, without consulting them.
‘Focus of anger’
O’Mara, Zimmerman’s new attorney, said he has been troubled by the public outcry against him.
“He has been the focus of anger and maybe confusion and maybe some hatred,” O’Mara said.
An activist group, the New Black Panther Party, had announced that it was raising money to fund a $1 million bounty for the “capture” of Zimmerman.
Corey, a Florida state attorney, was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) to investigate the case after State Attorney Norm Wolfinger recused himself. Wolfinger had scheduled a grand jury for April 10, but Corey announced this week that she was not going to bring the Martin case before the grand jury.
In many parts of the country, people gathered around televisions at 6 p.m. Wednesday to watch Corey reveal the preliminary results of her investigation. A small group met in the basement of Allen Chapel AME Church in the historically black Goldsboro neighborhood in Sanford.
As Corey said “justice for Trayvon,” people nodded. When she said “murder in second degree,” they nodded again. And when she said “Mr. Zimmerman is in custody,” a cheer went out and people clapped and said, “Yes, yes, yes.”
Then City Commissioner Velma Williams said: “We did not come here to celebrate. . . . We came here to give thanks to the Almighty that . . . the wheels of justice still do turn. We do not rejoice in anyone’s shortcomings,” she said, adding later that “Mr. Zimmerman has a family, too.”
For a moment, there was relief — and then, for some, apprehension.
“Relief comes in one sense,” Cappila Gaines said as her son walked in from the bright Florida afternoon. “But there is still some type of stress that remains, and we’re hoping there aren’t repercussions” from Zimmerman’s defenders.
Staff writer Stephanie McCrummen in Sanford and staff writer Krissah Thompson and staff researcher Lucy Shackelford in Washington contributed to this report.