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Zimmerman To Plead Not Guilty In Teen's Death


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The man who authorities said could not be charged with a crime will now face charges.

MONTAGNE: George Zimmerman is expected in court today in Sanford, Florida. Special prosecutor Angela Corey says she plans to charge him with second-degree murder for shooting an unarmed high school student.

INSKEEP: At first, police declined to charge Mr. Zimmerman. He claimed self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law.

NPR's Greg Allen reports on a changing case.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: For weeks, there were rallies and marches in Sanford and around the country in support of Trayvon Martin, all calling for one thing: for law enforcement to arrest and charge George Zimmerman.

Yesterday, in a news conference in Jacksonville, state attorney Angela Corey - appointed to take over the investigation by Florida Governor Rick Scott - said those marches, rallies and media coverage had nothing to do with her decision to charge George Zimmerman with second-degree murder.

ANGELA COREY: Let me emphasize that we do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case, as well of the laws of the State of Florida.

ALLEN: For weeks, the uncertain facts surrounding George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin haven't stopped the nation and the media from engaging in an intense discussion about race and justice.

It all began on February 26th, when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, spotted Trayvon Martin in his townhome community. The teenager was on his way back from a convenience store with candy and an iced tea. Zimmerman called police and told them he thought the 17-year-old looked suspicious. A few minutes later Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.

At her news conference, Corey worked to put that intense national conversation behind her, saying prosecutors are committed to justice for every person, regardless of race.

COREY: We only know one category as prosecutors, and that's a V. It's not a B. It's not a W. It's not an H. It's V for victim. That's who we work tirelessly for.

ALLEN: Before announcing the charges against Zimmerman, Corey said she spoke to Trayvon Martin's parents, who were in Washington, D.C. Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said all she ever wanted was Zimmerman's arrest, and she finally got it. She spoke directly to those who marched and rallied on her son's behalf.

SYBRINA FULTON: I just want to speak from my heart to your heart, because a heart has no color. It's not black. It's not white. It's red. And I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart.

ALLEN: Appearing with Fulton was Al Sharpton, the activist and television personality who helped put her son's case to the national spotlight. Sharpton said while the charges are a vindication for those who sought justice, it's not a time for celebration.

REVEREND AL SHARPTON: This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice. We have not won anything.


SHARPTON: All we have done is establish that we must have the right to redress and justice in this country.

ALLEN: By yesterday afternoon, George Zimmerman had already turned himself in to police. For weeks, his whereabouts were secret. This week, questions about Zimmerman and his state of mind were heightened after he stopped communicating with his lawyers. But yesterday, Zimmerman's family hired a well-known criminal defense attorney in central Florida, Mark O'Mara. O'Mara says Zimmerman's state of mind is fine, but he's troubled.

MARK O'MARA: I cannot imagine living in George Zimmerman's shoes for the past number of weeks. Only because he has sort of been at the focus of a lot of anger, and maybe confusion and maybe some hatred. And that's got to be difficult.

ALLEN: O'Mara says Zimmerman will plead not guilty to the second-degree murder charges and he'll use Florida's Stand Your Ground Law as a defense. Under that law, people are entitled to use deadly force when faced with death or bodily harm.

When asked about Stand Your Ground, state attorney Angela Corey said her prosecutors will deal with it like they always do.

COREY: We fight hard. Some of them we've won and we've had to appeal them, or the defense has appealed and we've won it on appeal. Some we've fought hard and the judge ruled against us. That's happening to prosecutors all over the state. It is the law of the State of Florida and it will be applied.


ALLEN: Shortly after Angela Corey announced charges against George Zimmerman, in Sanford several dozen people gathered for a special service at Allen AME Church, where one of those speaking was the Reverend Jabari Paul.

REVEREND JABARI PAUL: Father, we thank you for everything that you have done for us. Most of all we thank you for this day. We thank you for the news that we heard on this day. Father, that one step toward justice has been taken.

ALLEN: Even before the Trayvon Martin shooting, Sanford was a city where many black residents mistrusted the police. At the church, there was confidence in Angela Corey and hope that justice will be done.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Sanford, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.