JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A charge of second degree murder against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin is expected to be announced during a news conference by special prosecutor Angela Corey at 6 p.m. ET.
News of the announcement from Corey’s office came hours after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would take “appropriate action” in the shooting death of the 17 year old teenager from Miami if evidence existed to prove a federal civil rights violation had occurred.
Signaling that her office was not investigating first-degree murder charges against Zimmerman in the Feb. 26 shooting death of Martin, Corey announced on Monday that she would independently investigate the case and not present it to a grand jury.
In Florida, first-degree murder charges require review by a grand jury and a finding that the act was premeditated. Prosecutor’s can file less serious charges such as second degree murder, manslaughter, manslaughter with a firearm, and improper exhibition of a firearm by “information.”
The tough-on-crime Republican state attorney was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott on March 22 to independently review the racially charged and closely-watched case and determine whether criminal charges were appropriate.
Martin was returning from a convenience store when he was shot to death while walking through a gated community where his father’s fiancée lives.
According to 911 recordings of George Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, the neighborhood watch patrolman thought the African-American teenager was a criminal targeting homes in an area plagued by burglaries.
Despite numerous media reports, the exact details of the confrontation between the shooter and Martin remain unclear. Zimmerman told Sanford police that he fired in self defense.
In charging Zimmerman with second degree murder, Corey has determined that Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — which could have protected Zimmerman from criminal prosecution – was not applicable.
The “Stand Your Ground” law prohibits prosecution of individuals if they kill someone in specific self-defense situations.
The teenager’s death has also revived debate over Florida’s lenient gun laws. Nearly one million people — or one in 15 adults — have state issued concealed weapon permits, including Zimmerman.
While some defenders believe Zimmerman’s claim of being attacked by Martin, others believe he was the aggressor.
In publically released 911 recordings, an emergency dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow Martin or engage the Miami teenager. Recordings capture cries for help that some voice analysts suggest came from Martin.
Though unclear how the altercation began, some media reports suggest that Martin was talking with his girlfriend on the phone shortly before his death and told her he was worried because a stranger was following him.
In a statement to police, Zimmerman said he pulled the trigger while in fear for his life as Martin had hit his nose and was bashing his head into the ground.
“Justice needs to be done on this case, and we can start with booking Zimmerman into jail,” said retired Broward County, Florida, homicide prosecutor Ken Padowitz. “Probable cause for an arrest is a much lower standard then proof beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt, the standard at trial to be convicted of a crime.”