Charges Made In Shooting Of Fla. Teen

Audie Cornish talks to Kathy Lohr about George Zimmerman, the Florida man who has admitted to killing Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Second degree murder, that's the charge a special prosecutor has decided to bring against George Zimmerman. Zimmerman killed the teenager Trayvon Martin in the city of Sanford in late February. As of tonight, Zimmerman is in custody in Florida. The special prosecutor, Angela Corey, announced the charges tonight.

ANGELA COREY: Today, we filed an information charging George Zimmerman with second degree murder. A capeus has been issued for his arrest. With the filing of that information and the issuance of a capeus, he will have a right to appear in front of a magistrate in Seminole County within 24 hours of his arrest, and thus formal prosecution will begin.

CORNISH: NPR's Kathy Lohr is following this story from Sanford. And, Kathy, tell us more about what the special prosecutor had to say.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: She basically said, obviously, that she was going forward with the second degree murder charges. She said that George Zimmerman is in custody in Florida but she would not say where because of concerns for his safety. The prosecutor said she arrived at the decision to charge Zimmerman last week. She said this had nothing to do with public pressure or, you know, people in the community being upset. That, basically, she was prosecuting based on the facts of the case.

CORNISH: Now, George Zimmerman has claimed all along that he shot Trayvon Martin in self defense and that the unarmed teenager attacked him. Police didn't initially arrest Zimmerman because of the law in Florida, the stand your ground law. Does it appear, based on this charge, that he prosecutor has rethought that?

LOHR: Well, apparently, it does. Apparently it must be that she thinks it does not apply, the stand your ground law. If George Zimmerman was the aggressor, you know, many experts think it would be hard for him to make the case using the stand your ground law. He, of course, has claimed self defense all along. So, I guess it's going to have to be up to a trial, you know, to determine that.

CORNISH: We heard the family of Trayvon Martin this evening. Can you tell us what they had to say?

LOHR: You know, it's been a long, you know, 45 days, more than six weeks for this family and for lots of members of the community. Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, has been under a lot of stress. And she didn't say very much, but what she did say, sitting very straight forward. Here she is.

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.

CORNISH: Kathy, you've been covering this story for a while now. And, of course, there's been a very passionate movement on behalf of Trayvon Martin and his family. Are these charges likely to tamp down that passion?

LOHR: You know, I think that there's still passion in the community. I think some of the unrest seems a little better tonight. I was just over at the Allen Chapel AME Church, which is where some of the rallies have taken place here. And I spoke with pastor Valerie Houston, and she said it's not really a celebration but people are relieved that there have been some charges, that the case is being taken seriously, that George Zimmerman was arrested, that there will be a legal process moving forward.

So, I think that there is a sense that this has sort of calmed some fears in the community over what might happen if charges were not filed. That said, I also spoke to a man who was walking by who was very upset, saying, you know, it should have been first degree murder charges. So, you're never going to make everyone happy. And I'm sure there are those in the community that think that Mr. Zimmerman shouldn't be charged at all.

CORNISH: NPR's Kathy Lohr in Sanford, Florida. And to recap the news, George Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman is currently in custody.

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