* George Zimmerman charged with second-degree murder 45 days
* Prosecutor says Zimmerman turned himself in, is under
By Amy Wimmer Schwarb and Tom Brown
JACKSONVILLE/SANFORD, Fla., April 11 A special
prosecutor in Florida charged neighborhood watch volunteer
George Zimmerman with second-degree murder on Wednesday in the
shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin - a move
that protesters had been demanding for weeks in the racially
Zimmerman was under arrest at an undisclosed location in
Florida, officials said.
Special prosecutor Angela Corey's decision came 45 days
after the fatal shooting in a quiet gated community in the
central Florida town of Sanford.
Police had declined to arrest Zimmerman, who is white and
Hispanic, based on his account of self-defense, setting off
civil rights demonstrations around the country.
"I can tell you we did not come to this decision lightly,"
Corey told a news conference in Jacksonville.
"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 as the laws of the state of Florida."
The decision on whether to charge Zimmerman, for the death
of Martin, 17, had rested with Corey since she was appointed by
Florida's governor on March 22.
The firestorm of protests forced Sanford's police chief to
step aside and the regularly assigned prosecutor to remove
himself from the case on March 22, leading to Corey's
By seeking second-degree murder rather than a lesser charge,
such as manslaughter, Corey reaffirmed her reputation as a
prosecutor who will seek to bring the most serious charge
possible. If convicted, Zimmerman could face a prison sentence
of up to 25 years to life.
Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense during a
confrontation with the unarmed Martin on Feb. 26.
As the basis for their refusal to arrest Zimmerman, police
cited Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows people to
use deadly force when they believe they are in danger of being
killed or suffering great bodily harm.
The shooting received scant media attention at first, but
Martin's parents and lawyers kept making public calls for
Zimmerman's arrest. That eventually led to a media frenzy, and
outraged online messages by celebrities about the case. Even
President Barack Obama commented on the case, saying: "If I had
a son, he would look like Trayvon."
The disputed facts surrounding the shooting have been picked
apart endlessly by television commentators while dominating the
headlines and reigniting a discussion about guns, self-defense
laws and what it means to be black in America.
Zimmerman's relatives and supporters have insisted he is not
racist and has been unfairly vilified. They said he feared for
his life during his altercation with Martin and was justified in
using deadly force.
The case took an unexpected turn on Tuesday when the two
lawyers representing Zimmerman, Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig,
dropped him as a client because they said they had lost contact
with him. They asserted, however, that he had left Florida.