JACKSONVILLE, FL - APRIL 11: State Attorney Angela Corey holds a news conference to announce second degree murder charges to be brought against defendant George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting April 11, 2012 in Jacksonville,Florida. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin within a gated community in Sanford, Florida February 26, but was not charged with any crime at the time due to Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' self-defense law. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)2012 Getty Images
Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced Wednesday that George Zimmerman has been charged in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Speaking at a press conference at the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville, Corey said that Zimmerman will face second-degree murder charges. If convicted the Neighborhood Watch volunteer could face up to life in prison.
"The team here with me has worked tirelessly looking for answers in Trayvon Martin's death," Corey said, according to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel. "There is a reason cases are tried in a court of law."
Corey also confirmed that a warrant was issued for Zimmerman's arrest and that he is currently in custody. However she declined to say what evidence her office has to counter Zimmerman's self-defense claim and also declined to reveal Zimmerman's location.
Zimmerman's new defense attorney Mark O'Mara said afterwards that Zimmerman will plead not guilty.
O'Mara asked that people not jump to conclusions about his client's guilt. He says he's "hoping that the community will calm down" now that charges have been filed and the case is moving forward.
The Washington Post first reported that Corey would bring charges.
Corey announced earlier this week that she was not convening a grand jury in the case, meaning the decision on whether to charge Zimmerman was hers alone.
Without a grand jury indictment, Corey could not pursue a first-degree murder charge. She could have gone forward with second-degree murder or manslaughter charges.
The unarmed Martin, an African-American, was shot and killed in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., by neighborhood watchman Zimmerman, who claims he was acting in self-defense.
Zimmerman's lack of arrest in the case has sparked nationwide protests by civil rights activists who claim race has been a factor in the investigation.
The decision to charge Zimmerman comes a day after his lawyers said they could no longer represent him because their client had not returned their calls in days.
The lawyers, Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner, also said their former client had fled the state of Florida.
Martin's family has raised concerns that Zimmerman could be a flight risk, but Sonner told NBC's "Today" show Wednesday that he believed Zimmerman would turn himself in if charged.
"I don't believe he's a flight risk," Sonner said. "I can't disclose where he is ... but he's in contact (with authorities). If it becomes necessary to turn himself in, I believe he will do it. I don't believe he's going to flee the country."
Martin's parents expressed relief Wednesday over a special prosecutor's decision to charge the man responsible for the 17-year-old's death. Martin's mother said if she could speak directly to George Zimmerman, she would allow him a chance to say he is sorry for what happened.
"I would probably give him an opportunity to apologize," Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, told The Associated Press in an interview. "I would probably ask him if there were another way that he could have settled the confrontation that he had with Trayvon, other than the way it ended, with Trayvon being shot."
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott selected Corey to replace Norm Wolfinger as the lead prosecutor in the case on March 22, the same day Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee temporarily stepped down amid sharp criticism of his department's handling of the case.
Lawyers for Martin's family have accused Wolfinger of disregarding a police recommendation that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter. Wolfinger has vociferously denied the allegations.