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Zimmerman case explained

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 19, 2013 at 03:04 AM
SANFORD -

George Zimmerman has been arrested and is being charged with second-degree murder for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26.

Special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charge at a news conference Wednesday, seven weeks after the homicide took place.

Trayvon Martin's parents, civil rights leaders and other people have portrayed the case as racially charged, saying Zimmerman would have been arrested immediately had he been black and the victim white. Martin was black.

Some explanations, key quotes, and questions and answers in the case:

The charges: Second-degree murder means a killing that was not premeditated but resulted instead from an "imminently dangerous act" that showed a "depraved" lack of regard for human life.

The prosecutor's challenge: Under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which gives people wide latitude to use deadly force rather than retreat during a fight, Corey must first prove to a judge that Zimmerman wasn't defending himself when he killed Trayvon Martin. Only then can she take the case to a jury, in front of which she will face a high legal burden to prove that the killing wasn't in self-defense.

Q: Why did it take so long for Zimmerman to be arrested?

A: Special prosecutor Angela Corey says that probable cause had to be determined before authorities could arrest Zimmerman. She said there was only a slight delay, when she took it over from the previous prosecutor, who recused himself from the case.

Zimmerman told police he acted in self-defense after Martin pursued and attacked him. Florida is among 21 states with "stand your ground" laws, which allow police on the scene to decide whether they believe the self-defense claim.

In many cases, the officers make an arrest and leave it to the courts to work out whether the deadly force is justified. In this case, however, police have said they are confident they did the right thing by not charging Zimmerman.

Q: On what evidence is the prosecutor basing the charge of second-degree murder?

A: Corey did not disclose how she arrived at the charge, saying that was information to be revealed in court.

Q: What's next:

A: Zimmerman will appear in court within 24 hours, Corey said.

Q: Does Zimmerman have legal counsel?

A: Yes, Mark O'Mara of Orlando, who became Zimmerman's new attorney after his former lawyers announced Tuesday that they were dropping the case. They said they couldn't keep representing Zimmerman because he stopped communicating with them.

Q: How will Zimmerman plead?

A: Not guilty, O'Mara says.

Q: What is George Zimmerman's side of the story?

A: On his website, therealgeorgezimmerman.com, Zimmerman has described the shooting as "a life altering event" but he says he can't go into details about what happened.

"As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life," he said on the site.

Zimmerman told police he spotted Martin as he was driving through his neighborhood and called 911 to report a suspicious person.

He said the teen had his hand in his waistband and was walking around looking at homes.

There had been several break-ins in the community in the past year, including one in which burglars took a TV and laptops.

A dispatcher told Zimmerman he didn't need to follow Martin after Zimmerman got out of his truck and started pursuing the teen.

Zimmerman told police he lost sight of the teenager and was walking back to his vehicle when he was attacked. He and Martin fought, according to witnesses. Zimmerman said Martin punched him in the nose and slammed his head against the ground.

At some point, Zimmerman pulled a gun and shot Martin.

Police said Zimmerman was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head. He told police he had yelled out for help before he shot Martin.

Q: What is the Martin family's side of the story?

A: Much of Martin's side of the story comes from a cellphone conversation he had with his girlfriend moments before the shooting. She was interviewed by the family's attorney, Benjamin Crump, and he released much of what she said to the media. She has not been identified.

In the interview, she said Trayvon Martin told her that he was being followed.

"She says: 'Run.' He says, 'I'm not going to run, I'm just going to walk fast,' " Crump said, quoting the girl.

The girl later heard Martin say, "Why are you following me?" Another man asked, "What are you doing around here?" Crump said.

After Martin encountered Zimmerman, the girl thinks she heard a scuffle "because his voice changes like something interrupted his speech," Crump said. The phone call ended before the girl heard any gunshots.

Martin's parents said their son made the pleas for help that witnesses heard.

Q: What is George Zimmerman's racial and ethnic background:

A: Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is Hispanic of Peruvian descent.

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