George Zimmerman made his first courtroom appearance since he was charged with the fatal shooting more than six weeks ago of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, as a judge agreed to seal some records in the highly-charged case.
Zimmerman, his head shaved and wearing a close-clipped goatee, was dressed in a dark gray prison-issued jumpsuit and looked intently at the judge throughout the hearing, which marked the beginning of a judicial process to determine whether the killing of Martin constitutes murder.
Zimmerman was charged on Wednesday with second-degree murder.
In an appearance that lasted less than five minutes, Zimmerman twice said “Yes sir” in addressing the judge in a courtroom at Florida’s John E. Polk Correctional Facility.
A Florida prosecutor filed a murder charge on Wednesday against the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed unarmed, black teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that has captivated the United States and prompted civil rights demonstrations.
George Zimmerman, 28, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Martin, according to Angela Corey, the special prosecutor appointed by Florida’s governor to investigate the racially charged case.
Corey said at a news conference on Wednesday that Zimmerman turned himself in to authorities, who then arrested him. He remains in police custody.
US Attorney General pledges thorough probe of Trayvon Martin shooting
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday promised a “thorough and independent” investigation by the Justice Department into the death of the black youth Trayvon Martin who was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida.
Speaking at length for the first time about the incident, which has been in the national news for weeks, the chief U.S. law enforcement official acknowledged concerns among the black community about Martin’s death.
"If we find evidence of a potential federal criminal civil rights crime, we will take appropriate action," Holder said in remarks to the National Action Network, which was founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, who has championed the cause of Martin, who was black.
Holder said the FBI was assisting local law enforcement officials who are weighing whether to bring charges against the shooter, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member who is a white Hispanic.
Lawyers withdraw after George Zimmerman allegedly goes rogue
The lawyers representing George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin but has not been arrested, on Tuesday said they have withdrawn from the case after losing contact with Zimmerman.
Attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said they were concerned that Zimmerman had telephoned the special prosecutor probing the case directly, set up a legal defense fund website and may have spoken with Fox Television commentator Sean Hannity, all without their knowledge.
"We have lost contact with him," attorney Craig Sonner said at a press conference outside the Seminole County Courthouse.
No grand jury investigation in Trayvon Martin shooting
The special prosecutor in the investigation of the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has ruled out using a grand jury to investigate the case, meaning her office alone will decide whether to charge shooter George Zimmerman.
The case has captured national attention, largely because of race. Martin was black and Zimmerman, who has not been charged, is white and Hispanic. The state attorney who was previously investigating the shooting, Norm Wolfinger, had said the case would go to a grand jury on April 10, but Wolfinger removed himself from the case on March 22 and was replaced by Angela Corey.
"State Attorney Angela Corey has decided not to use a grand jury in the Trayvon Martin shooting death investigation," her office said in a statement.
NBC News’ decision to air an edited call from George Zimmerman to police in the moments before he shot Trayvon Martin was “a mistake and not a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call,” according to the president of the network’s news division.
The edit in question, which aired on the network’s flagship “Today” morning show last week, made it appear that Zimmerman told police that Martin was black without being prompted, when, in fact, the full tape reveals that the neighborhood watch captain only did so when responding to a question posed by a dispatcher.
Under growing public pressure to explain the incident, NBC News President Steve Capus provided Reuters with the fullest explanation to date of how the edited call made it on air and what the network is doing to prevent such a consequential error from happening again.
If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.
Reverend Al Sharpton speaks during a public rally to honor the memory of Trayvon Martin, at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford, Florida March 22, 2012. [REUTERS/Octavian Cantilli]
Latest update: Fla. governor creates task force to probe teen’s killing
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin has drawn national attention to Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which says there’s no duty to retreat — anywhere — before using force in self-defense. But Florida is not alone.
In many states, a legal doctrine called the “castle doctrine” allows the use force in self-defense, without retreating, if a person is at home. It’s derived from the old adage that “a person’s home is his castle.” But critics worry about the unintended consequences of “castle” laws, and especially Florida’s “stand your ground” law. [REUTERS graphic]
Read more: 'Stand Your Ground' laws, state by state