Authorities in Florida have charged George Zimmerman, 28, with 2nd-degree murder in the shooting death of unarmed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Sanford, Fla., in late February.
The charges, announced by special prosecutor Angela Corey, at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., Wednesday evening, come six weeks after Zimmerman, a self-appointed community watch "captain" in a gated Sanford community where Trayvon was visiting his father on Feb. 26, shot the teen -- who was armed only with a cell phone, a can of iced tea and a packet of Skittles -- in what the shooter claimed was self-defense under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows victims to use deadly force against an attacker if they believe their lives are in danger.
According to the Huffington Post, Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, watched Corey's announcement on television from Washington, D.C., where they had appeared Wednesday afternoon alongside their attorney, Benjamin Crump, and the Rev. Al Sharpton at the latter's fourth-annual National Action Network convention in the nation's capital.
As Corey read the charges, the slain teen's parents held hands and watched. “Thank you, Lord,” said Benjamin Crump, the family's attorney as he patted Martin's knee.
After the charges were announced, Fulton said she was thankful for the outpouring of public support. “I just want to speak from my heart to your heart, because a heart has no color," she said. "It's not black, it’s not white, it's red, and I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart."
The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the more prominent supporters of the Martin family, said the case would not have progressed without "the nameless, faceless people, black, white, Hispanic and Asian ... who said 'take another look at this'."
"People took their time and money, and stood up and said that that could be my son, that could be my grandson, and because of that this got a second look," he said. "Even conservatives on the other side of the political spectrum said we’re going to take another look.”
But Sharpton stressed the importance of continuing to seek justice. Zimmerman, Sharpton said, "deserves a fair trial."
“We do not want anyone high-fiving tonight," Sharpton said. "There is no victory here. There are no winners here. They lost their son. This is not about gloating. This is about pursuing justice."
Read the full Huffington Post report, including commentary from legal experts about the potential hurdles faced by prosecutors and Zimmerman's defense, HERE.
Click on the links below to read the charges against Zimmerman and the transcript of Corey's remarks at the Wednesday night news conference.
Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners.
Second photo: Zimmerman's booking photo from April 11, 2012 via Getty Images.