Martin's parents: 'We wanted an arrest'

Posted: April 12, 2012

FOR NEARLY a month, tens of thousands have marched and rallied, from the hard concrete of Philly's LOVE Park to a police station in Sanford, Fla. - wearing hoodies, carrying Skittles and posters, and asking for two things:

They wanted justice for the slain 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

And they wanted answers for why he was gunned down by a self-styled neighborhood-watch captain, George Zimmerman.

The journey toward justice took a giant first step Wednesday, when Florida's special prosecutor, Angela Corey, announced that Zimmerman, 28, was charged with second-degree murder and taken into police custody.

But a nation's answers will have to wait.

Prosecutors wouldn't even say where Zimmerman is being held, let alone divulge new details about what happened on the damp night of Feb. 26, when Zimmerman encountered and shot Martin as he walked through a gated community after returning from a convenience store.

"So much information got released in this case that shouldn't have been released," said Corey, who announced the charges but revealed little else in a news conference Wednesday night.

Martin's parents and supporters expressed relief and gratitude to Corey - who was appointed after local cops and prosecutors initially accepted Zimmerman's alibi of self-defense and declined to bring charges.

But they agreed that the case - which has exposed ongoing fault lines and anxieties over race in America - still has quite a long way to go before any sense of closure.

"We are just now getting to first base," said Benjamin Crump, one of the attorneys for Trayvon's family and part of the aggressive campaign that led the case to be re-examined, including as a separate civil-rights probe by the U.S. Justice Department.

Despite the lack of any new details, legal analysts were quick to speculate that the severity of the charge - the maximum penalty is life in prison without the possibility of parole - means that Corey developed evidence that undercuts Zimmerman's reported claim that the 17-year-old high school football player was the aggressor.

"This is a very, very major charge," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said after last night's news conference. "He [Zimmerman] can only be convicted if he showed 'a depraved attitude.' "

Some answers may come after Zimmerman - who apparently was taken to jail in Sanford several hours after the announcement - seeks a bail hearing, which could come as early as Thursday. Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara, said that his client would seek to be released from custody.

O'Mara told CNN that he was concerned that his client could not receive a fair trial after weeks of national publicity over the case.

"There's obviously been a lot of information flowing," he said. "I think a lot of it has been premature and inappropriate."

But without that widespread publicity, it's clear that Zimmerman would still be walking the sidewalks of Sanford as a free man.

Police in the central Florida town initially said last month that their hands were tied by the state's controversial "stand your ground" self-defense law. Momentum shifted only with news coverage, the release of Zimmerman's 9-1-1 calls and then the public rallies.

"Had there not been pressure, there would not have been a second look," said the civil-rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton.

Sharpton and others suggested that Zimmerman's arrest was nearly the end of the beginning, that there will be more pressure to roll back gun-lobby-supported self-defense laws on the books in Florida and other states.

But Wednesday night, among the legion of Martin's supporters, there was a palpable sigh of relief that Zimmerman is behind bars.

"We simply wanted an arrest," said Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton.

"We wanted nothing more and nothing less, and we got it. And I say, thank you. Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Jesus!"


Contact Will Bunch at 215-854-2957 or bunchw@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Will_Bunch. Read his blog, Attytood.com.

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