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Arrest, Charges Push Trayvon Martin Case Forward


The state of Florida will review its controversial Stand Your Ground law made infamous after it was invoked in a shooting death of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin. Jennifer Carroll, who we heard from earlier in the program, is that state's lieutenant governor. And she'll chair the task force conducting the review. Carroll is also the state's highest-ranking African-American official, and she told us that she feels a profound sense of responsibility in handling this issue.

LT. GOV. JENNIFER CARROLL: Because when you see the heightened awareness and the race coming into play, which naturally everybody's going to be looking out, well, it was a black and a white thing, but it's a human and a public safety thing.

RAZ: Meanwhile, in Seminole County, Florida, George Zimmerman, the man who shot Trayvon Martin, is in jail awaiting a bond hearing next week. He's been charged to a second-degree murder.

NPR's Joel Rose reports from Sanford, Florida, as both the prosecution and defense teams begin to build their cases.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: On Wednesday, Trayvon Martin's parents got the news they had waited a month and a half to hear.

ANGELA COREY: Today, we filed an information charging George Zimmerman with murder in the second degree.

ROSE: Special prosecutor Angela Corey announced the charges at a news conference in Jacksonville.

COREY: We did not come to this decision lightly. We prosecute based on the facts of any given case as well as the laws of the state of Florida.

ROSE: George Zimmerman appeared in court for the first time on Thursday, flanked by a new attorney after his original lawyers quit earlier in the week. His new lawyer, Mark O'Mara, says Zimmerman will plead not guilty. But beyond that, O'Mara, who is a former TV analyst as well as a seasoned criminal lawyer, told reporters he will not try the case in the media.

MARK O'MARA: There's a lot of high emotions, maybe some of them have been salved by the fact that there have been an arrest. But let's just - let the process work.

ROSE: Zimmerman maintains that he shot Martin in self-defense. Neither O'Mara nor Corey would talk about the evidence in the case. For that, we may have to wait for the process of discovery, which could begin in the next few weeks. Trayvon Martin's father, Tracy, greeted Zimmerman's arrest with muted relief in this interview on CBS.

TRACY MARTIN: I felt a little bit at ease knowing that he had been apprehended, that he had turned himself in, knowing that he wouldn't be able to take another 17-year-old's life.

ROSE: Local authorities in Sanford drew heavy criticism for how they originally investigated the shooting, especially for their decision not to arrest George Zimmerman sooner. And many in Goldsboro, a historically African-American neighborhood in Sanford, still don't trust the justice system even after Zimmerman's arrest. That includes Terry Hawkins(ph) who's wearing a red T-shirt with a picture of Trayvon Martin.

TERRY HAWKINS: It's only beginning. You know, they've done this before. They've arrested people just to shut your mouth and then to let it blow over for six months, and then they turn right around and find some loophole.

ROSE: But other Goldsboro residents say they're relieved to see Zimmerman behind bars at all. Jackie Quinn(ph) says she's glad that Martin's parents are getting what they've said they wanted all along.

JACKIE QUINN: They wanted justice so that he can be brought to court and be judge by a jury of his peers. That's what they asked for, and I'm so relieved that they are getting that. So now we just have to wait and see how the justice system plays out.

ROSE: That could take months or years. Zimmerman could be back in court by the end of next week, when his lawyers try to get him freed on bond. Joel Rose, NPR News, Sanford, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.