SANFORD, Fla. George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch volunteer arrested on murder charges in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, made his first court appearance Thursday afternoon. Zimmerman, 28, was charged by a special prosecutor Wednesday evening with second-degree murder. He stood silently during the brief proceeding, dressed in a gray jumpsuit, next to a new lawyer, Mark M. O’Mara. Zimmerman said only “Yes, sir” to the judge’s questions about the charges and about his lawyer.
An arraignment date was set for May 29. O’Mara said in a brief interview Wednesday night that his client would plead not guilty. O’Mara said he would request a bond hearing from the county trial judge who was appointed to handle the case.
The charges, which Martin’s family praised but called overdue, opened a new chapter in a case that set off a searing national discussion of racial profiling, Florida’s expansive self-defense law and the fairness of the criminal justice system.
The charges against Zimmerman were announced by Angela B. Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, who was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case after the local state attorney stepped aside in the wake of criticism that the case had been moving too slowly. Corey took pains to praise the local law enforcement officials at a news conference in Jacksonville, and pledged to pursue justice for the family of Martin, who was killed in a gated community here six weeks ago.
O’Mara requested and Corey agreed during the hearing to keep private information about witnesses and other information related to the case.