Prayer is the first thing Florida Special Prosecutor Angela Corey and her team did when they met with the parents of Trayvon Martin some three weeks ago, she said at a press conference last night announcing that George Zimmerman had been arrested on second-degree murder charges in Martin’s death.
Wearing a large gold cross around her neck, Corey said, “After meeting with Trayvon’s parents that first Monday night after we got appointed in this case … the first thing we did was pray with them. We opened our meeting in prayer.”
Corey did not make any promises to Martin’s parents, she said. “In fact, we specifically talked about if criminal charges do not come out of this, what can we help you do to make sure your son’s death is not in vain? And they were very kind and very receptive to that,” said Corey.
She thanked “all of those people across this country who have sent positive energy and prayers our way” and asked them to “continue to pray” for Trayvon’s family and for her team. “Remember, it is Trayvon’s family that are our constitutional victims and have the right to know the critical stages of these proceedings,” said Corey.
At a separate press conference, Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, thanked God and Jesus for Zimmerman’s arrest. “We wanted nothing more, nothing less,” she said. Fulton also expressed gratitude toward supporters, saying, “I just want to speak from my heart to your heart because a heart has no color. It’s not black; it’s not white. It’s red, and I want to say thank you from my heart to your heart.”
Likewise, Corey addressed the racial tensions inherent in this case, saying, “Those of us in law enforcement are committed to justice for every race, every gender, every person of any persuasion whatsoever.”
Speaking after Fulton, Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, said, “We [have] a long way to go and we have faith. The first time we marched, I looked to the sky and I just told myself, ‘When I walk, I will walk by faith.’ We will continue to walk by faith. We will continue to hold hands on this journey: White, Black, Hispanic, Latino.”
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, did not invoke faith at his press conference, but said his client is “troubled by everything that has happened.” It is perhaps ironic that he also said “it must be frightening” for Zimmerman to not be able to go into a 7-11 because of “hatred” directed against him given the fact that Martin was reportedly returning from a 7-11 when Zimmerman shot him.
O’Mara said his client will plead not-guilty and he will ask for bond to be set at a level Zimmerman’s family can afford. They are not people of means, O’Mara said. He has advised his client to “stay calm” going forward.
Corey said her office does not “prosecute by public pressure or by petition,” but “based on the facts of any given case, as well as the laws of the state of Florida.” A CBS News article describes her as a tough, tenacious litigator who ran for and won her boss’ job as state’s attorney after he fired her.
“The Supreme Court has defined our role on numerous occasions as prosecutors that we are not only ministers of justice, we are seekers of the truth, and we stay true to that mission,” she said at the press conference.
She also said her office is “equally committed to justice” for both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. “We will scrupulously adhere to our ethical obligations and to the rules of evidence in presenting this case,” said Corey.
The decision to charge Zimmerman was made last week and the Sanford Police Department investigation was ongoing when Florida governor Rick Scott assigned her to take over the case, she said. If convicted, the maximum sentence Zimmerman could receive is life in prison, but Corey said she will not decide what penalty to seek until after the case has been tried.
O’Mara said Zimmerman is “concerned about getting a fair trial” in central Florida given how “high” emotions are running against him. Asked why he took the case after Zimmerman dropped his previous attorneys, O’Mara said, “It’s what I do. … Mr. Zimmerman needs a very good and focused defense, so we’re going to build him one.” Florida’s “stand your ground” law will be a facet of Zimmerman’s defense, O’Mara said, but he conceded there are “troublesome portions” to it. “We are now going to have discussions and conversations about that as a state. Right now it’s the law of Florida,” he said.
In an interview this morning with the Today show, Fulton said she believes her son’s death was an accident. “I believe that it just got out of control, and [Zimmerman] couldn’t turn the clock back,” she said. How her use of the word “accident” will impact legal proceedings and public opinion now that Zimmerman has been charged with murder is anybody’s guess.
Update: Sybrina Fulton released a statement this afternoon through her attorney stating that her “accident” comment was “mischaracterized” by the media. “When I referenced the word ‘accident’ today with regard to Trayvon’s death, in NO way did I mean the shooting was an accident. We believe that George Zimmerman stalked my son and murdered him in cold blood. The ‘accident’ I was referring to was the fact that George Zimmerman and my son ever crossed paths.”
Will public emotion settle down now that Zimmerman has been arrested?