George Zimmerman will plead not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in the shooting death of unarmed Miami teen Trayvon Martin, his lawyer said.
He was jailed without bond early Thursday and was to make his first court appearance at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., for a bond hearing at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
The neighborhood-watch coordinator who worked at a fraud-detection company arrived at the Seminole County jail under the glare of TV lights Wednesday night after being charged by special prosecutor Angela Corey slightly more than 2 hours earlier.
"We did not come to this decision lightly," Corey told a news conference broadcast live by several cable news networks. "We do not prosecute by pressure or petition."
"It is the search for justice for Trayvon Martin that has brought us to this moment," she said.
Corey wouldn't discuss the evidence that led to the murder charge, but she told The Miami Herald last month her investigators would examine a wide range of evidence, including the gun Zimmerman used and the clothes he wore the night of the shooting.
The emergency 911 tapes -- in which someone is heard screaming for help before the fatal gunshot -- would be "critical," she said then.
Under Florida law, second-degree murder refers to a killing carried out without premeditation but with "a depraved mind" showing no regard for human life.
If convicted, Zimmerman -- who turned himself in to authorities earlier in the day -- faces a maximum life sentence.
Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's new attorney, said at a news conference Wednesday Zimmerman would plead not guilty and intended to invoke Florida's powerful "Stand Your Ground" law, which lets a person claim self-defense and immunity to criminal charges for using deadly force without retreating first in the face of danger or a reasonable belief of a threat.
The law gives the benefit of the doubt to a person claiming self-defense, regardless of whether the killing takes place on a street, in a car or in a bar -- not just in one's home, the standard cited in more restrictive laws.
O'Mara said Zimmerman was "troubled by everything that has happened."
The lawyer urged the public to let the judicial process run its course.
Zimmerman's former lawyers said Tuesday they withdrew from the case after losing contact with him and after he took actions without consulting them.
Martin was shot and killed by Zimmerman, 28, in a gated community in Sanford Feb. 26, as the 17-year-old was walking to the home of his father's girlfriend from a convenience store.
Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, told police he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense.
The decision by local authorities not to bring charges against Zimmerman set off a national outcry and led to a decision by Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott to assign Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to take over the case March 22.
The U.S. Justice Department opened a separate investigation to determine if federal civil-rights charges were warranted in the shooting.
Asked about the racial overtones of the case, Corey said Wednesday law enforcement officials were committed to justice for all, regardless of race, sex or background.
"We only know one category as prosecutors, and that's a 'V,'" she said during the news conference. "It's not a 'B,' it's not a 'W,' it's not an 'H.' It's 'V,' for victim. That's who we work tirelessly for. And that's all we know, is justice for our victims."
But the Rev. Al Sharpton, one of the civil rights activists supporting Martin's parents, credited protests and other public shows of support with convincing Scott to appoint the special prosecutor to take on the case.
"Had there not been pressure, there would not have been a second look," he said at an evening news conference in Washington, D.C. "That look has led to where we are tonight."
Sharpton praised Scott and Corey, but cautioned, "We do not want anybody high-fiving tonight. There's no victory here."
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