Trayvon Martin's parents expressed thanks and relief in D.C. Wednesday when they learned that the man accused of shooting and killing their son will face a second-degree murder charge.
Trayvon’s parents were at the Washington Convention Center to address the National Action Network convention, a group founded by MSNBC talk show host the Rev. Al Sharpton that has made justice for Trayvon a national and International issue, when they heard reports Wednesday afternoon that George Zimmerman would be charged. They watched with Sharpton and others as special prosecutor and Florida State Attorney Angela Corey announced the second-degree murder charge in a televised press conference about 6 p.m.
“We simply wanted an arrest,” said Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother. “We wanted nothing more, nothing less. We just wanted an arrest and we got it, and I say thank you. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus. Secondly, 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.”
Zimmerman, whose lawyers said yesterday they were no longer representing him because he had rebuffed their legal advice and they had lost contact with him, is in custody, Corey said.
"The heart of the prosecution's case is what we all now know as the Stand Your Ground law and whether or not deadly force was justified," Montgomery County defense attorney and former prosecutor Rene Sandler told News4. "What was in George Zimmerman's mind? What did he believe he was facing? Was it reasonable? That is the crux of the case."
Second-degree murder is the highest possible charge Zimmerman can face in this case without being indicted by a grand jury. He is being held on no bond.
Zimmerman's new attorney, Mark O'Mara, said his client will plead not guilty, the Associated Press reported. He asked that people not jump to conclusions about his client's guilt, saying he's "hoping that the community will calm down" now that charges have been filed and the case is moving forward.
“The first time we marched, I looked to the sky and I just told myself, ‘When I walk, I will walk by faith,'” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon's father. “We will continue to walk by faith. We will continue to hold hands on this journey – white, black, Hispanic, Latino. We will continue to walk. We will march and march and march and march until the right thing is done.”
On Feb. 26, 17-year-old Trayvon – wearing a hoodie and carrying Skittles and iced tea – was shot by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain for a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, and after questioning by Sanford police, a prosecutor decided not to charge Zimmerman, prompting weeks of protests and hoodie marches seeking justice for Trayvon.
“It's been a nightmare for 44 days,” Fulton said. “Through God's grace I am standing here before you and able to speak, because if it was up to me, I'd be in my room crying right now.”
Those attending the National Action Network conference Wednesday said they welcomed the decision to charge Zimmerman.
“Justice must prevail, and if they charge him, I have more trust in this country because that's what justice is all about,” said the Rev. Dr. James Coleman, of All Nations Baptist Church.
“I think justice should be served,” criminal justice student Bridgette Anderson said. “He should take responsibility and accountability for what he has done.”
Actor and comedian Bill Cosby was in Washington for an interview with NBC's David Gregory for Meet the Press's Press Pass and weighed in on the case, downplaying the race factor and saying instead, "It's about the gun."
"I knew him as a respectful young man," said retired minister George Hall, who watched Zimmerman and his siblings grow up in Manassas, Va. "One who was honest, one who was thoughtful. He cared about others. He cared about us."
Zimmerman will appear in court in Seminole County at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
Share your thoughts on the case by commenting below or on NBC Washington's Facebook page.