By Ian Johnston, msnbc.com
Updated at 11:14 a.m. ET:Trayvon Martin’s mother said Thursday that she believes her son’s fatal shooting by George Zimmerman was an accident and that he should apologize if he’s truly remorseful.
“I believe it was an accident, I believe that it just got out of control and he couldn’t turn the clock back,” Sybrina Fulton told TODAY.
“I would ask him, ‘Did he know that that was a minor, that that was a teenager and that he did not have a weapon?’” she added.
Special Prosecutor Angela Corey announced Wednesday at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla., that Zimmerman would be charged with second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The announcement came 44 days after Martin was killed.
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“We did not come to this decision lightly,” said Corey, who was appointed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to re-examine the case after public outcry over the initial decision not to arrest Zimmerman. “We do not prosecute by public pressure or by petition.”
Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother Hispanic, shot and killed the 17-year-old Martin, who was black, in the town of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. The shooting sparked a nationwide debate about race, crime and the right to self-defense.
Zimmerman’s new attorney, Mark O’Mara, who took the case late Wednesday after Zimmerman’s previous attorneys withdrew, said his client would plead not guilty and would seek to be released on bond. Zimmerman, 28, was scheduled for an initial hearing Thursday at 1:30 p.m. ET, after spending the night in jail.
“He’s very stressed, very tired,’’ O’Mara told TODAY on Thursday. “It’s been a difficult several weeks for him. He wants to be out to help with his defense, but he’s doing OK.’’
O’Mara added: “He is concerned about getting a fair trial and a fair presentation. He is a client who has a lot of hatred focused on him. I’m hoping the hatred settles down … he has the right to his own safety and the case being tried before a judge and jury.”
O’Mara said he was surprised the prosecutor brought a second degree-murder charge — the most serious charge possible under the circumstances — against his client.
“I was. Again I’ve only seen the evidence that has been presented through the media. But I was surprised that they charged him at that level,” he said.
Prosecutors will have to prove that the shooting was rooted in hatred or ill will and counter Zimmerman’s claims that he shot Martin to protect himself while patrolling his gated community.
Zimmerman’s first line of defense could be to invoke Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law — arguing that Zimmerman felt fear for his life and had every right to defend himself — to try to have the charge dismissed by a judge without a trial.
Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump told TODAY that evidence uncovered to date suggests Zimmerman pursued Martin. “We have always believed that for whatever reason he confronted Trayvon Martin when he had been told not to, and for those reasons Trayvon was killed when he was simply trying to get home to watch the basketball game.’’
Martin’s mother suggested Zimmerman should apologize if he is remorseful.
“One of the things that I still believe in: A person should apologize when they really — when they are actually remorseful for what they’ve done,” Fulton said.
Zimmerman to plead not guilty to second-degree murder
And she expressed sympathy for Zimmerman’s family, even as she continued to mourn the loss of her son.
“I understand his family is hurting, but think about our family that lost our teenage son. I mean, it’s just very difficult to live with day in and day out,” Fulton said. “I’m sure his parents can pick up the phone and call him, but we can’t pick up the phone and call Trayvon anymore.”
Fulton: The Zimmermans are hurting, but we lost our son