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Prosecutor: No grand jury for Trayvon case

Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo by Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)
Dream Defenders block the entrance to Sanford Police Department, Monday, April 9, 2012, in protest against the handling of the Trayvon Martin case by police.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (MCT) — The special prosecutor assigned to investigate the Trayvon Martin case will not be using a grand jury to determine whether to arrest George Zimmerman in the shooting death of the Miami Gardens teen, her office confirmed Monday.

The former prosecutor on the case, Seminole County State Attorney Norm Wolfinger, had decided to use a grand jury, and had scheduled the panel to meet on Tuesday.

Duval County State Attorney Angela Corey, the special prosecutor, told McClatchy Newspapers in an interview last month that she did not expect to need a grand jury, and would probably decide herself whether to charge Zimmerman.

“I always lean towards moving forward without needing the grand jury in a case like this,” Corey said at the time. “I foresee us being able to make a decision, and move on it on our own.”

On Monday, her office confirmed that no grand jury would be used in the racially charged case.

In Florida, the decision on whether to indict someone in capital cases must be made by a grand jury. In all lesser cases, the decision to file charges is routinely made by prosecutors. But in highly controversial or difficult cases, prosecutors often defer to a grand jury, leaving the politically fraught decision to a panel of citizens.

Corey’s office pointed out that the decision not to take the case to a grand jury should not be taken as an indication of whether or not she will charge Zimmerman at all.

“The decision should not be considered a factor in the final determination of the case,” her office said in a release.

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s parents, issued a statement after Corey’s decision Monday.

“We are not surprised by this announcement and, in fact, are hopeful that a decision will be reached very soon to arrest George Zimmerman and give Trayvon Martin’s family the simple justice they have been seeking all along,” Crump said.

Martin, 17, who was black, was shot and killed by Zimmerman, who is white, on Feb. 26 while walking through a Sanford neighborhood where he was visiting. Sanford police opted not to arrest Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense.

After public outcry, Florida Gov. Rick Scott assigned Corey, the state attorney for the Jacksonville area, to take over the case on March 22.

Protesters upset about the city’s handling of the case surrounded the Sanford Police Department on Monday, forcing the offices to close to the public.

The city manager later announced the city would hold a town hall meeting to begin the “healing” on Thursday.

In Miami, protesters gathered outside the offices of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to ask him to withdraw his support of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

Meanwhile, BusinessInsider.com reported Monday night that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, had launched his own website and defense fund. The website, www.therealgeorgezimmerman.com, takes contributions via PayPal to cover Zimmerman’s living and legal expenses.

And The Gainesville Sun reported Monday that police were investigating the beating of a 27-year-old man who was walking home from a bar Saturday night by five to eight men who shouted “Trayvon” as they jumped him.

“We do believe that the crime was racially motivated,” the Sun quoted Gainesville police spokeswoman Cpl. Angelina Valuri as saying.

The attackers were black while the victim was white, Valuri told the Sun.

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(Miami Herald staff writer Frances Robles contributed to this report from Sanford, Fla.)

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