ORLANDO, Fla. — A grand jury will not look into the Trayvon Martin case, a special prosecutor said Monday, leaving the decision of whether to charge the teen’s shooter in her hands alone and eliminating the possibility of a first-degree murder charge in a racially charged case that has garnered national attention.
The prosecutor, Angela Corey, said her decision had no bearing on whether she would file charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who has said he shot the unarmed black teen in self-defense. Ms. Corey could still decide to charge him with a serious felony such as manslaughter, which can carry a lengthy prison sentence if he is convicted.
A grand jury had been set to meet Tuesday in Sanford, about 20 miles northeast of Orlando.
The prosecutor has long had a reputation for not using grand juries if it wasn’t necessary. In Florida, only first-degree murder cases require the use of grand juries.
“Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she knows there isn’t enough for first-degree murder but she wants to maintain control and charge him with something else,” Mr. Hill said. “What does she need a grand jury for? She cuts out the unpredictability of the grand jury. She goes where she feels she has more evidence.”
Ms. Corey took over the case last month after the prosecutor who normally handles cases out of Sanford recused himself. That prosecutor, Norm Wolfinger, had originally called for the case to be presented before a grand jury.
“From the moment she was assigned, Ms. Corey noted she may not need a grand jury,” said a statement from her office.
Prosecutors sometimes use grand juries to avoid the political fallout from controversial cases. But Ms. Corey was elected by voters more than 100 miles away in the Jacksonville area, so political problems are less of an issue, Mr. Hill said.
Trayvon was killed Feb. 26 during a confrontation with Mr. Zimmerman in a gated community in Sanford. The unarmed black teenager had been out on the rainy night to buy snacks from a convenience store.
Mr. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, and Florida’s self-defense law gives wide leeway to use deadly force and eliminates a person’s duty to retreat in the face of danger.
Mr. Zimmerman’s attorney, Hal Uhrig, confirmed to Fox News on Monday that his client has set up a website to accept donations for the neighborhood watch volunteer’s defense, therealgeorgezimmerman.com.
An attorney for Trayvon’s parents said in a statement that he is not surprised by the decision to avoid the grand jury and hopes a decision is reached soon.
“The family has been patient throughout this process and asks that those who support them do the same during this very important investigation,” said attorney Benjamin Crump.
The case has led to protests across the nation and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Mr. Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is Hispanic.