ORLANDO, Florida — A grand jury will not look into the Trayvon Martin death, a special prosecutor said Monday, eliminating the possibility of a first-degree murder charge and leaving the decision of whether to charge the teen's shooter in her hands alone.
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. Corey could still decide to charge him with a serious felony such as manslaughter, which can carry a lengthy prison sentence.
The case has led to protests across the U.S. and spurred a debate about race and the laws of self-defense. Martin was black; Zimmerman's father is white and his mother is Hispanic.
Zimmerman has claimed self-defense in the Feb. 26 confrontation and shooting. 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.
A grand jury had been set to meet Tuesday. Corey 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.
Corey's decision means she doesn't have to rely on potentially unpredictable jurors, said David Hill, an Orlando criminal defense attorney.
"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," 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."
Corey took over the case last month after the prosecutor who normally handles cases out of the city 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 Corey's office.
Prosecutors sometimes use grand juries to avoid the political fallout from controversial cases. But Corey was elected by voters more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, so political problems are less of an issue, Hill said.
An attorney for Martin'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.
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