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George Zimmerman found not guilty of Trayvon Martin’s death

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Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank / AP

George Zimmerman, left, stands with defense counsel Mark O’Mara during closing arguments in his trial at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, in Sanford, Fla., July 12, 2013.

Updated Saturday, July 13, 2013 | 8:04 p.m.

Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges Saturday in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whose killing unleashed furious debate across the U.S. over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice.

Zimmerman, 29, blinked and barely smiled when the verdict was announced. He could have been convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter. But the jury of six women, all but one of them white, reached a verdict of not guilty after deliberating well into the night Saturday.

Martin's mother and father were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read; supporters of his family who had gathered outside yelled "No! No!" upon learning of the not guilty verdict.

The jurors considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the rainy night the 17-year-old was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying.

Defense attorneys said the case was classic self-defense, claiming Martin knocked Zimmerman down and was slamming the older man's head against the concrete sidewalk when Zimmerman fired his gun.

"We're ecstatic with the results," defense attorney Mark O'Mara after the verdict. "George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense."

Another member of his defense team, Don West, said: "I'm glad this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty."

Prosecutors called Zimmerman a liar and portrayed him was a "wannabe cop" vigilante who had grown frustrated by break-ins in his neighborhood committed primarily by young black men. Zimmerman assumed Martin was up to no good and took the law into his own hands, prosecutors said.

State Attorney Angela Corey said after the verdict that she believed second-degree murder was the appropriate charge because Zimmerman's mindset "fit the bill of second-degree murder."

"We charged what we believed we could prove," Corey said.

As the verdict drew near, police and city leaders in the Orlando suburb of Sanford and other parts of Florida said they were taking precautions against the possibility of mass protests or unrest in the event of an acquittal.

"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said immediately after jurors began deliberating. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."

The verdict came a year and a half after civil rights protesters angrily demanded Zimmerman be prosecuted. That anger appeared to return Saturday night outside the courthouse, at least for some who had been following the case.

Rosie Barron, 50, and Andrew Perkins, 55, both black residents of Sanford, stood in the parking lot of the courthouse and wept.

"I at least thought he was going to get something, something," Barron said.

Added her brother: "How the hell did they find him not guilty?"

Perkins was so upset he was shaking. "He killed somebody and got away with murder," Perkins shouted, looking in the direction of the courthouse. "He ain't getting no probation or nothing."

Zimmerman wasn't arrested for 44 days after the Feb. 26, 2012, shooting as police in Sanford insisted that Florida's Stand Your Ground law on self-defense prohibited them from bringing charges. Florida gives people wide latitude to use deadly force if they fear death or bodily harm.

Martin's parents, along with civil rights leaders such as the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, argued that Zimmerman — whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic — had racially profiled their son. And they accused investigators of dragging their feet because Martin was a black teenager.

Before a special prosecutor assigned to the case ordered Zimmerman's arrest, thousands of protesters gathered in Sanford, Miami, New York and elsewhere, many wearing hoodies like the one Martin had on the night he died. They also carried Skittles and a can of iced tea, items Martin had in his pocket. President Barack Obama weighed in, saying that if he had a son, "he'd look like Trayvon."

Despite the racially charged nature of the case, race was barely mentioned at the trial. Even after the verdict, prosecutors said race was not about race.

"This case has never been about race or the right to bear arms," Corey said. "We believe this case all along was about boundaries, and George Zimmerman exceeded those boundaries."

One exception was the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, the Miami teen who was talking to Martin by phone moments before he was shot. She said he described being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker" as he walked through the neighborhood.

Jeantel gave some of the trial's most riveting testimony. She said she overheard Martin demand, "What are you following me for?" and then yell, "Get off! Get off!" before his cellphone went dead.

The jurors had to sort out clashing testimony from 56 witnesses in all, including police, neighbors, friends and family members.

For example, witnesses who got fleeting glimpses of the fight in the darkness gave differing accounts of who was on top. And Martin's parents and Zimmerman's parents both claimed that the person heard screaming for help in the background of a neighbor's 911 call was their son. Numerous other relatives and friends weighed in, too, as the recording was played over and over in court. Zimmerman had cuts and scrapes on his face and the back of his head, but prosecutors suggested the injuries were not serious.

To secure a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors had to convince the jury that Zimmerman acted with a "depraved" state of mind — that is, with ill will, hatred or spite. Prosecutors said he demonstrated that when he muttered, "F------ punks. These a-------. They always get away" during a call to police as he watched Martin walk through his neighborhood.

To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors had to convince the jury only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.

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  1. Here's a simple lesson: If you don't want to be shot dead, don't beat the crap out of some whimpy dumb ass.

  2. I know that the defense would have fought hard against it, but I think that every possible homicide charge should have been included, all the way down to negligent homicide. I thought second degree murder was over-charging, and even felt that manslaughter was a reach. But I simply do not think that Zimmerman has a legitimate stand-your-ground claim since I think that he needlessly provoked the initial encounter.

    I must admit that Zimmerman probably did fear for his life once he found that he had bitten off far more than he could chew, but while that might have been self-defense to some extent, he still has to carry some responsibility for what I think was the initial provocation.

    I can easily see where Martin felt threatened in some fashion by a stranger following him. Martin probably had an equally good case for stand-your-ground if he threw the first punch.

    And of course, there is still the possibility (but we will never know) that Zimmerman verbally provoked Martin.

    I can understand why the verdict was not guilty, but I think the right charges were not put before the jury to choose from.

  3. Being found "not guilty" IS NOT the same thing as being 'innocent." I do agree with the verdict. Given the evidence presented in the case, I didn't see any way a jury could return a guilty verdict.

    The tragedy is that a young man was killed. There is a ton of grey area that nobody wants to acknowledge. Zimmerman was not some gun-toting vigilante, nor was he just a man doing his assumed neighborhood watch duty. Trayvon Martin was not some reckless thug looking for a reason to fight, nor was he the innocent angelic martyr he's being portrayed to be.

    If Zimmerman hadn't pursued Martin, whatever his reasons were, this incident would never have happened; Zimmerman is not an "innocent" party here. However, if Trayvon had chose to continue on his way home, run away, ask Zimmerman what he was doing, etc..., this incident wouldn't have happened. Instead, Trayvon initiated the physical altercation and paid the ultimate price. It really is unfortunate and a tragedy when any younf person dies, but I feel, in this case, based on the law in Florida, the verdictt was correct.

  4. This case is but one more example of why even "small" government, let alone "big" government is something we must be vigilante against. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence knew there was no way Zimmerman was going to be found guilty and, as in the LaCrosse players case, was the target of a political agenda and not a legal one. The prosecutors who brought the case should now face charges of their own, as in the case of the LaCrosse players, and, if found guilty, be disbarred and put in prison. The "era" of political witch hunts must come to an end!

  5. The media pushed this case and demanded this prosecution. Sick.

    The media combines with those who profit from creating racial tension (Sharpton, Jackson) and they work to divide us. The POTUS also played a role early in this case by making it racial. Sick.

  6. @boftx,

    I agree with your post at 10:25. Negligent homicide and everything through to manslaughter would have been better charges. Zimmerman already had a mindset he was trailing a criminal from the comments he made during his phone call.

    I carried a pistol and holster very much like the one Zimmerman used, a SoB, Small of the Back. It's completely concealed and tucked under the pants waist band. It's not possible Martin saw his weapon unless Zimmerman pulled it. The fact that Zimmerman changed his story several times and he wasn't aware of street names is bothersome. In one account Martin jumped out from behind a bush, in another account he was approached by Martin on a walkway.

    Mostly I lay the blame on the prosecutors. They did a horrible job of connecting the dots and laying out a case.

  7. SgtRock - "There is plenty of evidence that Martin was the person that started the attack."

    There is zero evidence Martin started the fight. For all we know Zimmerman could have and Martin got the upper hand.

    dhays - "A thug in training was shot by a Hispanic male and found not guilty by a jury of women."

    Another mindset that all 17 year old black teens must be criminals.

    Horsefeathers - "George "John Wayne" Zimmerman is not afraid to stand up for his 2nd amendment rights! He is a true American Patriot!"

    You forgot .... HEE HAW!

  8. George should sue Martin's parents AND Angela Corey for wrongful prosecution. If the parents had not incited political pressure NO CASE would have been pursued. DOJ stormtroopers initiating demonstrations shows Holder/Obama behaved with extreme racial prejudice against non-black Americans.

  9. JFink 5:04. I agree but with the White House and DOJ insisting on prosecution, the locals perhaps thought they were "doing the right thing" when that was the WRONG THING TO DO. Z deserves a large cash settlement. Perhaps Trayvon's parents can refund some of that large settlement from the HOA.

  10. Reinstate the former POLICE CHIEF and REMOVE ANGELA COREY.

  11. A Florida jury comes through. All right.

  12. Casey Anthony, not guilty.
    George Zimmerman, not guilty.

    If you want to get away with murdering innocent children, move to Florida.

  13. This trial is over and both sides are still at their race baiting game.

    America-America God shed his grace on thee, now let's clean house, if ever there were grounds for maleficent by political officers this is it. That's right no way of holding them accountable is there, well impeachment is a start.

    There few times in our history that impeachment was necessary to maintain law and order and this in one of those times. Before the politicos start squawking and the race baiter start dealing their cards let me say I used to be pro PBHO, it is just now the error of his judgment requires explaining.

    The POTUS needs to come clean of what his intentions were as to why he got involved, as do all the rest of those Politicians do, for setting up the Black community for failure. It is unusual for such a high ranking officer of or country to fool so many by his comments and actions that it would, it could lead our country into chaos.

    This one of those times when it is hard sitting in that oval office, but when you fail there needs to be some explaining and not for race baiting but for what could amount to serious crimes against the state.

    The American Judicial Branch has been corroded, etched by an over-stepping Executive Branch which abused two-thirds of our checks leaving no balance for the Legislative to stand on.

    Whether the jury got it right or wrong is not in question. The question being, protection for jury members, their near future safety is at stake, also, the intimidation of some witnesses. The Legislative Branch has yet to charge or investigate terrorist groups that made very public their threats.

    If freedom is to ring in America, it must ring for all, not just the loudest or harshest speaking mob mentality of those among US.

  14. I'm disappointed by the verdict. And I think this Stand Your Ground Clause in Florida is bad legislation that needs to be reviewed or something.

    But, I do hope George Zimmerman don't move to Las Vegas and participate in a neighborhood watch. Stay outta Las Vegas, George. Go somewhere else.

    Well, wait a minute.

    I guess an exception can be made. He can move to the old Yucca Mountain Project. It's far enough away from everyone. Besides that, nobody is using it. Nor will it EVER be used...