Law/Justice

George Zimmerman found not guilty

USA Today

George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter Saturday night.

The verdict is the culmination of a case that captured the nation’s attention and will undoubtedly be imprinted in America’s history. For Zimmerman, it means trying to recapture his life after he was at the center of a national maelstrom over racial profiling, state gun laws and what constitutes self-defense.

The not guilty verdict means the jury of six women found that Zimmerman justifiably used deadly force and reasonably believed that such force was “necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm” to himself — Florida’s definition of self-defense.

Zimmerman showed no emotion as the verdict was read. After the verdict was read, he smiled slightly and shook hands with one of his lawyers.

The unidentified jurors decided Zimmerman didn’t “intentionally commit an act or acts that caused death” or demonstrate a “depraved mind without regard for human life” — Florida’s definitions of manslaughter and second-degree murder, respectively.

In a press conference after the verdict, Zimmerman attorney Mark O’Mara said his client will now need to get on with his life.

Mark O’Mara and Don West, the attorneys for George Zimmerman, said they were satisfied that justice had been served when the jury reached a not guilty verdict.

“I think he’s going to be great. I think he is still worried. Hopefully everyone will respect the jury’s verdict,” O’Mara said.

He offered his sympathies to Trayvon’s parents for the loss of their son. But he said despite the national protests that erupted after the shooting, the case had nothing to do with civil rights.

Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, told CNN’s Piers Morgan that his brother was processing the reality that he is free.

“He has some decompressing to do,” he said. “Our family was emotional. We are exonerated as a family and George is exonerated as a defendant. It’s going to take us some time to heal.”

For all the euphoria on Zimmerman’s team, prosecutors and Trayvon’s family faced a huge letdown. Trayvon’s parents were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

Assistant State Attorney Bernie De La Rionda responds to a question about self-defense after a not guilty verdict was reached in the trial of George Zimmerman.

Trayvon’s father, Tracy, posted on Twitter, “Even though I am broken-hearted, my faith is unshattered. I will always love my baby Tray … even in his death I know my baby proud of the FIGHT we along with all of you put up for him.”

The family’s attorney Benjamin Crump thanked all the protesters nationwide who “put their hoodies up and to everybody who said, ‘I am Trayvon.’ ” He urged supporters to remain peaceful, despite the verdict.

Lead prosecutor Bernie De la Rionda said, “I am disappointed in the verdict but I respect it. We accept the jury’s verdict.”

State Attorney Angela Corey said the case was a challenge. But she said, “That scream stops when the shot was fired and we always believed it wasTrayvon Martin.”

Outside the courtroom, demonstrators who supported Trayvon stood in stunned silence. But legal analysts say they were not surprised by the verdict because the prosecution did not prove its case.

“The prosecution had no clear narrative, witnesses that appeared poorly prepared, and at the end of the day, this is more of a loss by the prosecution than a win by the defense,” criminal attorney Darren Kavinoky said.

Susan Constantine, a jury consultant and body language expert who attended Zimmerman’s trial regularly, said the verdict meant there was reasonable doubt. “They just could not put the pieces together,” she said.

The case has gripped the nation since the shooting happened on Feb. 26, 2012. Police initially did not charge Zimmerman with a crime, citing Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law, which allows someone who believes they are in imminent danger to take whatever steps are necessary to protect themselves.

Kat Crowe, left, and Melinda O'Neal comfort each other in front of the Seminole County courthouse after learning George Zimmerman had been found not guilty late July 13 in the Murder of Trayvon Martin.

Kat Crowe, left, and Melinda O’Neal comfort each other in front of the Seminole County courthouse after learning George Zimmerman had been found not guilty late July 13 in the Murder of Trayvon Martin.  Scott Olson, Getty Images
  • Kat Crowe, left, and Melinda O'Neal comfort each other in front of the Seminole County courthouse after learning George Zimmerman had been found not guilty late July 13 in the Murder of Trayvon Martin.
  • A Seminole circuit clerk of the court reads the verdict announcing George Zimmerman not guilty.
  • George Zimmerman stands as the jury enters the courtroom in Sanford, Fla., late July  13.
  • Judge Debra Nelson receives the verdict from a deputy.
  • Darrsie Jackson reacts to the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman. Her her children are Linzey Stafford, left, 10, and Shauntina Stafford, 11.
  • People gathered outside the Seminole County Courthouse react to the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman.
  • People watch a news ticker in New York's Times Square with the news that George Zimmerman was found not guilty.
  • Tennetta Foster cries after hearing the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman.
  • Syed Shamsuzzaman shouts in anger after hearing a verdict of not guilty in the trial of George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. late July 13.
  • Judge Debra Nelson hands the verdict to the clerk of courts announcing George Zimmerman is not guilty.
  • Melinda O'Neal hugs Shedrick Burfect after the not guilty verdict was handed down for George Zimmerman.
  • Tanetta Foster breaks into tears outside the courthouse after George Zimmerman was found not guilty.
  • George Zimmerman looks down as a verdict of not guilty is read in court. Also shown are defense team members Lorna Truett and Don West.
  • George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty late July 13.
  • Florida State Attorney Angela Corey and assistant state attorneys Richard Mantei, from left, John Guy and Bernie de la Rionda address the media after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty.
  • SANFORD, FL - JULY 13:  Trayvon Martin Martin family attorneys Daryl Parks, from left, Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand address the media after a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
  • Martin family attorneys Daryl Parks, from left, Natalie Jackson, Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand address the media after the verdict.
  • Mattie Aikens expresses her displeasure with the not guilty verdict at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla.
  • Protestors call for a nationwide boycott after the not guilty verdict.
  • Syed Shamsuzzaman and Regina Dillard protest the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case at the Seminole County Courthouse.
  • George Zimmerman smiles in this image made from video after a not guilty verdict was handed down in his trial on July 13.
  • George Zimmerman looks down as the verdict of not guilty is read.
  • George Zimmerman is congratulated by his defense team after being found not guilty.
  • Attorneys Natalie Jackson, from center to right, Benjamin Crump and Daryl Parks listen as George Zimmerman is declared not guilty July 13 in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
  • Attorney Benjamin Crump addresses the media following the not guilty verdict.
  • News media gather in the historic Goldsboro neighborhood of Sanford, Fla.
  • James Evan Muhammad, left, of the New Black Panther Party, shouts slogans after the verdict of not guilty was handed down in the trial of George Zimmerman.
  • Attorney Benjamin Crump addresses the media following the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman.
  • Defense attorney Mark O'Mara address the media following the not guilty verdict for his client George Zimmerman.
  • Florida State Attorney Angela Corey and Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda address the media following the not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman.
  • Defense attorney Mark O'Mara, center, is congratulated in court after George Zimmerman was found not guilty.
  • George Zimmerman is congratulated by his defense team.
  • Erika Rodgers looks up at the Seminole County Courthouse moments before the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was given on July 13 in Sanford, Fla.
  • George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, hugs his parents, Robert Zimmerman Sr. and Gladys Zimmerman. after the not guilty verdict was read in court.
  • George Zimmerman's wife, Shellie, stands with George Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr. in court.
  • Attorney Mark O'Mara is congratulated by his wife, Jen, after George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict.
  • Attorney Mark O'Mara is congratulated by his wife, Jen.
  • George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty July 13 in Sanford, Fla.
  • Shellie Zimmerman is hugged by Jen O'Mara after her husband, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty.
  • George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom.
  • George Zimmerman's mother, Gladys Zimmerman, smiles after a jury found him not guilty.
  • The family of George Zimmerman reacts following the verdict.
  • Family and friends react to the not guilty verdict in the courtroom.
  • Two women react to the not guilty verdict outside the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla.
  • Bridgette Welch of Tampa holds back tears after George Zimmerman was found not guilty.
  • Protesters yell at a man being led away by police after a confrontation at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford before the verdict was read.
  • Defense attorney Mark O'Mara hugs family and friends of George Zimmerman after the verdict.
  • <p></p><p></p><p>George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty.</p>
  • Demonstrators gather outside the Seminole County Courthouse after a verdict of not guilty was read in the trial of George Zimmerman.
  • A mother sits with her children after hearing the not guilty verdict.
  • George Zimmerman and his mother, Gladys Zimmerman, appear in court after the verdict.
  • George Zimmerman leaves the courtroom.
  • Syed Shamsuzzaman and Regina Dillard react after the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., on July 13.
  • George Zimmerman is congratulated by his defense team after being found not guilty.
  • From left, attorneys Natalie Jackson, Benjamin Crump and Daryl Parks sit in for the Trayvon Martin family in court on July 13.
  • Protesters argue outside the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla.
  • Deputies try to maintain calm after demonstrators become involved in a shouting match outside the courthouse on July 13.
  • Hanna Brianna, 5, holds a sign in front of her home in the Goldsboro Historical neighborhood in Sanford, Fla.
  • Trayvon Martin family attorney Jasmine Rand pauses in court before the verdict is read.

Protests ensued in several cities, including New York, by supporters of Trayvon’s family. Many protesters voiced the opinion that Trayvon was targeted and killed for racial reasons. Trayvon, 17, was black and Zimmerman is Hispanic.

“You have a little black boy who was killed,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the parents of Trayvon. “It’s going to be reported in history books and 50 years from now, our children will talk about Trayvon Martin’s case like we talk about Emmett Till.”

Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black young man, was tortured, grossly disfigured and murdered in 1955 in Mississippi after being accused of flirting with a white woman.

In Zimmerman’s case, State Attorney Corey stepped in and charged Zimmerman with murder on April 11, 2012. Prosecutors never argued that Zimmerman racially profiled the teen and instead said the teen was profiled as a criminal.

The five-week trial of Zimmerman, held in the same Florida city where Trayvon was killed, brought the facts of the case under a nationally televised spotlight, with every moment captured on camera. More than 50 witnesses testified, and when deliberations began Friday afternoon, the jury requested a list of the plethora of evidence that lawyers presented.

Some of the items include several statements Zimmerman gave to police, Trayvon’s autopsy report and photos of both Zimmerman’s injuries and Trayvon’s body. Witnesses included forensic experts who testified about the angle at which Trayvon was shot, the position Zimmerman’s gun may have been in, and where DNA and blood was found.

Other witnesses offered conflicting statements about how the fight happened, who had the upper hand when Zimmerman fired the shot and who was screaming for help in a 911 call recording.

The defense called nine people — including both of Zimmerman’s parents — to testify that the screams belonged to Zimmerman. Both of Trayvon’s parents and his brother all said Trayvon was screaming moments before he was shot.

In at times riveting detail, prosecutors tried their best to convince jurors that Zimmerman was a killer who “tracked” Trayvon, an innocent teenager, and murdered him before police arrived.

“That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him,” prosecutor John Guy told jurors before they began deliberations. “This case isn’t about standing your ground. It’s about staying in your car.”

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