Zimmerman cleared in shooting of Trayvon Martin

Neighborhood watch volunteer could have been convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter
Associated Press
Jul 14, 2013

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. Their names have not been made public, and they declined to speak to the media.

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 teen's father, Tracy, reacted on Twitter: "Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY."

His mother also said on Twitter that she appreciated the prayers from supporters.

"Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have," she wrote.

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 he was pleased the 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."

O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, said his client is aware he has to be cautious and protective of his safety.

"There still is a fringe element that wants revenge," O'Mara said. "They won't listen to a verdict of not guilty."

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."

Several Zimmerman supporters also were outside the courthouse, including a brother and sister quietly rejoicing that Zimmerman was acquitted. Both thought the jury made the right decision in finding Zimmerman not guilty — they felt that Zimmerman killed Martin in self-defense.

Cindy Lenzen, 50, of Casslebury, and her brother, 52-year-old Chris Bay, stood watching the protesters chant slogans such as, "the whole system's guilty."

Lenzen and Bay — who are white — called the entire case "a tragedy," especially for Zimmerman.

"It's a tragedy that he's going to suffer for the rest of his life," Bay said. "No one wins either way. This is going to be a recurring nightmare in his mind every night."

Meanwhile, authorities in Martin's hometown of Miami said the streets were quiet, with no indication of problems. The neighborhood where Martin's father lives in Miami Gardens was equally quiet.

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 the case 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 of the few mentions of race came from witness Rachel Jeantel, the Miami teen who was talking to Martin by phone moments before he was shot. She testified that 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.

 

Comments

JudgeMeNot

Zimmer is free to go.

VTX Rider

Yes. He is.

Contango

@ KD:

Thanks.

"DK" - even a broken clock is right twice a day.

grumpy

Stand your ground would have handled the civil cases, if Zimmermans lawyers had used "stand you ground' as their defense. However they didn't, they used self defense. I don't know Florida law enough to know if they can use it, if or when, the civil suits come. If I had to guess, I would "guess" that they can use it if Zimmerman is sued. We will see what happens.

whazup

One of the issues that was discussed at the CCW training I took was self defense will stand up in a criminal court (when you don't have the ability to retreat) but expect to be taken to civil court.

herbie_hancock

Civil suit is already in the works, but Zimmerman is going to get way more in his suit on MSNBC for doctoring the 911 call then Travon's parents will from George.

Blowfish

Likely a wrongful death suit will be leveled against him.

The Big Dog's back

"Stand Your Ground", unless you are a unarmed Black teen.

KnuckleDragger

Don't forget to add and unarmed teen who intiated the attack. It is not illegal to follow someone. It is however illegal to physically assault someone. I know Trayvon was a good little boy, so good that prosecution had get the judge to disallow the admittance of Trayvon's police record in court.

deertracker

Zimmerman's rap sheet was not allowed in either so what is your point?

JudgeMeNot

Zimmer is free to go.

VTX Rider

Yes. He is.

whazup

It wasn't a case of "stand your ground". When you are knocked to the ground and being punched in the head it falls under self-defense. Zimmerman was within the law to follow Martin. Martin was within the law to verbally confront Zimmerman but once he knocked him to the ground, it was a new game. It sounds like the young Martin wasn't expecting Zimmerman to be carrying.

The Big Dog's back

In a way I glad you 2 agree about using deadly force in a fistfight. Don't complain then if someones does the same to you.

whazup

First, it wasn't a fist fight but if you call a person on top of you repeatedly banging your head on the ground a fist fight and as your head is being banged the assailant threatens to shoot you with your own gun, then I say deadly force falls under self defense. Here's a thought Dumb Dog, don't throw the first punch.

The Big Dog's back

Yeah, wait for the person with the gun to shoot you 1st then stand your ground. Yep, makes sense to me.

whazup

I don't believe the younger man was aware that there was a gun until he had the man on the ground beating him. It was during that time that he saw it and threatened to use it on the owner.

deertracker

He saw it as he was laying on top of it on the ground? Makes no sense.

whazup

Have you ever seen a CCW holster? If one person is above the other it wouldn't be hard to see once the jacket moved. It you are carrying, you don't place it somewhere that is difficult to access. The prosecution was not able to show that Martin was not on top of Zimmerman when the gun was fired.

2cents

So you are suggesting that Zim did not flash the firearm until he felt that his life was in danger and Martin not knowing he had a firearm did not run away. What I see is maybe Zim having the firearm gave him an edge in his mind that allowed him to follow and ask Martin why he was there and Martin not knowing there was a firearm felt with his youth and street smarts would have no problem with Zim.

OOPS! there was a firearm and what happened happened, sad but it did and the jury surely had to make a decision based on that.

Politics try's to make it a racial issue these two were both probably hyped up, Zim from the rash of trouble in the neighborhood, Martin from being shipped away from home, expelled from school for weed and probably rolling with a teenager bad boy attitude.

whazup

I agree with you. No doubt Zimmerman felt secure in following Martin and Martin thought he could whip the old man's butt. I don't believe either person expected the situation to end the way it did. I don't know if Zim flashed the gun or not. I am just stating what is being released from the testimony. The information states that when Martin saw the gun, he commented that he would shoot Zimmerman with it. He certainly could have grabbed it from Zimmerman. The testimony also stated that Martin was above Zimmerman when the gun was fired. Apparently the jury thought the evidence supported the testimony. If I thought someone was carrying a gun, I wouldn't have taken him on, especially unarmed.

deertracker

You guys watch too much tv.

2cents

I never owned a handgun until I was a victim of crime! I also watch very little TV, most shows are those cop CSI things, not my style, the sitcoms are well I guess I am to old, so TMC is my best shot : )

deertracker

Let's hope none of your kids ever get gunned down for walking in the rain!

whazup

He didn't get shot for walking in the rain. He got shot because instead of walking away from Zimmerman, he turned and began a physical altercation. Should Zimmerman been following him? Maybe he shouldn't have but following a person is not against the law. When I was 17, I would have been scared if someone was following me (still would be today) and the last thing I would have done was turned around and approached him let alone start a physical fight. Martin had an out and could have gone home, but didn't. It is just sad all around.

deertracker

Ahh yes, he was suppose to cower and be passive even though he had done no wrong. I just don't believe GZ's version. It's not logical. He said that he was scared. He should have went back to his vehicle and let the cops handle it.

2cents

"He should have went back to his vehicle and let the cops handle it."

Gee! We agree on something.

Richard Bebb

It doesn't matter what you believe, the jury found him innocent case closed.

whazup

Exactly.

JudgeMeNot

Zimmer is free to go.

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