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

VTX Rider

Yes. He is.

whazup

I wonder if Big Dog forgot about the man in Sandusky being attacked by a large group of teens (some are serving time). Those kids are lucky that the man didn't have a gun or the man's girlfriend didn't shoot them. They would have been within theirs rights under self-defense.

The Big Dog's back

What's that have to do with what happened in Florida?

whazup

It means that it doesn't matter what your age is. When you are attacking a person in a manner that can cause extreme harm, and the person cannot get away, the one being threatened is within his rights to use deadly force. Mr. Zimmman was one the ground being attacked by a teen and the man in Sandusky was on the ground being attacked by teens. Do you think that the Sandusky man would have been justified if he had a gun and shot any of those kids?

The Big Dog's back

The more you post the less sense you make.

whazup

No, I make sense. You just can't respond intelligently. Yes or no. Does a person who is on the ground being attacked in the head have a right to use whatever force is available to stop the threat? Zimmerman had a gun and used it. Would the Sandusky man been within his rights to use a gun when he was being attacked?

The Big Dog's back

So when a store owner suspects someone of robbing him, gets him down on the ground outside and the person on the ground feels his life is threatened, he can shoot the store owner?

whazup

Depends. If the store owner has called the police and is holding him at gun point telling him to not move until the police arrive, then I would say no. If however the store owner is beating the "suspect" then by all means my answer is YES!

But you still haven't answered my question. Would the Sandusky man been within the definition of self defense when he was being attacked and was trapped on the ground? I have asked this question to you more than once.

deertracker

I'll take that one. The answer is yes but you are comparing apples to oranges!

whazup

Not really. If you are having your head beat in and no way to escape then deadly force is justified.

Does following someone justify getting hit and knocked to the ground and beaten in the head? The law says it isn't. TWO people should have made different choices that night.

stayfit

Whazup: You are making great points. You seem very intelligent.

The Big Dog's back

Another sock puppet?

JudgeMeNot

Zimmer is free to go.

VTX Rider

Yes. He is.

herbie_hancock

^Thats ironic big dog.

SamAdams

Thank god. The evidence was pretty clear, but I couldn't help but worry that any juror would also unavoidably consider the reaction to the verdict and might be swayed accordingly.

The truly appalling thing, though, is that this isn't over. There have already been appeals made to the DOJ (CNN has a story) to push for punishment (this, for a man found not guilty), and there will doubtless be a civil suit or six. This is shameful on virtually every level. My heart goes out to the Zimmermans for whom, as the lawyers have said, life will never be the same and who will probably always be in a certain amount of danger.

The Big Dog's back

Welcome to the "new" old South. What's next in Florida, Sunday afternoon lynchings again?

KnuckleDragger

You should know better than us. Don't you live in Florida in one of those lily white retirement communities?

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

EDIT: Looks like it responded to KD instead of BD for some reason, my remarks here are for BD.

Mmmm, yup. Nothing I love more than being stereotyped by an unprogressive bigot from a thankfully bygone age.

Move on. We can't go forward with thinking like that. Please stop having such an unfounded prejudice against entire populations of people who can't help where they were born.

Please, before you get into a huff-and-post about this, think of the vast majority of people you offend with your remarks. If you care. If you don't, then please continue to be a stereotype yourself and make holding America's progress back your daily cause.

In short, as a natural-born Floridian, I am deeply insulted by your remarks and ask that you retract them.

The Big Dog's back

Oh spare me the phony outrage.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

You have just accused nearly 20 MILLION people (of many different backgrounds) of being, effectively, KKK members. Phony? Your prejudice is astounding as is your apparent misinformation about the state. You realize this is 2013, right? Not 1953? What kind of a world do you live in that you can just flatly accuse millions of people to be INTRINSICALLY racist to the point where they not only can't help it but will use mob justice to act? Are you a bitter misenthrope? I sure hope not, what a way to live your life.

As you don't seem to be aware of what the world is like sixty years in the future, I will assure you that at least for the young people they don't hold nearly the same kind nor amount of hate in their hearts for people who are regionally, ethnically, or any other "-ally" different than them.

There will always be ignorance in our world, nothing can stop that, but you both date and stereotype yourself by not being able to comprehend it on an individual, case-by-case basis. Will you next say that ALL bulldogs are vicious? That ALL bankers are crooked villains?

Please modernize yourself and your views. I think that this is why I was having trouble understanding you earlier. I seem to believe in people, encourage them, and promote them to be better for themselves and others (not just here but 1,000% more "in real life"). These are not qualities I have yet witnessed you espouse.

Maybe something happened to you that mentally or emotionally scarred you. If that was the case then I am sorry for that and hope that some kind of justice was served to help right it. But the world isn't as hard-lined black-and-white as you make it out to be.

Many don't seem to see it is actually the beautiful, diverse place they have always wanted it to be. It may not be on their terms, but it is there. Here and now. Currently as we breathe and type back and forth.

grumpy

Good observation, valid in your points. Hope it helps the intended recipient. (but don't hold your breathe)

The Big Dog's back

Could have fooled me. I thought it was the 60's. Take your pick 1860's or 1960's.

The Big Dog's back

All bulldogs are vicious and all bankers are crooks.

JudgeMeNot

Zimmer is free to go.

VTX Rider

Yes. He is.

The Big Dog's back

hero, time for you to wake up and smell the coffee.

goofus

Only untill Seminole and Gator football starts up

The Big Dog's back

zim changed his own life sam.

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