This evening after 16 hours of protracted deliberation, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
The jury of six women went on to unanimously decide the neighborhood watch volunteer justifiably killed the teenager because he believed his life was in imminent danger.
As the judge announced that Zimmerman had no other business with the court just after 10pm on EST on Saturday his mother, who was sat in the court, smiled for the first time during the trial.
Trayvon’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, were not in court to hear the verdict. Their reaction was said to be reserved but expressed their disappointment.
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 a not guilty verdict.
Told Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger after jurors began deliberating: ‘There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence. We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully.’
Nevertheless crowds outside the courthouse were outspoken about their disappointment at the verdict, yelling ‘The system has failed us’, with hundreds taking to twitter to voice their discontentment with the justice system and jury.
In a precautionary statement, defense attorney Mark O Mara told the following after the verdict was announced: ‘[Zimmerman] has to be cautious and protective of his safety because there is a fringe element who have said on Twitter and elsewhere they want revenge.’
Expressing his disappointment at the not guilty verdict was prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda who told the following: ‘We respect the verdict but I’m disappointed. This is only the second murder case I lost. I thought he was guilty.’
Reflected Florida State Attorney Angela Corey: ‘To the living we owe respect, to the dead the truth. We believe we have brought out the truth.’
‘This case has never been about race or the right to bear arms. But there is no doubt Trayvon was profiled to be a criminal.’
Ms Corey added 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.’
At the time of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin on February 26. 2012, Zimmerman had claimed he had shot the young man in self defence, invoking Florida’s Stand Your Ground law on self-defense which served to protect him from having charges being brought against him. The Florida law gives individuals wide latitude to use deadly force if they fear death or bodily harm. A law that some have come to wonder may have given Zimmerman the necessary ammunition and guise to extract lethal force than perhaps simply have chosen to react otherwise.
Nevertheless Trayvon’s parents, along with civil rights leaders such as the Rev Jesse Jackson and Rev Al Sharpton, went on to argue that Zimmerman, whose father is white and whose mother is Hispanic, had racially profiled their son.
They also accused investigators of dragging their feet because Trayvon was a black teenager. At the time protesters across the country had begun demanding that Zimmerman be made accountable for Martin’s death on the grounds that the teenager had been racially profiled by Zimmerman and that Zimmerman had set out to aggravate the young man after returning from a nearby store.
It wasn’t after a special prosecutor was assigned to the case that Zimmerman’s arrest was ordered.
In an effort to impress upon the jury that Zimmerman had indeed set out to intimidate Martin, state attorney John Guy told the following: ‘F***ing punks, these a**holes always get away,’ words that were repeated to the jury several times in the three weeks of testimony which Zimmerman at the time had used to police dispatchers whilst following Martin. At the time dispatchers had urged Zimmerman to cease pursuit but nevertheless Zimmerman maintained his vigil against the teenager as he walked in the dead of night.
In the weeks that followed prosecutors sought to prove that the words connoted Zimmerman’s ill will, spite and hatred toward Martin as the two would go on to scuffle after Martin realized he was being followed by Zimmerman. It was during the scuffle that Zimmerman claimed he had no alternative but to kill Martin who at this point Zimmerman argued had come to beat him up.
At the time Zimmerman went on to argue that he legitimately feared for his life and shot the young man through the chest. A statement that could not be proved or disproved by witnesses at the time which perhaps in the end gave the jury enough doubt to believe that Zimmerman had actively sought to kill or inflict harm on Trayvon Martin.
During the trial, prosecutors sought to portray Zimmerman as a ‘vigilante’, a ‘wannabe cop’, a man filled with hatred and frustration after a spate of burglaries in the community he felt he was responsible for protecting.
On Friday, the prosecution appealed to the emotions and the hearts of the all-women jury and in a powerful rebuttal, John Guy said: ‘Trayvon Martin was a son, a brother and a friend and the last thing he did on this earth was to try to get home.
‘George Zimmerman didn’t shoot the teen because he had to, he shot him because he wanted to,’ repeating words he used in his opening statement.
The defense for its part went on to call 18 witnesses to the state’s 38 and went on to accentuate that Zimmerman had merely defended himself from a vicious MMA-style beating at the hands of Trayvon Martin.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara went on during Friday’s closing statements to argue that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that murder in the second-degree occurred.
‘Pure and unadulterated innocence,‘ he said. ‘In fact, George Zimmerman committed no crime at all.
‘My client is not guilty of anything but protecting his own life,’ he told the jury.
Central to the case and played numerous times by both legal teams over the last three weeks was the 911 call from a resident of the Retreat at Twin Lakes community.
Terrified and piercing screams for help can be heard in the background before a shot rings out, silencing them instantly.
In attempting to prove that the screams were that of Trayvon Martin, the prosecution team brought out it’s final witness, Sybrina Fulton, the victim’s mother. Taking the stand Fulton went on to assert the cries for help belonged to her son, Trayvon Benjamin Martin.
On the same day that Sybrina Fulton took to the stand, the defense called Gladys Zimmerman, George Zimmerman’s mother and like Sybrina – told the court it was her son George calling for help.
Also taking the stand was Zimmerman’s uncle, retired sheriff Jorge Meza, who went on to reveal he was not played the 911 call but only heard it on TV and knew instinctively who it was.
‘That voice just came and hit me. Not only did I hear the scream but I felt it. I know it was my Georgie, I felt it.’
The defense also called witness after witness – neighbors, colleagues and friends of Zimmerman – who also unwaveringly testified that it was the neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman shouting for help.
Another point of contention was – who attacked who at the gated community? Who was the aggressor and who was the victim? Whose life was in danger that night?
The state said Zimmerman had been training at an MMA gym three times a week over the past year.
This would match the description of neighbor John Good, who said the person on top, the aggressor, was straddling the person on the bottom, the victim, in a ‘pound and ground’ move.
Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon’s friend, who was on the phone to the teen right before he was shot, told the court her friend was frightened because a man was following him. She told him to go home.
Jeantel went on to tell the court that the last thing she heard Trayvon say was: ‘Why are you following me?’ before the phone went dead. She also claimed it was Zimmerman who approached Trayvon saying, ‘What are you doing around here?’
The defense highlighted the physical differences between the 17-year-old and the then 28-year-old Zimmerman. That at around six foot tall, Trayvon towered over Zimmerman, a mere 5’8″ who was considered to be ‘soft’ and borderline obese at 200 pounds.
They said Travyon was not a scared young boy who feared for his life, but a strapping young man who pounced on Zimmerman and started beating him.
Possibly one of the best witnesses to take the stand in the whole trial was a forensic pathologist who is an expert in gunshot wounds.
Dr Vincent di Maio told the jury that the way the powder marks were formed around the bullet wound shows the gun would have been two-to-four inches away from the teen’s body when the shot was fired, indicating he was leaning forward at the time.
‘The physical evidence is consistent with George Zimmerman’s account that Mr Martin was over him,’ he said.
He later testified that Zimmerman’s head injuries could have been caused by coming into contact with concrete, even if there were no serious injuries to show this.
Then there were these comments on the web that made me wonder as well:
‘None of [the evidence] shows George Zimmerman as an aggressor.’ How could the defense say that? The moment George Zimmerman left his apartment to follow Trayvon Martin he became the aggressor. The 911 operator told him not to go, not to follow the boy, but he chose to do so. He wanted to be a “big man” and catch some criminal. Then he got in over his head and shot the boy out of fear.
The rest of the world is looking at the USA in disgust at their justice system! How tragic for them.
This was political, racial, and now I think we will see a lot more violence using “stand your ground”. I feel for the jurors who had to make a decision using the law and not their hearts. I wish prosecution would of added aggravated assault with a gun. Maybe we would have seen a different ending. George was the aggressor and the coward.
If someone attacks me, I am going to use whatever means necessary to reduce the damage to me.
Here’s an idea: If you don’t want shot, don’t go attacking people if you do not know if they are armed or not.
Heck, don’t go attacking people PERIOD.
Thank God for those six women who were devoted to their jobs as jurors and paid attention only to FACTS. This was a political prosecution from beginning to end and only those six wonderful women did their jobs and judged FACTS and not media-driven speculation to set up as “white Hispanic” vs. black proxy media war that never existed in real life.
Even if a prejudice, horribly racist, person taunts a black guy. If the black guy ATTACKS first (justified or not) it is going to be very hard to prove. Why did they take this to trial? It should NEVER have gone that far.
It’s not right. There are going to be people who get into fights, and apparently the justice system is telling the world that if there is any kind of fight, its okay to just shoot and kill the other person.
can you imagine if the roles were reversed and an armed black vigilante stalked a white kid, provoked an altercation, got his ass wupped , gunned down the kid and then claimed “self-defense”… Really.It’s not that complicated.
Hopefully it’s finally becoming clear that this was never a case about Zimmerman getting out of his truck. It was a case that began when Trayvon assaulted him. Just like the guy who knocked out that drunk racist the other day, you can’t go around assaulting people unless attacked. Since this incident occurred I wonder how many young African-American males have been killed by other African-American males?