SANFORD, Fla. — Neighbourhood 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-defence 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.
Defence attorneys said the case was classic self-defence, 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,” defence attorney Mark O’Mara after the verdict. “George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defence.”
Another member of his defence 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 neighbourhood 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’sStand Your Ground law on self-defence 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 neighbourhood.
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, neighbours, 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 neighbour’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 neighbourhood.
To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors had to convince the jury only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.
First thing I will say, is I acknowledge that there is a different “enviroment” (be it just perceived or otherwise) where I am, to where this crime happened, and thus, that will create barriers in terms of understanding such questions as “Why”. I do not live there, I have not lived the life, so I would not know what risks one might face in such an area.
But I wish to comment on this trial verdict, because though arguably the jury came to a unanimous decision, I still don’t find it right.
First things first, im going on only details that everyone else is going off of, so as always, your at the mercy of the media (are we missing a part of the picture?). But In any case, I will frame it as I see it.
A member of the said neighborhood’s neighborhood watch team is driving out on an errand, and spots an unfamilier black kid roaming the area. Seemingly no reason he should be there, so I guess therefore, he must be up to no good. So he gets out his cellphone and dials up the police, and informs them of a possible troublemaker roaming the streets in the area.
After he gets off the phone with the police dispatcher, he apparently decides not to wait for police, and gets out of his vehicle and decides to confront this mysterious person himself. In the process, a fight ensues, and the mysterious person ends up getting the upper hand in the fight. Until the “victim” pulls out his gun and shoots him dead.
Now, lets review what we just read.
Someone is driving though there neighborhood, and sees a potential trouble maker. They call the police and give them a heads up. Good, nothing wrong there. My main instinct would be to stick around and watch until the police get there. Be somewhat incognito, and watch. If the person tries anything funny before police arrive, and you feel you can handle the situation, take him down with only the minimal amount of force necessary.
The problem here, if what were told is correct, is that did not happen.
Mr Zimmerman not only did not wait for police that he had contacted, but he also confronted Trayvon UNPROVOKED. As a result, he ended up getting the shit kicked out of him, apparently not realizing the strength of the teen. In order to end the fight, Mr. Zimmerman shot, and subsequently killed Trayvon.
The big argument of the defense, was that it was self defense, because had he not shot Trayvon, he may well have killed him instead. Granted.
But when one looks at the situation, some hostile asshole getting in your face for seemingly no reason (race???), I would quickly get hostile to. You get in almost any ones face, and they are going to kick your ass.
Not to mention Trayvon was unarmed. Mr Zimmerman did NOT have to kill him.
In this situation, Trayvon’s death was avoidable. Had George just waited for the police to check the situation, he would not have been “attacked”, and Trayvon would be alive.
Its for this reason, that I think this jury’s decision, was bullshit.
Its one thing to defend yourself of an imminent attack. Its another to PROVOKE an attack.