Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

George Zimmerman Verdict: 'Not Guilty' in Death of Trayvon Martin

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

George Zimmerman Verdict: 'Not Guilty' in Death of Trayvon Martin

Article excerpt

A jury of six Florida women ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s found George Zimmerman not guilty late Saturday of murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin last year, in the process underscoring the high value at least these six jurors placed on self- defense.

"You have no further business with the court," Judge Debra Nelson told George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, after a 16-hour deliberation marked by a brief, unresolved question from the jury about a lesser charge of manslaughter included in the jury instructions.

After what became a 17-month national ordeal, emotional, even angry reaction broke out on the lawn of the Seminole county Courthouse where the trial took place.

Police authorities had voiced concerns about civil unrest because of the sensitive nature of the trial - which was widely seen as the case of an innocent black youth gunned down by an armed neighborhood vigilante, who has now walked scot-free. (Five of the six jurors were white.)

The case also came to be seen as a parable involving civil rights, racial profiling, racism, gun rights, and the changing definitions of self-defense in public places, brought about by liberalization of gun laws in Florida and other states.

The shooting and its aftermath also had strong political overtones, given that President Obama weighed in, noting that, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon," as well as the involvement of the US Justice Department in an investigation that finally led a special state prosecutor to reverse a decision by the Sanford Police Department to not charge Zimmerman with any crime.

It was that decision to originally not charge Zimmerman, echoed on media platforms and from pulpits by civil rights leaders, that brought national attention to the case, forcing the dismissal of the Sanford Police Chief and causing eventual charges to be filed against Zimmerman, 44 days after Trayvon's death, for second degree murder.'

In a widely watched and debated trial that became part criminal procedural, part civics lesson, prosecutors alleged Zimmerman had "hate in his heart" when he profiled, followed, then confronted an innocent teenager walking back to where his father was staying

But defense attorney Mark O'Mara claimed Martin wasn't unarmed, but in fact used a concrete sidewalk to injure Zimmerman enough to justify the armed man unholstering his Kel-Tec 9 mm pistol and fire it up and into Trayvon's chest, causing him to utter, "You got me," and then fall away and onto his face.

"[Zimmerman] is innocent, because he acted in self-defense," Mr. O'Mara said in his closing argument.

The state argued that Zimmerman put Trayvon's death into motion when he followed him into a dark area between several row houses in the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated neighborhood, and that it was Trayvon who had the right to defend himself against an armed adult stranger. …

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