George Zimmerman found not guilty of manslaughter, murder in shooting of Trayvon Martin
Last Updated: 147 days ago
SANFORD, Fla. - George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of all charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman was facing manslaughter and second-degree murder charges.
The six-member all-woman jury had deliberated for two days and about 16 hours deciding if Zimmerman, 29, committed a crime or if he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed the 17-year-old.
There were no outbursts heard in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.
Zimmerman blinked and barely smiled when the verdict was read. Zimmerman's wife, Shellie Zimmerman, had tears in her eyes.
Martin's family was not in the courtroom to hear the verdict.
After hearing the verdict, Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman he was free to go.
Earlier in the day Saturday jurors asked for clarification on the charge of manslaughter -- a possible indication they were considering the lesser charge, but that did not turn out to be the case.
To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors had to prove Zimmerman killed without lawful justification. To win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors had to convince jurors Zimmerman acted with ill will, hatred or spite toward Martin.
To convict Zimmermann of manslaughter, jurors had to believe Zimmerman intentionally committed an act that caused Martin's death, according to the judge's instructions. He can't be guilty of manslaughter merely by committing a negligent act or if the killing was excusable, the instructions say.
Zimmerman would have faced a maximum prison sentence of life for second-degree murder and 30 years if convicted of manslaughter, due to extra sentencing guidelines for committing a crime with a gun.
Jurors heard two different portraits of Zimmerman and had to decide whether he was a wannabe cop who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense because he feared for his life.
The jury started deliberating Friday afternoon.
As jurors deliberated for a second day, there was little understanding between two camps assembled to support Martin and Zimmerman outside the Seminole County Courthouse.
"He deserves some respect and appreciation," Casey David Kole Sr., 66, shouted about the former neighborhood watch leader. "It's a tragedy."
Patricia Dalton, 60, yelled back: "It's a tragedy that could have been avoided!"
Dalton, like most of the people at the suburban Orlando courthouse, says she's there in support of the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teen from Miami who Zimmerman fatally shot last year.
Prosecutors and Trayvon Martin's family say Zimmerman profiled Martin because of the teen's race. Those allegations, and a 44-day delay before police arrested Zimmerman, sparked nationwide protests involving leading national civil rights leaders and spurred emotional debates about gun control, self-defense laws, race, and equal justice under the law.
In Saturday's strong Florida sun, some people at the courthouse wore hoodies, as Martin had when he died. One woman lay in the grass, her arms spread, in a re-creation of Martin's death. Those in the smaller pro-Zimmerman camp held small signs, saying things like "We love you George" and "George got hit you must acquit."
Joseph Uy of Longwood was among an even smaller group: the few who said they had no opinion on whether Zimmerman was guilty. He said he came because he was "just curious."
"I'm neutral," he said, while cradling his three tiny Chihuahuas in his arms.
By mid-afternoon, people rallied in the heat and chanted slogans as a looming thundercloud threatened a downpour.
"Justice for Trayvon," some shouted. Others yelled, "Convict George Zimmerman."
Police and civic leaders have pleaded for calm in Sanford and across the country after the verdict.
"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."
In New York on Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that no matter the verdict, any demonstrations that follow it must be peaceful.
"We do not want to smear Trayvon Martin's name with violence," the civil rights leader said. "He is a victim of violence."
The Rev. Jesse Jackson had a similar message. He tweeted that people should "avoid violence because it only leads to more tragedies."
On Saturday morning, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, shared on Twitter what she called her favorite Bible verse: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.