July 14, 2013

Zimmerman cleared in shooting of Trayvon Martin

'I'm glad this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty,' defense team member says

By KYLE HIGHTOWER and MIKE SCHNEIDER Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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George Zimmerman, right, is congratulated by his defense team after being found not guilty during Zimmerman's trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla. tonight. Jurors found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Fla. The six-member, all-woman jury deliberated for more than 15 hours over two days before reaching their decision.

AP

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George Zimmerman's parents, Robert Zimmerman Sr. and Gladys Zimmerman, embrace following George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict in Seminole Circuit Court in Sanford, Fla., tonight.

AP photo

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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.

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Additional Photos

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Attorneys Natalie Jackson, Benjamin Crump and Daryl Parks, from left, sit in for the Trayvon Martin family during George Zimmerman's trial in Seminole Circuit Court in Sanford, Fla. today.

AP

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Darrsie Jackson, center, reacts after hearing the verdict of not guilty in the trial of George Zimmerman with her children, Linzey Stafford, left, 10, and Shauntina Stafford, 11, at the Seminole County Courthouse in Sanford, Fla., tonight.

AP photo

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This combo image made from file photos shows Trayvon Martin, left, and George Zimmerman. Jurors tonight found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Fla. The six-member, all-woman jury deliberated for more than 15 hours over two days before reaching their decision.

AP photo