Posted Saturday, July 13th 2013 @ 9pm by Liz Goodwin, Yahoo! News
SANFORD, Fla--After more than 15 hours of deliberating, the six-woman jury in the trial of George Zimmerman has found the neighborhood watchman not guilty.
Zimmerman, 29, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, whom the defendant shot during a scuffle in a nearby gated community on Feb 26, 2012. The jury was also able to convict Zimmerman on the lesser charge of manslaughter.
The decision from the jury is sure to spark outrage from Martin family supporters who say the teen's death was ignored by police and prosecutors for weeks because of his race. Martin was black, and Zimmerman is half white and half Hispanic.
The jurors deliberated for nine hours on Saturday--including a one-hour lunch during which they were allowed to discuss the case--before alerting the court that they would like the attorneys to clarify the charge of manslaughter. The attorneys on both sides of the case answered the jury that they could not speak about the charge "in general terms" but would be happy to answer a more specific question.
The jury never sent back a more specific inquiry, and returned to deliberations after an hour-long dinner. The sequestered, anonymous jurors only made one other request during their deliberations--for an itemized list of all the evidence presented during the trial on Friday.
In a televised three-week trial, jurors heard the defense and prosecution each paint very different pictures of the night in question. Zimmerman was an angry “wannabe cop” who was seething with anger at a rash of break-ins in his neighborhood when he pursued and shot Martin, the state has argued. The defense, meanwhile, maintained Zimmerman was within his rights to follow and question Martin, and that it was the teen who became violent, prompting Zimmerman to shoot as a way to save his own life.
The case ignited a national debate over self-defense laws and race, prompting marches and demonstrations around the country. No mass demonstrations materialized outside the Seminole County Courthouse since the jury began deliberating Friday afternoon, however. On Saturday, about a hundred mostly pro-Martin protesters peacefully demonstrated in front of the court. Police said they had to eject a handful of protesters over verbal altercations, but no arrests were made. Local leaders have urged members of the community to remain peaceful no matter what verdict the jury hands down.
The prosecution failed to convince the jury that Zimmerman had “a depraved mind without regard for human life” when he shot Martin, which was required for second-degree murder. A lesser manslaughter conviction could have been handed down if the jury believed Zimmerman had no lawful reason to kill Martin, even if he bore Martin no ill will. The law says if Zimmerman had a “reasonable” belief that his own life was in jeopardy or that he could suffer bodily harm from Martin, he was justified in killing him.
In closing arguments Friday, Assistant District Attorney John Guy argued that it was the unarmed Martin who tried to defend himself. “Ask yourself, ‘Who lost the fight?’” Guy said. “That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him, first in his car and then on foot. And did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man?”
Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara argued over three hours in his closing remarks that Martin was not “unarmed.” He dragged out a chunk of concrete and laid it in front of the jury to make the point that
Martin used the pavement as a “weapon” against his client when he allegedly slammed his head against it in their scuffle.
Witnesses gave conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor of the fight and both Zimmerman's family and Martin's family have claimed it was their relative who could be heard screaming for help in the background of a 911 call during the fight.
Zimmerman wasn’t arrested in the shooting for weeks, after a public outcry. Bill Lee, then the police chief of Sanford, said Zimmerman was justified under Florida’s stand your ground self defense law. Lee lost his job after the incident, and a special prosecutor was appointed to argue the case.
Source: Yahoo News