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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

George Zimmerman Acquitted

SANFORD, Fla. (CN) - A jury late Saturday acquitted George Zimmerman of the second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin, finding Zimmerman killed the unarmed black teenager in self defense.

The six-woman jury also acquitted Zimmerman of the lesser offense of manslaughter.

The jury brought in at verdict at 10 p.m. Saturday, after 16 hours of deliberations in two days.

Zimmerman's bond was returned, his GPS device was cut off and evidence released.

"You have no further business with this court," Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman, 29.

Jurors' names will not be released until a time to be determined by Nelson.

The jury asked Nelson for clarification of manslaughter Saturday evening before the verdict. They returned to deliberate by 7 p.m. Saturday.

Protesters gathered outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center all day Saturday awaiting the verdict. They chanted "Nationwide protest!" and "No justice, no peace" after the verdict was read.

Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law. He was charged with second-degree murder for the February 2012 shooting and faced life in prison.

He was not arrested for 44 days after the shooting, sparking national outrage.

The case became controversial because prosecutors believed Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, profiled Martin and followed him because he was black.

"Our hearts go out to the victim's family and all victim's of crime," prosecutor Angela Corey said after the verdict. "We never know what a jury is going to do. We charge what we believe we can prove."

Prosecutor Bernie De La Rionda added: "I am disappointed, as we all are, with the verdict. But I respect the process and the jury's efforts."

Zimmerman's attorney Don West said: "We proved George Zimmerman was not guilty."

Martin's father, Tracy Martin, tweeted after the verdict: "Though I am broken hearted, my faith is unshattered."

Defense Attorney Mark O'Mara said: "This is a tragedy, but it's not one that George is responsible for. George Zimmerman just wants his life back."

Jurors said they were not interested in speaking to reporters.

Here is Courthouse News' report on the trial's closing arguments.

(Saturday, July 13) - Two hours after receiving its instructions on Friday, the jury in George Zimmerman's murder trial asked for a list of all the evidence, then called it a day at 6 p.m., to resume this morning.

The all-woman jury began deliberating Zimmerman's fate at 2:28 p.m., after nearly five hours of closing arguments and rebuttal.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder, but Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson said the jury may consider a lesser offense of manslaughter.

"It's natural to make assumptions on first impressions," Zimmerman's attorney Mark O'Mara said in his closing statement Friday. "I call this case the bizarro case because of how many 'what ifs' you have in the state's case. The burden of proof is on the state."

O'Mara told jurors there should be a presumption of innocence.

"The state must prove so there will be no doubt in your mind that George Zimmerman is guilty of second-degree murder," he said. "They must prove to you beyond a reasonable doubt that George Zimmerman did not act in self-defense."

He said Zimmerman did not have ill will against young black men, as the state suggested.


"Is there any proof that George Zimmerman ran after Trayvon Martin?" O'Mara asked.

He played a tape of the 911 call in which a voice is heard screaming for help, and showed a computer-animated re-enactment.

The O'Mara took a 4-minute pause during which he asked that nobody speak.

"Four minutes. That's how long Martin had," O'Mara said. "What was he doing four minutes before the fight started? Somebody decided they were angry. He had four minutes of planning, and they want you to ignore it."

O'Mara said that Martin came out of the darkness and attacked Zimmerman, causing severe injuries.

"Let's use common sense," O'Mara said. "The reality of what happened is straightforward."

He held a photo of Zimmerman's injuries.

"This is factual. This is a severe injury," O'Mara said. "We have factual innocence. Speculation is not evidence. Who gets the benefits of lack of evidence? George Zimmerman."

He referred to a statement by witness Vincent DiMalo, who suggested Martin backed up when he saw the gun.

"Where is the evidence?" O'Mara said. "Who saw him back up? Give me one piece of evidence that proves George Zimmerman had any other option than self-defense."

O'Mara brought cutouts of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman to show the difference in size. He also carried a cement block to show jurors what he said Martin was armed with.

"He used what he had around him, his fists, the concrete," he said.

Martin's mother Sybrina Fulton abruptly walked out of the courtroom during the demonstration.

Jurors watched and took notes.

"This case must be decided upon the evidence," O'Mara said. "A person is justified to use deadly force if you have reasonable fear of great bodily harm. He doesn't have to think that he's going to die."

O'Mara criticized the state for its opening statement in which prosecutor John Guy repeated expletives Zimmerman used to describe Martin on the non-emergency call.

O'Mara said prosecutors called Zimmerman a "wannabe cop," and said that his client did want to be a cop, as well as a lawyer and a helper.

Zimmerman's father Robert Zimmerman is a retired judge.

"Really? Is that the way he said it?" O'Mara asked. "He didn't have that amount of anger. Don't let them put in innuendos, with yelling, sympathy and cursing."

O'Mara said at a press conference earlier this week that Zimmerman should be tried for one offense and no lesser charges. He said self-defense for one charge would be self-defense for them all.

"Do you think he might have acted in self-defense?" O'Mara said. "If you reach that conclusion you stop. Because self defense is self defense to everything, to assault, to manslaughter and to second-degree murder."

Judge Nelson considered, but rejected, possible lesser offenses of aggravated assault and third-degree murder with child abuse.

Zimmerman is charged with killing the unarmed, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, in February 2012.

Zimmerman, 29, claims he killed Martin in self-defense under Florida's "stand your ground" law. If convicted of second-degree murder he could face life in prison.

After a short recess Friday, the state began its rebuttal.


Prosecutor John Guy took 45 minutes to tell the six-member jury why they should return a guilty verdict.

"The human heart guides us," Guy said. "If we really want to know what happened, we should look into the heart of that grown man. There's a phrase that goes, 'As a man speaks, so is he.'

"He can make fun of the way I said it, but it's not my voice that counts, it's yours," Guy said. "Is that not what was in the defendant's heart when he approached Trayvon Martin? That's what he was really feeling just moments before he pulled the trigger."

Guy asked about the biggest fear of a child.

"Isn't it every child's fear to be followed home in the dark by a stranger?" he said.

Guy said only two people know what happened, and that one of them is dead and one of them is lying.

"If the defendant would have done what he was supposed to do - see and call - this wouldn't have happened," Guy said. "George Zimmerman will forever have Trayvon Martin's blood on his hands."

Guy said Martin had every right to defend himself but that it was physically impossible for Martin to have grabbed Zimmerman's gun, as the defense claimed, because Zimmerman's waist was covered.

"This isn't a case of self defense, it's a case of self denial," Guy said. "This case is not about black and white, but about right and wrong."

He showed a PowerPoint list of things Zimmerman allegedly lied about to make Martin sound menacing. The list included where Zimmerman would meet police, needing to get the address of the street for the dispatcher, that Martin had covered his mouth and nose, seen his gun and circled his car.

"Was George Zimmerman justified to use deadly force?" Guy asked. "He didn't shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to, but because he wanted to."

Guy quoted Voltaire: "To the living we owe respect. To the dead we owe the truth."

After Judge Nelson read the jury its instructions, they were released to deliberate and the alternates were dismissed.

Several demonstrators gathered outside the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in support of "Justice for Martin."

Zimmerman was not arrested until 44 days after the shooting, after national protests.

Martin wore a hooded sweatshirt the night he was shot. The hoodie became a trademark of sorts for Martin supporters. Prosecutors say Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and followed him.

After the trial Friday, city leaders and pastors urged the community to be peaceful after the verdict is in. Police departments throughout South Florida were instructed to be on alert for possible reactions to the verdict, according to National Public Radio.

Judge Nelson's 27-page jury instructions include this definition of second-degree murder:

"To prove the crime of Second Degree Murder, the State must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

"1. Trayvon Martin is dead.

"2. The death was caused by the criminal act of George Zimmerman.

"3. There was an unlawful killing of Trayvon Martin by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

"An 'act' includes a series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose.

"An act is 'imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind' if it is an act or series of acts that:

"1. a person of ordinary judgment would know is reasonably certain to kill or do serious bodily injury to another, and

"2. is done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent, and

"3. is of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.

"In order to convict of Second Degree Murder, it is not necessary for the State to prove George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death."

Second-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison.

Here is how Nelson described manslaughter in the jury instructions:

"To prove the crime of Manslaughter, the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

"1. Trayvon Martin is dead.

"2. George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.

"George Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide:

"Each of us has a duty to act reasonably toward others. If there is a violation of that duty, without any conscious intention to harm, that violation is negligence.

"The killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon George Zimmerman, or to commit a felony in any dwelling house in which George Zimmerman was at the time of the killing.

"The killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances:

"1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or

"2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or

"3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.

"In order to convict of manslaughter by act, it is not necessary for the State to prove that George Zimmerman had an intent to cause death, only an intent to commit an act that was not merely negligent, justified, or excusable and which caused death.

"If you find George Zimmerman committed Manslaughter, and you also find beyond a reasonable doubt that during the commission of the Manslaughter, George Zimmerman carried, displayed, used, threatened to use, or attempted to use a firearm, you should check the appropriate box on the verdict form which I will discuss with you later in these instructions."

Manslaughter is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Here is the Courthouse News report on the first day of closing arguments.

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