Jury acquits George Zimmerman in killing of Trayvon Martin

The panel of six women deliberated more than 16 hours over two days until nearly 10pm on Saturday (2am GMT on Sunday) before delivering the verdict, which drew immediate condemnation from some civil rights groups.

Zimmerman appeared stony-faced as the verdict was announced, but then showed a slight smile of relief. His parents embraced each other and his wife was tearful.

"I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful," said his attorney Don West. "As happy as I am for George Zimmerman, I'm thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty."

Outside the courthouse, the decision drew angry shouts from some of the dozens of demonstrators who had gathered during the day in support of Martin's family.

His parents were not in the court during the reading of the verdict, but his father, Tracy Martin, later tweeted that his son would have been proud of the fight put up for him.

"Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered," he wrote. "Together can make sure that this doesn't happen again."

Zimmerman (29) who is white and Hispanic, said Martin (17) attacked him on the night of February 26 2012, in the central Florida town of Sanford. Prosecutors contend the neighbourhood watch coordinator in his gated community was a "wannabe cop" who tracked down the teenager and shot him without justification.

The jury could have convicted him of second-degree murder, which would have carried a sentence of up to life in prison, or manslaughter.

"Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family," Roslyn Brock, who chairs the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, said in a statement.

"We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. This case has re-energised the movement to end racial profiling in the United States."


Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson tweeted within minutes of the acquittal: "Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair."

Protests, scrutiny

What happened in Sanford that February night may never have gone beyond the back pages of a local newspaper if police had immediately arrested Zimmerman.

But he walked free for more than six weeks after the shooting, because police believed his assertion of self-defence, triggering protests and cries of injustice across the country.

It also drew comment from President Barack Obama, forced the resignation of Sanford's police chief, and brought US Justice Department scrutiny to this town of 54 000 residents not far from Disney World in Orlando.

Bernie de la Rionda, the assistant state attorney who was the chief prosecutor in the case against Zimmerman, said he and his two fellow prosecutors were unhappy about the outcome of the trial.

"I am disappointed, as we are, with the verdict. But we accept it. We live in a great country that has a great criminal justice system. It's not perfect, but it is the best in the world and we respect the jury's verdict," he said.

Benjamin Crump, a Florida lawyer representing Martin's family, said he hoped the public reaction to the verdict would be peaceful. But he did not conceal his sense of injustice over the trial's outcome.

"The whole world was looking at this case for a reason, and what people wanted to see, as we all said, was how far we had come in America in matters of equal justice," said Crump. "We have to have very responsible conversations about how we get better as a country and move forward from this tragedy and learn from it."

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office said it had heard nothing about any potential violent reaction to the verdict in and around Sanford, where about 30% of the residents are black.

"It's very quiet so far," spokesperson Kim Cannaday told Reuters, about 30 minutes after the verdict was handed down in Sanford's Seminole County courthouse. – Reuters

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Where is the deputy president?

David Mabuza is hard at work — it’s just not taking place in the public eye. The rumblings and discussion in the ANC are about factions in the ruling party, succession and ousting him

Zuma turns on judiciary as trial nears

Former president says pre-trial correspondence is part of another plot

High court declares Dudu Myeni delinquent

Disgraced former SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni has been declared a delinquent director by the...

SANDF inquiry clears soldiers of the death of Collins Khosa

The board of inquiry also found that it was Khosa and his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango who caused the altercation with the defence force members
Advertising

Press Releases

Obituary: Mohammed Tikly

His legacy will live on in the vision he shared for a brighter more socially just future, in which racism and discrimination are things of the past

Openview, now powered by two million homes

The future of free-to-air satellite TV is celebrating having two million viewers by giving away two homes worth R2-million

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday