George Zimmerman verdict: Jurors find Zimmerman not guilty - Atlanta News, Weather, Traffic, and Sports | FOX 5

George Zimmerman verdict: Jurors find Zimmerman not guilty

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

George Zimmerman blinked and barely smiled as a jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.
 
Supporters of Martin's family who had gathered outside the courthouse yelled out "No! No!"
 
The jury had been given the chance to convict Zimmerman of manslaughter but did not do so, despite asking for a clarification of the charge earlier in the evening.
 
Zimmerman's wife, Shellie Zimmerman, had tears in her eyes after the six-member, all-woman jury delivered its verdict Saturday night.
 
After hearing the verdict, Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman he was free to go.

With law enforcement and civic leaders on edge, the jury began deliberations late Friday afternoon after hearing dueling portraits of the neighborhood watch captain: a "wannabe" cop who took the law into his own hands when he shot an unarmed 17-year-old boy or a well-meaning volunteer who cared about the safety of his community.

Zimmerman claimed he opened fire in self-defense during a fight on the night of February 26, 2012.  Because there were no direct eyewitnesses to the shooting, the jury had to rely heavily on testimony -- which was often conflicting -- from police, neighbors who testified they heard a struggle, friends and family members.

"We're ecstatic with the results," defense attorney Mark O'Mara said after the verdict. "George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense."

Another member of his defense team, Don West, said: "I'm glad this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty."

Moments earlier, State Attorney Angela Corey said she believed second-degree murder was the appropriate charge because Zimmerman's mindset "fit the bill of second-degree murder."
 
"We charged what we believed we could prove," Corey said.

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump acknowledged the disappointment of Trayvon Martin's supporters, ranking the teen alongside civil rights heroes Medgar Evers and Emmett Till in the history of the fight for equal justice.
 
But he urged them not to resort to violence.
 
"For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful," he said.

As the verdict drew near, police and city leaders in the Orlando suburb of Sanford and other parts of Florida said they were taking precautions against the possibility of mass protests or unrest in the event of an acquittal.
 
"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said immediately after jurors began deliberating. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."
 
The verdict came a year and a half after civil rights protesters angrily demanded Zimmerman be prosecuted.
 
Zimmerman wasn't arrested for 44 days after the 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.

O'Mara said his client is aware he has to be cautious and protective of his safety.
 
"There still is a fringe element that wants revenge," O'Mara said. "They won't listen to a verdict of not guilty."

Listen to 911 calls, see trial pictures at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

The families of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin are reacting on Twitter after the former neighborhood watch volunteer was cleared of all charges.
 
Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., says his family is relieved that the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. He tweeted: "Today ... I'm proud to be an American."
 
Martin's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, were reserved but expressed their disappointment. Fulton expressed her faith in God, saying "Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you." Tracy Martin tweeted that he was broken-hearted, but that his faith is "unshattered."
 
The teen's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, said simply: "Et tu America?" -- a reference to the Latin phrase "Et tu, Brute?" known as an expression of betrayal.

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."

Read the instructions given to jurors (PDF)

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.

O'Mara, Zimmerman's attorney, said his client is aware he has to be cautious and protective of his safety.

"There still is a fringe element that wants revenge," O'Mara said. "They won't listen to a verdict of not guilty."

Martin's family can still file a civil suit against Zimmerman under Florida's Wrongful Death Act, which requires proof that Martin's death was caused by the negligence of another person or entity. To prove negligence under the statute, it must be shown that Zimmerman owed Martin a legal duty, that the duty owed was breached, and that an injury was caused to Martin by Zimmerman's breach. 

Zimmerman was initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of Martin, but jurors could have also convicted Zimmerman on the lesser charge of manslaughter. The jury had asked for a clarification on the manslaughter charge earlier in the evening.

Complete coverage of the George Zimmerman trial at ZimmermanTrialOnFox.com

If convicted, the former neighborhood watch volunteer would have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder or 30 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.

The jurors sent Judge Debra Nelson a note asking for clarification on the manslaughter charge, the less-serious charge Zimmerman faces, after deliberating for about eight hours Saturday. The question read simply: "May we please have clarification for the instruction on manslaughter?"

As jurors awaited an answer, Nelson talked to lawyers at the bench and then said court would recess for a half hour. When attorneys returned, prosecutor Richard Mantei said that after conducting research, he would suggest asking the jurors to elaborate. Defense attorney Mark O'Mara agreed.

"Let's get clarification on their confusion," O'Mara said.

The judge then sent a note back to the jury that read: "The court can't engage in general discussion but may be able to address a specific question regarding clarification of the instructions regarding manslaughter. If you have a specific question, please submit it."

The jury also recessed for an hour for dinner, during which they were allowed to continue deliberating. They did not immediately respond to the judge's note.

During the day about two dozen people gathered outside the courthouse awaiting a verdict, with supporters of the Martin family outnumbering those there for Zimmerman. One man held a sign that read, "We love you George." A woman lay in the grass in a hoodie, her arms spread, in a re-creation of Martin's death.

On Twitter, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, shared 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."

During closing arguments, Zimmerman's attorney attempted to portray him as a neighborhood activist who shot Martin in self-defense and prosecutors attempted to paint him as a wannabe cop whose misguided suspicion resulted in the teen's death.

As the jury began their discussions, police and civic leaders in this Orlando suburb went on national television to plead for calm in Sanford and across the country, no matter what 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."

There were big protests in Sanford and other cities across the country last year when authorities waited 44 days before arresting Zimmerman.

Zimmerman shot Martin as the two fought following a confrontation in the gated Sanford community where Zimmerman lives.

"Your verdict should not be influenced by feelings of prejudice, bias or sympathy," Judge Debra Nelson told the jury, reading from a 27-page set of instructions. "Your verdict must be based on the evidence, and on the law contained in these instructions."

 

 

Information from FoxNews.com and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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