The neighborhood watch volunteer, who
fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in a racially
charged encounter in central Florida, was cleared of all charges
The jury of six women delivered the verdict following 16 hours of deliberations – including 12 hours today.
The case became a lightning rod of racial politics as the country
debated whether Zimmerman’s claim – that he feared for his life –
justified his killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was walking home
from the store.
controversial decision, Seminole County Judge Debra
Nelson allowed the
jury to consider convicting Zimmerman on a manslaughter charge, which
would require a lesser burden of proof and carries a prison sentence of
up to 30 years.
Prosecutors tried to paint Zimmerman as a lying, violent man, eager
to play at being a police officer, one who unfairly profiled an innocent
To get a conviction on
second-degree murder charges prosecutors had to show Zimmerman acted with ill will, spite, or hatred.
Defense lawyers said prosecutors hadn’t proved their case, and that
Zimmerman was justified under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws to use
deadly force in saving his own life.
Zimmerman’s attorneys portrayed Martin, 17, as a pot-smoking
troublemaker, who liked to fight and had been suspended from school for
To bolster their claim, they released pictures of guns and drugs they said Martin kept on his cell phone.
The trial included grisly images of Martin’s fatal wounds and testy
exchanges between Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, the prosecution’s star
witness, and defense lawyer Don West.
While Zimmerman had been slammed for assuming the black teen was a
criminal, Jeantel testified that Martin referred to Zimmerman, whom
Martin did not know, as a “creepy-ass cracker.”
Jeantel, who stunned the court by testifying that she couldn’t read
cursive writing, said Martin’s last words were “Get off! Get off!”
before the phone went dead.
West challenged Jeantel, suggesting she didn’t call police when
Martin’s phone cut off because she thought he provoked the fight.
“That’s why you didn’t do anything — because Trayvon Martin started the fight and you knew that,” West said.
“No, sir!” Jeantel shot back from the witness stand. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”