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George Zimmerman trial

George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.

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More protests over Zimmerman verdict

SEATTLE — In Seattle the protests started this morning in church and later spread to the streets of downtown.

Crowds were bigger Sunday but there were few problems and no real violence.

These protests are a way for people to vent their frustration about the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman.

But a lot of people are also hurting because they feel this case is yet another setback for our justice system.

In churches all over the country Sunday Including here at Seattle’s Mount Zion Baptist Church, sermons were peppered with emotion about the George Zimmerman verdict.

WESTLAKE PARK PROTECT“But I want to look at this issue from God’s perspective, because personally I’m struggling with this. Personally, I could not sleep last night after I heard the verdict,” Mount Zion Baptist Church Pastor Aaron Williams said.

On the street in cities large and small protests are being held.

Here in Seattle a rally at Westlake Park was followed by a march through downtown.

A lot of people are upset, but so far protests have been mostly peaceful.

“The verdict is wrong. The system is wrong,” protester Michael Brooks said.

For many this case was less about justice and more about race.

“I’m not surprised.  I’m disappointed.  We have not reached the point where the playing field is level. We’ve not reached the point where we live in a nonracial, racist society.  We still do.  Things may not be quite as obvious but it can’t be more obvious than this was,” Mount Zion Baptist Church Pastor Emeritus Samuel B. McKinney said.

“Yes, of course this was a case about race and it’s going to resonate for a long time,” legal analyst Anne Bremner said.

Legal analyst Anne Bremner followed the trial from start to finish.

While she believes race was a factor, she also believes the jury acquitted because no one can say for certain what really happened in the seconds before George Zimmerman pulled the trigger.

“The jury came down to that moment saying we don’t know what happens. We don’t know exactly what happened and if we don’t know exactly what happened in that moment in time and the government can’t seem to tell us… then we have to acquit,” Bremner said.

“They said Zimmerman was innocent, that he didn’t do anything wrong, which is a travesty of justice,” McKinney said.

Bremner says she doubts a federal civil rights charge would stick, she believes the Department Of Justice would have a better chance with some kind of federal hate crime charge, but she says now that Zimmerman has been found not guilty that could be a longshot as well.

zimmerman tweetsBy Devin Kelly and Robert Faturechi, Los Angeles Times
As expected, social media erupted Saturday night when George Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday of all charges in the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The reactions that poured in from around the country ranged from agreement with the verdict to outrage. A number of Twitter users also expressed sympathy for Martin’s family.

The entire trial was widely discussed and tracked on social media. Thousands tweeted and posted on Facebook with hashtags such as #Zimmerman and #StandWithTrayvon.

PHOTOS: The controversial case in pictures

Commentary and speculation swirled in the days leading up to the verdict. In a symbolic move, Martin’s supporters blacked out Twitter and Facebook profile photos and circulated the #Blackout4Trayvon hashtag.

“We are blacking out our profile photos in a showing of love, unification and solidarity in support of Trayvon Benjamin Martin and have been joined in this effort by his family and their attorneys here on Facebook,” according to a statement post on the “Justice for Trayvon Martin” Facebook page.

Here’s a sampling of the tweets that poured in immediately after the verdict. Twitter users who thought the verdict was the right call were quick to say so.

For a look at some of the tweets following the verdict, read the LA Times story here.

George Zimmerman Trial Continues In Florida

George Zimmerman, seen here in court with his defense counsel, Don West, left, and Mark O’Mara, is charged with second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Gary W. Green / Orlando Sentinel / June 19, 2013)

By Michael Muskal and Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times

SANFORD, Fla. — Before the jury in the George Zimmerman murder case brought back its verdict the  judge warned those in the courtroom against any untoward displays of emotion or outbursts.

Zimmerman stood at the defendant’s table with his lawyers, and the verdict of not guilty was read.

He seemed not to move a muscle until the jurors were taken out of the courtroom with the judge’s thanks.

PHOTOS: George Zimmerman trial: The evidence

Then, like a deflating balloon, the tension drained out of his face. A small smile began at the corners of his mouth and very slowly spread. Within seconds, he turned to shake the hands of his defense team, Mark O’Mara and Don West. Zimmerman, who has been free on bail, looked up at the judge.

“Your bond will be released,” Judge Debra S. Nelson told him. “Your GPS monitor will be cut off and you have no further business with this court.”

Then the defendant’s side of the courtroom exploded in hugs. Zimmerman hugged his wife, Shellie, and friends who have waited during the long trial that began with jury selection last month. Zimmerman’s parents, Robert Zimmerman Sr. and Gladys Zimmerman, hugged each other. Gladys Zimmerman reached over to hug attorney West and O’Mara, who broke out in smiles.

“I think it will take a while for the emotions to set in for George,” O’Mara told reporters afterward.

Zimmerman, 29, had been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford in central Florida. He had always maintained that he shot Martin in self-defense when the teenager attacked him. Prosecutors argued that he had profiled and stalked Martin, who was returning from a convenience store after buying candy and a soft drink.

On the other side of the courtroom, Martin’s family was seen leaving, some members shedding tears.

About 100 people gathered outside the courthouse through much of the long Saturday deliberations. They stood stunned as the verdict was announced.

Tonnetta Foster of Sanford threw her hands up as the jury announced it had acquitted Zimmerman. “I give up,” she said.

Crying, she embraced Erika Rodger of Enterprise, Fla. Rodger, who is white, and Foster, who is black, had met outside the courthouse.

“I’m just heartsick,” Rodger said. “I have a 20-year-old son. I would hate for this to happen to him. That’s why we have police, not individuals that think they can take the law into their own hands.”

Cathy Cole, another woman who watched from the small park in front of the courthouse, also spoke as a parent.

“I have two sons of my own,” she said. “I think the child was murdered.”

The dominant reaction by the crowd to the verdict was not anger but shock. People strained to hear the verdict over their phones. When it became clear that Zimmerman would leave the courthouse a free man, the crowd was mostly silent.

Denica Crawford, from Sanford, and her cousin Jekeem Burk held a phone between them to hear the verdict. When it was announced, they cried.

About 30 law-enforcement officers kept watch over them and others, some of whom eventually broke into chants of “No justice, no peace” and called for a nationwide protest.

But less than an hour after the verdict, much of the crowd has dispersed; only 50 or so were still in the park.

ORLANDO — Jurors in the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial will be allowed to consider at least one lesser charge — manslaughter — when they get the case after closing arguments, Judge Debra Nelson ruled Thursday.

But she put off a decision whether they could consider a charge of third-degree murder after attorney Don West offered fierce objection to the charge, which prosecutors said is based on the idea that Zimmerman committed child abuse in killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

“Oh my God,” he told Nelson. “Just when I thought this case couldn’t get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third-degree murder based on child abuse.”

George Zimmerman Trial Continues In Florida

George Zimmerman, seen here in court with his defense counsel, Don West, left, and Mark O’Mara, is charged with second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Gary W. Green / Orlando Sentinel / June 19, 2013)

Prosecutors are seeking the additional charges to give jurors more options should they find Zimmerman didn’t commit second-degree murder when he killed Martin on February 26, 2012.

In arguing unsuccessfully against the manslaughter charge, West told Nelson that Zimmerman believes that because the “state has charged him with second-degree murder, they should be required to prove it, if they can.”

Closing arguments in the case were expected to begin Thursday afternoon, after attorneys finish arguing over legal points in the jury instructions — including decisions on explaining justifiable use of force and Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

ORLANDO – A key piece of evidence was at the center of George Zimmerman’s murder trial Friday.

Trayvon Martin’s mother and brother listened in court to a 911 call on the night of the shooting and said they recognized the screaming on the recording as coming from the slain teen.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder. His defense team argues that he shot the teen in self-defense.

Lawyers on both sides want to convince the jury of who was doing the screaming, Zimmerman or Martin.

The audio was played in court for Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton. She said she recognized the screaming as that of “Trayvon Benjamin Martin.”

Defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked Fulton if she had no doubt that it was her son screaming.

“Absolutely,” she said.

TrayvonMartin’s older brother, Jahvaris Fulton, 22, also took the stand Friday.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda asked him if he recognized the voice on the tape.

“My brother’s,” Fulton said, adding that he had “heard him yell” before, but “not like that.”

The question of whether Zimmerman’s actions were self-defense or murder could rest on who was the person screaming.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

(CNN) In a sometimes contentious cross-examination filled with testy exchanges, defense attorney Don West peppered the prosecution’s star witness, Rachel Jeantel, with questions Thursday about the consistency of her statements related to the night Trayvon Martin died.

Phone records show Jeantel was talking to Martin moments before he was shot to death.

George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, is charged with second-degree murder for killing 17-year-old Martin in Sanford, Florida, on February 26, 2012. Zimmerman told police he was pursuing the teenager because there had been a rash of crime in the area. A confrontation ensued, and Zimmerman said he was forced to kill Martin in self-defense.

Photo courtesy of CNN

Photo courtesy of CNN

Read more: Rachel Jeantel’s letter to Trayvon Martin’s mother (pdf)

On her second day on the stand, Jeantel looked frustrated as she repeatedly answered with terse replies when asked about her claims that Martin told her someone was following him that night and that a fight followed.

“Trayvon got hit,” said Jeantel.

West shot back: “You don’t know that, do you?”

“No sir,” said Jeantel.

West asked, “You don’t know if Trayvon got hit, do you?”

“No sir,” said Jeantel.

West asked, “You don’t know that Trayvon didn’t at that moment take his fist and drive it into George Zimmerman’s face, do you?”

“No sir,” said Jeantel.

West also challenged Jeantel several times over whether Zimmerman approached Martin the night of the shooting, but she stood her ground.

West asked, “You don’t know whether the man was approaching Trayvon at that point and getting closer or whether Trayvon was approaching the man and getting closer?”

“Trayvon would have told me he would call me back, sir,” she said, “if he was going to approach him, sir.”

A few minutes’s later, West rephrased his question about who approached whom that fateful, but Jeantel’s answer didn’t change.
“If he was going to confront the man he would have told me, ‘I am about to confront the man and see what he wants.’ He did not tell me that, sir. He just told me he tried to get home, sir. But the man was still following him, sir,” said Jenteal.

For more of the testimony, go here.

ORLANDO — A star witness in the prosecution’s case against George Zimmerman, charged with murdering unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, faced a second day of grueling cross-examination Thursday as Zimmerman’s defense attorney seized on discrepancies and omissions in her descriptions of a phone conversation with Martin.

Rachel Jeantel, 19, was the last person to speak with Martin, who was 17 when he was shot to death by Zimmerman on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla.

Don West

Witness Rachel Jeantel, left, continues her testimony to defense attorney Don West on day 14 of George Zimmerman’s trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla. Thursday, June 27, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.(AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel)

Zimmerman claims self-defense; prosecutors allege Zimmerman, 29, profiled Martin because he was black, stalked him and forced a confrontation that ended with Zimmerman — a neighborhood watch captain in his gated community — firing a shot into Martin’s chest.

Martin, who was walking in the rain after going to a convenience store to buy a bag of candy and a soft drink, had been on a cellphone call with Jeantel in the minutes before encountering Zimmerman.

In her testimony Wednesday, Jeantel said she heard Martin ask someone why they were following him, and then heard a second voice ask Martin: “What are you doing around here?”

Under cross-examination Thursday, Jeantel said she did not mention Zimmerman’s alleged words to Martin when she described the exchange to Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, on March 19, 2012.

In a phone interview that same day with the Martin family attorney, Benjamin Crump, she gave a different account of  Zimmerman’s alleged statement to Martin. During that conversation, she told Crump that she heard him say: “What are you talking about?”

For more on this LA Times story, click here.

ORLANDO — Sixteen months after a fateful confrontation on a rainy night in Florida left an unarmed teenager dead at the hands of a neighborhood watch volunteer, the murder trial of George Zimmerman begins with opening statements Monday morning.

The case, which touches the charged third rails of race and gun issues, is expected to last two to four weeks before deliberations by a six-person jury begin. Zimmerman could face life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

After months of fiery charges and counterpunches, the major players are being careful about what they say as the arena has shifted from the media to the courtroom in Sanford, Fla.

George Zimmerman Trial Continues In Florida

George Zimmerman, seen here in court with his defense counsel, Don West, left, and Mark O’Mara, is charged with second-degree murder in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Gary W. Green / Orlando Sentinel / June 19, 2013)

“What I do think we have, and I’m very happy with this, is six jurors who have told us that they’ll be fair and impartial,” Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, said last week after the all-female jury had been chosen after nine days of questioning, or voir dire.

The prosecution has not commented. But the family of Trayvon Martin, 17, whom Zimmerman shot to death, said it also expected a fair and impartial hearing on the case, which prompted national demonstrations by civil rights leaders and comments from top officials, including President Obama.

“With the makeup of this jury, the question of whether every American can get equal justice regardless of who serves on their jury panel will be answered,” the family and its legal team said in a statement. “Equal justice under the law is not a black value or a white value.”

The core of the case will be reflected in the opening statements.

Prosecutors will try to paint Zimmerman, 29, as an eager vigilante and police wannabe who was driving in a gated Sanford community on Feb. 26, 2012, when he saw Martin walking in the rain, wearing a hoodie sweatshirt. The teenager, who was black, was returning to the home of his father’s fiancee after visiting a convenience store, where he had purchased candy and an iced tea.

Suspicious, Zimmerman called the town police to report seeing Martin and told the operator he was following the youth. The operator replied that there was no need for Zimmerman to do that. After the call ended, Zimmerman and Martin had a violent confrontation that ended with Zimmerman firing his licensed 9-millimeter semiautomatic handgun and killing the unarmed teenager. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense.

For more on this LA Times story, click here.

SANFORD, FLA. (CNN) — Trayvon Martin’s familiarity with guns, his marijuana use, and fights he may have been in cannot be brought up in George Zimmerman’s murder trial, the judge overseeing the case ruled Tuesday.

At the hearing two weeks before the scheduled start of the trial, Judge Debra Nelson handed a series of victories to the prosecution when she barred the defense from introducing some information about Martin.

george zimmerman pretrial 05-28-13,jpgDefense attorneys argued that some of the evidence could prove crucial in backing up Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, depending on what the prosecution argues.

Certain evidence could ultimately be raised during the trial, however, if it is proven relevant and admissible based on what the prosecution presents, the judge decided.

Nelson left the door open on one issue involving marijuana. Defense attorneys say toxicology tests show Martin had enough THC — the key active ingredient in marijuana — in his system to indicate he may have smoked the drug a couple of hours before the shooting. Nelson barred any mention of this from opening statements, but said she will rule later on whether it will be admissible after she hears defense experts’ testimony about the marijuana use.

For the complete CNN story, go here.