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Florida jury finds George Zimmerman not guilty

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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.

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  • BILL K.

    Floridans just said to tge entire world it is fine by them to murder children as long as they are black ! I say everyone who isnt racist ought to boycot florida and everything that comes out of that racist state! Professional sports players with a conscious ought to refuse to play as well as any celebrities. SHAME ON FLORIDA PEOPLE

    • Mitch F.

      That is not what Florida jurors said. First of all, all of the evidence was very loose at best. There was plenty of reasonable doubt throughout the case. Second of all, just because someone is watching you does not give you the right to beat up the person and bash their head into the cement.

      I don't know who started the fight, George or Trayvon. No one other than George and Trayvon know that. Based on the facts that were presented in the case, the only verdict could be not guilty (which does not mean innocent, it could just mean there was not enough evidence) because it is very possible that George was acting in self defense. Remember, following someone is not illegal and does not give anyone the right to start bashing someone into the cement.

      • Skip

        Had Zimmerman actually been a uniformed law officer, instead of a dumb ass cowboy, Martin's reaction would have different. Zimmerman wasn't even a security guard.

        • Mitch F.

          I would agree that Zimmerman made stupid decisions that night but nothing was illegal about it at all. The out come would have been completely different. Stupid and legal are two very different things.

          • Skip

            Zimmerman provoked the teenager by following him. Martin probably thought he was about to get robbed. Zimmerman had no legal authority to do police work and was told to stay in his car. He's a thug looking for a fight so he could get his gun out.

        • Matt

          Who cares if he was a uniformed cop or security guard? He was within his right to have on his person a handgun. And since no one knows what happened that night if he was attacked or if he picked a fight why do we argue it? No one of us here is a jury member, a judge, or are qualified to pass judgement. The justice system worked like it was supposed to. A year and a half later a jury of commen women like the rest of us, listened to everything and passed their judgement as us called for by the founding documents of this nation guaranteeing that all men and women regardless of race or gender or sexul orientation or religion are given a fair trial the same as any other person gets. Just because you don’t like the outcome does not mean that the verdict was wrong or that the systemis flawed. Had this case been a black man shooting a non black kid the outcry would have been far les and the ACLU would have bought that verdict and clamped a tighter lid on it. Is it fair in America? No because we have to be mindful that no race is offended even if it means an innocent white man spends his life behind bars.

  • guest

    It's way past time for the black community to get past this victim mentality. They think every bad thing that happens to a black person is because of their race. Couldn't it be your lifestyle and/or poor choices you make? That causes problems for other races. And not ALL blacks have these kinds of things happen in their lives.