After 16 hours of deliberations, a Florida jury of six women found neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman not guilty in connection with the death of teenager Travon Martin.
A Florida jury decided that Zimmerman, 29, was acting in self-defense when he shot the unarmed Martin, 17, in the chest during an altercation in a gated community of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. 2012.
Jurors also had the option of convicted him of second-degree murder or of the lesser crime of manslaughter.
As the verdict was read in the the courtroom, Zimmerman’s family held hands across a row and cried.
Zimmerman was not charged for 44 days in which the case generated large protests in several cities, turned a hooded sweatshirt like the one Martin wore into a symbol of solidarity, and drew the attention of President Obama, who said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Zimmerman pleaded not guilty throughout the case to the charges against him.
Over the course of testimony, 56 witnesses took the stand, including Martin’s and Zimmerman’s parents, who disagreed about who was heard yelling for help in the background of a 911 call made by a resident of the Retreat at Twin Lakes during the fatal confrontation.
Zimmerman did not testify, but his call to the non-emergency police line, his statements to investigators and even a TV interview were part of the evidence jurors could consider.
The panel was also given photos of Zimmerman’s injuries and pictures of Martin’s body at the scene and at the morgue. Well aware of the passions surrounding the case, soon after the jury began deliberations Friday, the Seminole County sheriff appealed for calm whatever the outcome might be.
A large group had gathered outside the courthouse Saturday night and many had strong reactions to the verdict which was read just after 10 p.m. Florida time.
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George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.