Monday 15 July 2013

George Zimmerman's Trial

George Zimmerman walked free from a Florida courtroom late on Saturday after a jury acquitted the neighbourhood watch leader of murdering an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in a case that played into the national debates about race, civil rights and the proliferation of guns in US society.

Zimmerman, 29, smiled briefly and shook the hands of his lawyers Mark O'Mara and Don West after the verdict from the jury of six women was read.

Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, the parents of the 17-year-old shot dead by Zimmerman on the night of 26 February last year, were not in court to hear the decision. Martin said he was "brokenhearted", and Fulton said it was her "darkest hour".

The unanimous verdict came after more than 16 hours of deliberations by the panel at the Seminole County criminal justice centre in Sanford. They had sifted through the testimony of 56 witnesses and hours of lawyers' arguments during the three-week trial. The jury accepted Zimmerman's contention that he shot Martin in self-defence, believing his life to be in immediate danger.

"You have no further business with this court," Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman, informing him that he was free to go and that his GPS tracking bracelet would be removed. Zimmerman's wife Shellie broke down in tears and sobbed into a pink scarf, then beamed widely as she hugged her husband's parents, Robert and Gladys.

The acquittal was greeted with cheers and angry shouts outside the courthouse, where dozens of banner-carrying supporters of the Martin family had gathered through the day.

O'Mara has said that fighting the murder charge effectively bankrupted the couple, who have relied on friends for food and clothes for Zimmerman to wear at his trial.

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