ANFORD: A Florida jury on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) found neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in a racially charged trial that transfixed the nation.
The trial raised strong passions among those who believed that Zimmerman—whose father is white and whose mother is Peruvian—had racially profiled Martin, and those convinced that the volunteer watchman acted in self-defense.
Zimmerman, 29, had been accused of pursuing Martin, 17, through a gated community in Sanford, Florida, and shooting him during an altercation on a rainy night on February 26, 2012.
The killing led to mass marches in several United States (US) cities after police initially declined to press charges against Zimmerman.
Fearing more protests and outbreaks of violence after the verdict, activists and community leaders appealed for calm. Police were out in force in Sanford, and the crowd of several hundred gathered outside the courthouse was loud at times but peaceful.
Spontaneous protest marches however were staged overnight in US cities including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and Atlanta, US media reported.
“Obviously, we are ecstatic with the results. George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense,” said his lead lawyer Mark O’Mara after the verdict.
Defense lawyer Don West was even more blunt. “I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful,” he said.
Defense lawyers insisted that Zimmerman acted in self-defense after Martin wrestled him to the ground and slammed his head on the pavement.
Zimmerman smiled briefly but did not appear emotional as the verdict was read. His family grinned broadly as they sat behind him in the courtroom.
According to Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, people who fear for their lives can use deadly force to defend themselves without having to flee a confrontation.
“Even though I am broken-hearted my faith is unshattered I will always love my baby tray,” Martin’s father Tracy wrote on Twitter.
Both he and Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton gave thanks for the outpouring of support they had received over the past year.