George Zimmerman Found Not Guilty

Ruling means Zimmerman was justified in shooting unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.

Posted: 07/13/2013 10:00 PM EDT
Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, verdict

**Watch the BET Special on The Trayvon Martin Verdict today at 12:30P/11:30C**

REPORTING FROM SANFORD, FLORIDA

A jury of six women found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin, ending a trial that drew deep emotion in a case that had been watched internationally as a symbol of race relations in the United States.

The verdict was reached at around 10 p.m. Saturday night, after more than 16 hours of deliberation by the jury over two days.

The acquittal of Zimmerman on charges of second-degree murder was met in Sanford, Florida, with deep emotion, with hundreds of people standing in stunned silence outside of the Seminole County Courthouse.

Once the news spread throughout the crowd, there was the feeling that another tragedy had occurred, beyond the death of the unarmed teenager who was shot by Zimmerman in February of 2012. 

The verdict was greeted with equally tough reaction in the world of cyberspace, where there were strongly worded messages that conveyed the disappointment and anger with the decision.

Trayvon Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were not present in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

"We are very, very saddened," said Daryl Parks, one of the lawyers for the parents of the dead teenager. "We accept the jury’s verdict, on behalf of Tracy and Sybrina, who are just heartbroken. We ask that you keep them in your prayers."

The prosecutors, too, expressed deep frustration.

“I am disappointed, as we all are, with the verdict, but I accept it,” said Bernie De La Rionda, the lead attorney for the prosecution, speaking to the media following the verdict.  He said the American justice system “is not perfect, but it’s the best in the world and we respect the jury’s verdict.”

The feeling of disappointment was palpable, particularly among many African-Americans who had followed the case.

“We could blame the prosecution or we could blame law enforcement,” said Marc Lamont Hill, the noted academic, author and activist. “But at the core, this case was lost because it’s nearly impossible to convince everyday white Americans that a young Black boy could be the victim rather than the purveyor of violence.”

That was a common theme among people outside of the courtroom and beyond. “It’s clear you can stand your ground unless you’re a Black male,” tweeted Tavis Smiley.

There was also a strong sense that there might well be future legal action, particularly in possible civil cases.

“We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, the president and chief executive of the NAACP, in a statement. “We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice.”

Similarly, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that the acquittal of Zimmerman was “a slap in the face to the American people but it is only the first round in the pursuit of justice.”

He added that the National Action Network, the civil rights organization he leads, intends “to ask the Department of Justice to move forward as they did in the Rodney King case and we will closely monitor the civil case against Mr. Zimmerman. I will convene an emergency call with preachers tonight to discuss next steps and I intend to head to Florida in the next few days."

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(Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)

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