After more than 15 hours of deliberation and three weeks of testimony, an all-female jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.
Jurors announced Saturday night that Zimmerman, 29, was found not guilty in his second-degree murder trial. Zimmerman was accused of shooting and killing 17-year-old Martin last February.
State prosecutors argued that Zimmerman was acting as a "wannabe cop" and took the law into his own hands when he followed the teenager and shot him. Zimmerman has said he acted out of self defense and that Martin had attacked him, and his attorneys said there was not enough evidence to prove otherwise.
In order to prove Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder, the jury had to conclude that, beyond reasonable doubt, Zimmerman acted out of ill will and hatred, not self defense.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled on Wednesday that jurors could also consider the lesser charge of manslaughter, which also carried the possibility of life in prison.
Earlier Saturday evening, jurors asked for clarification on the definition of manslaughter, indicating that second-degree murder had already been ruled out.
In the days leading to the closure of the case, Florida law enforcement has been preparing for a possible violent reaction, while others have urged those involved to act peacefully.
"Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies," Rev. Jesse Jackson said on Twitter following the verdict. "Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair."
Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair. #ZimmermanTrial— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) July 14, 2013
Although Zimmerman is now free to walk, defense attorney Mark O’Mara said before the verdict that he believes Zimmerman’s life may be at risk.
"There are a lot of people who think George killed Trayvon Martin for racial reasons, even though nothing supports that. And if they feel that anger enough, they could react violently," O'Mara said, according to CNN.
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Updated 07/13/13: This article has been updated to reflect additional information about the verdict.