George Zimmerman was found not guilty on Saturday of second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman had maintained all along that he killed the unarmed teen out of self defense.
A jury consisting of six women acquitted Zimmerman, 29, of both the second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the nationally-broadcast trial. The 2012 shooting of Martin was widely publicized nationally, creating debate over Florida's "stand your ground" law and the state of race relations in the country. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was accused of racially profiling Martin because the black teen was wearing a hoodie, and shooting him because he thought Martin was a criminal.
Martin had been on his way home from a convenience store the night that Zimmerman spotted him, and thought Martin looked suspicious. He called the police and was instructed not to pursue Martin, but an altercation followed. Details on what occurred next remained muddled. Zimmerman, who did not testify in the trial, has said the unarmed Martin attacked him so he shot the teen in self-defense. Under Florida law, Zimmerman cannot be found guilty if he was proven to have been protecting himself.
One of Zimmerman's lawyers maintained that protecting himself was exactly what Zimmerman had done.
"George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except firing the gun in self-defense," said Mark O'Mara.
Protests in cities across the country followed the announcement of the verdict, and civil rights organizations expressed anger that Zimmerman was not convicted. NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said the organization is "outraged and heartbroken" over the not guilty verdict.
"We stand with Trayvon's family and we are called to act," Jealous said. "We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed."
The Justice Department announced Sunday it would resume its investigation into the case for possible hate crimes, after delaying it until the Florida criminal trial had concluded. In a statement, the department said it would examine the circumstances that led to the shooting, and determine whether or not Zimmerman was guilty of violating Martin's civil rights:
Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction.
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