A Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday night in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
The verdict, from a jury of six women who deliberated over two days, was announced at 10 p.m. ET. Jurors also had the option of convicting him of second-degree murder or of the lesser crime of manslaughter.
In the courtroom, Zimmerman’s family held hands across a row and cried.
Zimmerman, 29, said he was acting in self-defense when he shot the unarmed Martin, 17, in the chest during an altercation in a gated community of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012.
He was not charged for 44 tumultuous days in which the case generated large protests in several cities, turned a hooded sweatshirt like the one Martin wore into a symbol of solidarity, and drew the attention of President Obama, who said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
As debate over race, guns and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law swirled, a special prosecutor appointed by the governor announced April 11, 2012 that Zimmerman was being charged with second-degree murder – a move that his supporters said was meant to quell the public outcry.
Zimmerman pleaded not guilty throughout the case to the charges against him.
When the trial unfolded a year later, prosecutors argued the volunteer neighborhood watchman was a wannabe cop who “profiled” Martin as the teen walked back from buying Skittles at a 7-Eleven, and then followed him against the advice of the police dispatcher he called to report a suspicious person.
“That child had every right to be where he was,” Guy said in a closing argument.
“That child had every right to do what he was doing, walking home. That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him, first in his car and then on foot. And did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man?”
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