Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

George Zimmerman found not guilty in Trayvon Martin's death

RECOMMENDED READING


SANFORD

A jury of six women late Saturday found that George Zimmerman shot to death 17-year-old Trayvon Martin to save his own life on a rainy night in February 2012 when the two met in a gated suburban neighborhood.

After deliberating 16 hours and 20 minutes over two days, jurors found Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Zimmerman, 29, showed little emotion as the verdict was read about 10 p.m.

For 17 months, the case has held the attention of a nation still divided by racial differences, exposing old tensions and sparking debate about gun control and Florida's expanded self defense laws. Sanford police were slow to arrest Zimmerman, prompting flashes of protest in cities across the country. A garment – a sweatshirt with a hood – became a political statement.

Zimmerman's attorneys said their client would never have been arrested had the races been reversed. Martin was black. Zimmerman was Hispanic.

"If George Zimmerman was black, he would have never been charged with a crime," Mark O'Mara said. "This became a focus for a civil rights event. They decided George Zimmerman was going to be a person they could blame … none of which was supported by the facts."

O'Mara said Zimmerman was ecstatic with the verdict and that the meaning won't set in for some time.

"He can actually realize that he doesn't have to come back to the courthouse tomorrow or ever again." O'Mara said. "George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self defense."

"I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful," said Zimmerman lawyer Don West. "I'm thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty."

State prosecutors said their biggest challenge was taking over a case late and outside their jurisdiction.

"It was a challenge when the governor gave this case to us," said State Attorney Angela Corey, a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. "We did the best we could."

Also difficult was trying to prove Zimmerman was guilty of murder or manslaughter under Florida's expanded self-defense law.

"Justifiable use of deadly force is one of the most difficult areas of the law," Corey said.

Earlier in the evening, jurors had sent a note to the judge asking for clarification about the charge of manslaughter.

"May we please have clarification on the instructions regarding manslaughter," Judge Debra Nelson read from the jurors' note.

Lawyers for the state and Zimmerman's defense decided to respond by asking the jury to be more specific.

"The court cannot engage in general discussions but may be able to address a specific question regarding clarification of the instructions regarding manslaughter," they wrote back to the jury. "If you have a specific question, please submit it."

Jurors, who were sequestered during the trial, did not immediately respond but continued deliberating as the sun fell and night descended on protesters gathered in front of the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center.

Prosecutors said they accomplished the goal of bringing the case to a jury.

"We felt that everyone had a right to know everything about this case," Corey said. "We believe we brought out the truth on Trayvon Martin.

Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda, who tried the case for the state, said he was disappointed, but respected the jury's verdict.

West, who faced personal attacks during the trial for a bad joke during opening arguments and squabbling with Judge Nelson, said, "There's no winners here. There are also no monsters here."

­­­Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's parents, Tracy and Sabrina, thanked them, saying they "made Sanford and many other cities safer for our children."

"The whole word was looking at this case for a reason," Crump said. "We wanted to see how far we have come in America in terms of racial justice."

He said Martin's parents, who weren't in the courtroom to hear the verdict, were heartbroken, but they thanked their supporters.

"To everybody that attended a rally," Crump said. "To the millions of people that signed petitions. To the prosecution. … To everybody that put their hoodies up, and to everybody that said, 'I am Trayvon,' his family expresses their heartfelt gratitude."

Police and civic leaders have pleaded for calm in Sanford and across the country after the verdict.

"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."

In New York on Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that no matter the verdict, any demonstrations that follow it must be peaceful.

On Saturday morning, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, shared on Twitter what she called her favorite Bible verse: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

Outside the courthouse, as news of the verdict spread, some screamed. Others chanted: "No justice! No peace!" The glare of hot lights from the surrounding television cameras lit the field a group of protesters had occupied all day, those supporting Martin far outnumbering the handful of those calling for Zimmerman's freedom. Before long, it was all but abandoned.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at [email protected]

   
Comments
Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

Pasco Deputies: Man climbs into bed with sleeping woman after multiple burglaries

NEW PORT RICHEY ó A man who ended a series of burglaries by breaking into the home of a sleeping woman, where he climbed into her bed, was arrested Monday afternoon, the Pasco County Sheriffís Office said.Russel Smith, 42, now faces three felony char...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA ó The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

TAMPA ó Itís the biggest football game in USF history.Itís two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. Itís USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. Itís the best these two programs ...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

Trump offers support for Moore in Alabama Senate race despite misconduct allegations

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to offer support to Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race, saying the former state judge "totally denies" allegations that he sexually molested underage girls years ago."He d...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Florida man bites police officer during warrant hearing

Florida man bites police officer during warrant hearing

Miami (AP) ó Authorities say a man bit a police officer who was taking him into custody during a hearing in a Miami courtroom.Miami-Dade police spokesman Argemis Colome tells news outlets the officer suffered a "severe injury" when Godel Leveille bit...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

University of Central Florida suspends sorority for hazing

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) ó A University of Central Florida sorority has been suspended after its members were accused of hazing, underage drinking and providing false information to law enforcement.The university placed Alpha Xi Delta on an interim suspens...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

Michael W. Smith talks about Texas shooting, Christmas music and Bono

On the morning after the mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Michael W. Smith had pain in his voice. "Itís awful, itís just awful," said the Grammy-winning Christian music superstar. "Everybodyís going to have their opinio...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Life in prison, not death, for Adam Matos, Pasco jury decides

Life in prison, not death, for Adam Matos, Pasco jury decides

NEW PORT RICHEY ó The 12 men and women on Adam Matosí jury were chosen from a pool of nearly 300 people in part for their responses to a single question: Could you condemn a stranger to death for a crime?On Tuesday, the panel said "no" four times, re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

A new threat this shopping season: toys that can spy on kids

ST. PETERSBURG ó Not all sinister toys are as obvious as a Chucky doll. Many present more subtle threats ó choking hazards, high lead content, privacy concerns. And as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks off, consumer advocates are urging s...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago