Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Anger as Zimmerman cleared by jury

George Zimmerman, right, has been cleared of the murder of Trayvon Martin (AP)

After a year and a half of living as a hermit, George Zimmerman emerged from a Florida courthouse a free man, cleared of all charges in the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

His brother said the former neighbourhood watch volunteer was still processing the reality that he wouldn't serve prison time for the killing, which Mr Zimmerman, 29, has maintained was an act of self-defence. A jury found him not guilty of second-degree murder late on Saturday night and declined to convict him on a lesser charge of manslaughter.

However, with many critics angry over his acquittal, his freedom is likely to be limited.

"He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life," Robert Zimmerman Jr said during an interview on CNN.

Mr Martin's killing in February 2012 unleashed furious debate across the US over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice. Protesters across the country lashed out against police in the Orlando suburb of Sanford, outraged that it took 44 days for Mr Zimmerman to be arrested. Many, including Mr Martin's parents, claimed Mr Zimmerman had racially profiled the unarmed black teen. Mr Zimmerman is Hispanic.

Six anonymous female jurors - all but one of them white - considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the rainy night the 17-year-old was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying and where Mr Zimmerman lived.

They deliberated more than 15 hours over two days before announcing late on Saturday night that they had reached a verdict.

Defence attorney Mark O'Mara said in August 2012 that Mr Zimmerman and his wife, Shellie, had been living "like a hermit" and weren't working because they feared for their safety.

After the verdict, police, officials and civil rights leaders urged peace and told protesters not to resort to violence. While defence attorneys said they were thrilled with the outcome, Mr O'Mara suggested Mr Zimmerman's safety would be an ongoing concern.

"There still is a fringe element that wants revenge," Mr O'Mara said. "They won't listen to a verdict of not guilty."