Jurors have found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
The six-member, all-woman jury deliberated for more than 15 hours over two days before reaching their decision Saturday night. They had three choices: to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder; to find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter; or to find him not guilty.
Many legal experts had predicted that Zimmerman would be convicted of manslaughter, even moreso after the jury asked for clarification of the charge earlier in the evening.
After hearing the verdict, Judge Debra Nelson told Zimmerman he was free to go.
Jurors heard two different portraits of Zimmerman and had to decide whether he was a wannabe cop who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning neighborhood watch volunteer who shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense because he feared for his life.
The fact that Zimmerman fired the bullet that killed Martin was never in question, but the verdict means the six-person jury had reasonable doubt that the shooting amounted to a criminal act.
The verdict caps a case that has inflamed passions for well over a year, much of it focused on race and gun rights.
The jurors deliberated for 16½ hours total, including 13 on Saturday alone, before delivering their verdict.
When he learned his fate, a subdued Zimmerman had little visible reaction. His face was mostly expressionless. He turned and shook one of his attorney’s hand before sitting back down. His parents, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman, were seated nearby, but Martin’s parents were not in the courtroom.
To convict Zimmerman of manslaughter, the jurors would have had to believe that he “intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.” That charge could have carried a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, though the jury was not told of that possible sentence.
For second-degree murder, the jurors would have had to believe that Martin’s unlawful killing was “done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent” and would be “of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.”