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*On this date in 2013, a Sanford, Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin. This was a case that sparked a national debate on race and guns.
The jury of six women returned the verdict after more than 16 hours of deliberation over two days. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, but the jury could find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. Zimmerman stood stone-faced as the verdict was read. Your bond will be released,” Judge Debra S. Nelson told him. “Your GPS monitor will be cut off, and you have no further business with this court.”
Zimmerman, a 29-year-old White Hispanic, had been charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford in central Florida. He had always maintained that he shot Martin in self-defense when the teenager attacked him. Prosecutors argued that he had profiled and stalked Martin, who was returning from a convenience store after buying candy and a soft drink.
On the other side of the courtroom, Martin's family was seen leaving, some members shedding tears. If he had been convicted, the 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer, who claimed he acted in self-defense, could have been sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder or up to 30 years for manslaughter.
Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Martin family, read a statement to the media following the verdict: "We are very saddened by the jury's verdict. The family is heartbroken. Sybrina and Tracy would like to thank people around the world for their support. The prosecution, Ms. Angela Corey, Mr. Bernie de la Rionda, Attorney John Guy and Mr. Rich Mantei, and everybody from the prosecutor's office. To everybody who put their hoodies up and to everybody who said 'I am Trayvon,' his family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for helping them these past 17 months. To Tracy and Sybrina, Trayvon's parents, your tireless work in the name of your son has made Sanford and many other cities just a little safer for all our children. I know Trayvon is up there proud at the changes that you as his parents, have inspired in his name."
Earlier that day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter Dr. Bernice King tweeted Crump a message that read, "Today is a defining moment for the status of my father's dream... whatever the Zimmerman verdict is," she tweeted, "in the words of my father, 'We must conduct ourselves on a higher plane of dignity and discipline.'" Trayvon Martin will forever remain in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till as symbols for the fight for equal justice for all. Roslyn M. Brock, chairman of the National Association of Colored People, said, "Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family."
The news also drew angry shouts from some of the dozens of demonstrators who had gathered outside the courtroom during the day in support of Martin's family. His parents were not in court during the reading of the verdict.