A Florida jury of six women found George Zimmerman not guilty of 2nd Degree murder and the lesser included charge of manslaughter tonight. They deliberated for 15 hours.
The decision came down at around 10PM EST, 503 days after Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Following the court’s decision, Prosecutor Angela Corey said, “We believe we brought out the truth on behalf of Trayvon Martin.”
ThinkProgress previously wrote that Zimmerman could be acquitted, thanks to three key factors in the case: The lack of other eyewitnesses, George Zimmerman’s bloody nose, and the questionable testimony of ‘Witness 6′ who told the jury he saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, “beating or pushing down on Zimmerman ‘MMA-style.'”
Still, the decision is expected to make waves around the country, given the polarizing conversation about race sparked by Martin’s killing. In the weeks after the details of the murder were revealed, before Zimmerman had been charged, Trayvon Martin became a symbol for the plight of young black men who are suspected of doing something wrong — even if they are carrying nothing more than a can of iced tea and a packet of skittles, as Martin was on the fateful night of his death. Prominent black figures embraced this theme, with everyone from Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) to the players of the Miami Heat donning hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon.
Asked to address the race issues in a post-decision press conference, Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara said, “things would have been different if George Zimmerman was black for this reason: He never would have been charged with a crime.” O’Mara also spoke extensively about the “trauma” that Zimmerman has experienced in the last few months. Indeed, his comments seemed so ill-timed that Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) was prompted to tweet a warning:
Defense attorney Mark O'Mara may incite a riot by his arrogance alone. Talk about adding insult to injury.
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) July 14, 2013
The Martin family attorney, Ben Crump, struck a different note, saying, “We are very, very saddened, but we accept the jury’s verdict in this case… For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful.” But he did allude to the fact that racial profiling was at play in the Zimmerman case. “All of America has to dig deep in the heart to learn from this tragedy and make sure it’s not repeated,” Crump said.
On the night of the killing, Zimmerman walked free thanks to a law called ‘Stand Your Ground,’ based on model legislation peddled around the country by the conservative legislation-crafting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). While Zimmerman ultimately did not use that defense in court, it’s instructive to know that, in Florida, 70 percent of people who invoke ‘Stand Your Ground’ walk away without charges.