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Saturday, July 13, 2013

George Zimmerman found not guilty of murder in Trayvon Martin's death

George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida jury decided late Saturday.

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 six-person jury -- all women -- 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.

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.

Earlier in the day, the jury had asked the court for clarification on its instructions regarding manslaughter. 

The jury couldn't have even posed such a query a few days ago: Judge Debra Nelson ruled Thursday, over the defense's vehement objection, to include manslaughter as an option for jurors, in addition to a second-degree murder charge.

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."

Ultimately, they believed neither. And that means Zimmerman can walk free.

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