USA > Law, Justice > Jury > Verdict
George Zimmerman Verdict
Video Published on Jul 13, 2013
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Speaks on Trayvon Martin
White House July
President Obama Speaks on Trayvon Martin
July 19, 2013
makes a statement about Trayvon Martin
and the verdict of the court trial
that followed the Florida
hear the verdict
be found not guilty of
of first-degree reckless homicide
in the shooting death of N
be found not guilty
of all four misdemeanor charges
USA > not guilty
UK / USA
receive not guilty
be found not
guilty by reason of insanity
not guilty of all
be committed to a
state mental hospital
of second-degree murder
be acquitted of
on all 10 counts
acquittal UK / USA
not guilty of N
of all charges
be cleared of a
be cleared by DNA
Corpus of news articles
Law, Justice > Jury
Verdict > Not guilty, Acquittal
Zimmerman Is Acquitted
Trayvon Martin Killing
The New York Times
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
and CARA BUCKLEY
Fla. — George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot
Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, igniting a national debate on racial
profiling and civil rights, was found not guilty late Saturday night of
second-degree murder. He was also acquitted of manslaughter, a lesser charge.
After three weeks of testimony, the six-woman jury rejected the prosecution’s
contention that Mr. Zimmerman had deliberately pursued Mr. Martin because he
assumed the hoodie-clad teenager was a criminal and instigated the fight that
led to his death.
Mr. Zimmerman said he shot Mr. Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in self-defense after
the teenager knocked him to the ground, punched him and slammed his head
repeatedly against the sidewalk. In finding him not guilty of murder or
manslaughter, the jury agreed that Mr. Zimmerman could have been justified in
shooting Mr. Martin because he feared great bodily harm or death.
The jury, which had been sequestered since June 24, deliberated 16 hours and 20
minutes over two days. The six female jurors entered the quiet, tense courtroom,
several looking exhausted, their faces drawn and grim. After the verdict was
read, each assented, one by one, and quietly, their agreement with the verdict.
The case began in the small city of Sanford as a routine homicide but soon
evolved into a civil rights cause examining racial profiling and its
consequences — an issue barred from the courtroom — and setting off a broad
discussion of race relations in America. Mr. Martin, with his gray hooded
sweatshirt and his Skittles — the candy he was carrying — became its catalyst.
Even President Obama weighed in a month after the shooting, expressing sympathy
for Mr. Martin’s family and urging a thorough investigation. “If I had a son,”
Mr. Obama said, “he’d look like Trayvon.”
Saturday night when the verdict was read, Mr. Zimmerman, 29, smiled slightly.
His wife, Shellie, and several of his friends wept, and his parents kissed and
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, who lost their son a few weeks after his 17th
birthday, were not in the courtroom.
After the verdict, Judge Debra S. Nelson of Seminole County Court, told Mr.
Zimmerman, who has been in hiding and wears a bulletproof vest outside, that his
bond was revoked and his GPS monitor would be cut off. “You have no further
business with the court,” she said.
Outside the courthouse, perhaps a hundred protesters who had been gathering
through the night, their numbers building as the hours passed, began pumping
their fists in the air, waving placards and chanting “No justice, no peace!”
Sheriff’s deputies lined up inside the courthouse, watching the crowd, who were
chanting peacefully, but intently.
By 11:20, more than an hour after the verdict had been read, the crowd outside
the courtroom had begun to dwindle; fists were no longer aloft, placards had
Among the last of the protesters to leave the courthouse lawn was Mattie Aikens,
33, of Sanford. She had been standing outside since noon, holding a bag of
Skittles and a can of Arizona watermelon drink, which Mr. Martin was carrying
the night he was shot. More than an hour after the verdict, she was still
shocked. “He should have went to prison,” she said. “He should have just got
guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.”
Mark O’Mara, one of Mr. Zimmerman’s lawyers, said, “George Zimmerman was never
guilty of anything except firing the gun in self-defense.”
In a news conference following the verdict, Angela B. Corey, the state attorney
who brought the charges, rebuffed the suggestion that her office overcharged Mr.
“We charged what we had based on the facts of the case,” she said. “We truly
believe the mind-set of George Zimmerman and the reason he was doing what he did
fit the bill for second-degree murder.”
Calling it a “very trying time,” Benjamin Crump, a Martin family lawyer, said he
had urged Mr. Martin’s parents to stay out of the courtroom for the verdict.
They were home and planning to attend church on Sunday. The parents, he said,
were grateful for all the support.
Mr. Crump asked the family’s supporters keep the peace and read a Twitter post
by Dr. Bernice King, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter.
“Whatever the Zimmerman verdict is,” Mr. Crump read, “in the words of my father,
we must conduct ourselves on the higher plane of dignity and discipline.”
Sanford’s new police chief, Cecil E. Smith, was in the courtroom for the
verdict, and said afterward that while many calls were coming in from worried
residents, the downtown was open and neighborhoods were calm.
Still, there was anger over the verdict. “We are outraged and heartbroken over
today’s verdict,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the N.A.A.C.P. “We
stand with Trayvon’s family and we are called to act. We will pursue civil
rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the
removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until
racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”
Mr. O’Mara disputed the notion that Mr. Zimmerman engaged in racial profiling.
“His history was not as a racist,” he said.
He added that if Mr. Zimmerman was black, he likely would never have been
charged. “This became a focus for a civil rights event, which is wonderful event
to have,” he said, “but they decided George Zimmerman was to blame and to use as
a civil rights violation.”
And while defense lawyers were elated with the verdict, they also expressed
anger that Mr. Zimmerman spent 16 months filled with fear and trauma when all he
was doing was defending himself.
“The prosecution of George Zimmerman was a disgrace,” said Don West, one of Mr.
Zimmerman’s lawyers. “I am thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from become
The shooting brought attention to Florida’s expansive self-defense laws. The
laws allow someone with a reasonable fear of great bodily harm or death to use
lethal force, even if retreating from danger is an option. In court, the gunman
is given the benefit of the doubt.
The outcry began after the police initially decided not to arrest Mr. Zimmerman,
who is half-Peruvian, as they investigated the shooting. Mr. Martin, 17, had no
criminal record and was on a snack run, returning to the house where he was
staying as a guest.
Six weeks later, Mr. Zimmerman was arrested, but only after civil rights leaders
championed the case and demonstrators, many wearing hoodies, marched in Sanford,
Miami and elsewhere to demand action.
“Justice for Trayvon!” they shouted.
The pressure prompted Gov. Rick Scott of Florida to remove local prosecutors
from the case and appoint Ms. Corey, from Jacksonville. She ultimately charged
Mr. Zimmerman with second-degree murder. The tumult also led to the firing of
the Sanford police chief.
Through it all, Mr. Martin’s parents said they sought one thing: That Mr.
Zimmerman have his day in court.
That day arrived on Saturday.
From the start, prosecutors faced a difficult task in proving second-degree
murder. That charge required Mr. Zimmerman to have evinced a “depraved mind,”
brimming with ill will, hatred, spite or evil intent, when he shot Mr. Martin.
Manslaughter, which under Florida law is typically added as a lesser charge if
either side requests it, was a lower bar. Jurors needed to decide only that Mr.
Zimmerman put himself in a situation that culminated in Mr. Martin’s death.
But because of Florida’s laws, prosecutors had to persuade jurors beyond a
reasonable doubt that Mr. Zimmerman did not act in self-defense. A shortage of
evidence in the case made that a high hurdle, legal experts said.
Even after three weeks of testimony, the fight between Mr. Martin and Mr.
Zimmerman on that rainy night was a muddle, fodder for reasonable doubt. It
remained unclear who had started it, who screamed for help, who threw the first
punch and at what point Mr. Zimmerman drew his gun. There were no witnesses to
The state presented a case that was strong on guesswork and emotion but weak on
evidence and proof, Mr. O’Mara said.
“Don’t connect those dots unless they are connected for you, beyond a reasonable
doubt, by the state,” he urged the jury.
In the end, prosecutors were left with Mr. Zimmerman’s version of events.
The defense also had one piece of irrefutable evidence, photographs of Mr.
Zimmerman’s injuries — a bloody nose along with lumps and two cuts on his head.
It indicated that there had been a fight and that Mr. Zimmerman had been harmed,
and the defense showed them to the jury at every opportunity.
Prosecutors built their case around Mr. Zimmerman’s persona — a “wannabe cop” —
his wrong assumptions and his words.
Mr. Zimmerman, they said, was so concerned about burglaries in his townhouse
complex that when he spotted Mr. Martin, an unfamiliar face in the rain, he
immediately “profiled” him as a criminal. He picked up his phone and reported
him to the police.
Then he made the first in a string of bad choices, they said. He got out of the
car with a gun on his waist; he disregarded a police dispatcher’s advice not to
follow Mr. Martin and he chased the teenage, engaged in a fight and shot him in
To stave off an arrest, he lied to the police, prosecutors said, embellishing
his story to try to flesh out his self-defense claim.
“Punks,” Mr. Zimmerman said to the police dispatcher after he spotted Mr.
Martin, adding a profanity. “They always get away,” he said at another point in
the conversation, a reference to would-be burglars.
On these words, prosecutors hung their case of ill will, hatred and spite toward
“This defendant was sick and tired of it,” Bernie de la Rionda, the chief
prosecutor, said in his closing statement. “He was going to be what he wanted to
be — a police officer.”
But no one saw the shooting; witnesses saw and heard only parts of the struggle,
and provided conflicting accounts.
And there was not a “shred of evidence” that Mr. Zimmerman was not returning to
his car when Mr. Martin “pounced,” defense lawyers said.
The prosecution’s witnesses did not always help their case. Rachel Jeantel, the
19-year-old who was talking with Mr. Martin on his cellphone shortly before he
was shot, proved problematic. Her testimony was critical for the prosecution
because she said that Mr. Martin was being followed by Mr. Zimmerman — a
“creepy-ass cracker,” he called him — and that he was scared.
But Ms. Jeantel might have damaged her credibility by acknowledging she had lied
about her age and why she did not attend Mr. Martin’s wake. She also testified
that she softened her initial account of her chat with Mr. Martin for fear of
upsetting Ms. Fulton, who sat next to her, weeping, during Ms. Jeantel’s first
interview with prosecutors.
Prosecutors also were not helped by the police and crime scene technicians, who
made some mistakes in the case. Mr. Martin’s sweatshirt, for example, was
improperly bagged, which might have degraded DNA evidence.
Typically, police testimony boosts the state’s case. Here, the chief police
investigator, Chris Serino, told jurors that he believed Mr. Zimmerman, despite
contradictions in his statements.
Still, prosecutors had emotion on their side — the heart-wrenching narrative of
a teenager “minding his own business” who was gunned down as he walked home with
a pocketful of Skittles and a fruit drink.
“That child had every right to do what he was doing, walking home,” said John
Guy, a prosecutor in the case. “That child had every right to be afraid of a
strange man following him, first in his car and then on foot. And did that child
not have the right to defend himself from that strange man?”
Through it all, though, the defense chipped away at the prosecution’s case. The
resident with the best vantage point of the fight described a “ground and pound”
fight, with a person in red or a light color on the bottom. Mr. Zimmerman wore a
And a prominent forensic pathologist who is an expert in gunshot wounds
testified that the trajectory of the bullet was consistent with Mr. Martin
leaning over Mr. Zimmerman when the gun was fired.
“Let him go back,” Mr. O’Mara said to the jury, referring to Mr. Zimmerman, “and
get back to his life.”
On Saturday, the jury did just that.
Cara Buckley contributed reporting.
Zimmerman Is Acquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing,
Anthony Not Guilty
in Slaying of Daughter
The New York Times
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
Fla. — Casey Anthony, the young mother whose seeming heartlessness at the
disappearance of her daughter transfixed America for three years, was found not
guilty on Tuesday of killing the girl, Caylee Marie.
After nearly six weeks of testimony, a jury of seven women and five men rejected
the prosecution’s contention that Ms. Anthony had murdered Caylee, 2, by dosing
her with chloroform, suffocating her with duct tape and dumping her body in a
wooded area. They did, however, find her guilty of lesser charges of providing
false information to law enforcement officers.
In a sign that jurors had little difficulty reaching a verdict, the jury did not
ask to review any evidence and reached a decision in fewer than 11 hours.
Jurors, who were imported from the Clearwater area and had been sequestered for
six weeks, declined to talk with reporters and returned home to Pinellas County.
When the verdict was read, Ms. Anthony, 25, who faced a possible death sentence,
cried quietly, the relief made plain on her face. After the jury left the
courtroom, she broke down and sobbed, hugging her lawyer, Jose Baez, tightly.
She has spent about two and a half years in jail awaiting trial. She is expected
to be released soon because she is not likely to serve any more time for
misdemeanors. Ms. Anthony was also found not guilty of aggravated child abuse.
Her parents, George and Cindy, who lost a granddaughter and then listened in
court as Mr. Baez blamed the family for Caylee’s death, sat stone-faced after
the verdict was read. Prosecutors, who had entered the courthouse with broad
smiles and to cheers, sat stunned.
The defense had argued from the start that Caylee drowned accidentally in the
family swimming pool and that the death was concealed by a panicked George
Anthony and Casey Anthony.
It was unclear if that version of Caylee’s death swayed jurors. But the
circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case seemed to be insurmountable.
There was no direct evidence tying Ms. Anthony to the death of her daughter.
Forensic evidence was tenuous, and no witnesses ever connected her to Caylee’s
death. Investigators found no traces of Ms. Anthony’s DNA or irrefutable signs
of chloroform or decomposition inside the trunk of Ms. Anthony’s car, where
prosecutors said she stashed Caylee before disposing of her body. The
prosecution was also hurt by the fact that nobody knows exactly when or how
Caylee died; her body was too badly decomposed to pinpoint cause of death. And
it permitted Mr. Baez, Ms. Anthony’s lawyer, to create a reasonable doubt in
jurors’ minds — despite the prosecution’s relentless portrayal of her as a
callous liar who sought to kill Caylee so she could lead a carefree life of
boyfriends and bars.
“The best feeling I have today is I know I can go home and my daughter will ask
me, ‘What did you do today?’ and I can say, ‘I saved a life,’ ” Mr. Baez said at
a news conference.
Mr. Baez also denounced the death penalty, saying Ms. Anthony’s acquittal is an
example of why “we all need to stop and look and think twice about a country
that decides to kill its own citizens.”
This case was widely reported in real time through Twitter and cable television,
and outrage over the verdict came swiftly as did criticism of the news media.
But the public was equally captivated by the trial, with some people flying in
to grab a hard-to-get seat in the courtroom.
Cheney Mason, Mr. Baez’s co-counsel, sharply criticized reporters and pundits
for “media assassination” in maligning Ms. Anthony and sprinting to an
assumption of guilt.
“I can tell you that my colleagues coast to coast and border to border have
condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television to talk about
cases they don’t know a damn thing about,” Mr. Mason said.
Outside, Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Court, praised
prosecutors for their meticulous work but added that it was a tough trial
because it was a “dry bones case,” a reference to Caylee’s decomposed state,
with “no smoking gun.”
Caylee was last seen June 16, 2008. Her remains were found Dec. 11 in a wooded
lot near the Anthony home. Ms. Anthony failed to report Caylee missing for 31
days and created a tangle of lies, including that a baby sitter kidnapped
Caylee, to cover up the absence.
The defense conceded Ms. Anthony’s lies, but said they happened for one reason:
she had been sexually abused by her father and had been coached to lie her whole
Prosecutors argued all along that Ms. Anthony killed her child so she could
carouse with her boyfriend, go clubbing and live the “bella vita” — beautiful
life — as her tattoo, done after Caylee’s disappearance, proclaimed. They used
jailhouse recordings of Ms. Anthony and photographs of her reveling with friends
to show she was clearly not grieving.
One prosecutor, Jeff Ashton, called it “absurd” that Mr. Anthony, a former
homicide detective, would find Caylee dead in the swimming pool and, rather than
call 911, cover up the drowning, wrap dead Caylee’s face with duct tape and dump
“It is a trip down a rabbit hole into a bizarre world where men who love their
granddaughters find them drowned and do nothing,” Mr. Ashton said.
Mr. Anthony, who had testified tearfully during the trial, denied abusing his
daughter and finding Caylee in the swimming pool.
Prosecutors failed to offer evidence or testimony that showed Ms. Anthony was
actually a bad or negligent mother.
From the start of the trial, Mr. Baez, who began his law career in 2005 and
three years later landed Ms. Anthony as a client, was often pilloried for his
risky opening argument — the drowning and sexual abuse theories — and his
failure to bolster that defense during the trial.
Mr. Baez delved lightly into the idea that Caylee drowned and said nothing more
about the sexual abuse after the first day of the trial. Judge Belvin Perry Jr.,
the presiding judge who also heads the Ninth Circuit Court, barred Mr. Baez from
mentioning the abuse accusation during closing statements because there was no
evidence to support his claim.
Yet Mr. Baez successfully hammered away at the nearly 400 pieces of evidence
that were recovered, including Ms. Anthony’s car. He also accused prosecutors of
relying on faulty science to bolster their case and labeled the state’s work
As the trial continued, Mr. Baez cast Mr. Anthony as the villain who covered up
the drowning and allowed Ms. Anthony to take the blame. And he detailed what he
viewed as the Anthony family’s dysfunctional behavior.
The sheriff’s office also faced criticism for failing to find Caylee’s remains
in August 2008, when a meter reader, Roy Kronk, reported a suspicious item for
three consecutive days. On the third day, deputies met the reader at the crime
scene, where he pointed to the area from a distance. Mr. Kronk testified that
deputies found nothing and were dismissive. Caylee’s body decomposed over six
In closing statements, Mr. Baez reminded jurors that the burden of proof rested
entirely with prosecutors and pleaded that they keep their emotions in check
“This case should not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry
for anyone or are angry at anyone,” Mr. Baez told the jury.
Casey Anthony Not Guilty in Slaying of Daughter,
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