On Saturday evening, after almost 16 hours of deliberation, the jury of six women found George Zimmerman, 29, not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, 17, on the night of Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla.
Jurors were tasked with determining if Zimmerman acted in self-defense and was therefore, not guilty, or if he was a “cop wannabe” who profiled and pursued Martin outside the scope of his neighborhood watch duties, and guilty of either second-degree murder or manslaughter.
On that rainy Feb. night, then-neighborhood watch captain Zimmerman spotted Martin, who was walking home from a convenience store, and called 911 to report a “suspicious teen.”
Zimmerman claimed he shot the teen in self-defense after an altercation, and was not initially charged by the Sanford Police department.
National public outcry led to protests, one led by activist Al Sharpton in March 2012, and even President Obama weighed in on the case with a March 23 statement that sparked controversy:
Obviously this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. When I think about this boy I think about my own kids and I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened.
I’m glad that not only the Justice Department is looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what is taking place.
But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon. If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and we will get to the bottom of exactly what happened.
On April 11, 2012, 46-days after the shooting and weeks of protests demanding Zimmerman be held accountable, special prosecutor Angela Corey announced Zimmerman would face second-degree murder charges.
Judge Debra Nelson ruled Thursday the jurors could consider the lesser included charge of manslaughter in their deliberations.
The city of Sanford has spent months preparing for reaction to the verdict, including preparing for riots the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Rodney King verdict was announced in 1992.
“A “Rodney King-type of riot” is a “scenario that’s certainly a possibility,” Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte told CNN earlier this month. However, he wouldn’t give specifics on the law enforcement plan that is reportedly in place.