After 16 hours of deliberation over two days, the jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial has reached a verdict. He was found not guilty.
Zimmerman, who remained expressionless as the verdict was read, silently shook his lawyers’ hands. He was released by the court shortly afterward.
Zimmerman’s wife and parents cried in the courtroom. Soon after, Zimmerman was seen smiling.
Outside the courtroom the reaction was more emotional. Some were angry, others expressed disbelief.
The verdict came after three contentious weeks of often-heated testimony, in which both the prosecution and defense traded barbs along with evidence.
The prosecution began its opening arguments with the F-bomb, while the defense began with a knock-knock joke. At the end of the trial, the prosecution successfully managed to include manslaughter as a possible charge against Zimmerman.
Both the prosecution and defense gave impassioned closing arguments to try to sway the jurors minds one last time.
“Trayvon Martin was a son, brother and friend,” said prosecutor John Guy,” and the last thing he did on this earth was to try to get home.”
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara countered, “George Zimmerman had no other option but to fire his weapon in self-defense. No other option. None.”
But in the end, the decision was up to the six-member jury – all of them women, five of them mothers.
The American public has largely been divided on Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence. Some believe that the former neighborhood watch captain was acting in self-defense when he shot Trayvon. Others believe Zimmerman was an instigator who chased and gunned down the teenager.
A member of the Zimmerman family calls the prosecution “surreal “and stresses that Zimmerman was unfairly charged.
The trial has been no less stressful on Martin’s family. “It has been an emotional time for them,” says Martin family lawyer Benjamin Crump. “They’ve been waiting 17 months for justice.”
• Additional reporting by STEPHEN M. SILVERMAN