Story Summary

George Zimmerman trial

Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, setting free a man who had become a polarizing figure in the national debate over racial profiling and self-defense laws.

The panel of six women deliberated more than 16 hours over two days before delivering the verdict, which drew immediate condemnation from some civil rights groups.

Zimmerman appeared stoned-faced as the verdict was announced, but then showed a slight smile of relief. His parents embraced each other and his wife was tearful.

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By Dana Ford, CNN

One of the jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman said she had “no doubt” he feared for his life in the final moments of his struggle with Trayvon Martin, and that was the definitive factor in the verdict.

The woman, who was identified just as Juror B37, spoke exclusively to CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday night. She is the first juror to speak publicly about the case.

She said she believes Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” the night he shot Martin, but that he didn’t use “good judgment” in confronting the Florida teen.

“I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods, and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done,” she said.

“But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong.”

If anything, Zimmerman was guilty of not using “good judgment,” the juror said.

“When he was in the car, and he had called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car,” she said.

She also said she believes Martin threw the first punch in the confrontation that followed.

“I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him,” she said.

Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before shooting Martin, and it was his voice that was heard screaming for help in 911 calls, the juror said she believes.

“He had a right to defend himself,” she said. “If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him, or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

Split vote

An initial vote was divided. Three of the jurors first voted Zimmerman was guilty, while three voted he was not guilty, she said. Juror B37 was among those who believed he was not guilty from the start.

“There was a couple of them in there that wanted to find him guilty of something and after hours and hours and hours of deliberating over the law, and reading it over and over and over again, we decided there’s just no way, other place to go,” she said.

Jurors were not identified by name during the trial, which sparked a broad debate about gun laws and race in America.

The juror said she did not believe Zimmerman profiled Martin, who was African-American, because of the color of his skin.

She believes he thought Martin was suspicious because of the way he acted.

“Anybody would think anybody walking down the road, stopping and turning and looking — if that’s exactly what happened — is suspicious,” she said.

“I think all of us thought race did not play a role,” the juror said . “We never had that discussion.”

At one point during the interview, she grew emotional and her voice cracked. She said jurors cried after putting in their vote.

“It’s a tragedy this happened. But it happened,” the juror said.

“And I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into. I think both of them could have walked away. It just didn’t happen.”

Book plans canceled

The juror was planning to write a book about her experience with the case, literary agent Sharlene Martin said before her interview aired.

But hours later, the agent released a statement from Juror B37 saying she would no longer write one.

“Now that I am returned to my family and to society in general, I have realized that the best direction for me to go is away from writing any sort of book and return instead to my life as it was before I was called to sit on this jury,” the juror said.

“I realize it was necessary for our jury to be sequestered in order to (protect) our verdict from unfair outside influence, but that isolation shielded me from the depth of pain that exists among the general public over every aspect of this case.”

CNN’s Kait Richmond, Bill Kirkos and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

 TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

One of the jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman said she had “no doubt” he feared for his life in the final moments of his struggle with Trayvon Martin, and that was the definitive factor in the verdict.

The woman, who was identified just as Juror B37, spoke exclusively to CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday night. She is the first juror to speak publicly about the case.

She said she believed Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” the night he killed Martin, but that he didn’t use “good judgment” in confronting the Florida teen.

“I think George Zimmerman is a man whose heart was in the right place, but just got displaced by the vandalism in the neighborhoods and wanting to catch these people so badly that he went above and beyond what he really should have done. But I think his heart was in the right place. It just went terribly wrong,” she said.

If anything, Zimmerman was guilty of not using “good judgment,” the juror said.

“When he was in the car, and he had called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car,” she said.

She also said she believes Martin threw the first punch in their confrontation.

“I think the roles changed. I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him … and I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him,” she said.

Zimmerman felt his life was in danger before shooting Martin, and it was his voice that was heard screaming for help in 911 calls, the juror said she believes.

“He had a right to defend himself,” the juror said about Zimmerman. “If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him, or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.”

An initial vote was split. Three of the jurors first voted Zimmerman was guilty, while three voted he was not guilty, she said. Juror B37 was among those who believed he was not guilty from the start.

“There was a couple of them in there that wanted to find him guilty of something and after hours and hours and hours of deliberating over the law, and reading it over and over and over again, we decided there’s just no way, other place to go,” she said.

Jurors were not identified by name during the trial.

CaptureHowever, according to HLN, CNN’s sister network, juror B37 has been married 20 years, has two adult children and once had a concealed weapons permit. She has lived in Seminole County, Florida, for 18 years and volunteers for animal rescue groups, according to HLN.

The juror is planning to write a book about her experience with the case, literary agent Sharlene Martin said before her interview aired.

“My hope is that people will read Juror B37′s book, written with her attorney husband, and understand the commitment it takes to serve and be sequestered on a jury in a highly publicized murder trial and how important, despite one’s personal viewpoints, it is to follow the letter of the law,” the president of Martin Literary Agency wrote in a statement.

“It could open a whole new dialogue about laws that may need to be revised and revamped to suit a 21st Century way of life,” Martin said.

Martin has handled a number of other controversial high-profile books, including “If I Did It,” the book written by O.J. Simpson but acquired by the family of murder victim Ronald Goldman. That book details how the killings of Goldman and Simpson’s former wife Nicole Simpson might have been committed.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Nearly 200 people rallied tonight outside a south side high school to peacefully protest the George Zimmerman verdict.

The march began at 51st and King Drive in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood and then moved north and east to King High School on Drexel, about two miles away.
The group was made of mostly African Americans, varying in age.  Some were from college fraternities and sororities.

It only seemed to grow in size and volume as the march moved through the streets, turning heads, getting applause and honks from passing cars.

The event was largely about the George Zimmerman verdict. Zimmerman was found not guilty Saturday in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

Some wore hoodies and carried Arizona fruit juice and Skittles, like Martin did the night he was killed last year.

The march, passing just five blocks away from President Obama’s Kenwood home is a peaceful sign, these demonstrators say, to voice their opinion against the jury’s verdict.
It is just one of many that have happened here in Chicago and across the country since Martin’s death.
Another rally is scheduled for tomorrow at 63rd Street beach starting at 5pm.

Angered by the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial, about 150 people staged a protest at Daley Plaza Sunday.

The verdict is still a hot topic on the radio Monday and callers demand justice for Trayvon Martin.

At WVON radio, an African-American radio station, hosts are encouraging listeners to sign an online petition demanding the United States Department of Justice file federal civil charges against Zimmerman.

WVON is dedicating the entire day to this topic.  There has been no shortage of callers, or opinions.

“I was astounded that the verdict was ‘not guilty’ and astounded that it came back that quickly,” said WVON host Salim Mukakil.

“It is outrageous to think that African American life is so dispensable like this,” said director of the Washington bureau of the NAACP, Hilary O. Shelton.

Anger and outrage are two of the most common feelings being expressed by callers.

Shelton called Florida’s self-defense laws one of the most reckless in the nation, because it bases guilt or innocence on whether a person felt their life was in danger.

“Unfortunately, with the dynamic of race in our country, too often African Americans that simply walk into a room are viewed as being threatening,” said Shelton.  “So we knew it was going to be a heavy burden.  I think we were all very prayerful and very hopeful that justice would be served but clearly that was not the case.”

One caller called for a ban of the “Sunshine State” until it changes what he calls flawed public policy, “that’s the only justice we can get is economic justice at this point, so black folks need to stay out of Orlando and boycott Florida.”

WVON host Matt McGill downplayed concerns of mass rioting in light of the verdict saying those concerns may have been mostly spurred by the media.  “I think what you’re going to see around Chicago and the rest of the country are peaceful protests and a well-thought-out strategy on how to move forward beyond the George Zimmerman verdict, because all of the issues that affect the African American community right now are at critical mode.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to speak to the NAACP Convention Tuesday in Orlando, Florida.

He is expected to face tough questions about whether Zimmerman may still face federal charges.

Trayvon Martin family’s attorney speaks to WGN on Zimmerman’s aquittal.

About 150 people staged a rally on the Daley Center Plaza Sunday, to protest Saturday’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and to dramatize their claim that the justice system is broken.

The same sentiment was reflected in some local Sunday sermons

Father Michael Pfleger told his parishioners at St. Sabina church, “I refuse to ignore the race in this issue… we are not in a post-racial area… in fact, racism has a second breath in America today, and last night it got new oxygen.”

But religious and activist leaders joined in calling for any public protests to remain peaceful.

Several ministers called for prayer vigils outside federal courthouses.

Congressman Danny Davis told parishioners at a West Side church, “Tearing up the neighborhood doesn’t bring Trayvon Martin back.”

Rev. Jesse Jackson joins WGN Morning News to speak on Zimmerman acquittal

By Holly Yan and AnneClaire Stapleton, CNN

Just how much George Zimmerman’s murder trial polarized America was on full display once the verdict was read.

Across the country Sunday and early Monday, outraged protesters poured on to streets while supporters kept largely quiet. Protesters denounced the six-woman jury’s decision Saturday to find Zimmerman not guilty in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

While the vast majority of protests were peaceful, parts of Los Angeles grew tense.

Some protesters hurled flashlight batteries, rocks and chunks of concrete toward police in Los Angeles, police spokesman Andrew Smith said. Police responded by shooting bean bags at protesters.

“LAPD is hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,” Smith said Sunday night. “We hope everyone can exercise their First Amendment right to free speech, then get tired and go home.”

Some demonstrators continued their efforts into Monday morning. At least nine people were arrested, Smith said.

Across the country

Thousands also rallied in San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Baltimore, Detroit, New York and other cities.

In New York, demonstrators marched across Manhattan and filled Times Square.

“This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted.

About a dozen people were arrested across New York amid the protests, police said.

In Florida, just steps away from the courthouse where a jury acquitted Zimmerman, demonstrators vowed that their fight wasn’t over.

“Nationwide protest to demand justice,” protesters chanted in Sanford, Florida.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson called for protests to continue, but to remain peaceful.

“There will be protests, but they must be carried out with dignity and discipline,” he told CNN’s “New Day.”

“What will happen if there, in fact, are riots, it gives sympathy to Zimmerman, and discredits Trayvon. Trayvon deserves sympathy. Zimmerman and his school of thought does not.”

Racial undertones

Many of the protests, including those in New York and Los Angeles, drew demonstrators from a wide variety of races. But many expressed the same belief — that Martin’s death was spurred by racial profiling, and that Zimmerman’s acquittal was unjust.

“Only white life is protected in America,” one protester in Washington shouted Sunday.

Others chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Trayvon was murdered” as they marched, freelance photographer Michael Kandel told CNN’s iReport.

Protesters demanded that the government investigate further, Kandel said.

“They believe that this is a civil rights issue that must become the topic of a national conversation in the coming days,” he said. “They did not believe justice had been served.”

Some demonstrators in Denver, Baltimore and Detroit wore hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin wore when he was killed.

The other side

Zimmerman, his family and their supporters have denied allegations of racism and argued that civil rights groups are being incendiary without facts to back up their claims.

Reactions to the verdict were not necessarily split along racial lines.

Tony Johnson, who is black, said he was disturbed by the “outbursts from people who didn’t know the facts of the case, yet (were) still screaming about an injustice.”

“I’m actually glad the verdict was not guilty,” Johnson told CNN’s iReport. “Only based on the evidence that was presented in court, it screams self-defense.

“This wasn’t about race,” Johnson continued. “It was about a man’s rights to defend himself. It’s not a crime to follow anybody; therefore, the fact that they got into an altercation and George Zimmerman was forced to use deadly force, it’s not a crime. Our Constitution states that.”

Numerous CNN.com readers agreed.

“George Zimmerman has committed no crime,” wrote one commenter identified as Michael Newman. “He’s an innocent man; according to the laws of our country and our system; which is the best in the world.”

Pushing for peace

President Barack Obama called for peace Sunday and acknowledged the Zimmerman case has stirred strong emotions.

“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” he said.

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” Obama said.

Some applauded the jury for siding with the neighborhood watch volunteer’s claims that he shot the teen in self-defense. Others said prosecutors failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Critics of the verdict like Terri Weems said the trial was a referendum on race that confirmed what they knew all along.

“That’s our society,” Weems said as she headed into church in Washington on Sunday. “We expected not to be given justice. We haven’t been dealt justice all this time. … It’s very disheartening.”

NAACP President Benjamin Jealous told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that the largely peaceful protests were a positive sign.

“I think we should, frankly, right now be celebrating the fact that we’ve seen a generation of young people respond by using our system, raising their voices, but not using their fists,” he said.

CNN’s Jake Carpenter, Catherine E. Shoichet, Alan Duke, Lawrence Crook and Jareen Imam contributed to this report.

 TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

From Florida to right here in Chicago, the public reacted Sunday to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

A Florida jury on Saturday night found Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in a shooting that grew from a confrontation as Martin, 17, walked home from a convenience store in February 2012.

29-year-old Zimmerman is spending his first full day of freedom in hiding. Death threats have followed him since the shooting back in February 2012.

The parents of Trayvon Martin are said to be devastated by the jury’s finding of “not guilty.” Through social media they have asked for calm. They rely on relatives to be their voice.

Throughout the nation last night, protests brought out angry vocal crowds but there were few reports of violence or damage. Even in Sanford, the site of the courtroom battle,  there was only a tepid reaction to the acquittal.

But that doesn’t mean the debates of injustice, racial profiling and gun violence were silent.

Raw: Trayvon Martin rally held at Daley PlazaIn Chicago alone there was plenty of reaction. At Saint Sabina Church, Father Michael Pfleger and parishioners held up signs with Martin’s name.

Several hundred protestors gathered at Daley Plaza also shared their frustrations over the verdict. They continued with a march throughout the Loop, some wearing hoodies similar to Martin.

And at Rainbow Push Headquarters a gathering was held as well  with the Rev Jackson heading to Orlando to meet with Martin’s parents.

From  the White House, President Obama called Martin’s death a tragedy for America.

“I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher,” he said.

“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama called on Sunday for “calm reflection” following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

The president, in a written statement, acknowledged an emotionally charged climate but concluded that “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”

Obama called Martin’s death a tragedy for America.

“I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher,” he said.

“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.

“We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis,” Obama said.

A Florida jury on Saturday night found Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in a shooting that grew from a confrontation as Martin, 17, walked home from a convenience store in February 2012.

The verdict closed a case in state criminal court that gained national attention and sparked public outcry, much of which focused on race. Reaction generated some protests nationally, including outside the White House.

Zimmerman is the son of a Peruvian mother and a white American father and identifies as Hispanic. Martin was African-American.

Obama said in closing his statement that Americans asking “ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this” is one way “to honor Trayvon Martin.”

Groups disappointed with the jury’s decision have asked the Obama administration to pursue a civil rights prosecution against Zimmerman, 29.

The NAACP has called on the Justice Department to file related charges and has asked the public to sign a petition to support their cause.

“When you look at (Zimmerman’s) comments, when you look at his comments about young black men in that neighborhood, about how they felt specially targeted by him, there is reason to be concerned that race was a factor in why he targeted young Trayvon,” NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Jealous said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Obama did not cover that issue in his comments. But the Justice Department said in a statement on Sunday that a federal civil rights investigation continues and it will look at evidence and testimony from the just-concluded state trial as part of the probe.

“Experienced federal prosecutors will determine whether the evidence reveals a prosecutable violation of any of the limited federal criminal civil rights statutes within our jurisdiction, and whether federal prosecution is appropriate,” the statement said.

The government would need to establish that a hate crime was committed in order to bring charges, a legal threshold Holder has said previously would be challenging to meet.

“For a federal hate crime we have to prove the highest standard in the law,” Holder said in April 2012. “Something that was reckless, that was negligent does not meet that standard. We have to show that there was specific intent to do the crime with requisite state of mind.”

A petition asking for civil rights prosecution of Zimmerman on the White House “We The People” site – a page that lets citizens submit petitions to the White House – was started Sunday. So far, it has more than 4,000 signatures, a number far short of the 100,000 necessary to get a response from the White House.

Obama’s first comments on the Zimmerman trial came in March 2012, when the president said the fatal shooting of an unarmed African-American teen required national “soul searching.”

The president also personalized the shooting in those remarks. He told reporters he thought about his own children when he thought about Martin.

“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,” Obama said at that time.

Obama said the case struck home with him when asked about any racial components of the case.

“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” the president said then.

Republicans at the time criticized Obama for personalizing the shooting and on Sunday, Rep. Steve King alleged the president and his administration had turned the case into a political issue rather than a legal matter.

“The evidence didn’t support prosecution and the Justice Department engaged in this. The president engaged in this and turned it into a political issue that should have been handled exclusively with law and order,” King, an outspoken Republican from Iowa, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Since Obama’s first comments, the White House has kept its distance from the case.
TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

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