After a challenging and exhausting trial, the jurors involved in the case regarding the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin have found 29-year-old George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Martin, not guilty.
Before reaching a verdict, the Sanford, FL jury composed of six females deliberated for a grueling 16 hours. The verdict was then announced late on Saturday, July 13. The not guilty verdict was chosen over two other verdicts: second-degree murder, or a lesser degree of manslaughter. All jurors have opted out of any communication with the media regarding the decision.
Following the news, social media sites Twitter and Facebook were overloaded with conflicting opinions regarding the jury’s decision. The eruption of reactions prompted rallies in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and here in New York City. On Sunday, July 14 a crowd gathered to march from Union Square to Times Square in protest of the decision. The crowd of hundreds chanted “No Justice. No Peace.”
President Obama also weighed in on the verdict, describing Martin’s death as a tragedy, and highlighting the devastating role of gun violence, an issue he has campaigned against for quite some time. The President expressed concern over the passionate responses Americans have conveyed regarding the decision, and urged them to take time for a “calm reflection” on the matter.
Families of both of the involved parties were vocal following the verdict. Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin wrote in a tweet:
“God blessed Me & Sybrina with Tray and even in his death I know my baby proud of the FIGHT we along with all of you put up for him GOD BLESS. Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY.”
Zimmerman’s brother, Robert, expressed what many have considered to be a statement of irony, saying his brother “is going to be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life,” suggesting that he is concerned about those who may “want to take the law into their own hands.”
Moving forward, it is still possible for a court to hold Zimmerman accountable for Martin’s death. This is possible by either a civil lawsuit, or a civil right suit. At this time, the Martin family has not expressed plans to pursue either type of lawsuit, but rather has asked the public to respect the Florida court’s verdict.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, is urging the U.S. Department of Justice to file a civil rights suit. The group believes that Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon was based on racial profiling. Zimmerman and his supporters have firmly denied this accusation: Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, claims that his actions were a form of self-defense when he was provoked by the altercation with Martin, who was on his way home from a convenience store, unarmed.
As of right now, the U.S. Justice Department has not responded directly to the demand by the NAACP. They are currently conducting an ongoing separate federal investigation.