By Lauren Williams / MotherJones.com
After more than three weeks of testimony and nearly 17 hours of deliberation, the jury in the Trayvon Martin case has found George Zimmerman not guilty
Zimmerman shot and killed the 17-year-old after a scuffle in a gated condominium complex in Sanford, Fla., on February 26, 2012. The case became a racially charged national story almost immediately due to the circumstances of Martin’s death—a black, unarmed teen shot after being tailed by Zimmerman for merely looking suspicious—and the fact that Sanford police did not arrest Zimmerman until 46 days after the killing.
But the actual trial boiled down to not racism or police inaction but whether or not Zimmerman wanted to kill Martin and if Zimmerman’s life was in danger when he pulled the trigger. To get a murder conviction, the prosecution had to prove to the six women on the jury that Zimmerman acted with malice or intent when he killed Martin. This was tough to prove, given that the victim wasn’t around to offer his version of events. During the trial, the defense sought to paint Zimmerman as a poor fighter who was overpowered by Martin and who came to fear for his life during the scuffle. During his closing statement, attorney Mark O’Mara brought a slab of concrete into the courtroom, arguing that the teen used the sidewalk as a weapon.
“That is cement. That is a sidewalk. That is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home,” he said. “That was someone who used the availability of dangerous items, from his fist to the concrete, to cause great bodily injury.”
The prosecution contended that Zimmerman killed Martin not because he had to, but because he wanted to. On Thursday, the judge in the case ruled that the jury could find Zimmerman guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter. This option—described as a possible compromise by numerous legal observers—was not accepted by the jury.
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