Sunday, July 14, 2013

Zimmerman after being arrested in 2012. Image: Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.

George Zimmerman, a Florida man charged with the shooting of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, was found not guilty of second-degree murder late Saturday night following 16 hours of deliberation. The case has drawn national attention in the United States because of questions it raises over “stand your ground” self-defense laws.

Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. Prosecutors argued that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, had pursued Martin on the basis of race, as Martin walked through Zimmerman’s gated community on the way back from a convenience store. Zimmerman’s lawyers argued Martin attacked Zimmerman who then shot Martin in self-defense after Martin punched him and repeatedly slammed Zimmerman’s head against the sidewalk.

Following the decision to acquit, by a six member all-female jury, of both a second-degree murder and a manslaughter charge, Zimmerman’s lawyer said: “I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful”. On Twitter, Zimmerman’s brother Robert said the decision made him “proud to be an American”.

Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, posted on Twitter to say “Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered”. Jahvaris Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s brother, posted “Et tu, America?”, alluding to the Shakespearean phrase “Et tu, Brute?”

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have launched a petition calling on the US government to bring federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous stated, “We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict. […] We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”

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