The George Zimmerman trial: What happened? What’s next? Watch an Anderson Cooper 360 special tonight at 8 ET on CNN.
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"There are no winners," Zimmerman's brother says
George Zimmerman never denied shooting Trayvon Martin, but he said he did so in self defense. Late Saturday night, a Florida jury found him not guilty in the teenager’s death.
The verdict caps a case that has inflamed passions for well over a year, much of it focused on race.
The six jurors – all of them women – deliberated for 16½ hours. Five of the women are white; one is a minority.
When he heard his fate, Zimmerman had little visible reaction. He turned and shook the hand of one of his attorneys before sitting back down, smiling only after court was adjourned.
Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, were not in the courtroom when the decision was announced. But they shared their emotions on Twitter shortly afterward.
“Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY,” Tracy Martin tweeted.
Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., said words can’t express how relieved his family is.
“Having said that, I don’t think this is a time for high-fiving,” the brother said. “I acknowledge – we all have acknowledged – that Mr. Martin, Trayvon Martin, lost his life. (But) it was not an act of murder. It was not an act of manslaughter.”
The jury had three choices: to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder; to find him guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter; or to find him not guilty.
For second-degree murder, the jurors would have had to believe that Martin’s unlawful killing was “done from ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent” and would be “of such a nature that the act itself indicates an indifference to human life.”
To convict Zimmerman of manslaughter, the jurors would have had to believe he “intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin.” That charge could have carried a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, though the jury was not told of that possible sentence.
Ultimately, they believed Zimmerman wasn’t guilty of either charge. None of the jurors wanted to speak to the media after the verdict.
A call for calm
Both sides of the case asked for peace after the verdict. In the immediate aftermath, they appeared to have gotten their wish – even though the Internet erupted with outrage.
But now that Zimmerman is a free man, his defense and his brother fear for his safety.
“He has to be very cautious and protective of his safety because there is still a fringe element who have said, at least in tweets and everything else, that they want revenge – that they will not listen to a verdict of not guilty,” defense attorney Mark O’Mara said.
Robert Zimmerman Jr. said his brother “is going to be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life.”
When asked if George Zimmerman will keep the gun he used to shoot Trayvon Martin, his brother said he has good reason to.
“I think he has more reason now than ever to think that people are trying to kill him because they express they’re trying to kill him, all the time, every day, on my Twitter feed, on the Internet,” Robert Zimmerman told CNN’s Piers Morgan.
“He has always feared for his safety.”
But Crump said everyone should stay calm, especially for Martin’s sake.
“For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful.”
The race debate
The trial may be over, but the race debate surrounding the case rages on.
“The whole world was looking at this case for a reason … We’d be intellectually dishonest if we didn’t acknowledge the racial undertones in this case,” Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump said. “So we have to have very responsible conversations about how we get better as a country and move forward from this tragedy and learn from it.”
Prosecutor Angela Corey said Martin was unfairly viewed as a criminal before he was shot.
Amid the national debate about whether Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, defense attorney O’Mara suggested his client was actually profiled by critics.
“I think things would have been different if George Zimmerman were black for this reason: He never would have been charged with a crime,” O’Mara said.
He said the country “absolutely” needs to have a conversation about whether young black males are treated differently in the criminal justice system – but said that conversation is a separate topic from what happened the night Zimmerman and Martin met.
Martin family attorney Natalie Jackson commended the millions of people who signed an online petition “not in an effort to persecute George Zimmerma