RALLIES ACROSS U.S., JUSTICE DEPT. REVIEW AFTER ZIMMERMAN ACQUITTAL:Demonstrations were held in cities across the country Sunday (July 14th) in protest of George Zimmerman's acquittal the night before on murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. Meanwhile, with calls from the NAACP and protesters for federal civil rights charges to be brought against Zimmerman, the Justice Department said it's looking into the case to determine if such charges are justified. Civil rights and religious leaders called for calm in the wake of the verdict, as did President Obama, and other than some breaking of windows and vandalizing of a police car in Oakland, California, the protests were peaceful. In a statement yesterday, Obama -- who said last year that if he had a son, quote, "he'd look like Trayvon" -- stated, "I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."
The Verdict and Reaction
The verdict came in late Saturday night, after the six jurors had deliberated for some 15 hours over two days. They found that Zimmerman was not guilty of second-degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old Martin, and didn't convict him of the lesser charge of manslaughter either, although they had that option. ["In the circuit court of the 18th judicial circuit in Seminole County, Florida, State of Florida versus George Zimmerman, verdict: we the jury find George Zimmerman not guilty. So say we all, foreperson."] SOUNDCUE (:14 OC: . . . we all, foreperson.) The anonymous jurors, who were all women, refused to talk to reporters after the verdict. Their names will remain secret until the judge in the case lifts an order protecting their identities.
Martin's parents weren't present in the courtroom for the verdict, but after it was read, his mother, Sybrina Fulton, tweeted, "Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control," and his father, Tracy Martin, said on Twitter, "Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY." From the Zimmerman family, his brother, George Zimmerman, tweeted, "Message from Dad: 'Our whole family is relieved.' Today . . . I'm proud to be an American."
The attorneys also spoke out after the trial, including State Attorney Angela Corey, who brought the case, Zimmerman defense attorneys Don West and Mark O'Mara, who said Zimmerman, quote, "was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense," and Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump, who said Martin will be remembered in the history of the fight for equal justice alongside murdered civil rights hero Medgar Evers and Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was murdered by a group of white men in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white woman.
What's Next for George Zimmerman?
Although he's been acquitted, Zimmerman's troubles are not over. He faces possible civil lawsuits from Martin's family, as well as a potential federal civil rights case, although experts say it would be a tough conviction to get, with federal prosecutors having to prove Zimmerman attacked Martin because of his race.
Reuters was reporting yesterday that Zimmerman, who was an insurance investigator, wants to go to law school, citing both a friend and O'Mara. Leanne Benjamin said that over dinner recently with her and her husband, Zimmerman said he'd like to go to law school, saying he wants to help other people like himself. O'Mara backed that up, telling Reuters, "He has a real interest in the law and . . . prosecuting appropriately -- not like what he got -- is something he's very interested in. I will not be surprised if he ends up in criminal law."
Whatever he does next, Zimmerman will continue to face security concerns. Zimmerman's brother, Robert Zimmerman, said on CNN Saturday night, "He's going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life," and O'Mara told reporters, "There still is a fringe element that wants revenge." The Associated Press cited security experts who said Zimmerman needs to immediately put a security plan in place. Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management, summed up the situation by telling AP, "I have one short piece of advice for him: Hide." He also said he'd advise Zimmerman not to speak to the news media, saying, "The more you talk, the more you are a target."