George Zimmerman is not guilty of murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida jury decided late Saturday.
The fact that Zimmerman fired the bullet that killed Martin was never in question, but the verdict means the six-person jury had reasonable doubt that the shooting amounted to a criminal act.The verdict caps a case that has inflamed passions for well over a year, much of it focused on race and gun rights.The jury -- made up of all women -- had three choices: to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder; to find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter; or to find him not guilty.The jurors deliberated for 16½ hours total, including 13 on Saturday alone, before delivering their verdict.
In the end the jury decided that Florida's stand your ground law meant that the killing of Martin was justified. Regardless of the verdict tonight, Trayvon Martin is dead. MoJo's Lauren Williams:
But it’s not over. Now that the verdict is in, here’s what could happen next.
Federal charges: The Department of Justice launched an investigation last March to investigate whether Martin’s shooting amounted to a federal hate crime—that is, if Zimmerman followed and killed Martin because he was black. In July 2012, the FBI released a statement saying that investigators had found no evidence that Zimmerman was motivated by racism. The July statement indicates that federal charges are highly unlikely, but the DOJ has not announced that the case is closed. It’s still being brought up as a post-trial possibility. NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, for instance, said Saturday on MSNBC that "there are still additional legal avenues. He could still be charged with federal civil rights charges."
Civil lawsuit: Martin’s family reached a settlement in April with the homeowners’ association of the subdivision where the killing occurred. The details of the settlement were not made public, but the Orlando Sentinel reported that the family was "said to" have been awarded at least $1 million. The suit did not include Zimmerman, but the family’s attorney Benjamin Crump has said that the family intends to sue their son’s killer at some point in the future. It’s not uncommon for families to seek a form of justice through civil courts, even when a the defendant is acquitted in criminal court. And the standards for judgments are different in such civil cases.
The public’s reaction: In the week leading to the verdict, speculation that people—specifically black people—would riot if Zimmerman were acquitted spread through the mainstream media, after taking off in the conservative press and cable news. What’s more likely, based on how Martin supporters have reacted initially—after the verdict was read, the crowd outside of the courthouse dispersed peacefully—is that protests (of the non-violent variety) against racial profiling will continue.
All important things to remember.