Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder in high-profile shooting
George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a six-person, all-female jury in Florida on Saturday.
Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder in relation to the fatal shooting, though judge Debra Nelson told the jury late in the trial that they could consider a lesser charge of manslaughter as well.
The jury deliberated for 16 hours over two days before reaching a verdict.
Zimmerman remained stoic and expressionless in the courtroom during the reading of the verdict. Only in the immediate aftermath did he and his family show relief. Outside the courtroom people supporting the prosecution who had gathered to hear the verdict reacted with anger and disbelief.
Zimmerman by no means faced a certain acquittal, though the prosecution did have flaws in its presentation of the case, including the lack of a witness on its side who could testify about the struggle between Zimmerman and Martin on the prosecution's behalf. Some legal analysts blasted prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda's presentation as weak; Bill Sheaffer of Florida's WFTV-Channel 9 opined that De La Rionda relied too much on emotion rather than facts.
"It's about facts and evidence presented to the jury that establishes doubt," Sheaffer said.
The prosecution was also unable to conclusively prove that a voice heard screaming for help on the 911 call placed on the night of Martin's death was that of Martin's during the struggle. Where there was ambiguity in the prosecution's case as to whose voice it was, witnesses for the defense emphatically testified that the voice belonged to Zimmerman.
Martin's death and the subsequent murder charge drew intense media coverage, with allegations that the shooting of Martin, who was African-American, was at least partially motivated by race. An edited version of the 911 call that Zimmerman made to police, which inaccurately suggested that Zimmerman had volunteered information about Martin's race, led to the firing of an NBC News producer.
The trial itself, which began in late June, was covered incessantly by cable news outlets, barely interrupted by global events like the toppling of Egypt's democratically-elected president.
Zimmerman had been serving as a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. on the night of the shooting. Martin, who was unarmed, was returning to the housing complex from a nearby convenience store. A confrontation ensued, resulting in Martin's shooting death.
Zimmerman claimed self-defense, saying that Martin had knocked him down and banged his head on the sidewalk before reaching for Zimmerman's gun.