Zimmerman Verdict: Not Guilty

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SANFORD, Fla. — After deliberating for 12 hours Saturday, jurors found George Zimmerman not guilty of a committing a crime when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin.

This is breaking news. Here is AP’s earlier story.

SANFORD, Fla. — Jurors deciding whether George Zimmerman committed a crime when he fatally shot Trayvon Martin asked Saturday for clarification on the charge of manslaughter — a possible indication they were considering the lesser charge instead of second-degree murder.

They also stayed at the courthouse through dinner, an apparent sign they planned to deliberate into the night. Meanwhile, a crowd outside the courthouse that started at 100 people earlier in the day doubled in size in anticipation of a potential verdict.

The six-member, all-woman jury presented its question Saturday evening.

“May we please have clarification on the instructions regarding manslaughter,” said the note, which Judge Debra Nelson read aloud to a lawyers, reporters and members of the families of Martin and Zimmerman who were gathered in the courtroom.

As jurors awaited an answer, Nelson talked to lawyers at the bench and after a half-hour recess, they agreed to send a note back asking the jurors to elaborate.

“The court can’t engage in general discussion but may be able to address a specific question regarding clarification of the instructions regarding manslaughter,” the note said. “If you have a specific question, please submit it.”

Jurors didn’t send back a response to the note.

Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder but jurors also have the options of finding him guilty of manslaughter or not guilty. He has pleaded not guilty, claiming he shot the 17-year-old Martin in self-defense.

To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification. To win a second-degree murder conviction, prosecutors must convince jurors Zimmerman acted with ill will, hatred or spite toward Martin.

Zimmerman faces a maximum prison sentence of life for second-degree murder and 30 years if convicted of manslaughter, due to extra sentencing guidelines for committing a crime with a gun.

Outside lawyers with no connection to the case said the jury’s question could be an indication that it has taken second-degree murder off the table.

“It does sound like at this point, they’re considering between manslaughter and not guilty,” said Blaine McChesney, an Orlando defense attorney and former prosecutor with no connection to the case.

Added Orlando defense attorney David Hill: “Why would they bother to ask for clarification unless they were thinking about manslaughter?”

This article continues at startribune.com

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