This Is Why George Zimmerman Was Found Not Guilty

Powerful trial moments that changed Zimmerman’s life forever.

1. George Zimmerman’s account of what happened

Pool / Getty Images

While Zimmerman did not testify, jurors saw video of him walking police through what happened that fateful night. He maintained that he was acting in self-defense when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. In closing arguments, defense attorney Mark O’Mara reminded jurors that, “If you have a reasonable doubt of whether he was justified in the use of deadly force, he’s not guilty.” Their decision makes it clear that they had reasonable doubt of his guilt.

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2. Malice.

Joe Skipper / Reuters

A key to deciding if Zimmerman was guilty of second degree murder was whether the defendant had malice or ill-will toward Trayvon Martin. This was on display as the prosecution’s opening salvo was what Zimmerman said when he called 911 the night of the shooting: “Fucking punks, these assholes always get away.” The jury did not see this as an example of malice towards the victim.

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3. Last words with a friend.

Pool / Getty Images

In a trial that divided many Americans, Rachel Jeantel’s testimony was a microcosm of the larger case. Martin’s friend, the person who spoke to him in the last moments of his life, was criticized online for her raw and emotional testimony. The defense focused on discrediting her testimony precisely because it could harm their case, and it’s clear it worked. Jeantel testified that Martin said he was being followed and that he asked Zimmerman why he was following him before the phone call cut off, in what sounded like the beginning of a confrontation.

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4. Perception of Trayvon Martin

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A battle emerged to frame who Martin was. The jury was allowed to learn that he had traces of marijuana in his system. In closing arguments, O’Mara showed a photo of a muscled Martin that might stand in contrast to the 5-foot, 11-inch, 158-pound description shown by the defense. O’Mara showed a slab of concrete to drive the point home that Martin was not unarmed during his confrontation with Zimmerman.

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5. Zimmerman’s injuries

Pool / Getty Images

Like much of the case, there was dispute over the extent of Zimmerman’s injuries. This would go a long way toward deciding how much damage Martin was doing and if self-defense was a viable reason for the shooting.

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6. Prosecution vs. Defense

Pool / Reuters

That fateful night featured a confrontation between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, and the prosecution and defense valiantly tried to prove their case in a tense and often heated courtroom. After the verdict was read, Don West talked about the case with reporters.

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"I thought the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful," says defense attorney Don West.

— Adrian Carrasquillo (@RealAdrianC)

Adrian Carrasquillo


“I thought the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful,” says defense attorney Don West.

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"Jury prevented a tragedy from becoming a travesty." - Defense attorney, Don West.

— Adrian Carrasquillo (@RealAdrianC)

Adrian Carrasquillo


“Jury prevented a tragedy from becoming a travesty.” - Defense attorney, Don West.

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Adrian Carrasquillo is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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