July 15, 2013

Zimmerman verdict resurrects racism debate

The deeply emotional public response spotlights divisions over race and personal safety.

By CAROL D. LEONNIG and JENNA JOHNSON The Washington Post

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A large crowd marches along Broad Street, in Newark, N.J., Sunday to protest the acquittal in George Zimmerman’s murder trial.

Photos by The Associated Press

Nichole Mitchell
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Nichole Mitchell wipes away tears during the sermon at a youth service at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford, Fla., Sunday. Many in the congregation wore hooded sweat shirts to show support of Trayvon Martin.

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Ultimately, there were no living witnesses other than Zimmerman.

Zimmerman said Martin punched him and threw him to the ground. A few neighbors testified at the trial that they heard yelps and saw an altercation, but not who was doing the harm. A friend of Martin's said he had called her on her cellphone minutes before his death, complaining that he was afraid of a "creepy-ass cracker" following him.

Attorneys for Zimmerman said at a post-verdict news conference that they were ecstatic at the decision and praised the jurors, saying they weighed the evidence carefully. But defense attorney Mark O'Mara complained that some in the public and the media turned Zimmerman into a civil rights cause -- and a monster.

The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation of Martin's death shortly after his shooting. A department spokesman said Sunday that the investigation remains open and that officials are looking at whether there is enough evidence to pursue a civil rights case.

But for many Americans furious with the jury's decision, Sunday was a day to look to their religious faith for comfort and understanding.

Among them was Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, who tweeted about her deep faith and quoted Proverbs 3:5-6: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

She also 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. Thank you all for your prayers and support. I will love you forever Trayvon!!! In the name of Jesus!!!"

Martin's parents and relatives were "in church this morning, praying and turning to God, a higher authority, to make sense of it all," family attorney Benjamin Crump said Sunday on ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos." They don't fault the prosecutors, he said, but they are trying to make sense of the jury's decision while continuing to mourn the 17-year-old's death. Family members will look into filing a civil lawsuit. They have set up a foundation in Martin's memory and pledge to fight gun violence.

But Sunday was a day of celebration for supporters of Zimmerman, who believe he had properly defended himself from a threat and should never have been prosecuted.

His brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr., tweeted early in the day: "Message from Dad: 'Our whole family is relieved'. Today . . . I'm proud to be an American. God Bless America! Thank you for your prayers!"

 

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