Florida jury acquits Zimmerman

Miami, Jul 14 (EFE).- George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain, was acquitted on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the 2012 killing of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

The six-woman jury deliberated for just over 16 hours before reaching a unanimous verdict and delivering it to Judge Debra Nelson on Saturday night.

The jury deliberated for two days before acquitting the 29-year-old Zimmerman.

The jury on Saturday asked the judge in the central Florida city of Sanford to clarify the legal concept of manslaughter.

Zimmerman faced life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder and up to 30 years in prison on a manslaughter conviction.

Zimmerman shot the 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in a Sanford neighborhood.

The jury heard from numerous witnesses, including police officers, forensic specialists and residents of the subdivision where the shooting occurred, during the three-week trial.

The trial garnered international attention and polarized public opinion in the United States, where thousands rallied to support the family of the slain Miami Gardens high school student.

Prosecutors tried to portray Zimmerman as a man who was playing cop and took justice into his own hands when he spotted Martin walking in the rain wearing a hoodie.

Zimmerman's defense attorneys made the case that he was acting in self-defense and was justified in using lethal force under Florida's broad "stand your ground" law.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara reminded jurors on Friday that they needed to vote to acquit if they had any "reasonable doubt" that Zimmerman only intended to defend himself.

Zimmerman said Martin punched him in the nose, pushed him to the ground, straddled him and began pounding his head into the asphalt, forcing him to shoot.

U.S. media outlets covered the Zimmerman case extensively and the shooting reopened the debate about racial profiling in the United States.

The case was also followed closely on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Gun control advocates also targeted Florida's liberal self-defense laws, which allow citizens to use deadly force to defend themselves.

Local and state officials, as well as community leaders, called for calm ahead of the verdict.

A group of about 30 students from Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tampa and Miami gathered outside the courthouse on Saturday to demand justice for Martin.