SANFORD – Anger over the acquittal of a US neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager continued on Monday, with civil rights leaders saying mostly peaceful protests will continue this weekend with vigils in dozens of cities.
The Justice Department said it is looking into Trayvon Martin’s death to determine whether federal prosecutors will file criminal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, who is now a free man. His lawyer has told ABC News that Zimmerman will get his gun back and intends to arm himself again.
The key to filing civil rights charges against Zimmerman lies in whether evidence exists that he was motivated by racial animosity to kill Martin. Zimmerman’s parents, Gladys and Robert Zimmerman Sr, told ABC News that their son isn’t racist and that they don’t know if their son will ever be able to return to a normal life.
President Barack Obama and numerous celebrities have expressed sorrow at the verdict. The civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton said Monday that his organization will hold vigils and rallies in 100 cities Saturday in front of federal buildings.
A jury late Saturday found the 29-year-old Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder. Zimmerman has said he shot the 17-year-old in self-defense in a nighttime confrontation in his gated community in Sanford, Florida, where Martin was visiting family.
The February 2012 shooting drew national attention when Zimmerman wasn’t arrested for weeks, and the case has continued to raise questions over race and self-defense gun laws.
Jurors were told that Zimmerman was allowed to use deadly force when he shot the teen not only if he actually faced death or bodily harm, but also if he merely thought he did.
A juror in the trial said Monday that the actions of Zimmerman and Martin both led to the teenager’s fatal shooting, but that Zimmerman didn’t actually break the law.
The woman known as Juror B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Zimmerman made some poor decisions leading up to the shooting, but that Martin wasn’t innocent either.
“I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into,” said the juror, who is planning to write a book about the trial. “I think they both could have walked away.”
The juror said Sanford Police Detective Chris Serino made a big impression on her, because he would have been accustomed to dealing with murders and similar cases. He would have known how to spot a liar, and yet he testified that he believed Zimmerman, the juror said.
Legal analysts agreed that Serino’s testimony was a blow to the state’s case.
The juror was not impressed by the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, who was talking with Martin by cellphone moments before he was fatally shot by Zimmerman in February, 2012.
“I didn’t think it was very credible, but I felt very sorry for her,” the juror said. “She didn’t want to be there.” While prosecutors accused Zimmerman of profiling Martin, Zimmerman maintained he acted in self-defense.