Obama Urges Calm in Wake of Jury Verdict
VOA News, July 14, 2013
U.S. President Barack Obama appealed for calm on Sunday, after a Florida jury acquitted a volunteer neighborhood patrolman in the murder of an unarmed black teenager.
In a written statement, Obama called the death of Trayvon Martin a tragedy - for his family and for America. But in urging quiet reflection, he said "we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."
The acquittal of watchman George Zimmerman late Saturday by a six-woman jury dominated television news and the Internet on Sunday, sparking community protests and raising the national debate about race and crime fighting in America.
The 17-year-old Martin was killed last year in a struggle with armed community watchman Zimmerman, who is Hispanic. The death left many Americans saying Martin was targeted because he was black and walking at night in a gated, largely white community.
State Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda says he was disappointed by the ruling, but will respect the jury's decision.
Immediately after the verdict, Martin's supporters, including his family members, took to social media to express their displeasure with the decision. Spontaneous protests sprang up in several cities, including thousands of kilometers away from Florida in San Francisco.
Zimmerman's defense lawyer, Mark O'Mara, said he was ecstatic with the results. "George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self-defense. I'm glad that the jury saw it that way."
Zimmerman was driving in his neighborhood February 26, 2012 when he saw Martin and called police. Zimmerman, a neighborhood volunteer, got out of his vehicle and followed Martin. A confrontation and struggle followed, ending with Zimmerman shooting Martin.
The case made national news after it was revealed that Zimmerman was not charged for more than six weeks after the shooting, because police did not contest his claim that he shot Martin in self-defense.
The prosecution said Zimmerman profiled the teen and followed him because he assumed Martin was intent on making trouble. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense once he and Martin entered into a struggle, with Martin banging Zimmerman's head against the concrete pavement.
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