(CNN) – Nearly a year and a half after Trayvon Martin was shot dead in a central Florida neighborhood, a jury found the man who killed him — George Zimmerman, who argued that he fired in self defense — not guilty.
The fact that Zimmerman fired the bullet that killed Martin was never in question, but the verdict means the six-person jury had reasonable doubt that the shooting amounted to a criminal act.
The verdict caps a case that has inflamed passions for well over a year, much of it focused on race and gun rights.
The jurors deliberated for 16½ hours total, including 13 on Saturday alone, before delivering their verdict. Five of the women are white, one is a minority.When he learned his fate, a quiet Zimmerman had little visible reaction. His face was mostly expressionless. He turned and shook the hand of one of his attorneys before sitting back down, only openly smiling after court was adjourned. His parents, Robert and Gladys Zimmerman, were seated nearby, but Martin’s parents were not in the courtroom.
Defense attorney Mark O’Mara said a short time later that he and his team were “ecstatic” with the verdict.
“George Zimmerman was never guilty of anything except protecting himself in self defense,” O’Mara said.
Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, took to Twitter to thank those who have supported his family and vowed they will continue to fight.
“Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY,” he tweeted.