BREAKING: George Zimmerman Not Guilty Verdict Announced

George Zimmerman has been found not guilty of all criminal charges in a Seminole County courtroom.

The jury rendered its verdict after some 16 hours of deliberation. Zimmerman was cleared of both second degree murder and manslaughter by the six-person all-female jury.

George Zimmerman, a former neighborhood watch captain, was put on trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, 17, on February 26, 2012, after confronting the teenager as he walked back to the house where he was staying in a gated community outside of Orlando, Florida. Zimmerman entered a plea of not guilty on self-defense grounds.

The not-guilty verdict means that the prosecutors for the state of Florida failed to uphold the burden of proof that George Zimmerman was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, i.e., to the exclusion of reasonable doubt. A not guilty verdict doesn’t necessarily mean innocent, more precisely it means not proven in the eyes of the law based on the evidence presented in the trial.

Earlier today the jury asked for a clarification on the manslaughter charge but apparently never followed up with specific questions that Judge Debra Nelson said she would be willing to answer. The jury instructions read in part that “”George Zimmerman cannot be guilty of manslaughter by committing a merely negligent act or if the killing was either justifiable or excusable homicide.”

During closing arguments, the jury was presented with two different views of what took place on the tragic evening in Sanford, Fla. Prosecutors presented him as a cop-wanna-be who took the law into his own hands, while the defense tried to convince the panel that he was a well-meaning neighborhood watchman who was trying to protect himself. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara insisted that prosecutors hadn’t been able to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt and apparently his view prevailed.

A not guilty verdict in the criminal trial does not preclude the Martin family from filing a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Zimmerman, however.

Are you surprised that George Zimmerman was found not guilty on all counts? Do this verdict increase or decrease your faith in the jury system?