Jurors in Sandford on Saturday acquitted George Zimmerman, a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, of both second degree murder and manslaughter. Zimmerman had told the court he shot a black teenager in self-defense.
A six-woman jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of either second-degree murder or manslaughter when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin once in the chest on February 26, 2012.
The jury in Sandford, Florida, had deliberated for over 16 hours since Friday before handing down its verdict.
"Mr. Zimmermann, I have signed the judgment that confirms the jury's verdict. Your bond will be released. Your GPS monitor will be cut off when you exit the courtroom over here. And you have no further business with the court," Judge Deborah Nelson said shortly after the verdict was read.
Jurors had asked for clarification on the manslaughter verdict before ultimately issuing the not-guilty verdict.
The racially charged case has captured widespread attention, bringing up issues including racial profiling, equality under the law, vigilantism and even the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, which permits people to own weapons and carry them in public.
Zimmerman had observed Martin walking around a fenced-off community at night. He called the local police saying Martin "looks like he's up to no good, or he's on drugs or something." After this phone call, Zimmerman and Martin came to blows. Zimmerman told police that Martin attacked him and he ultimately shot him because he feared for his life. The 29-year-old had injuries to his nose and the back of his head.
Charges were only leveled against Zimmerman well after the event courted national attention and controversy; police had initially said they found no evidence contradicting the self-defense claim.
During the case, the defendant was portrayed in very different lights by the opposing attorneys. The prosecution sought to show Zimmerman as a "wanna-be cop" taking the law into his own hands, while the defense spoke of a well-meaning volunteer forced to act out of fear for his safety.
msh/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)