At court, groups gather to await Zimmerman verdict

Groups gather outside courthouse to await verdict as deliberations continue in Zimmerman trial

Associated Press
Jurors in Zimmerman trial have question
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George Zimmerman arrives in the courtroom for his trial at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, in Sanford, Fla., Friday, July 12, 2013. Zimmerman is charged in the 2012 shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. (AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) -- As jurors deliberated for a second day in George Zimmerman's murder trial, there was little understanding between two camps assembled outside the Seminole County Courthouse to await a verdict.

"He deserves some respect and appreciation," Casey David Kole Sr., 66, shouted about the former neighborhood watch leader. "It's a tragedy."

Patricia Dalton, 60, yelled back: "It's a tragedy that could have been avoided!"

Dalton, like most of the 100 or so people at the suburban Orlando courthouse, says she's there in support of the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teen from Miami who Zimmerman fatally shot last year.

The supporters stayed peaceful for most of the day until in the afternoon when sheriff's deputies had to separate a Zimmerman supporter from a pro-Martin demonstrator after a heated exchange. There was no physical contact made and no one was arrested.

The atmosphere quickly cooled down. Two Orlando sisters, dressed in colorful African-print clothing and walking on stilts, sang "Lean on Me" with the crowd as a man strummed a banjo and people waved signs.

"We're just here for peace and love," said stilt walker Bambi Loketo.

Prosecutors and Trayvon Martin's family say Zimmerman profiled Martin because of the teen's race. Those allegations, and a 44-day delay before police arrested Zimmerman, sparked nationwide protests involving leading national civil rights leaders and spurred emotional debates about gun control, self-defense laws, race, and equal justice under the law.

In Saturday's strong Florida sun, some people at the courthouse wore hoodies, as Martin had when he died. One woman lay in the grass, her arms spread, in a re-creation of Martin's death. Those in the smaller pro-Zimmerman camp held small signs, saying things like "We love you George" and "George got hit you must acquit."

Joseph Uy of Longwood was among an even smaller group: the few who said they had no opinion on whether Zimmerman was guilty. He said he came because he was "just curious."

"I'm neutral," he said, while cradling his three tiny Chihuahuas in his arms.

By mid-afternoon, people rallied in the heat and chanted slogans as a looming thundercloud threatened a downpour.

"Justice for Trayvon," some shouted. Others yelled, "Convict George Zimmerman."

Over three weeks, the jury has heard dueling portraits of the neighborhood watch captain: a cop wannabe who took the law into his own hands or a well-meaning volunteer who shot Martin because he feared for his life.

Zimmerman, 29, has claimed self-defense in the February 2012 confrontation in a gated community where Martin was visiting his father and father's fiancee.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder, but the jury also is allowed to consider manslaughter.

The judge's decision to allow that consideration was a potential blow to the defense: It could give jurors who aren't convinced the shooting amounted to murder a way to hold Zimmerman responsible for the killing.

To win a manslaughter conviction, prosecutors must show only that Zimmerman killed without lawful justification.

Zimmerman faces a maximum prison sentence of life for second-degree murder and 30 years if convicted of manslaughter, due to extra sentencing guidelines for committing a crime with a gun.

The sequestered jury of six women must sort through conflicting testimony from police, neighbors, friends and family members.

Jurors deliberated for three and a half hours when they decided to stop Friday evening. They reconvened Saturday morning, deliberated for three hours and then broke for lunch. They resumed their discussions about 1 p.m. Saturday. Jurors are being sequestered, and their identities are kept anonymous — they are identified only by number.

Police and civic leaders have pleaded for calm in Sanford and across the country after the verdict.

"There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence," Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. "We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully."

In New York on Saturday, the Rev. Al Sharpton said that no matter the verdict, any demonstrations that follow it must be peaceful.

"We do not want to smear Trayvon Martin's name with violence," the civil rights leader said. "He is a victim of violence."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson had a similar message. He tweeted that people should "avoid violence because it only leads to more tragedies."

Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin's family, said the parents are emotional but doing as well as expected as they await a verdict.

"(Jurors) staying out longer and considering the evidence and testimony is a good thing for us arriving at a just verdict," Crump said.

On Saturday morning, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, shared on Twitter what she called her favorite Bible verse: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight."

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Associated Press writers Kyle Hightower, Mike Schneider and Tony Winton in Sanford; and Colleen Long in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush.

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