Neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teenager whose killing unleashed furious debate across the US over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice.
But the verdict angered large sections of Americans who marched in US cities throughout Saturday night, with reports of sporadic acts of violence.
Spontaneous marches of varying sizes erupted in cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Zimmerman, 29, blinked and barely smiled when the verdict was announced late on Saturday night. He could have been convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
But the jury of six women, all but one White, reached a verdict of not guilty.
Martin’s mother and father were not in the courtroom when the verdict was read; supporters of his family who had gathered outside yelled “No! No!” upon learning of the not-guilty verdict.
The teen’s father, Tracy, reacted on Twitter: “Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY.”
Trayvon Martin’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, said simply: “Et tu America?” - a reference to the Latin phrase “Et tu, Brute?”, known as an expression of betrayal.
The jurors considered nearly three weeks of often wildly conflicting testimony over who was the aggressor on the rainy night the 17-year-old was shot while walking through the gated townhouse community where he was staying and where Zimmerman lived.
None of the witnesses who were called had a clear view of their encounter.
Defense attorneys said the case was classic self-defense, claiming Martin knocked Zimmerman down and was slamming the older man’s head against the concrete sidewalk when Zimmerman fired his gun.