BROKENHEARTED: Tracy kisses son Trayvon
THE FATHER of murdered black teenager Trayvon Martin said his faith would remain intact after the man who killed his son was acquitted of murder.
Tracy Martin, who with ex-wife Sybrina Fulton, has campaigned tirelessly since 17-year-old Trayvon was fatally shot by self-styled neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman as he made his way home in a gated Florida community last year, took to Twitter hours after the verdict was revealed to ensure supporters that the family would solider on.
"Even though my heart breaks, my faith is unshattered. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MY BABY TRAY," he wrote.
He continued: "Thanks to everyone who are with us. Together we can make sure this doesn't happen again.
Sybrina said she was relying on her faith to get her through her "darkest hour."
"Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you," she wrote on Twitter. "You are all that I have."
George Zimmerman walked free from a Florida courtroom late on Saturday (July 13) after a jury acquitted the neighbourhood watch leader of murdering an unarmed Trayvon Martin.
It is a case that played into the national debates about race, civil rights and the proliferation of guns in US society, with President Obama, a father of two girls, publicly sharing that if he had a son, 'he would look like Trayvon'.
The US president said at the time: “I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”
The unanimous verdict came after more than 16 hours of deliberations by the panel at the Seminole County criminal justice centre in Sanford. They had sifted through the testimony of 56 witnesses and hours of lawyers' arguments during the three-week trial. The jury accepted Zimmerman's contention that he shot Martin in self-defence, believing his life to be in immediate danger.
ACQUITTED: In this image from video, George Zimmerman smiles after a not guilty verdict was handed down in his trial at the Seminole County Courthouse
Martin, who lived in Miami, was walking back to the house of his father's fiancée at the Retreat at Twin Lakes gated community carrying a soft drink and sweets he had bought at a local convenience store. Zimmerman, who worked as a mortgage underwriter, said he spotted the hoodie-wearing youth as he was on his way to buy groceries, then called police to report a "suspicious male". Somehow, the two ended up in a fight.
Zimmerman was released without charge on the night of the shooting. After a campaign by Trayvon Martin's parents prompted nationwide protests, Florida's governor, Rick Scott, appointed a special prosecutor to re-examine the circumstances of the case. Zimmerman was arrested in April last year, 44 days after the shooting.
Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Martin family, expressed thanks to supporters and prosecutors. Visibly shaken by the verdict, he said: "To everybody who put their hoodies up, to everybody who said 'I am Trayvon', his family express their heartfelt gratitude for helping them these past 17 months."
KILLED: Trayvon Martin was unarmed when he was fatally shot by self-styled neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman
Crump said that the daughter of the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, Dr Bernice King, had sent him a message that read: "Today is a defining moment for the status of my father's dream. Whatever the Zimmerman verdict is, in the words of my father we must conduct ourselves on higher plane of dignity and discipline."
He added: "Trayvon Martin will forever remain in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers an Emmett Till as symbols for the fight for equal justice for all." He finished his remarks with an appeal for calm. "For Trayvon to remain in peace, we must all be peaceful," he said.
Last year, Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered British teenager Stephen, met with Sybrina at a centre in Deptford - which bears her son's name. She then took Sybrina to the bus stop in Eltham, south London, where Stephen was fatally attacked by a gang of white youths, and to the memorial, which remembers his life.