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The Killing of Trayvon Martin Sparks National Outrage

by Jennie Wood

On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by crime watch volunteer George Zimmerman. The incident took place within a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Martin was unarmed. The death of an unarmed, African-American teenager and the decision by Sanford police not to charge Zimmerman sparked protests across the nation. The national outrage led to the Justice Department opening an investigation in March.

On March 22, 2012, Bill Lee Jr., the chief of police in Sanford, announced he was stepping down. Lee had been overseeing the Trayvon Martin investigation. On the same day, thousands gathered at a rally in Sanford to protest the way the police department was handling the case. The protest streamed live on the internet. Other rallies were scheduled around the country via Facebook and Twitter as people continued to call for the arrest of George Zimmerman. Meanwhile, Zimmerman maintained that he shot Martin in self-defense.

In April, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder. Three months later, a judge set Zimmerman's bail at one million dollars. The judge ruled that Zimmerman could be released on bail despite the fact that Zimmerman and his wife misled the court about how much money they had during the first bond hearing in April. Meanwhile, the FBI conducted a federal civil rights investigation and found that Zimmerman did not have a history of violence or prejudice. However, audio tapes were released in July of an interview with a woman who said that Zimmerman sexually abused her over a period of ten years. She said the abuse started when they were children. She also said that his family often made comments belittling black people.

The trial of George Zimmerman was set for June 10, 2013. If convicted of second-degree murder, Zimmerman could get life in prison.

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