SANFORD — Supporters of Trayvon Martin lit candles and sang gospel songs Friday night at a memorial for the slain teenager at the Goldsboro Welcome Center.
The show of support capped a day in which more than six dozen people gathered for hours outside the Seminole County criminal courthouse. They were waiting for a verdict in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon on Feb. 26, 2012.
At 6 p.m., Seminole Circuit Judge Debra Nelson announced that jurors wanted to end deliberations for the day and would begin again Saturday at 9 a.m. After listening to three weeks of testimony, the six-woman jury began discussing the case at 2:30 p.m.
Some people took the news as a sign that the jury was taking its job seriously.
"It's just giving them more time to think," said Marites Jones of Merritt Island, who plans to return Saturday. "More time spent thinking is always good to me."
Friday afternoon and evening, sign-wavers and others gathered peacefully near a fountain outside the courthouse in a "free-speech zone" designated for people to express themselves.
Five miles away at the Goldsboro Welcome Center, about 30 people waited for the verdict and discussed the case. Trayvon, a 17-year-old black South Florida teen, was visiting his father in Zimmerman's gated Retreat at Twin Lakes community in Sanford when he was killed.
Goldsboro is a primarily black community located steps from the Sanford Police Department, which was widely criticized over its handling of the shooting. Police Chief Cecil Smith, who on April 1 succeeded fired chief Bill Lee, stopped by to chat with the group at the center.
Ike Thomas, 33, wore a black T-shirt with an image of a rifle sight superimposed over Zimmerman's face. On the back, it read, "Yes sir ... Creepy ass cracker" — a reference to the testimony of Trayvon's friend Rachel Jeantel, the last person to talk to him.
Jeantel, 19, said Trayvon used the words "creepy-ass cracker" to describe Zimmerman as she spoke to Trayvon on his cellphone shortly before he was killed.
"It's just for expression — how the community feels about Zimmerman," Thomas said.
Race has been an incendiary issue in the case ever since civil-rights leaders sparked nationwide protests calling for Zimmerman's arrest, which happened more than six weeks after the shooting.
Friday on Facebook, some of Trayvon's supporters displayed a black square in place of their profile picture.
Also Friday, dozens in Sanford held signs, many with the message "Justice 4 Trayvon." If you are "white and wanna get away with murder, come to FLA," one read.
Aurelia Cawthon drove to Central Florida from her home in Atlanta to hear firsthand what people worldwide are waiting to hear — whether the jury will find Zimmerman, 29, guilty of a crime.
Cawthon said she has been following the case since it exploded in the media last year and felt morally obligated to be at the courthouse. She also wanted to be part of the historic moment.
"It was a different feeling I got even as I was driving up," said Cawthon, 40, who has a 17-year-old daughter. "When I drove past the jail all I could hear was 'Justice for Trayvon' — like all the inmates screaming. That was exhilarating."
After deliberations began, Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Trayvon's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, expressed confidence that jurors would return a guilty verdict.
"I put my faith in the justice system and that it works for everybody ... Does it work for everybody? That's what the whole world is watching for. Do we all get equal justice?" Crump asked.
Law officers were bracing for possible violence, but the crowds Friday were mostly calm.
A little before 5 p.m., Seminole County deputies briefly questioned a man who engaged in a short yelling match with demonstrators at the courthouse. He was allowed to return to the gathering.
Earlier, Chimurenga Waller of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement showed up with a megaphone but stopped using it at the request of deputies.
Waller was using the device to shout "uhuru'' — Swahili for freedom.
Click here for full coverage of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.
Click here to see evidence photos from the case.
Click here to see pictures from the courthouse while the jury deliberated.
Watch video from the courthouse as the jury considered the case.
Read about the verbal dispute that occurred at the courthouse.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun