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Trayvon Martin case: Relief, hope in Sanford, Fla., after Zimmerman charged

With second-degree murder charges filed Wednesday against George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin case, residents in Sanford, Fla., scene of the alleged crime, perceive that a crisis has passed. 

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Journalists weren’t the only ones at the scene. Locals who had heard a major development in the case was about to happen also showed up.

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Dana Bass and her husband, Mike, took out their cellphones and were taking pictures. This was the first time they had attended anything related to the case. Mike said the charges were a big first step and there was a “lull in the atmosphere in Sanford.”

“Now it’s more like, what is going to happen next?” he said.

They believe there are many more unknown facts related to the case, but say a trial is the best way to bring them to light. Though both are gun owners, they argued that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which broadly interprets self-defense, could use a new look.

“I do think they need to revamp that one law," said Ms. Bass. "Either revamp it or make it clearer.”

Gary Marion, a black resident of Sanford who works as a nurse, drove five minutes from his house to see what the mayor and city manager had to say. But there were so many media outlets he couldn’t get close enough and had to stand aside on a patch of grass.

Never politically active, Mr. Marion got more involved in the community after the shooting death of Trayvon and the fallout from the investigation. He joined the NAACP, attended virtually all of the rallies, and followed the case closely.

“The charge is appropriate, given the evidence. I was worried about a manslaughter charge. I thought it would be a cop-out,” he said. “I’m praying that he is convicted.”

Yet Marion added that he hopes the whole incident will make people reevalute how they treat one another.

The crowd began to thin out as dusk settled. In downtown Sanford on 1st Street, couples were walking hand in hand and patrons were sitting down to dinner among many of the main strip’s restaurants.

On most Wednesday nights, said Ronda Richley, curator of the Art Affair, eight to 10 people are inside, checking out the contemporary art and having a drink from the built-in bar.

“Business has dropped considerably,” says Ms. Richley, standing out on the street corner. “I think it’s a shame that this is how we made it on the international map.”

But the charges made her hope that Sanford had turned a corner.

“It’s a relief that something has happened. Let the courts decide.”

RECOMMENDED: How 5 young black men see the Trayvon Martin case 

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