Ahigh-profile criminal case tends to bring out our inner litigators.

Combine a 24-hour news cycle with a dose of "CSI" and "Law and Order" ... and it's hard not to become an "expert."

By the time the jury gets the case, everyone has a pretty good idea of what the verdict should be.

Guilty, of course.

Or innocent.

It depends on your cable news network of choice and the narrative to which you subscribe.

In cases like these, some people are going to be outraged no matter what the jury decides.

It's certain, though, that acquittals draw the loudest gasps -- the four police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, O.J. Simpson and Casey Anthony to name a few.

When race is also a factor, as it was in the King case and now in George Zimmerman's trial, emotions run even higher.

A neighborhood watch volunteer, Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder Saturday in the death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Hard as it might be to accept, only the jury heard all of the testimony and saw every piece of evidence presented at trial, and only they had the opportunity to debate the case with others who had the same information.

By the time members of that panel retired after receiving instructions from the judge, only they were the experts.

Here's what the prosecution and defense agreed to:


Zimmerman, the son of a Hispanic mother and white father, thought the 17-year-old looked suspicious and out of place that rainy night in February 2012 as the teen walked through the gated community of the Retreat at Twin Lakes.

After calling 911, Zimmerman disregarded a dispatcher's instructions and got out of his car. Under Florida's Stand Your Ground law, he was not required to retreat.

Within minutes the two were face to face and a struggle ensued. Zimmerman, who was armed with a handgun, shot Martin in the chest, killing the teen.

To some, it was a clear-cut case of racial profiling. Zimmerman saw a black male wearing a hoodie and set in motion a chain of events that left an innocent young man dead. Martin had been minding his own business, walking to the home of his father's girlfriend after buying snacks at a convenience store.

Others -- including the jury -- believed Zimmerman's claim of self-defense, that he used deadly force while in fear for his life during the confrontation.

Not surprisingly, the verdict prompted nationwide protests, which have been mostly peaceful so far -- nothing like the deadly riots in 1992 after the four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted of beating King.

We think that's in part because Martin's parents and supporters asked for calm, even though they were surely heartbroken by the decision.

The story doesn't end here.

This week the U.S. Justice Department announced it's looking into whether Zimmerman violated Martin's civil rights.

It's a tactic the department also used after the Rodney King verdict, resulting in two of the officers being convicted and imprisoned.

Martin's parents also are pursuing a civil case against Zimmerman. That, too, has been used successfully after a controversial acquittal.

The families of murder victims Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman sued Simpson for damages in a civil case and a jury found the former football star responsible for their deaths. He was ordered to pay $33.5 million to the families.

So there's a chance Zimmerman still might pay a price for his actions. He definitely will be "looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life," according to his brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr.

For now, though, we have to respect the jury's decision -- even if we don't agree with it.