Story Summary

George Zimmerman trial

Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, setting free a man who had become a polarizing figure in the national debate over racial profiling and self-defense laws.

The panel of six women deliberated more than 16 hours over two days before delivering the verdict, which drew immediate condemnation from some civil rights groups.

Zimmerman appeared stoned-faced as the verdict was announced, but then showed a slight smile of relief. His parents embraced each other and his wife was tearful.

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Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman on Saturday for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, setting free a man who had become a polarizing figure in the national debate over racial profiling and self-defense laws.

zimmermanThe panel of six women deliberated more than 16 hours over two days until nearly 10 p.m. on Saturday (0200 GMT Sunday) before delivering the verdict, which drew immediate condemnation from some civil rights groups.

Zimmerman appeared stoned-faced as the verdict was announced, but then showed a slight smile of relief. His parents embraced each other and his wife was tearful.

“I think the prosecution of George Zimmerman was disgraceful,” said his attorney Don West. “As happy as I am for George Zimmerman, I’m thrilled that this jury kept this tragedy from becoming a travesty.”

Outside the courthouse, the decision drew angry shouts from some of the dozens of demonstrators who had gathered during the day in support of Martin’s family.

“People were crying. It showed the justice system does not have their backs,” said Jared Hamil, 25, aTampa warehouse worker.

Martin’s parents were not in the court during the reading of the verdict. But his father, Tracy Martin, later tweeted that his son would have been proud of the fight put up for him.

“Even though I am broken hearted my faith is unshattered,” he wrote. “Together can make sure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Zimmerman, 29, who is white and Hispanic, said Martin, 17, attacked him on the night of February 26, 2012, in the central Florida town of Sanford. Prosecutors contend the neighborhood watch volunteer in his gated community was a “wannabe cop” who tracked down the teenager and shot him without justification.

The jury could have convicted him of second-degree murder, which would have carried a sentence of up to life in prison, or manslaughter. The jurors, who remain anonymous, declined to speak to the press.

“Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family,” Roslyn Brock, who chairs the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said in a statement.

“We call immediately for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin. This case has re-energized the movement to end racial profiling in theUnited States.”

Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson tweeted within minutes of the acquittal: “Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair.”

CASE DREW PROTESTS, SCRUTINY

What happened in Sanford that February night may never have gone beyond the back pages of a local newspaper if police had immediately arrested Zimmerman.

But he walked free for more than six weeks after the shooting, because police believed his assertion of self-defense, triggering protests and cries of injustice across the country.

This forced the resignation of Sanford’s police chief, and brought U.S. Justice Department scrutiny to this town of 54,000 residents not far from Disney World in Orlando.

It also drew comment from President Barack Obama, who said: “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

Bernie de la Rionda, the assistant state attorney who was the chief prosecutor in the case againstZimmerman, said he and his two fellow prosecutors were disappointed with the outcome but accepted the verdict.”We live in a great country that has a great criminal justice system. It’s not perfect, but it is the best in the world and we respect the jury’s verdict,” he said.Benjamin Crump, a Florida lawyer representing Martin’s family, said he hoped the public reaction to the verdict would be peaceful. But he did not conceal his sense of injustice over the trial’s outcome.”The whole world was looking at this case for a reason, and what people wanted to see, as we all said, was how far we had come in America in matters of equal justice,” said Crump. “We have to have very responsible conversations about how we get better as a country and move forward from this tragedy and learn from it.”

The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said it had heard nothing about any potential violent reaction to the verdict in and around Sanford, where about 30 percent of the residents are black.

Near a makeshift memorial to Martin in Sanford, only a few people showed up after the verdict.

“It’s very quiet so far,” spokeswoman Kim Cannaday told Reuters after the jury’s decision was handed down.

Reaction around the country also appeared peaceful in the hours after the verdict.

About 40 protesters gathered at Daley Plaza in downtown Chicago, said Officer Ron Gaines, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department. Officers were watching the gathering, he said.

In San Francisco, news video footage showed a few hundred protesters marching through the middle of a street, with some holding signs and others raising their fists in the air. Police vehicles followed them on the sidelines of the march.

Copyright © 2013, Reuters

The families of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman reacted on Twitter after Zimmerman was cleared of all charges in the fatal shooting of the unarmed teen.

zimmermanmartinGeorge Zimmerman’s older brother also gave his reaction on Twitter. Robert Zimmerman Jr. said his family was relieved of the jury’s decision that his brother was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter. He tweeted he’s “Proud to be an American.”

Martin’s father, Tracy, tweeted: “Even though I’m broken hearted.. My faith is unshattered. I will always love my baby, Tray.”

Martin’s mother, Sybina Fulton wrote: “Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you…Thank you all for your prayers. I will love you forever Trayvon!!!”

The 17-year-old’s older brother, Jahvaris Fulton tweeted: “et tu america?” — a reference to the latin phrase “et tu, brute?” known as an expression of betrayal.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson responded to the verdict on Twitter.

jackson“In my view the American legal system has once again failed justice.”

Jackson also re-iterated the concerns of many of Chicago’s faith leaders.

“Avoid violence, it will lead to more tragedies. Find a way for self construction not deconstruction in this time of despair.”

Various Chicago clergy have urged people to remain calm in the wake of the verdict, hoping to avoid rioting and violence.

News of the Zimmerman verdict inspired a huge reaction in communities across the country, including here in Chicago.

trayvonJust hours after the verdict was read, dozens of people were marching down Washington street downtown.

A diverse group gathered at Congress and Michigan with loudspeakers, many expressing disgust with the system that found George Zimmerman not guilty.

Another rally was scheduled to take place in Daley Plaza at noon.

A Florida jury of six women suspended deliberations Friday as it considers the fate of George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Judge Debra Nelson announced around 6 p.m. that the jury had asked to suspend deliberations for the night, and resume them at 9 a.m. Saturday. All sides accepted the proposal.

These jurors had begun their deliberations about 3 ½ hours earlier Friday, after Nelson read a lengthy list of instructions. They have three options: convict Zimmerman of second-degree murder in Trayvon Martin’s death, convict him of manslaughter or find him not guilty. The judge approved the manslaughter option on Thursday, over the defense’s vehement objection.

“All of us are depending on you to make a wise and legal decision,” Nelson told the jurors.

Just over two hours after deliberations began, the judge said that the jury requested an inventory of the evidence. Six copies of such a list were delivered to the jurors shortly after 5 p.m. The court reconvened

The deliberations cap yet another emotional day in a case that has captivated many nationwide — some feel Zimmerman did nothing wrong and killed Martin in self-defense, while others feel Zimmerman profiled the unarmed 17-year-old, ignored a 911 dispatcher’s direction not to follow him and shot him without justification. The story stirred vigorous debate about gun violence and race: Martin was black, while Zimmerman is Hispanic.

zimmermancourt

George Zimmerman

In light of the strong passion on all sides, authorities in Seminole County and elsewhere steeled for the possibility of violent reactions to the verdict.

“As Americans, we entrust our fellow citizens with a solemn duty,” Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger said moments after the jury got the case. “At times, as individuals, we may not agree with this verdict. But as communities within our country, we respect the rule of law.”

The evening of February, 26, 2012, Martin was walking back to his father’s fiancee’s house from a convenience store — where he’d bought Skittles and a drink — the hood of his sweatshirt raised as the rain fell. The Miami teen was spotted by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, who called police and, at one point, got out of his car.

The now 29-year-old Zimmerman never denied shooting Martin, following an altercation between the two. The question is why.

Since opening arguments on June 24, dozens testified for both the defense and prosecution — on everything from what they heard that night, what they saw or believed happened, and whose panicked voice they think can be heard screaming on a pivotal 911 call. Both sides also presented extensive info — the gun, pictures, interviews that Zimmerman conducted and more — for the jury to consider.

Instructing the jury on Friday afternoon, Judge Nelson told the six women that Zimmerman didn’t have to prove anything. The prosecution does, however, have to convince them he’s guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, she said. She told the jury not to use Zimmerman’s decision not to testify against him and to be cognizant of the specific charges. She told them “your memory should be your asset” — among other pieces of advice.

“It is up to you decide which evidence is reliable,” Nelson said. “You should use your common sense.”

Prosecutor: Zimmerman ‘had hate in his heart’

Assistant State Attorney Bernie de la Rionda presented the prosecution’s initial closing argument on Thursday, picking apart interviews Zimmerman had given to police and in the media.

Why would a scared man get out of his car and walk around after being told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the victim, the prosecutor asked? Did Zimmerman walk toward Martin, or did Martin come after him — he seemingly said both? Should he have had more than a bloody nose and scratches on his head if he’d had his head slammed on the ground by the victim?

Zimmerman “always has an excuse, or they catch him in a lie,” de la Rionda said.

The prosecution got one last chance to present their case Friday. This time it was Assistant State Attorney John Guy’s turn to present a rebuttal to the defense’s own closing argument.

Guy echoed many points de la Rionda had made, characterizing Zimmerman as a frustrated wannabe police officer who took the law into his own hands. He’d decided Martin was one of the criminals who had been victimizing his neighborhood, Guy argued, then trailed him against the advice of police dispatchers and wrongly shot him to death.

“The defendant didn’t shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to,” Guy said. “He shot him because he wanted to. That’s the bottom line.”

The prosecutor argued that Zimmerman built a mountain of lies to conceal vengeful frustration and powerful determination not to allow someone he had already decided was a criminal to escape.

And, Guy contended, his under-his-breath commentary, captured on a police recording, about “f***ing punks” — apparently directed at Martin — revealed Zimmerman’s hatred and ill-will toward the teenager.

That’s important because under Florida law, a conviction on second-degree murder requires jurors to find that Zimmerman shot Martin out of “ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent.”

“Common sense tells you it’s the person talking like the defendant who had hate in his heart,” Guy said.

“What is that when a grown man, frustrated, angry, with hate in his heart, gets out of his car with a loaded gun and follows a child? A stranger? In the dark? And shoots him through him heart? What is that?”

It was, defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued, nothing more than self-defense.

Defense: Case against Zimmerman full of ‘what ifs’

“How many ‘coulda beens’ have you heard from the state in this case,” O’Mara asked Friday. “How many ‘what ifs’ have you heard from the state in this case? They don’t get to ask you that. No, no, no.”

“Do not give anybody the benefit of the doubt except for George Zimmerman,” the lawyer said.

O’Mara tried to discredit the prosecution’s portrayal of Zimmerman as a frustrated, spiteful vengeance-seeker. His client wasn’t the aggressor, the defense argued, contending it was Martin who stalked Zimmerman and emerged from the darkness to pounce. There, O’Mara said, the teenager pinned Zimmerman to the ground and slammed his head into the sidewalk.

The defense attorney lugged a heavy block of cement to show jurors what, he said, Zimmerman had hit.

“And that is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home,” said O’Mara. “That was somebody who used the availability of dangerous items, from his fist to the concrete, to cause great bodily injury against George Zimmerman.”

In his rebuttal, Guy ridiculed the argument that Zimmerman had suffered substantial injuries, saying repeated blows against concrete would have caused more damage than the rivulets of blood and bumps seen in photographs from the night of the shooting.

Authorities bracing for post-verdict reaction

While this drama played out in a Sanford courtroom, authorities — in that central Florida and elsewhere around the state and the country — were bracing for what might happen after the jury makes its decision.

As the jury deliberated Friday, a few dozen protesters staked out spots outside the courthouse. Holding signs that read “Justice for Trayvon” and “Zimmerman Guilty,” they chanted, “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”

In the weeks after Martin’s death, tens of thousands attended rallies demanding Zimmerman’s arrest and castigating authorities for their handling of the case. Some of them wore hoodies, as did Martin the night he was killed, in support of the late teen’s family.

Zimmerman moved out of his home after receiving death threats, his father Robert had said, then stayed at an undisclosed location awaiting trial.

His defenders have been passionate as well, especially about a person’s right to defend himself with a gun when attacked. Debate swirled over Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law, which allows those who believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force to protect themselves.

Soon after the jury got the case, Zimmerman’s family released a statement urging people to accept the verdict, whatever it is.

“Though we maintain George committed no crime whatsoever, we acknowledge that the people who called for George’s arrest and subsequent trial have now witnessed both events come to pass,” the family said. “We hope now that as Americans we will all respect the rule of law, which begins with respecting the verdict. The judicial system has run its course — pray for justice, pray for peace, pray for our country.”

Authorities similarly appealed for calm Friday — and also took steps in case some did not heed those appeals.

The sheriff’s office in Broward County, in the Miami area, said it had made a contingency plan to respond to incidents, and was spreading the word to remain calm through a public service announcement.

“Freedom of expression is a constitutional right,” the sheriff’s office said. “While raising your voice is encouraged, using your hands is not.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr., a prominent civil rights leader, was among those who urged people not to react with violence.

“If Zimmerman is convicted there should not be inappropriate celebrations, because a young man lost his life, and if he is not convicted we should avoid violence because it will only lead to more tragedies,” Jackson said.

But O’Mara, for one, said that whatever the outcome, his client will not feel safe.

“There are a percentage of the population who are angry, they’re upset, and they may well take it out on him,” he said.
TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

A Florida judge put the fate of George Zimmerman into the hands of a six-woman jury Friday, setting the stage for what could be the final chapter in a legal saga that began with Trayvon Martin’s death and highlighted sharp divisions over race and gun control in the United States.

The jury began deliberations moments after Judge Debra Nelson finished reading instructions about the laws they must consider.

“It is up to you decide which evidence is reliable,” Nelson told the jurors. “You should use your common sense.”

She told the jury that Zimmerman exercised his legal right not to testify, and they cannot “view this as an admission of guilt.”

“It is not necessary for George Zimmerman to prove anything,” Nelson said.

Police in Seminole County and elsewhere steeled for the possibility of violent reactions to the verdict, while the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. called for a calm response to the jury’s decision, no matter what it is.

“If Zimmerman is convicted there should not be inappropriate celebrations, because a young man lost his life, and if he is not convicted we should avoid violence because it will only lead to more tragedies,” Jackson said.

Zimmerman, 29, is accused of second-degree murder for killing the 17-year-old Miami teenager on February 26, 2012, in a Sanford, Florida, neighborhood. He has always acknowledged killing Martin. The question has been why.

Race is one of the many issues that has permeated the trial. Critics have said race played a role in Zimmerman’s actions. He is Hispanic; Martin was African-American.

In their arguments, prosecutors described Zimmerman a frustrated wannabe police officer who took the law into his own hands — deciding Martin was one of the criminals who had been victimizing his neighborhood, then trailing him against the advice of police dispatchers, and wrongly shooting him to death.

“The defendant didn’t shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to,” Assistant State’s Attorney John Guy told jurors in a rebuttal argument that followed defense lawyer Mark O’Mara’s closing argument. “He shot him because he wanted to. That’s the bottom line.”

Guy argued Zimmerman built a tissue of lies to conceal vengeful frustration and powerful determination not to allow someone he had already decided was a criminal to escape.

And he said Zimmerman’s under-his-breath commentary, captured on a police recording, about “f***ing punks” — apparently directed at Martin — revealed Zimmerman’s hatred and ill-will toward the teenager.

That’s important because under Florida law, a conviction on second-degree murder requires jurors to find that Zimmerman shot Martin out of “ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent.”

Guy said Zimmerman’s language does just that.

“Common sense tells you it’s the person talking like the defendant who had hate in his heart,” Guy said.

“What is that when a grown man, frustrated, angry, with hate in his heart, gets out of his car with a loaded gun and follows a child? A stranger? In the dark? And shoots him through him heart?” Guy said. “What is that?”

It was, defense attorney Mark O’Mara argued, nothing more than self-defense.

Defense argument

“How many ‘coulda beens’ have you heard from the state in this case,” O’Mara asked. “How many ‘what ifs’ have you heard from the state in this case? They don’t get to ask you that. No, no, no.”

“Do not give anybody the benefit of the doubt except for George Zimmerman,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara tried to discredit the prosecution’s image of Zimmerman as a frustrated, spiteful vengeance-seeker, saying it was Martin who stalked Zimmerman and emerged from the darkness to pounce on Zimmerman, pinning him to the ground and slamming his head into the concrete sidewalk.

“That’s cement; that is a sidewalk,” O’Mara said, lugging a heavy block of cement to a spot on the floor in front of the jury. “And that is not an unarmed teenager with nothing but Skittles trying to get home. That was somebody who used the availability of dangerous items, from his fist to the concrete, to cause great bodily injury against George Zimmerman.”

In his rebuttal, Guy ridiculed the argument that Zimmerman had suffered substantial injuries, saying repeated blows against concrete would have caused more damage than the rivulets of blood and bumps seen in photographs from the night of the shooting.

Judge Nelson ruled Thursday that jurors will be allowed to consider manslaughter in addition to the original second-degree murder charge.

The prosecution

In the prosecution’s initial closing argument, delivered Thursday, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda argued that Zimmerman’s account that he fired his gun because he feared for his life does not hold up.

“He brought a gun to a struggle, to a fight that he started … wanting to make sure the victim didn’t get away,” the prosecutor said. “And now he wants you to let him off because he killed the only eyewitness, the victim Trayvon Martin, who was being followed by this man.”

Although Zimmerman did not testify before his defense team rested its case on Wednesday, his words were front-and-center a day earlier.

The prosecutor sought to pick apart interviews Zimmerman had given to police and in the media.

Why would a scared man get out of his car and walk around after being told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the victim? Did Zimmerman walk toward Martin, or did Martin come after him — he seemingly said both? Should he have had more than a bloody nose and scratches on his head if he’d had his head slammed on the ground by the victim?

“(Zimmerman) always has an excuse, or they catch him in a lie,” de la Rionda said.

On the day the defense rested, O’Mara said Zimmerman was considering testifying.

“He really wanted to talk to his jury and tell them what he did, why he did it and what he was facing when he made that decision to fire the shot,” O’Mara sid on CNN’s “AC 360.”

But there was no need for him to testify, he said, because the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The trial kicked off June 24 with opening statements. The prosecution called 38 witnesses in nine days while the defense took parts of four days to call its witnesses.

After the verdict

Preparing for the possibility of violence in reaction to the verdict, the sheriff’s office in Broward County, in the Miami area, said it had made a contingency plan to respond to incidents, and was spreading the word to remain calm through a public service announcement.

“Freedom of expression is a constitutional right,” the sheriff’s office said in its statement. “While raising your voice is encouraged, using your hands is not.”

O’Mara said that, whatever the outcome, his client will not feel safe.

“There are a percentage of the population who are angry, they’re upset, and they may well take it out on him,” he said.

A nation, divided

The case has divided the nation on issues of race and gun laws.

After the shooting last year, police did not immediately charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. The law allows those who believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force to protect themselves.

Protesters took to city streets in support of the teen’s family. Some wore hoodies, as did Martin the night he was killed.

In April last year, the Florida state prosecutor stepped in and charged Zimmerman.

Supporters have maintained that the teen was a victim of racial profiling, tailed by the defendant over the objection of police dispatchers, then wrongly shot.

Mother vs. mother

In testimony, the mother of the victim and the mother of the defendant identified an anguished voice on a 911 tape as having come from their respective sons. On the night of the killing, as residents made 911 calls to report the altercation, yells for help can be heard in the background.

Various neighbors called 911 and described what they saw and heard. But none of them saw the entire altercation, according to testimony.

Some described hearing a gunshot.

The prosecution has said the absence of Martin’s DNA on the pistol Zimmerman was carrying disproves defense arguments that the teen grabbed the gun during the struggle.

Foam dummy, mystery

The deliberations cap a week of drama that included both sides using a foam dummy to describe the struggle.

Each side has used unusual means in an effort to prove its case.

Thursday’s closing argument marked the return of the dummy that had appeared a day earlier when O’Mara used it to show jurors the competing theories of what happened the night Martin died.

This time it was de la Rionda’s turn to characterize Zimmerman’s account. He said the teen punched him, slammed his head and covered his neck and mouth.

The prosecutor questioned how Martin — while he was allegedly punching Zimmerman, slamming his head onto the pavement and covering his neck and mouth — could have also reached for the gun that Zimmerman said was in a holster inside his waistband, as the defense suggested.

 

 

 

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

By Michael Pearson. Greg Botelho and Faith Karimi, CNN

George Zimmerman, accused of hatefully gunning down an African-American teenager, isn’t guilty of anything “except protecting his own life,” the former neighborhood watch volunteer’s attorney said Friday in closing arguments in the Sanford, Florida, man’s murder trial.

“How many ‘coulda beens’ have you heard from the state in this case,” attorney Mark O’Mara asked. “How many ‘what ifs’ have you heard from the state in this case? They don’t get to ask you that. No, no, no.”

“Do not give anybody the benefit of the doubt except for George Zimmerman,” O’Mara said.

Zimmerman, 29, is accused of second-degree murder for killing the 17-year-old on February 26, 2012. Prosecutors call Zimmerman a frustrated wannabe police officer who took the law into his own hands.

They say he decided on his own that Martin was one of the criminals who had been victimizing his neighborhood, tailed him against the advice of police dispatchers, and then wrongly shot him to death.

Zimmerman, however, has said he shot Martin in self-defense after the teenager charged him, pinning him to the ground and slamming his head into the concrete sidewalk.

The case sparked anger and debate nationwide about race relations and gun control and led to protests and rallies calling on authorities to charge Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, in Martin’s death.

O’Mara is expected to complete his arguments Friday morning. After that prosecutors will get another chance to talk to the six-woman jury before the case goes to them.

Judge Debra Nelson ruled Thursday that they will be allowed to consider manslaughter in addition to the original second-degree murder charge.

The prosecution

State prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda has argued that Zimmerman’s account that he fired his gun because he feared for his life does not hold up.

“He brought a gun to a struggle, to a fight that he started … wanting to make sure the victim didn’t get away,” the prosecutor said in his closing argument Thursday. “And now he wants you to let him off because he killed the only eyewitness, the victim Trayvon Martin, who was being followed by this man.”

Zimmerman, 29, did not testify when his defense team rested its case on Wednesday, but his words were front-and-center a day earlier.

The prosecutor sought to pick apart interviews Zimmerman had given to police and in the media.

Why would a scared man get out of his car and walk around after being told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the victim? Did Zimmerman walk toward Martin, or did Martin come after him — as he seemingly said both? Should he have had more than a bloody nose and scratches on his head if he’d had his head slammed on the ground by the victim?

“(Zimmerman) always has an excuse, or they catch him in a lie,” de la Rionda said.

The trial kicked off June 24 with opening statements. The prosecution called 38 witnesses in nine days while the defense took parts of four days to call its witnesses.

The defense

O’Mara and his team have maintained that Zimmerman is not racist but fought Martin in self-defense during a struggle in which the teenager pummeled him. Martin was visiting his father who lived in the neighborhood, which Zimmerman said had experienced recent break-ins.

On the day the defense rested, O’Mara said Zimmerman was considering testifying.

“He really wanted to talk to his jury and tell them what he did, why he did it and what he was facing when he made that decision to fire the shot,” O’Mara told CNN’s “AC 360.”

But there was no need for him to testify, he said, because the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Though expressing confidence in his defense, O’Mara said he fears that the jury might consider a compromised verdict.

“We want a verdict based upon the facts and the law and that’s an acquittal,” he said.

The man tasked with representing Zimmerman said that, whatever the outcome, his client will not feel safe.

“There are a percentage of the population who are angry, they’re upset, and they may well take it out on him,” he said.

A nation, divided

The case has divided the nation on issues of race and gun laws.

After the shooting last year, police did not immediately charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The law allows those who believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force to protect themselves.

Protesters took to city streets in support of the teen’s family. Some wore hoodies, as did Martin the night he was killed.

In April last year, the Florida state prosecutor stepped in and charged Zimmerman.

Supporters have maintained that the black teen was a victim of racial profiling, tailed by the defendant over the objection of police dispatchers, then wrongly shot. Zimmerman is Hispanic.

Mother vs. mother

In testimony, the mother of the victim and the mother of the defendant identified an anguished voice on a 911 tape as having come from their respective sons. On the night of the killing, as residents made 911 calls to report the altercation, yells for help can be heard in the background.

Various neighbors called 911 and described what they saw and heard. But none of them saw the entire altercation, according to testimony.

Some described hearing a gunshot.

The prosecution has said the absence of Martin’s DNA on the pistol Zimmerman was carrying disproves defense arguments that the teen grabbed the gun during the struggle.

Foam dummy, mystery

The deliberations cap a week of drama that included both sides using a foam dummy to describe the struggle.

Each side has used unusual means in an effort to prove its case.

Thursday’s closing argument marked the return of the dummy that had appeared a day earlier when O’Mara used it to show jurors the competing theories of what happened the night Martin died.

This time it was de la Rionda’s turn to characterize Zimmerman’s account.

While the teen allegedly punched him, slammed his head and covered his neck and mouth,

The prosecutor questioned how Martin — while he was allegedly punching Zimmerman, slamming his head onto the pavement and covering his neck and mouth — could have also reached for the gun that Zimmerman said was in a holster inside his waistband, as the defense suggested.

HLN’s Grace Wong, Graham Winch, Amanda Sloane, Jonathan Anker and Anna Lanfreschi and CNN’s John Couwels and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

By Michael Pearson. Greg Botelho and Faith Karimi, CNN

Closing arguments resumed Friday in the murder case against George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting last year of Trayvon Martin — a 17-year-old unarmed, black teenager — by a 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer.

“Be careful,” lead defense attorney Mark O’Mara told the jury as Zimmerman, dressed in a dark suit, looked on with interest. “This is a serious, serious matter for Mr. Zimmerman.”

The prosecution presented its closing argument Thursday afternoon, and will get an opportunity for a rebuttal after the defense is finished.

The case then will go to the jury of six women, who have been sequestered and will decide whether Zimmerman should be acquitted or convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

The defendant is accused of fatally shooting. Zimmerman has said he acted in self-defense.

Except for Zimmerman, there are no witnesses to the entire altercation that occurred on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.

The prosecution

State prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda has argued that Zimmerman’s account that he fired his gun because he feared for his life does not hold up.

“He brought a gun to a struggle, to a fight that he started … wanting to make sure the victim didn’t get away,” the prosecutor said. “And now he wants you to let him off because he killed the only eyewitness, the victim Trayvon Martin, who was being followed by this man.”

Zimmerman, 29, did not testify when his defense team rested its case on Wednesday, but his words were front-and-center a day earlier.

The prosecutor sought to pick apart interviews Zimmerman had given to police and in the media.

Why would a scared man get out of his car and walk around after being told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the victim? Did Zimmerman walk toward Martin, or did Martin come after him — as he seemingly said both? Should he have had more than a bloody nose and scratches on his head if he’d had his head slammed on the ground by the victim?

“(Zimmerman) always has an excuse, or they catch him in a lie,” de la Rionda said.

The trial kicked off June 24 with opening statements. The prosecution called 38 witnesses in nine days while the defense took parts of four days to call its witnesses.

The defense

O’Mara and his team have maintained that Zimmerman is not racist but fought Martin in self-defense during a struggle in which the teenager pummeled him. Martin was visiting his father who lived in the neighborhood, which Zimmerman said had experienced recent break-ins.

On the day the defense rested, O’Mara said Zimmerman was considering testifying.

“He really wanted to talk to his jury and tell them what he did, why he did it and what he was facing when he made that decision to fire the shot,” O’Mara told CNN’s “AC 360.”

But there was no need for him to testify, he said, because the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Though expressing confidence in his defense, O’Mara said he fears that the jury might consider a compromised verdict.

“We want a verdict based upon the facts and the law and that’s an acquittal,” he said.

The man tasked with representing Zimmerman said that, whatever the outcome, his client will not feel safe.

“There are a percentage of the population who are angry, they’re upset, and they may well take it out on him,” he said.

A nation, divided

The case has divided the nation on issues of race and gun laws.

After the shooting last year, police did not immediately charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The law allows those who believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force to protect themselves.

Protesters took to city streets in support of the teen’s family. Some wore hoodies, as did Martin the night he was killed.

In April last year, the Florida state prosecutor stepped in and charged Zimmerman.

Supporters have maintained that the black teen was a victim of racial profiling, tailed by the defendant over the objection of police dispatchers, then wrongly shot. Zimmerman is Hispanic.

Mother vs. mother

In testimony, the mother of the victim and the mother of the defendant identified an anguished voice on a 911 tape as having come from their respective sons. On the night of the killing, as residents made 911 calls to report the altercation, yells for help can be heard in the background.

Various neighbors called 911 and described what they saw and heard. But none of them saw the entire altercation, according to testimony.

Some described hearing a gunshot.

The prosecution has said the absence of Martin’s DNA on the pistol Zimmerman was carrying disproves defense arguments that the teen grabbed the gun during the struggle.

Foam dummy, mystery

The deliberations cap a week of drama that included both sides using a foam dummy to describe the struggle.

Each side has used unusual means in an effort to prove its case.

Thursday’s closing argument marked the return of the dummy that had appeared a day earlier when O’Mara used it to show jurors the competing theories of what happened the night Martin died.

This time it was de la Rionda’s turn to characterize Zimmerman’s account.

While the teen allegedly punched him, slammed his head and covered his neck and mouth,

The prosecutor questioned how Martin — while he was allegedly punching Zimmerman, slamming his head onto the pavement and covering his neck and mouth — could have also reached for the gun that Zimmerman said was in a holster inside his waistband, as the defense suggested.

HLN’s Grace Wong, Graham Winch, Amanda Sloane, Jonathan Anker and Anna Lanfreschi and CNN’s John Couwels and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

By Michael Pearson, Greg Botelho and Faith Karimi, CNN

The murder case was filled with recordings of harrowing screams for help, panicked 911 calls and mystery over what happened that fateful night. On Friday, the jury will try to make sense of it when it starts deliberating George Zimmerman’s fate.

Zimmerman’s defense presents its closing argument the same day, followed by a rebuttal by the prosecution.

zimmermantrial2The case then goes to the sequestered jury of six women, who will decide whether Zimmerman should be acquitted, or convicted of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

The defendant is accused of fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer at the time, said he acted in self-defense.

There are no witnesses to the entire altercation that occurred on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.

The prosecution

State prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda has argued that Zimmerman’s account that he fired his gun because he feared for his life does not hold up.

“He brought a gun to a struggle, to a fight that he started … wanting to make sure the victim didn’t get away,” the prosecutor said. “And now he wants you to let him off because he killed the only eyewitness, the victim Trayvon Martin, who was being followed by this man.”

Zimmerman, 29, did not testify when his defense team rested its case Wednesday, but his words were front-and-center a day earlier.

The prosecutor picked apart interviews Zimmerman had given to police and in the media.

Why would a scared man get out of his car and walk around after being told by a 911 dispatcher not to follow the victim? Did Zimmerman walk toward Martin, or did Martin come after him — as he seemingly said both? Should he have had more than a bloody nose and scratches on his head if he’d had his head slammed on the ground by the victim?

“(Zimmerman) always has an excuse, or they catch him in a lie,” de la Rionda said.

The trial kicked off June 24 with opening statements. The prosecution called 38 witnesses in nine days while the defense took parts of four days to call its witnesses.

The defense

Lead defense attorney Mark O’Mara will spend up to three hours giving a closing argument Friday, followed by a rebuttal by the prosecution.

O’Mara and his team have maintained that Zimmerman is not racist and fought back in self-defense during a struggle in which the teenager pummeled him. Martin was visiting his father who lived in the neighborhood, which Zimmerman said had experienced recent break-ins.

On the day the defense rested, O’Mara said Zimmerman was considering testifying.

“He really wanted to talk to his jury and tell them what he did, why he did it and what he was facing when he made that decision to fire the shot,” O’Mara told CNN’s “AC 360.”

But there was no need for him to testify, he said, because the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Though confident of his defense, O’Mara said he fears that the jury might consider a compromised verdict.

“We want a verdict based upon the facts and the law and that’s an acquittal,” he said.

The man tasked with representing Zimmerman said despite the outcome, his client will not feel safe.

“There are a percentage of the population who are angry, they’re upset, and they may well take it out on him,” he said.

A nation, divided

The case has divided the nation on issues of race and gun laws.

After the shooting happened last year, police did not initially charge Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. The law allows those who believe they are in imminent danger to protect themselves.

Protesters took to the streets in major cities in support of the teen’s family. Some wore hoodies, the same as Martin the night he was killed.

In April last year, the Florida state prosecutor stepped in and charged Zimmerman.

Supporters have maintained that the black teen was a victim of racial profiling, tailed by the defendant over the objection of police dispatchers, then wrongly shot down. Zimmerman is Hispanic.

Mother vs. mother

Both mothers of the victim and the defendant have testified that an anguished voice heard in a 911 tape is their respective sons. The fateful winter night, residents made 911 calls to report the altercation, and audio of someone yelling for help is heard in the background.

Various neighbors called 911, and described what they saw and heard. But no one saw the entire altercation, according to testimony.

Others described hearing a gunshot.

The prosecution has said the lack of Martin’s DNA on the pistol Zimmerman had disproves defense arguments that the teen grabbed the gun during the struggle.

Foam dummy, mystery

The deliberations cap a week of drama that included both sides using a foam dummy to explain the struggle between the two.

Both sides have used unusual means to prove their case.

Thursday’s closing argument marked the return of the dummy that appeared a day earlier when O’Mara used it to show jurors the competing theories of what happened the night Martin died.

This time it was de la Rionda’s turn to characterize Zimmerman’s account.

While the teen allegedly punched him, slammed his head and covered his neck and mouth, the prosecutor questioned how he could have reached for the gun that Zimmerman said was in a holster inside his waistband.

HLN’s Grace Wong, Graham Winch, Amanda Sloane, Jonathan Anker and Anna Lanfreschi and CNN’s John Couwels and Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

George Zimmerman had already decided Trayvon Martin was a criminal when he spotted him walking through his Sanford, Florida, neighborhood, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told jurors in closing arguments of the former neighborhood watch volunteer’s murder trial.

“This innocent 17-year-old kid was profiled as a criminal. He was one of those a**holes who get away,” de la Rionda told jurors, drawing from Zimmerman’s language in his widely heard call to police. “He was one of those f***ing punks.”

Zimmerman, 29, is accused of second-degree murder in Martin’s February 26, 2012, death.

Zimmerman, who did not testify, has said he killed Martin in self-defense after the Miami teenager accosted him in an altercation heard around the world through a chilling 911 recording in which screams for help end with a gunshot.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, racially profiled the African-American teenager, tailed him over the objection of police dispatchers, then wrongly shot him down. The case drew national attention and inflamed debate over race relations and gun control in the United States.

Zimmerman’s profane language, de la Rionda argued, offers insight into Zimmerman’s mind that night — depicting someone who bore particular malice toward a person he had decided without justification was among the criminals who had plagued his neighborhood in the months leading up to the shooting.

That’s important, because to find Zimmerman guilty of second-degree murder, jurors will have to find that he acted with “ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent” in shooting Martin, according to Florida law.

De la Rionda characterized Zimmerman as a wannabe police officer who wrongly took the law into his own hands and pressed the fatal encounter with Martin over what the prosecutor called a series of incorrect assumptions about Martin’s motives.

“A teenager is dead through no fault of his own, dead because a man made assumptions and acted on them. Unfortunately, because his assumptions are wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks on the earth,” de la Rionda.

“He profiled him as a criminal. He assumed certain things, that Trayvon Martin was up to no good. And that’s what led to his death,” de la Rionda said before going on to attack many defense arguments about what happened that rainy night:

– He argued Zimmerman, who had taken criminal justice classes, fed police a story of escalating violence and exaggerated fear to meet the standards of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law.

– He question Zimmerman’s account of Martin straddling him, pounding his head into the pavement and, at one point, covering his mouth and nose with his hands. Why is none of the blood seen on Zimmerman’s face found on Martin’s hands, he asked. And, if the attack was so violent, why was Zimmerman’s jacket in such good shape afterward?

– And how was Zimmerman able to scream for help, as he has said he was, if his mouth was filling with blood and he was being smothered by Martin, de la Rionda asked.

– The prosecutor also said the lack of Martin’s DNA on Zimmerman’s pistol refutes defense arguments that Martin had grabbed the gun during the struggle.

Closing arguments were expected to continue Friday morning, with Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, offering the defense theory of what happened between Martin and Zimmerman.

If things go as planned, the six-member jury could have the case as soon as Friday.

And when they do, they’ll have more than one charge to consider in deciding the fate of the 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer, who acknowledges shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012.

Manslaughter charge allowed

Judge Debra Nelson ruled Thursday that jurors will be allowed to consider manslaughter instead of the original second-degree murder charge against Zimmerman. But she denied prosecutors’ request to let the jurors also consider third-degree felony murder in their deliberations.

Prosecutors argued that charge on the theory that Zimmerman had committed child abuse when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012. Nelson questioned a requirement in Florida law that would have required jurors to find Zimmerman intentionally committed child abuse.

“I just don’t think the evidence supports that,” she said.

Before Nelson’s ruling, defense attorney Don West reacted angrily to the proposal, accusing prosecutors of springing the theory at the last minute and calling it a “trick.”

“Oh my God,” he told Nelson. “Just when I thought this case couldn’t get any more bizarre, the state is seeking third-degree murder based on child abuse.”

But Nelson agreed to allow the manslaughter charge after prosecutors argued that Florida law requires its inclusion.

In arguing unsuccessfully against the manslaughter charge, West told Nelson that Zimmerman believes that because the “state has charged him with second-degree murder, they should be required to prove it, if they can.”

Prosecutors sought the additional charges to give jurors more options should they find Zimmerman didn’t commit second-degree murder when he killed Martin.

In other issues, attorneys also argued over a defense request that Nelson tell jurors that following someone isn’t a crime.

“You are absolutely allowed to follow, especially if you want to tell the police, that cannot be considered provocation, carrying a licensed firearm cannot be considered a threat,” West argued.

But Nelson said there’s no Florida law that explicitly says following someone is not illegal, so she couldn’t tell the jury that it’s part of the law.

She also denied the defense’s request to instruct jurors about how they should view circumstantial evidence.

No testimony from Zimmerman

Zimmerman, who has spoken publicly about what happened that night, kept trial-watchers waiting until the very last minute Wednesday before announcing he wouldn’t testify in his own defense.

After a series of testy exchanges with West, Nelson asked Zimmerman to say for himself what he wanted to do.

“After consulting with counsel,” Zimmerman replied, he’d decided “not to testify, your honor.”

Moments later — and after Nelson refused a request from Zimmerman’s team to dismiss the case before the jury could weigh in — the defense rested its case.

Families in dispute on panicked voice on 911 call

The prosecution had once stated its intention to call up to three witnesses in the rebuttal phase of the trial but did not call any. One potential rebuttal witness was not called because the judge ruled prosecutors couldn’t pursue one line of questioning. Another was ruled out because the prosecution wasn’t certain the witness was available. The exclusion of the third potential witness wasn’t explained.

That left Zimmerman’s father, Robert Zimmerman, as the last witness in the widely watched trial.

He testified — like his wife, Gladys, had earlier in the trial — that he believes it was his son who was screaming on the infamous 911 recording of the altercation that ended in Martin’s death.

Contrast their testimony to that of Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, who said she was “absolutely” certain that the panicked voice was that of her son. The late teenager’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, made a similar declaration in court.

Lawyer wrestles with foam dummy

Absent a chance to hear directly from Zimmerman, the star Wednesday may have been a foam dummy.

Prosecutor John Guy and defense lawyer Mark O’Mara both grappled with the life-size model inside the courtroom, working to show rapt jurors the competing versions of what happened the rainy night Martin was killed.

Assistant State Attorney John Guy brought out the dummy in an effort to demonstrate that it would have been difficult for Zimmerman to retrieve his handgun from his pocket with Martin straddling him, as defense attorneys have argued was the case.

The fatal gunshot, Guy reminded defense witness Dennis Root, was fired at a 90-degree angle into Martin’s body.

“Wouldn’t that be consistent with Travyon Martin getting off of George Zimmerman and George Zimmerman raising the gun and firing it?” Guy asked Root, a use-of-force expert.

“It could be consistent with any kind of movement … We weren’t there so the info that we have is George Zimmerman’s statement,” he said.

Later, O’Mara straddled the dummy himself, pounding the back of its head against the carpeted courtroom floor, demonstrating how he says Martin gave Zimmerman the head wounds seen in police photographs from the night of the shooting.

 

 

 

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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