Zimmerman case likely in jury’s hands in a few hours
(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.
The 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.
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.
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.
By Michael Pearson
Greg Botelho and Faith Karimi
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