First Day of Jury Deliberations in Zimmerman Trial Ends with No Verdict

Image: First Day of Jury Deliberations in Zimmerman Trial Ends with No Verdict

Friday, 12 Jul 2013 11:04 AM

 

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Jurors in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman ended their first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict in the case over the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

 

The six-woman jury will resume deliberations on Saturday at 9 a.m., Seminole County Court Judge Debra Nelson told lawyers for the defense and prosecution as the court adjourned for the day after nearly 3-1/2 hours of deliberations.

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder, but the jury will also be allowed to consider manslaughter. Under Florida's laws involving gun crimes, a conviction on either could mean life in prison.

The jurors have been sequestered during the past three weeks. Because there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, jurors will likely rely heavily on testimony from police, neighbors, friends and family members. The testimony was often conflicting.

Jurors will have to determine whether Zimmerman took the law into his own hands or was in a fight for his life and shot Martin in self-defense.

Zimmerman's defense lawyer warned jurors Friday morning against filling in holes in the prosecutors' case against the man accused of second-degree murder.

In closing arguments in the trial that has gripped and divided much of the U.S. public, lead defense attorney Mark O'Mara began with a long introduction on the state's burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, suggesting Florida state prosecutors never came close.

"Innocence. Pure, unadulterated innocence," O'Mara said, referring to Zimmerman and his attempts to keep his neighborhood safe as a volunteer watchman.

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Zimmerman, 29, says he shot Martin in self-defense after he was attacked. Zimmerman had called police on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, saying he believed Martin, 17, was suspicious and noting there had been break-ins in the neighborhood.

But Martin, a guest of his father's fiancée who lived inside the gated community, was returning from a nearby convenience store with a snack, ready to watch the NBA All-Star game.

On Thursday, lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda characterized Zimmerman as a "wannabe cop" who wrongly profiled Trayvon Martin as a criminal, followed him with a gun, and provoked him into a fight that resulted in the shooting death.

Whereas the prosecutor sounded indignant and raised his voice repeatedly, O'Mara was more conversational and informal, attempting to engage the jury in a long discussion about the foundations of American jurisprudence, citing John Adams and Thomas Jefferson about the state's high burden to prove guilt.

"If you're not careful, you will connect the dots when you're not supposed to. You will fill in the blanks," O'Mara told the six women of the jury, who have been sequestered since the trial began last month.

For example, prosecutors allege Zimmerman left his car to track down Martin.

"Presumption. Assumption. You agreed not do to that. And don't let them make you do that," O'Mara said.

Prosecutors will have a chance for a final rebuttal argument, after which the jury will start deliberations.

Seminole County Judge Debra Nelson gave jurors the option of convicting Zimmerman of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

If convicted, Zimmerman could be sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for manslaughter.

When police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, it provoked street demonstration throughout the United States as critics blamed Zimmerman for pulling out his Kel Tec 9mm pistol, which was fully loaded with hollow-point bullets.

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Backers of liberal gun laws have rallied behind Zimmerman and helped fund his defense, seeing him as a persecuted hero whose need for self-defense demonstrated the importance of the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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