Testimony in the George Zimmerman murder trial came to an end today with an impassioned final round of arguments in which his lawyer insisted he did not commit a crime when he shot Trayvon Martin and a prosecutor said Zimmerman "had hate in his heart" when he fired his gun
Seventeen months after the death of Martin, 23 days in court, and 56 witnesses later the controversial case is nearing an end.
Zimmerman's attorney implored the all female jury during his closing argument to acquit his client, assuring them Zimmerman acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Martin.
"You want to take away somebody's liberty? They've got to prove their case. The burden is on the state," said defense lawyer Mark O'Mara.
Prosecutor John Guy shot back in his rebuttal by telling the jurors, who at times appeared emotional as Guy delivered his final message, to use their common sense when weighing the evidence.
"If the defendant did only what he is supposed to do -- see and call -- none of us would've been here," said Guy. "This case isn't about standing your ground. It is about staying in your car."
Zimmerman, 29, faces a second-degree murder charge for killing Martin. If convicted of the murder, he could face up to life in prison. The jurors have also been given the option of convicting him of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
In the defense's closing argument that was markedly more understated than the prosecution's at times heated presentations, O'Mara scoffed at claims that Zimmerman lied and was a wannabe cop who profiled Martin, 17, to be a criminal.
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O'Mara punctuated his critique of the prosecution's case by repeatedly exclaiming, "Really? Really?"
"I don't think you should connect any dots at all. If the decision is made by the state to present additional evidence do not presume, do not assume, do not give anyone the benefit of doubt besides George Zimmerman," O'Mara said.
Towards the end of his more than two hour long closing argument, O'Mara held up a photo of Martin's lifeless body. It prompted Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, to get up and leave the courtroom.
The racially charged case began on Feb. 26, 2012 when Zimmerman - a white Hispanic -- called police to report what he said was a suspicious person in his neighborhood on a rainy night. He got out of his car to follow Martin, who was black, but claims he stopped when police asked him not to follow, but that he wanted to get an address for police.
Zimmerman told police that Martin confronted him, knocked him down and banged his head on the sidewalk and then started to reach for Zimmerman's gun. Zimmerman said he grabbed the gun and shot Martin once in self-defense.
O'Mara used props that included a chart called the "self-defense burden of proof," a timeline of Zimmerman's call to a police non-emergency dispatcher, and a 90 second animated video detailing Zimmerman's version of what happened that night.
But one of the most dramatic moments of O'Mara's closing argument occurred when the attorney looked at his watch and instructed everybody in the court room to remain still.
The clock kept ticking for what seemed like an interminable length while jurors, the judge, the parents of Zimmerman and Martin stared at the defense table as silence befell the courtroom and O'Mara sat down.
Four minutes later, O'Mara stood up and indicated the purpose of his demonstrative inaction.
"That's how long Trayvon Martin had to run," said O'Mara pointing out the length of time from when Zimmerman told the police dispatcher that he saw the teenager running to the moment he and Zimmerman began the lethal confrontation. "The person who decided this was going to be a violent event was the person who planned his move."
He brought out cardboard cutouts of two figures to show the relative sizes of Zimmerman and Martin. The figure representing Martin was a couple inches taller than the Zimmerman cutout.
O'Mara also lugged before the jurors a slab of concrete.
"That is sidewalk and cement. That is not an unarmed teenager with Skittles trying to get home... That is a teen using all means to inflict great bodily harm," he said.
O'Mara told the jurors that the fact that Zimmerman talked freely with law enforcement despite having shot someone and after suffering injuries was an indication of his innocence.
"We have factual innocence," insisted O'Mara.
John Guy, who got the last word, scoffed at O'Mara's suggestion that Martin had four minutes to go home, but instead confronted Zimmerman.
"Four minutes is not the amount of time that Trayvon Martin had to walk home," said Guy. "Four minutes is the amount of time Trayvon Martin had left on this earth."
The prosecutor said Zimmerman told at least 10 lies, which he showed to jurors in a power-point presentation and he also said Zimmerman changed his story in several other instances.
"What is that when a grown man, frustrated, angry, with hate in his heart gets out of his car with a loaded gun, follows a child, a stranger with a gun and shoots him through his heart?" asked Guy. "What is that? Is that nothing?"
At another point he asked, "Did he really need to, did he have to shoot Trayvon Martin?"
The jurors have been sequestered for nearly three weeks and according to most indications are eager to go home. The jurors were handed instructions and will have to weigh Zimmerman's right to self defense against the state's burden to prove his guilt in the death of Martin.
To convict Zimmerman of second degree murder, the jury will have to find that he acted with "ill will, hatred, spite or an evil intent," according to the state statute. To convict him of manslaughter they must find that he acted through extreme negligence and that even if he didn't intend to kill Martin, he acted with "utter disregard" for his safety.
The jury can acquit Zimmerman if they find that he reasonably feared for his life or feared serious harm at the time he fired the shot.
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