July 11, 2013

George Zimmerman opts not to testify in own defense

Jurors could begin deliberating as early as Friday about whether George Zimmerman murdered the unarmed Florida teenager.

The Associated Press

SANFORD, Fla. — After taking less than a week to call 18 witnesses, George Zimmerman's defense attorneys rested their case Wednesday in the neighborhood watch volunteer's second-degree murder trial.

click image to enlarge

George Zimmerman enters the courtroom for his trial in Seminole circuit court in Sanford, Fla., on Wednesday. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

AP

Trayvon Martin
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In a photo provided by the Martin family, Trayvon Martin holds an unidentified baby. Jurors could begin deliberating as early as Friday about whether George Zimmerman murdered Martin or acted in self-defense.

AP

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Prosecutors and defense attorneys planned to work out the jury instructions before they present closing arguments Thursday. Judge Debra Nelson said the case could be sent to the six jurors as early as Friday.

Zimmerman never testified. But jurors saw repeated video recordings of Zimmerman telling his side of the story to investigators. He claims that he shot Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, in self-defense while the teen straddled and punched him.

Defense attorney Mark O'Mara told reporters that Zimmerman wanted to testify but his attorneys felt he had already told his version of events in multiple police interviews played for jurors.

"I think he really wanted to be able to interact with this jury and say to them 'This is what I did and this is why I did it. And as importantly, this is what was happening to me at the time that I decided to do what I had to do,'" O'Mara said. "So in that sense, yes, I think he wanted to tell his story."

Still, O'Mara said his client is "worried" as he faced up to a life-sentence in prison for what O'Mara called a classic case of self-defense.

Asserting that Zimmerman "believed he did what he had to do to protect himself from great bodily injury that was already been visited on him," O'Mara added, "If we presented evidence that helped the jury understand that, then we've done our job."

The defense started its case last Friday and presented half as many witnesses in half of the time that prosecutors did. Friends, parents and an uncle of the defendant testified that it was Zimmerman screaming for help on a 911 call that captured sounds of the fatal fight. Martin's mother and brother had testified for the prosecution that it was Martin yelling for help.

Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman Sr., was the last witness called by the defense on Wednesday, and he said it's his son yelling for help on the call.

Defense attorneys also called a forensic pathologist who testified that the forensics evidence supports Zimmerman's account of what happened.

Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. On the night of the fatal scuffle in February 2012, Martin was visiting his father and his father's fiancee at the same townhome complex where Zimmerman lived.

Zimmerman observed Martin while driving in his neighborhood, called police and the fight ensued after the neighborhood watch volunteer got out of his vehicle.

Some civil rights activists argued that the delay in charging Zimmerman was influenced by Martin's race, and protests were held around the nation in the 44 days between the fatal fight and Zimmerman's arrest. Martin was black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.

The defense rested on a day when the judge made two rulings preventing them from introducing certain evidence. Defense attorneys had wanted to present text messages from Trayvon Martin's cellphone that discussed fighting and an animation depicting Zimmerman's fatal fight with Martin. But Nelson sided with prosecutors, who had argued the animation is inaccurate and the texts were irrelevant.

O'Mara said the defense will use the animation in closing arguments.

He also explained that defense attorneys decided not to show that Martin had a small amount of marijuana in his body at the time he died, despite winning a ruling on it from the judge, because it seemed insignificant.

(Continued on page 2)

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