George Zimmerman’s fate is in the hands of an all-female jury Friday after his defense team and prosecutors got their last licks in the racially charged case.
While only one of the jurors is a minority, five of them are moms.
Several of them looked uneasy when a photograph of slain 17-year-old Trayvon Martin flashed on a screen in the Florida courtroom.
There were no eyewitnesses to the struggle on Feb. 26, 2012 in an Orlando-area town house complex that ended with Martin dead from a bullet in his chest.
The all-female jury will have to rely on the often-conflicting testimony from the 58 witnesses put on the stand during the two-week trial.
[However, an expert defense witness testified Martin was leaning over or on top of Zimmerman when he was shot. There were cuts on the back of Zimmerman’s head consistent with it allegedly being slammed against the pavement, facial injuries sustained by Zimmerman, and testimony it was Zimmerman’s voice heard screaming for help in the 911 call.]
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So the panel, which got its final instructions from Judge Debra Nelson, will have to rely on the often-conflicting testimony from the 58 witnesses prosecutors and defense attorneys put on the stand during the two-week trial.
The jury completed its first abbreviated day of deliberations without reaching a verdict and will resume again on Saturday.
Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder and could get life in prison if he is convicted.
But Nelson, over the loud objections of Team Zimmerman, has also given the jury the option of convicting the 29-year-old neighborhood watchman of manslaughter.
Zimmerman could get up to 30 years to life in prison if convicted on that charge.
Before the jury got the case, lawyers from both sides took them through the evidence again.
Zimmerman’s lead defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, went first. He said Zimmerman is “not guilty of anything but protecting his own life.”
Martin, he said, sowed the seeds of his own destruction.
“We know he had the opportunity to go home, and he didn’t do that,” O’Mara said. “The person who decided to make the night violent was the guy who didn’t go home when he had the chance.”
There were four minutes from the moment Zimmerman reported to a police dispatcher that Martin was “running” to the moment when a resident called 911 to report a fight in progress, O’Mara said.
To demonstrate that, O’Mara then said nothing for four minutes as Zimmerman nervously mopped his brow.
“Four minutes,” O’Mara told the jury. “That felt like a long time. Four minutes to what? To walk home? To run home?”
But Martin didn’t do that, the lawyer said, adding that he circled back and attacked Zimmerman.
Prosecutors have not produced “a shred of evidence” in this “bizarro case” to show that Zimmerman had any other option but to shoot the teenager, O’Mara said.
O’Mara did not mention that Martin was black or that Zimmerman was part Hispanic.
Instead, O’Mara said there was no malice in Zimmerman’s voice when he first reported to a 911 dispatcher that a suspicious teenager was wandering through the development.
But O’Mara, in his argument, scrubbed the foul language Zimmerman used in the call when he told the dispatcher, “F—ing punks … These a–holes, they always get away.”
Despite testimony from Zimmerman’s two criminal justice professors and a police officer from the Virginia department that turned down his employment application, O’Mara said he was not “frustrated” or a “wannabe cop.”
Zimmerman, he said, was an “involved citizen.”
O’Mara also deftly reminded the jury how the prosecution’s star witness, 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel, undermined herself with embarrassing admissions about her lack of education on the stand. He said Jeantel never wanted to be involved in the case.
But O’Mara left out that Jeantel never wavered in her insistence that she was on the phone with Martin just before the shooting and said the doomed teenager’s last words were, “Get off! Get off!”
Wrapping up his three-hour-plus spiel, O’Mara reminded the jury that it’s not illegal to follow a person.
O’Mara preceded prosecutor John Guy, who argued that Zimmerman lied “over and over and over” again about what happened.
If Zimmerman had listened when a police dispatcher told him it wasn’t necessary to keep tailing Martin, “none of us would be here,” Guy said.
“That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him,” Guy said. “And did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man?”
Guy also waded into territory O’Mara avoided, stating flatly that “this case is not about race; this is about right and wrong.”
Then Guy left the jury something to think about: “What if it was Trayvon Martin who shot and killed George Zimmerman? What would your verdict be?”
“That’s how you know it’s not about race.”
On Thursday, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the jury that the only thing Martin was guilty of “was buying Skittles” at a 7-Eleven.
The refusal by Sanford police and prosecutors to charge Zimmerman with a crime is the chief reason that the fatal shooting exploded into a national story.
African-Americans were especially outraged, citing this as a glaring example of unequal justice. President Obama weighed in saying, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Barraged with criticism, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, appointed State Attorney Angela Corey to revisit the case and she decided there was evidence to charge Zimmerman.
In an interview after the shooting with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Zimmerman explained what happened by saying, “I feel like it was all God’s plan.” He then apologized to Martin’s parents and said he was not racist.
Trayvon’s angry dad, Tracy Martin, rejected Zimmerman’s words.
“There is no way that my God wanted George Zimmerman to murder my teenage son,” he said.
BREAKING NEWS: George Zimmerman has been acquitted of all charges in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
The jury of six women informed Judge Debra Nelson shortly before 10 p.m. local time Saturday that they had reached a verdict after deliberating for approximately 15 hours over two days.
After hearing the verdict, Judge Nelson told Zimmerman he was free to go.
Supporters of Martin’s family who had gathered outside the courthouse yelled out “No! No!”
“Today, justice failed Trayvon Martin and his family,” said Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP 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 the United States.”
“We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, in another statement. “We stand with Trayvon’s family and we are called to act. We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state, and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed.”
Zimmerman was initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of Martin, but jurors could have also convicted Zimmerman on the lesser charge of manslaughter. The jury had asked for a clarification on the manslaughter charge earlier in the evening.
If convicted, the 29-year-old former neighborhood watch volunteer would have faced a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder or 30 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter.
The jurors sent Judge Debra Nelson a note asking for clarification on the manslaughter charge, the less-serious charge Zimmerman faces, after deliberating for about eight hours Saturday. The question read simply: “May we please have clarification for the instruction on manslaughter?”
As jurors awaited an answer, Nelson talked to lawyers at the bench and then said court would recess for a half hour. When attorneys returned, prosecutor Richard Mantei said that after conducting research, he would suggest asking the jurors to elaborate. Defense attorney Mark O’Mara agreed.
“Let’s get clarification on their confusion,” O’Mara said.
The judge then sent a note back to the jury that read: “The court can’t engage in general discussion but may be able to address a specific question regarding clarification of the instructions regarding manslaughter. If you have a specific question, please submit it.”
The jury also recessed for an hour for dinner, during which they were allowed to continue deliberating. They did not immediately respond to the judge’s note.
During the day about two dozen people gathered outside the courthouse awaiting a verdict, with supporters of the Martin family outnumbering those there for Zimmerman. One man held a sign that read, “We love you George.” A woman lay in the grass in a hoodie, her arms spread, in a re-creation of Martin’s death.
On Twitter, Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, shared what she called her favorite Bible verse: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
During closing arguments, Zimmerman’s attorney attempted to portray him as a neighborhood activist who shot Martin in self-defense and prosecutors attempted to paint him as a wannabe cop whose misguided suspicion resulted in the teen’s death.
As the jury began their discussions, police and civic leaders in this Orlando suburb went on national television to plead for calm in Sanford and across the country, no matter what the verdict.
“There is no party in this case who wants to see any violence,” Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger said. “We have an expectation upon this announcement that our community will continue to act peacefully.”
There were big protests in Sanford and other cities across the country last year when authorities waited 44 days before arresting Zimmerman.
Zimmerman shot Martin as the two fought following a confrontation in the gated Sanford community where Zimmerman lives.
“Your verdict should not be influenced by feelings of prejudice, bias or sympathy,” Judge Debra Nelson told the jury, reading from a 27-page set of instructions. “Your verdict must be based on the evidence, and on the law contained in these instructions.”
Graphic Pics of Zimmerman’s Injuries
Post by Dan Graves:
Dan Graves You need to dig a little deeper than the local media for the truth. All you hear are the surface headlines. Trayvon had drugs in his system. The skittles and the drink were to mix a concoction know as “lean” (his Facebook page said he really liked it). He was busted in school and women’s jewelry and burglary tools were found in his backpack. According to Zimmerman he was “looking around at homes” It took him over 40 minutes to walk back from the 7-11 which was only 10 minutes from his house. Hmmmmmm. Wonder what took him so long? Could Zimmerman maybe have seen what he said he saw. The jury sure thought so. His Facebook page shows pictures of him refereeing a mma style street fight. His page showed he had a great interest in it. It also said he punched a bus driver. ( suspended again) I wonder why the media never reported this? Hmmmmmmmmm
Media personality Rush Limbaugh argued for the plausibility of Martin’s motivation for assaulting Zimmerman as homophobia after hearing his girlfriend advise him to run because “he might be a rapist”. Gay advocates/activists have said little about the speculative argument supporting gay profiling in the case. Much of the polemics surrounding the case are speculative in nature.