After emotional closing arguments by the lawyers, the fate of George Zimmerman is now in the hands of a jury of six women who will determine his guilt or innocence in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
After 21 days of testimony and 56 witnesses, Judge Debra S. Nelson gave lengthy instructions to the jury, which has been sequestered since the trial began.
Before the jury was led to the deliberation room, they heard closing arguments from Zimmerman’s legal team as well as a closing rebuttal from John Guy, a prosecutor in the case.
"Trayvon Martin may not have had the blood of George Zimmerman on his hands," Guy said. "But George Zimmerman will forever have Trayvon Martin's blood on his hands. Forever."
Guy continued: “He was a son, he was a brother. He was a friend. And the last thing he did on this earth was to try to get home.”
In the defense’s closing argument, Zimmerman’s lawyer sought to drive home the idea that Zimmerman had been afraid for his life when he interacted with the unarmed 17-year-old.
Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s lawyer, said that there had been several burglaries in the gated community where Martin was shot that had been committed by young African-Americans. He further suggested that there was reason for Zimmerman, then a neighborhood watch volunteer, to fear the teenager.
"If you have a reasonable doubt as to whether George Zimmerman was justified in the use of deadly force, he's not guilty," O'Mara said. The death of Trayvon Martin, he said, "is a tragedy, truly. But you can't allow sympathy to play into it. Welcome to a criminal courtroom. You have to be better than your presumptions.”
He added: "A verdict must be based on the law. Period."
While there was little overt mention of race in the trial or in the closing arguments, Guy touched on it during his rebuttal. He asked the jury to consider what the tone of the case might be like had the races of the shooter and victim been reversed.
“What if the roles were reversed and it was 28-year-old George Zimmerman walking home in the rain with a hoodie on to protect himself from the rain,” Guy asked, “and a 17-year-old driving in his car who had hate in their heart, hate in their mouth and hate in their action. If it were Trayvon Martin who had shot and killed George Zimmerman, what would your verdict be?”
The arguments offered a dramatic ending to the trial in a case that began 17 months ago, when the teenage Martin, a student in a Miami high school, was shot while visiting his father’s girlfriend in Sanford, Florida, a suburb of Orlando.
The family of George Zimmerman released a statement as a jury deliberates his fate, expressing "trust in the judicial system."
"The judicial system has run its course — pray for justice, pray for peace, pray for our country," the statement said.
The jury will determine whether Zimmerman is guilty of second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, which carries a life sentence. The judge instructed them that they may also find Zimmerman guilty of manslaughter, which could carry a penalty of up to 30 years in prison.
The trial has received international coverage as offering a barometer of where race relations stand in the United States.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Orlando Sentinel, Joe Burbank, Pool)