This chapter in the tragic saga of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin began drawing to a close Friday afternoon, as the six women on the jury began deliberating whether Zimmerman's actions on a dark night in Sanford, Florida, amount to second degree murder as the state has charged.
The 29-year old Zimmerman has pleaded not guilty, saying he shot and killed the 17-year old Martin in self defense after Martin attacked him. The prosecution contends that Zimmerman was a "wannabe cop" who ignored a police dispatcher's advice to abandon pursuit of Martin, and then sparked the confrontation that ended with Martin's death. Those dueling versions of events were recounted Friday, as defense attorney Mark O'Mara gave his closing arguments and prosecutor John Guy offered a rebuttal. While Zimmerman stands accused of second degree murder, the jury will also be allowed to consider finding him guilty of manslaughter or acquitting him of all charges.
"You can't look at those pictures and say that what was visited upon George Zimmerman was not evidence of ill will, spite and hatred," said O'Mara in his closing remarks, referring to photographs of Zimmerman's injuries following his fateful confrontation with Martin. O'Mara said Zimmerman is “not guilty of anything but protecting his own life,” the victim of brutal assault by Martin.
Shortly afterwards, during his rebuttal, Guy presented an image of Martin's lifeless body to the jury. "Ask yourself," Guy said, "who lost the fight?" It was Martin, Guy said, not Zimmerman, who should have been afraid.“That child had every right to do what he was doing, walking home. That child had every right to be afraid of a strange man following him, first in his car and then on foot. And did that child not have the right to defend himself from that strange man?”
The coming days could bring a resolution to a story that has divided Americans along racial lines since the shooting first became national news, drawing the attention of the American people, political pundits, and even the president. The case has also divided along political lines, with many liberals seeing Martin as a victim of racial profiling and many conservatives hailing Zimmerman as an engaged citizen trying to defend his neighborhood.
Martin was visiting his father at the Twin Lakes neighborhood in Sanford in February 2012 when he went to a local 7-11 and bought a pack of Skittles and a can of iced tea. When Zimmerman spotted Martin walking home, he thought the teenager looked suspicious; Zimmerman had been concerned about recent burglaries in Twin Lakes. Zimmerman called the police, but, the prosecution contends, ignored the advice of a dispatcher who told him not to pursue Martin. Sometime afterwards, Zimmerman and Martin ended up in a confrontation in which Zimmerman shot Martin, an act his attorneys have called self defense and the state of Florida says is second degree murder.
The jury will now decide who is right.
Editor’s note: George Zimmerman has sued NBC Universal for defamation. The company strongly denies the allegation.