The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

July 12, 2013

Defense begins closings in George Zimmerman trial

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — George Zimmerman's defense attorney began his final arguments Friday, trying to convince six jurors that the neighborhood watch volunteer acted in self-defense when he fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Attorney Mark O'Mara told jurors the burden was on prosecutors, and they hadn't proven Zimmerman's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He said prosecutors built a case on a series hypothetical "could've beens" and "maybes."

"If it hasn't been proven, it's not just there," O'Mara said. "You can't fill in the gaps. You can't connect the dots. You're not allowed to."

The six jurors could begin deliberating later Friday.

A day earlier, prosecutors made said Zimmerman assumed Martin was a criminal who was up to no good when he confronted him in his neighborhood. A scuffle followed, and Zimmerman fired his gun.

"A teenager is dead. He is dead through no fault of his own," prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the jurors during closing arguments. "He is dead because a man made assumptions. ... Unfortunately because his assumptions were wrong, Trayvon Benjamin Martin no longer walks this Earth."

Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder, but the jury will also be allowed to consider manslaughter. Because of the way Florida law imposes sentences for crimes committed with a gun, the lesser charge could also carry a life sentence.

Judge Debra Nelson's ruling to allow consideration of the manslaughter charge came despite the objections of Zimmerman's lawyers. The jurors will have three options for their verdict: guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter and not guilty.

Zimmerman attorney Don West had argued an all-or-nothing strategy, saying the only charge that should be put before the jury is second-degree murder.

"The state has charged him with second-degree murder. They should be required to prove it," West said. "If they had wanted to charge him with manslaughter ... they could do that."

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