George Zimmerman case goes to jury

At 2:30 p.m. Friday, six women rose from their seats in Courtroom 5D here and slipped into a back room where they will decide a case that has transfixed America.

A key piece of evidence will go to the same back room: the Kel-Tec 9 mm handgun that neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman used to kill teenager Trayvon Martin.

Jurors will consider charges of second-degree murder, which requires prosecutors to prove Zimmerman had a “depraved mind” and “ill intent,” and the lesser offense of manslaughter. But Judge Debra Nelson blocked a prosecution attempt to add the option of a third-degree murder charge based on the claim that Zimmerman committed child abuse since Martin was a minor.

The jury left for the day around 6 p.m., and is scheduled to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Saturday. Earlier, they asked the judge for an index of all the evidence, the Associated Press reported.

Their deliberations began not long after Zimmerman’s defense attorney told jurors that much still isn’t known about what happened on that dark, rainy night in February 2012.

Speaking in a soothing, conversational tone, attorney Mark O’Mara urged jurors not to make assumptions about the defendant accused of killing Martin and not to try to “fill in blanks” or “connect dots.”

The only conclusion jurors could reach about his client after hearing testimony for three weeks, O’Mara said, is “innocence. Pure, unadulterated innocence.”

Minutes into his closing argument, O’Mara walked over to the defense table, and Zimmerman, dressed in a dark blazer and tie, stood. The defendant held his head high and gazed directly at the jury with a neutral expression on his face.

O’Mara placed his hand on the shoulder of Zimmerman, a humanizing gesture. O’Mara’s demeanor contrasted with the style of assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda, who often shouted and spoke in impassioned tones during prosecution closing arguments on Thursday.

Prosecutors, O’Mara said, had created a false caricature of Zimmerman, portraying him as an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer. The prosecutors want jurors to believe that Zimmerman was “a crazy guy walking the neighborhood looking for people to harass,” O’Mara said.

But, the defense attorney added, there’s no evidence to back that portrayal. Instead, he said, Zimmerman merely spotted Martin walking through the neighborhood while the defendant was on his way to Target to pick up food to make his lunches for the week.

There is also no evidence, O’Mara asserted, that Zimmerman had “ill will, spite or hatred” for Martin, the elements necessary for him to be convicted of second-degree murder. And there was no evidence, O’Mara said, that Zimmerman — who has white and Hispanic parents — hated Martin because the 17-year-old was African American.

When Zimmerman called a non-emergency number to report his suspicions about Martin, he didn’t say, “I hate these young, black males,” O’Mara said.

(Interactive graphic: Make your case: Zimmerman trial)

Manuel Roig-Franzia is a writer in The Washington Post’s Style section. His long-form articles span a broad range of subjects, including politics, power and the culture of Washington, as well as profiling major political figures and authors.
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