SANFORD, Fla.-- George Zimmerman is either an innocent man who acted in self-defense or a lying killer, the defense and prosecution argued on Friday as each side in the Florida murder case gave the jury their final arguments.
Speaking for more than three hours, defense attorney Mark O’Mara continued to try to plant seeds of doubt with the jurors, arguing that the state had failed to present proof of its contention that Zimmerman had profiled, stalked then murdered Trayvon Martin.
With a plea that Zimmerman is innocent of murdering the unarmed teenager, O’Mara completed his final arguments in the well-publicized Florida murder case, moving the proceedings a step closer to going to six-person jury. The jury is expected to begin deliberations in the afternoon.
Using charts, posters, cardboard cutouts and even an animated version of the events, O’Mara repeatedly urged jurors not to connect the dots of the state’s case to make it seem like there is proof of murder. The state has the burden of proof and has failed to meet it beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.
Describing a hypothetical verdict form, O’Mara said it should have “guilty, not guilty and completely innocent.”
“You’d have to check that one,” O’Mara said of the last option.
“Go back to that room and look at that definition of self defense and if you think George Zimmerman acted in self defense, then you're done,” O’Mara told the jurors, arguing they should acquit on the top charge of second-degree murder as well as the lesser charge of manslaughter that they will be allowed to consider.
The state, which had given its formal closing on Thursday, saved an hour for a rebuttal of the defense closing. Its argument is that Zimmerman lied about the events of Feb. 26, 2012, when he shot Martin once in the chest during a scuffle. The defense argued that Martin attacked Zimmerman, got on top of the neighborhood watch volunteer then battered and punched Zimmerman who fired in self-defense.
“Use your common sense,” prosecutor John Guy told the jurors during the rebuttal. “This isn’t a complicated case. It’s a common-sense case. It isn’t about self-defense, it is about self-denial -- George Zimmerman.”
“If Trayvon Martin mounted Zimmerman, how did he [Zimmerman] pull his gun?” Guy asked. “He couldn’t have, he couldn’t have. It’s a physical impossibility. He shot because he wanted to.”
“Who is responsible for Trayvon Martin lying on the ground?” Guy asked, sounding the prosecution’s frequent theme of responsibility. “Trayvon Martin didn’t kill himself.” Guy went on to describe Zimmerman as man “with hate in his heart with a loaded gun and [who] follows a child.”
“What is that,” he asked “is that nothing?”
During the trial, which began with jury selection on June 10, both sides have treated it as a routine murder case, though it has roiled the nation, igniting a debate on race and guns. Martin was an unarmed African American teenager while Zimmerman, 29, cites his Latino heritage. Zimmerman argued that he shot in self-defense and local police did not charge him.
But weeks of demonstrations led by civil rights leaders culminated in the appointment of a special counsel who brought in the second-degree murder charge. The prosecution successfully sought to have the manslaughter charge added during the trial.
The added charge is designed -- from the prosecution’s view -- to give jurors a way to convict Zimmerman if they feel he did wrong but did not meet the standard of second-degree murder. That standard includes that Zimmerman demonstrated “ill will, hatred and spite.”
In his summary, O’Mara stressed that the state had not met that bar and self-defense is “a complete defense.” He then rattled off a list of felonies, including manslaughter, just to emphasize his point that the jury should not be willing to compromise on anything other than acquittal.
O’Mara also dealt with the prosecution’s two main points in the trial. First that Zimmerman sustained injuries to his nose and the back of his head, wounds the prosecution maintain were too minor to show that Zimmerman truly feared Martin.
“Injury is icing on the cake, nothing to do with self-defense,” O’Mara told the jurors.
“You must look at George Zimmerman’s state of mind,” the attorney said, arguing that the evidence showed that Zimmerman was indeed afraid of more serious injuries at the hands of Martin.
The second major prosecution point is that Zimmerman has told different versions to authorities of what happened that night and that those inconsistencies prove he was a liar trying to embellish the truth and make himself look better.
“There were inconsistencies,” O’Mara said, blaming the differences on what Zimmerman “went through that night.”
If anyone “tells the exact story twice, they are probably lying,” O’Mara said. "They are probably pathological liars.”
Both Martin’s family and Zimmerman's family were in the courtroom as the sides went through the final arguments. At one point Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, walked out as O’Mara showed the jurors photographs of her son. O’Mara compared the autopsy pictures to photos of a more robust Martin before he died.
“This is the person who attacked George Zimmerman,” O’Mara said of the regular photo, trying to dilute the emotional impact of the dead child.
“It is a tragedy, truly,” O’Mara said to the jurors of the 2012 events. “But you can’t allow sympathy” to dictate your verdict.
Judge Debra S. Nelson will charge the jury Friday afternoon.
Hennessy-Fiske reported from Sanford and Muskal from Los Angeles.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times