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Jury in George Zimmerman murder case begins deliberating

SANFORD, Fla. -- The six women who will decide whether George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, or acted in self-defense began deliberations on Friday afternoon after receiving their instructions from the judge.

Judge Debra S. Nelson read the charge to the jury after the defense and prosecution completed their formal arguments.

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Zimmerman, 29, is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Martin, 17, on the night of Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman maintains he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin suddenly attacked him.

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The prosecution argues that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, profiled, tracked and deliberately shot the teenager, who was returning from a convenience store after buying candy and a soft drink.

The prosecution and the defense argued about what to include in the instructions. All of the issues were resolved with the jury outside the courtroom, so on Friday they were hearing the final version.

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The most important ruling by the judge was to allow the jurors to consider a manslaughter charge in addition to the second-degree charge. To convict on second-degree murder, the jurors have to decide that the state proved three elements, Nelson said.

“The state must prove Trayvon Martin is dead. The death was caused by the criminal act of George Zimmerman. There was an unlawful killing of Trayvon Martin by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life,” the judge read.

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Manslaughter, however only requires two elements: that Trayvon Martin is dead and that George Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin, she said.

The defense has argued during the trial that Zimmerman acted in self-defense in shooting Martin. Nelson explained the issue to the jury this way:

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“An issue in this case is whether George Zimmerman acted in self-defense. It is a defense to the crime of second-degree murder and the lesser included offense of manslaughter.”

She said later, “The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force.”

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The verdict must be unanimous among the six jurors, the judge said.

The three alternate jurors who sat through the trial were dismissed and will not be part of the deliberations.

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Hennessy-Fiske reported from Sanford and Muskal from Los Angeles.


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